With peace.

With peace.

Boom. Earth-shattering. Life-changing. Devastating.

A bomb explodes on the side of the road, in a car, a home, a store…it’s a common occurrence when you’re growing up in Iraq. In fact, it happens so much you almost don’t even notice it anymore. You definitely don’t notice what it does inside you. The violence of everyday life in a war-torn country…The fear. The anger. The hate that takes root. The chaos that cements itself in your heart and mind when you feel and hear the blast of a car bomb where you were standing moments before. Difficult for anyone; life-altering for a child.

Kareem’s entire life shifted as an eighth grader when he and his family moved from Iraq to the States. Being the new kid from a completely different culture would have been hard enough; but having to deal with this transition while in a difficult neighborhood and at a difficult school made it even harder. A tough exterior and a willingness to fight were necessary to get by…

His circumstances may have looked different on the surface, but it was the same familiar chaos to Kareem. Fear and anger remained his norm.

The next year, high school brought unexpected changes. Kareem remained comfortable behind the walls he had built around himself, but there was something different about the Youth For Christ kids he met. There was something that caused him to let his guard down around them and the Campus Life Directors who always came around in the cafeteria. There was something that eventually moved Kareem to make YFC meetings part of his weekly rhythms.

That summer at YFC camp, it wasn’t unusual when conflict arose amongst the teenage boys living in close quarters. As the result of an argument, Kareem’s anger got the best of him and he slapped a peer across the face. In a restorative effort, volunteers took them both outside to see if they could reconcile…and before their eyes, they got to see Kareem’s heart soften. Right then, the Gospel that he had been learning about became evident in reconciliation…and Christ’s love started to take the place of the anger he had always found so easy to turn to.

Boom. Earth-shattering. Life-changing. Transforming.

Since that summer, Kareem has become a new creation. Like all of us, his struggles with the flesh are still present, but the Spirit in his life and the growth in his faith is evident. These three years have not always been easy. Every day he faces the dangers of being a young man following Christ in a Muslim home.

But his love shines through. His hope is unwavering.

The chaos that once raged inside him has been replaced with peace.

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