"Peace I leave with you..." -Jesus
Our team arrived at a refugee camp not far from the fighting in Mosul. Many of the inhabitants of east and west Mosul were waiting and beginning to form a line to be seen by the medical staff. We quickly set up in a forty-foot container that had been converted into a medical clinic. The refugees formed two lines, one for men and the other for women and small children. My job was to stand guard at the door where patients exited so that people would not rush in and cause disorder. While standing there, I had the chance to see everything going on inside and outside and to engage those who were waiting in line.
Inside were medical workers from our team and two other groups, one an American organization and the other was a Kurdistan NGO. One of the Kurdish NGO workers and I began talking. After we introduced each other, I asked Az (24) about his background. When I asked him what his faith was, he said, "What do you think?" I said, "Muslim?" to which he replied, "No." "Christian?" I asked. Again, "No." "Yazidi?" to which I got a hearty laugh. "No" he replied. "Then what are you?" I said. "I am an atheist." I asked if he had always been one. What he said next was heartbreaking and heartening at the same time.
Az immediately opened his heart to me. "Do you know where most of the wars and troubles in the world are coming from? The Middle East. I don't believe anymore. I have seen only suffering caused by [religion] in the world." He went on, "I am taking a great risk in telling you this because here I can get killed for saying these things. I am forced to [believe a religion]. Aren't you forced to be a Christian in America?" I told him that in America we are free to choose whatever faith we want. "Really?" he said. As the conversation progressed I began sharing with him about my relationship with Christ. I quoted the words of Jesus who said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you..." "Peace?" Az asked mildly sarcastically. "Islam [like Christianity] both offer peace. But there is no peace."
About that time we were being called inside to help with something. I said, "Az, I want to know more of your life. I want to hear more of your story. I also want to share my story with you, too." He agreed but we were never able to talk again privately before leaving that day. But we promised to write one another. Below is our first correspondence:
So sorry for not replying sooner. After I left the camp we were out of e-mail range for a few days. I'm now back to work where I live.
It was a real pleasure meeting you and hearing some of your story. It was refreshing to hear your honesty. I'm sure for you, you are taking a great risk to express what is really going on in your life. Searching for truth is not something that most people are interested in doing. I really respect you for looking deeply into the questions of reality. But don't settle just yet on where you are. You are on a journey through life and you will find many surprises along the way that you did not expect. I would love to hear more of your story and to share my story with you as well.
I'm grateful I have found a new friend. I hope we can stay in touch.
Nathan, thank you a lot to your beautyfull and meaningfull email to me..... i really appreciate it . so of course i love to share my ideas and opinions with other people especially when they're differ nationalities and differ religions........ of course we gonna stay in touch and i love to hear and see your story that happening in your country as well ..... again thank you a lot. Az
Please pray for Az (not his real name). He has turned away from [his former religion]. Let us pray he turns to the Savior, Jesus Christ. He is in the best place he can possibly be. At such a young age, he is disillusioned with religion. The catastrophes he has witnessed has driven him from the empty forms of religion. Now, maybe, he will find his way into the loving embrace of the person, Jesus.
Because of Christ,