Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2013, was recently confirmed to have died while being held hostage by the militant group. A letter Mueller sent to her family in Arizona, which they released on Tuesday, revealed that during the year and a half of her captivity Mueller frequently turned to God and relied on her faith to give her strength.
"I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God," Mueller wrote.
I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else.... + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.
Mueller asked for her family's forgiveness, saying, "This should never have become your burden."
The 26-year-old had stayed overnight at the Doctors Without Borders compound in the Syrian city of Aleppo when she was kidnapped on August 4, 2013. Islamic State representatives claimed Mueller was killed on Friday during Jordanian airstrikes that hit the building in which she was being held.
Mueller's parents and the White House confirmed her death on Tuesday.
“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Carl and Marsha Mueller said in a statement. “We are so proud of the person Kayla was and the work that she did while she was here with us. She lived with purpose.”
The Muellers recounted an earlier letter their daughter sent to her father for his birthday in 2011, which demonstrated her deep faith in the midst of harrowing work.
"I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine," Mueller wrote to her father. "Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering."
By that time Mueller had already spent five months working with a humanitarian group in India and had worked in Israel at a development center for African refugees. In 2007, she was honored with the Presidential Volunteer Award for her efforts with Youth Count, AmeriCorps, America’s Promise, Open Inn and Big Brothers Big Sisters, among other groups.
In the year leading up to her kidnapping, Mueller traveled to the Turkish-Syrian border to work with the Danish Refugee Council and Support to Life, a human rights group that works with Syrian refugees. In her letter from captivity, Mueller urged her family to remain strong, saying, "The hope of our reunion is the source of my strength."
"Please be patient, give your pain to God," she wrote. "I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God's will we will be together soon."
See Kayla Mueller's handwritten letter below: