PRESCOTT (Christian Examiner) – Kayla Mueller, the ISIS captive whose death was confirmed by the White House today may best be remembered for her humanitarian efforts or for the contents of a handwritten letter she wrote to her parents in which she said she had "surrendered" to God -- and learned that "even in prison, one can be free."
The 26-year-od woman, in an editorial written by her hometown paper, "The Daily Courier" is described as an "inspirational" Prescott (Arizona) native whose efforts began locally and then propelled her to a national and then international level.
"Her heartfelt drive was in direct contrast with the monstrous lack of humanity displayed by terrorists," the editorial states. She "embodied a better word" by "helping people, and providing aid and comfort."
"Her cause will live forever."
But Kayla's own words, the ones she penned to her family in a heart-wrenching handwritten letter before her death, are the ones that might be even more powerful according to a local Christian leader.
"It can be understood from her letter that she had some sort of Christian influence, and faith," Jesse Liles, senior pastor of Willow Hills First Southern Baptist Church in Prescott, told Christian Examiner.
Liles said he does not know the family personally, but is aware they have been in seclusion and are guarded by local police.
Earlier Tuesday, family friend Todd Geiler told the Associated Press in a local news story her parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, were in a "fragile state" and asking the nation and the world to pray for her return.
Then came the news. "The family received a private message from Kayla's ISIL captors containing additional information," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Tuesday, in a FOX News story. "Once this information was authenticated by the intelligence community, they concluded that Kayla was deceased."
In a New York Times article, Kathleen Day, head of the United Christian Ministry at Northern Arizona University, said Kayla Mueller wrote blog posts to encourage her peers to get involved and take action.
In Kayla Mueller's letter to her parents, presumably the last one she wrote, that they received late last year, she said she recalls her mom telling her "in the end the only one you really have is God."
"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," Mueller wrote. "[+] 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."
The following is text of the letter Kayla Mueller wrote to her family while in ISIS captivity in November 2014 with paragraphs added for readability:
If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released.
I have asked them to contact you + send you this letter. It's hard to know what to say.
Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness.
I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn't know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.
If you could say I have 'suffered' at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness.
I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. 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 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 ...
I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation. I have had many a long hour to think, to think of all the things I will do w/ Lex, our first family camping trip, the first meeting @ the airport. I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally @ 25 years old come to realize your place in my life. The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support.
I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden.
I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already, [REDACTED] can contact [REDACTED] who may have a certain level of experience with these people.
None of us could have known it would be this long but I know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me.
I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago that says, 'The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left ...' aka- The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength.
Please be patient, give your pain to God. 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.
All my everything,