On Tuesday, the U.S. government confirmed that 26-year-old Kayla Mueller, a captive of ISIS since August 2013, has died.
While circumstances of her death remain unclear, details of the young woman's life and work — most recently helping refugees in Aleppo, Syria — have emerged in the last 24 hours, as family, friends, and members of her community share memories and anecdotes of her compassion and big heart for those in need.
The Washington Post reports:
The Rev. Kathleen Day, who headed a campus ministry that Mueller joined at Northern Arizona University, recalled that she wrote in a letter from captivity that she tried to teach crafts to her guards, including how to make origami peace cranes.
“We just delight in that,” Day said, “that Kayla remained Kayla. She said she found freedom even in captivity.”
The Post also shared a letter written by Mueller to her family while in captivity. In it Mueller expresses her experience of faith:
"I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. ...I have been shown in darkness,light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free."
Mueller's family on Tuesday referenced another letter in which Mueller had written of her faith, this time to her father in 2011. According to the family, Mueller wrote:
"I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. ...I will always seek God. 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."
In their statement, Mueller's family said,
"We remain heartbroken, also, for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely and who remain in our thoughts and prayers. We pray for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria."
The family has reportedly requested that expressions of sympathy be made to causes that Kayla would have supported. KPHO reports that additional information will be made available in the coming week.