The parents of Kayla Mueller, the young American woman who was killed while being held captive by ISIS, have said their steadfast faith in God has given them the courage to keep going.
Speaking at the first International Congress on Religious Freedom in Madrid this weekend, Carl and Marsha Mueller said their daughter had travelled Turkey to work with refugees after hearing of their struggles.
"She was capable of going where the needy were in order to work out how she could help. She believed in freedom and she felt the injustice being suffered by those who were deprived of it; she was tormented by the suffering of others," the Muellers said, according to Christian Today.
The 26 year old was abducted by ISIS militants after visiting a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo on August 3, 2013, and died in February 2015 while in the terrorist group's captivity. The family, who kept silent about their daughter's plight until her death was confirmed, released a letter Mueller had written while in captivity.
"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," she wrote in the letter.
"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..."
She concluded: "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."
Today, Mueller's parents say their faith in Jesus Christ and the confidence that their daughter is in heaven helps them get through each day.
"They [ISIS] not only took our daughter: but they took 18 months of our lives ... Every phone call, every email was a big event for us, always waiting to hear news about Kayla," they said.
"But faith helped us to carry on, the same faith that we could see in Kayla in her letter," Marsha Mueller said. "God is always there, alongside us: always," she said. "God has not angered me at all. As Kayla would say, 'suffering is not something that is normal.'"
Added Carl Mueller, "It is difficult to go through the death of a loved one, and when it happens it is normal to ask God why. Perhaps we will never know why, until the day we are reunited with Kayla. Meanwhile, God has given my life the knowledge and strength to carry on."
Mueller's untimely death sparked international outrage and drew condemnation from dozens of political and religious leaders.
At the time, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Mueller should be remembered for her selfless work, not for how she died.
"Her family's got to be heartbroken, but my God, this is the best example, this young lady, of being an American, being a decent human being that one could imagine. I believe very strongly she is in God's hands," he told CNN.
"Those who captured her, and in my view, killed her -- I think God will judge them differently."
Billy Graham Evangelical Association President and CEO Franklin Graham also encouraged the international community to remember her family in the wake of her death.
"Today the family of 26-year-old Kayla Meuller has been informed that their daughter is dead," Graham wrote on his Facebook page at the time. " We need to pray for her parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, and her brother. Kayla had dedicated much of her life to serving others and had been working in the Middle East caring for the suffering victims of the civil war in Syria. She was kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS and held for 18 months. I am sure she will be greatly missed by all those who love her and those she was helping."