In memory of Kayla Mueller

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, our strength and salvation!

Bishop Robert Hoshibata

Bishop Hoshibata

The civilized world is horrified at the brutality of ISIS, the militant Islamic State of Iraq & Syria. In a series of public news releases and postings, hostages taken by force and held against their will have been brutally executed. Despite efforts to gain release of these hostages, the captors have been singly focused on an agenda that is political and viciously cruel.

As Christ followers who are called to love all persons, we recoil at this violence and senseless death.

Recently, news became public of the death of yet another hostage held by ISIS. This time the horror strikes too close to home. Rumors have been substantiated that despite efforts to return this hostage to freedom, Kayla Mueller, a young woman from Prescott, Ariz., is dead. An alumna of Northern Arizona University, Kayla was captured Aug. 4, 2013, while following her passion offering humanitarian aid in Syria.

Fervent prayers

I first learned of Kayla’s captivity from the Rev. Kathleen Day, our campus pastor at Northern Arizona University through Billie Fidlin, our Conference Director of Outreach. Since then my fervent prayers have been for Kayla and her family, and for those who were then diligently working for her safe return.

We join many in sadness at the senseless and tragic end to a life being lived in pursuit of justice and in service of others.

Now, however, we join many in sadness at the senseless and tragic end to a life being lived in pursuit of justice and in service of others. To help us through a time of heavy heart such as this, when our spirits sink with hopeless despair and anger, we turn to God’s Word and we lift our prayers to God for hope and healing.

We are buoyed by the words of the scriptures that tell of God’s compassion and love and of the promise of eternal life. These strong words I share with you:

  • “I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121: 1-2).
  • “Out of the depth I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! … I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-6).
  • Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Let us join in prayer

Let us join in prayer in the name of our compassionate God, asking for comfort for all who mourn. Please also raise prayers for the end to war and violence with the fervent hope that peace will come to a deeply divided, troubled world.

And we pray that those who wield power viciously will have their hearts softened by grace so that there will be an end to lives being callously lost and human worth denigrated in the name of political gain.

I am asking you to stand firm against evil and injustice, to turn away from violence and harm, and to serve the cause of goodwill to others.

I ask you to commit to living a life of peaceful bridge building and reaching out to others in love. I ask you to combat evil in the world by doing good in your lives wherever you may be.

In memory of Kayla Mueller

In memory of Kayla Mueller, I am asking you to pray for peace in your private quiet moments with God, in your worship services at church, and in prayer circles and chains.

I offer a prayer that follows, but you also have words that are heartfelt that I ask you to lift to God. And let us not forget that in every situation when our spirits might sink with hopeless despair and anger, we are buoyed by our firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the author of life eternal.

Loving God, we turn to you in prayer in this time of sadness and shock. We recoil at the cruelty that has resulted in the tragic loss of the life of Kayla Mueller. We pray for Kayla’s family and all who cherish her. Visit them with the Holy Comfort of your Spirit, to lift them from moments of sadness and loss. In your comforting love, permeate any despair that is felt, and give hope whenever hope fades.

God of Life, with your powerful, transforming grace, melt the hardness of heart of those that promote violence and evil. Keep us from repaying evil for evil, that we might instead work more diligently for peace in our world.

We commit ourselves to the pursuit of the vision of your Reign where the lion and the lamb coexist in peace.

Almighty and All-Loving God, give power to these words through your Holy Spirit as we pray in the strong name of the Christ, our Rock, our Redeemer, and our Hope, Amen!

Editor's note: Bishop Robert Hoshibata is episcopal leader of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is also president of the Board of Directors of the General Board of Church & Society. This article was written by the bishop Feb. 12, 2015.

Letter to the Editor