- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 17, 2001

In a dark, stinking cell in Afghanistan, Heather Mercer of Vienna, Va., and Dayna Curry of Thompson Station, Tenn., sang together and prayed to God. Their faith could not be shaken by three and a half months of detention, bombs or the threat of execution by stoning, firing squad or being buried alive for speaking about Christianity with the Afghan people. Now their prayers, and the prayers of their families and friends around the world, have been answered.
The two Americans and six other aid workers for Shelter Now Germany were rescued by U.S. Army helicopters Thursday after an excruciating two days of being dragged from one prison to the next while Northern Alliance fighters captured first Kabul and then Ghazni. These women and their fellow aid workers, who risked their lives to help give shelter, food and spiritual encouragement to a people whose rulers wanted to kill them, are real heroes in this war.
Even the womens' guards grew to love the two Americans and were sad to see them leave when the Taliban took the workers with them as they fled Kabul. In the abandoned cell in Kabul, a note with Miss Mercer's name on it was left behind, evidence of the unwavering faith that carried her through her ordeal: "We serve a God of miracles. I cry out … my hope is in you, Lord, faithful one, so unchanging," it read.
During the many months in prison, a time when most people would be consumed with their own survival, Miss Mercer wrote her friends back in the United States and asked about their well-being. In a letter to her best friend from high school, Mindy Adams, Miss Mercer was concerned that the war could change Miss Adams' upcoming plans for international travel. "My life seems so mundane compared to what she's going through, yet she asked about those details," Miss Adams said. A letter to another friend made use of code words for "God," to prevent further punishment by her captors: "We sing, read and pray and call out for grace for each new day. Though moments come when we don't know how to carry on, our Daddy comes in, picks us up, and again speaks a word of life."
Now safe in Pakistan with their families, the two women described yesterday on the "Today Show" the last hours before their release. The journey began with "Strange men … with lots of Kalashnikovs," who put the aid workers in a van leaving Kabul and made them sit on rocket launchers. They froze without blankets until they were placed in a jail cell in Ghazni, 90 miles south of Kabul. Northern Alliance troops taking the city were as surprised to find the Westerners there as the aid workers were to see them. They were rescued by U.S. Special Operations helicopters the following morning, after local people tried to hold them for ransom. Miss Mercer had the idea to light their head scarves on fire to attract the attention of the helicopters. They will be with family in Europe for Thanksgiving, and a homecoming celebration is tentatively planned for 7:30 p.m, Dec. 3 at Vienna Presbyterian Church. Their freedom gives us reason to believe in miracles.


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