Christian aid worker held prisoner by Taliban speaks at U

by Tom Ford

After being held captive for more than 100 days in a series of Taliban prisons, Heather Mercer was rescued from Afghanistan by a U.S. helicopter late on the night of Nov. 13.

On that day nine years earlier, Mercer said, she was rescued from a “prison” in her heart when she decided to follow Jesus.

Mercer, a former Christian aid worker in Afghanistan, said her faith in Jesus saved her both times.

Before a crowd of several hundred people – mostly University students – Mercer recounted her ordeal Wednesday night at Willey Hall as part of an event sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.

Amanda Bromberek, an intern with the group, said the story of Mercer’s travails provided an example of the power of faith and helped introduce the University community to a different culture.

During a brief trip to the country in 1998, Mercer said, she developed an affection for Afghanistan and its people that inspired her to return three years later.

“I fell in love with a nameless, faceless nation that the rest of world had forgotten,” she said.

She returned to the country in March 2001 and assisted with humanitarian activities, such as working with children at Red Cross hospitals.

On Aug. 3, Taliban soldiers imprisoned Mercer and several other aid workers.

Throughout the first six weeks of captivity, she said, intense fears of execution and being caught in an explosion from U.S. bombing raids caused her to question her faith.

But after reaching a point when she wanted to die rather than continue as a prisoner, she said Jesus came to her and relieved her of the fear.

“Though it was the greatest terror of my life, it really was the greatest privilege of my life,” Mercer said.

She said before her capture Taliban officials had prohibited foreigners from interacting with Afghan women. But Mercer said she was imprisoned with 30 Afghan women, and she said they shared their lives together.

Mercer said for a few months she was able to eat and sing with those women. She said she experienced their strength and joy despite devastating conditions, reaffirming a belief her prior time in the country demonstrated.

“Joy is not based on circumstances of life,” she said.

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