Five years ago Sunday a 16-year-old Ohio girl climbed aboard a Greyhound bus and ran away to the home of an Orlando pastor and his wife, saying her Muslim father had threatened to kill her because she had become an evangelical Christian.
In the months that followed, Rifqa Bary became a symbol of religious persecution and a hero to conservative Christians. Thousands of people bombarded then-Gov. Charlie Crist with emails, letters and phone calls, demanding that he intercede and keep a judge from returning her to Columbus.
In the end, she went back, but never reconciled with her parents.
Bary is now 21, a college student majoring in biology and still deeply religious.
She did not agree to an interview with the Orlando Sentinel but through one of her lawyers, John Stemberger, provided a brief update on her life.
She is in good health, despite a battle with uterine cancer in 2010 that required three operations.
She is an evangelist, Stemberger wrote in an email, and traveled to India as part of a mission group.
He did not disclose where she lives or where she goes to school but said she hopes to get a degree in biology and become a physician.
Next May, a small Colorado Springs publisher that specializes in religious books plans to publish her autobiography.
Beverly Rykerd, a publicist for the company, WaterBrook Multnomah, confirmed the book deal Friday.
Its working title: "Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus."
In 2009, the Columbus, Ohio, police department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated her family, trying to determine whether her story about the death threat from her father, Mohamed Bary, was legitimate.
Both cleared him of wrongdoing.
Contacted earlier this week, he would not answer questions about his daughter.
They have not reconciled, according to Stemberger.
"Rifqa has not felt the liberty to have direct contact with her parents but loves them dearly," he wrote.
Blake and Beverly Lorenz are the husband-wife minister team from Orlando who gave refuge to Bary five years ago.
Blake Lorenz helped buy the bus ticket that brought her here, according to a former church administrator, and once she arrived, the couple kept her whereabouts secret for more than two weeks.
The controversy created a schism in their small, evangelical church, forcing them to reorganize, rename their congregation and relocate. For a time they held Sunday services in the back of a warehouse.
The congregation has since moved at least twice, and now meets in south Orange County.
"We stay in contact with Rifqa, especially Beverly," Blake Lorenz wrote in an email Friday. "We are so proud of her!"
All the media scrutiny at the time was difficult for his family, he wrote, in large part because people misjudged their motives.
But it deepened their religious faith and commitment to evangelism, he wrote.
"Yes!!! We would definitely take her in and do it again," he wrote.
"We knew saving one life was worth sacrificing many things in our own personal lives."
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