The girl, who turned 17 on Monday, is at the center of a custody dispute in Orlando, where she sought help from a family she barely knew -- a pastor and his wife willing to take in a teen who feared her own family's retribution because she converted to Christianity.
The Orlando Sentinel is not identifying the teen because of her age.
The girl appeared before a crowded courtroom full of lawyers and spectators on Monday when an Orange Circuit Court Judge ordered her into Department of Children and Families emergency custody.
It was another in a series of legal decisions in a complicated case: Beyond the girl's religious preferences, the court must solve jurisdictional issues related to child services and courts.
In addition, the teen, a native of Sri Lanka, is not a U.S. citizen.
Her dispute with her family became news several weeks ago when the girl ran away from her home in Columbus, Ohio. She hitch-hiked to a Greyhound station and boarded a bus to Orlando.
Once here, she borrowed a cell phone to call Beverly Lorenz, who with husband Blake Lorenz is a pastor of Global Revolution Church in Orlando. The Lorenzes met the girl through a prayer group on Facebook.
Although the girl was a stranger, Beverly Lorenz told her they would house her. The teen told the Lorenzes she feared her family would hurt her, kill her or send her back to Sri Lanka, Beverly Lorenz said.
"We are doing everything we can to protect her," said Blake Lorenz, who said he has been told his life may be in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the girl's parents reported to Ohio law enforcement authorities that their daughter was missing. They put together a flier, with her picture on it, asking for tips to her whereabouts.
Beverly Lorenz said they called an abuse hotline, prompting a visit on Friday from the Orlando police. Officers picked up the girl to be placed in state custody.
The Lorenzes appeared in court with the teen Monday, as did her father from Ohio.
When the petite girl walked into court, she immediately bolted for Beverly Lorenz, who held her. The teen then joined Blake Lorenz at a table with lawyers. He comforted her throughout the entire hearing with his arm around her shoulder.
Rosa Gonzalez, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, told Orange Circuit Judge Gail A. Adams the teen is in fear for her life. The sight of her father makes the teen "frantic and hysterical," Gonzalez said.
The teen's father said little during the hearing.
Reached by a Sentinel reporter by phone, the girl's mother said little. "Yes, of course" her daughter would be safe should a judge eventually order her back there, she said.
And her father would not harm his daughter if she wanted to be a Christian, the woman said. She referred other questions to her husband. He did not answer his cell phone after the hearing.
Gonzalez said her organization, which sends pro bono lawyers to work on cases involving Christian issues, is concerned the teen could be returned to her parents.
"We don't take those threats lightly," she said.
Imam Hatim Hamidullah, with the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said the Muslim faith does not call for a father to hurt his child, should she convert to another religion.
"It is not Islam for the father to bring harm upon his blood daughter or any other human being because of anger," he said. "Our position is to exhaust all measures that would bring peace and harmony back to the family," Hamidullah said. "Being angry and threatening the life of someone is not one of those methods."
A DCF spokeswoman said the agency is working with Ohio officials to ensure the teen's "safety and well being."
Attempts to talk to the teen after the hearing were unsuccessful -- her legal guardians ushered her out of the building without letting her speak to a reporter.
On a baby sitter Web site, the girl described herself this way: "One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is cheerleading for my high school and of course tumbling as well. I have a little brother who is about to turn 5 years old. With this, I have had a lot of experience with toddlers and many years of sitting for him."
Blake Lorenz, who retired after serving as pastor at Pine Castle United Methodist Church for several years, said the teen believes her dad will kill her.
"We are doing everything we can to protect her," he said.
Lorenz said he has been told his life may be in jeopardy.
After Monday's hearing, Blake Lorenz said he was relieved the teen is not returning back to her family in Ohio immediately, but he's still cautious. He's "very concerned that the system will let her down."
Walter Pacheco contributed to this report. Amy L. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5735. Rene Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com or 407-650-6394.