Bruce Laingen says his religious faith and a sense of closeness to his family are helping to sustain him as a hostage in Iran.

The U.S. charge d'affaires to Iran made these observations in a hand-written note to Terri Finley of St. Paul.

Finley has been writing Laingen since he and other American officials were taken hostage last November.

Laingen, 58, is a native of rural Minnesota. His wife and three sons live in suburban Bethesda and attend All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.

In a letter, dated June 29, Laingen wrote: "I did not grow up on the farm in southern Minnesota without being left with a strong sense of the value of a religious faith -- a faith expressed for me as well as it could possibly be by Paul in the first couple of verses of Hebrews, Chapter 11."

Those passages say: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."

Laingen added: "This experience has forcibly and dramatically reminded me of the great strength that a close family offers, in good times and bad.

"Too often, I think, today's Americans take family life too much for granted or -- worse -- weaken it by the distractions of our hectic daily lives. g

"Thank you for writing," he told Finley. "And a special thank you for your assurance that the hostages are not forgotten. I am sure they are not, and I am confident they know that in their hearts."

Laingen has been kept separate from most of the hostages during his captivity.

In a later letter written to a St. Paul newspaper reporter, Laingen said:

"It constantly amazes me what interest persists among the American public life in our trauma, witnesses most recently by the focus on our colleague Richard Queen, and on his happy release. Happy in that he's free; sad that he's sick. It's bittersweet.

"But I know Richard -- he's young and strong and I'm confident he'll be all right.

"This release, whatever else it may represent, is timely in reminding our hosts here of the human costs of indefinite continuation of this affair."

Laingen also said "Keep your fingers crossed -- and a prayer or two might help. We have not lost our confidence."