Missionary who became a hostage talks in Lisburn

Tuesday November 20th 2007

Gracia BurnhamEx missionary and former hostage Gracia Burnham from the USA will tell her unique story at at Lisburn Cathedral on Sunday November 25 at 11.00am. 

The event has been organised by Friends in Action, a local base charity doing practical work in Africa to assist missionaries and the people they work with.

Gracia is the widow of Martin Burnham and the mother of Jeff, Mindy and Zach.  For 17 years she and Martin served with New Tribes Mission in the Philippines where Martin was a jungle pilot delivering mail, supplies and encouragement to other missionaries and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities. 

Gracia served in various roles supporting the aviation program and also home-schooled their children who were all born in the Philippines.  While celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island, the Burnhams were kidnapped on May 27 2001, by Abu Sayyaf, a militant group of Muslims.  They seized several more guests and took them to Basilan Island, an Aby Sayyaf stronghold.

In the ensuing months some of the hostages were killed, but most were set free. From November 2001, only the Burnhams and one other hostage remained in captivity.  During their 376 days of captivity, they faced near starvation, exhaustion, gun battles, cold-hearted murder and intense soul-searching about a God who sometimes seemed to have forgotten them.

On June 7 2002, in a firefight between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf Group, Martin was killed.  Gracia was wounded, but was freed.  Since that time she has written two books, ‘In the presence of my enemies’ and ‘To fly again’.  Her oldest son Jeff is now married and is studying missionary aviation at Liberty University.  Mindy, Zach and Gracia make their home in Rose Hill, Kansas. 

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