Philippines (MNN) — If you’ve read the book, In the Presence of My Enemies, you know the story of Martin and Gracia Burnham. They were missionaries in the Philippines who were kidnapped from a resort in 2001 with several others by the Abu Sayyaf, a Jihadist terror group. They were kept hostage for a year. The Philippine army attack that rescued Gracia also killed her husband, Martin.
Today, Gracia Burnham travels and shares her story at various speaking engagements. We recently connected with her at The Voice of the Martyrs, USA’s latest Advance Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia.
She says, “Voice of the Martyrs was some of the first to come alongside me and my family after that event, and so I have tried to plug into a lot of their conferences they do around the nation.”
Burnham reflects on what God taught her from her captivity 15 years ago: “In my case, what I learned was who I am. I think if you were to ask my children, they would say a different mother came out of the jungle than went in. I was always a real black-and-white person…. Then all of a sudden the bottom dropped out from me, and I saw myself at my lowest and I saw my sin and my hatred for those guys [our captors], and it was shocking. So when I saw myself for what I really was, then I learned God’s grace in a whole new way.”
There have been miraculous developments in Burnham’s story. “I have found some of the guys who held us captive, in a maximum security prison in Manila, and I’ve been able to work with them in a small way through a missionary couple who works in the prison. So far, four former Abu Sayyaf have come to know Jesus as their Savior.
“God writes really good stories. All of that could be happening in the Philippines and I wouldn’t even know about it, but the Lord let me even be in on some of it, and I’m just very grateful to Him.”
Coming off the heels of the International Day of Prayer and the focus on the worldwide Church, we asked Gracia how her life experience has influenced her thoughts on missions.
“I think my philosophy on missions is you just love people and you invite them into your circumstances. You tell them your story and what God did for you — and how God can work in their hearts and lives as well.”
For those in more volatile mission fields today, Gracia says this is her prayer — and how we can pray as well:
“I pray they’ll have a place to sleep tonight, they’ll have a pillow for their head, a blanket so they don’t freeze, a cup of hot coffee with sugar in it — something that will bless them, some encouragement from God’s Word…. They need the basic things, so my prayers for them are very simple: God, give them what they need today, their daily bread, and give them something to hang onto from you today to encourage their hearts and let them know, ‘God is here with me.’”
Ultimately, says Burnham, “It’s an honor to tell my story…. I just try to love people and do what I can do, and watch God do what only He can do.”