Gracia Burnham has been sharing her testimony for fifteen years. Hers is a story unlike many others. In May of 2001, just a few months before the September 11th attacks, Gracia and her husband Martin, two missionaries in the Philippines, were taken captive by a militant group of Muslims called the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“Usually I’ll get somewhere and hear someone who says, ‘I was praying for you and I want to hear your story,’ and I get the strength to tell it again,” says Burnham.
During their thirteen months of captivity in the jungle, the Burnhams worshiped the Lord every day, even witnessing to their captors. Toward the end of their captivity, Gracia and Martin had been running for 8 days with their captors. They had endured seventeen gun battles between the Philippine military and the group they were with, however it was during this last battle that Martin was killed when a stray bullet hit him. Gracia was injured, but survived.
Now years later, Gracia is providing financial and emotional support to many of her captors who are in jail. Four of them have come to know the Lord!
“Had I known while we were going through our hard time in the jungle that even one of those guys would come to know Jesus because of our experience, I think the days would have been easier to bear,” says Burnham.
Her message at the banquet shared her journey in the jungle and the years since demonstrating how God can bring good out of the difficult situations we face.
Earlier that day, Gracia spoke with TCS students during Chapel periods. Elementary students heard the message of how God is writing “your story.” Secondary students heard about what Gracia calls “the day of grace” – that’s a time we have all been given to accept the Lord today because you never know what will happen tomorrow. For Gracia, God rescued her and continues to write her story by placing a new mission before her – sharing it with the world.
“I hope they heard that God’s given you a gift – there’s something unique about you and figure out what that thing is that makes you, you, and use it for his Glory – whatever that is,” says Burnham. “I hope they didn’t hear that I think everyone needs to be a missionary, or that these guys are bad guys and I hope they didn’t even hear that I’m a mighty over comer because I’m not. I hope they heard that God uses weak things and that he can use anyone – just make yourself available.”
At the banquet, Gracia spoke of the importance that knowing the Word of God made in her situation. Neither Gracia nor Martin had a Bible with them during that year in captivity, but they did have the Word of God in their hearts and continuously encouraged one another with uplifting verses and hymns.
This is something that TCS instills in children from the day they start here, partnering with parents so that one day when faced with hardships of any kind, they too can stand firm on God’s promises.
“God takes us into hard situations not to crush us, but so that we could see his hand and learn to trust Him,” says Burnham.