by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill
From “Seized at Dawn” to “Going Home,” we walk and run with Gracia and Martin Burnham through the Philippine jungle for over a year.
Tyndale House Publishers, 351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188, 2003, 336 pages, $22.99.
—Reviewed by John and Janet Orme, IFMA, Wheaton, Ill.
From “Seized at Dawn” to “Going Home,” we walk and run with Gracia and Martin Burnham through the Philippine jungle for over a year. We see that God gives victory sometimes in strange and even sad forms —but it is nonetheless victory and it is his. Both Burnhams go home, Martin to his ultimate Home, and Gracia, home to her children and to what God has for her for the coming years of her life here.
Gracia says, “This is my story, but it’s not my whole story.” God has the full and complete story and he is still writing that story. We are deeply indebted to Gracia Burnham for telling her and Martin’s story and for telling it well. She faced terror day after day, night after night, as she and her husband were snatched from their beds at M16 gunpoint at dawn as they enjoyed a romantic wedding anniversary getaway at Dos Palmos Resort. She knew from the beginning that she and Martin were in big trouble—and the trouble continued for over a year. It was a year of running and hiding, with little or nothing to eat or drink, and no medical attention, as prisoners of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden.
About halfway through the book and even knowing the date of their release, we began to feel weary, even strained ourselves. The continual running, the continual threats, the continual unmet needs caused us to wonder how much longer Gracia and Martin could hold on. At one point we were convicted of feeling tired and strained from the story, realizing the relentlessness of this long and cruel trial lived by the Burnhams. We unconsciously wanted it to be resolved, over, within our little thirty- to sixty- minute program mind-set. We felt frustrated that the Philippine army put the Burnhams in such danger, and frustrated that our own government was unable to get them out due to Philippine refusal. Gracia tells it like it was and we commend her. Through her telling, she subtly reminds us that God is there in the midst of the most terrible trials imagined, that the trials often last longer than we might ever wish, but that in the end, we do go home.
Before going home, and “In the Presence of My Enemies,” a table was prepared for the Burnhams. The items on the table were so very simple, and yet, were without a doubt God’s provision and sustained them until they went home. Gracia and Martin showed love to their enemies time after time and yet Gracia openly talks about the struggle in her own and Martin’s heart. This is not a glossed- over victory book—but there certainly was victory, and there was creativity in the raw struggle to stay alive. There was confession of sin over gloating when the enemy fell and true compassion for the enemy as they were seen individually. Gracia’s final “Reflections” is a chapter which should be read by every missionary and every missionary candidate.
What sustained Martin and Gracia from May 27, 2001 to June 7, 2002? What anchored them as they were held hostage and ran and suffered in the jungle? Certain elements do stand out which helped them both. Martin’s calm and positive outlook may have seemed unrealistic to some, but his spirit was genuinely calm and provided an even keel for all. Scripture memory, even memorized fragments patched together kept God’s promises and loving sovereignty in their minds. Music also played a key role, even words from folk songs lightened their day and their inner souls were fortified by the words of hymns and songs which expressed sound theological truth.
There are no safe places in our world today; this has become increasingly evident in the last several years. Terrorism, kidnappings, carjackings, robberies and general turmoil are now the expected norm in many of our fields. The cross of Christ will continue to be an offense. We will be more and more in the presence of our enemies, but the Lord will continue to be our shepherd and walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, just as he walked with the Burnhams. Martin, Gracia’s best friend, is Home; Gracia and we continue our journey here. This book helps us understand better something of our journey, and encourages us for even the roughest places.
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