Gracia Burnham is the widow of Martin Burnham and the mother of Jeff, Mindy, and Zach.
For 17 years, Gracia 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-schooling their children – all of whom were born in the Philippines.
On May 27, 2001, while celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island, the Burnhams were taken captive by a militant group of Muslims called the Abu Sayyaf Group. In addition to the Burnhams, the group seized several more guests and took them to Basilan Island, an ASG 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.
For more than a year, and under the total control of their captors, they were constantly on the move living in primitive conditions in the jungle, evading capture from the Philippine military, enduring gun battles, and witnessing unspeakable atrocities committed by the men of Abu Sayyaf Group.
Soon after the events of September 11, the news media took a greater interest in Gracia and Martin’s plight and kept their story in the national headlines.
On the afternoon of June 7, 2002, over a year since their abduction, the Philippine military attempted another rescue. Tragically, Martin was killed during the gunfight. Wounded, but alive, Gracia was rescued and returned home under a national spotlight.
During this time her children, Jeff, Mindy and Zach were living with grandparents and attending school in Rose Hill, Kansas. Through the benevolence of many in the community and beyond, a lovely home was built in Rose Hill to enable Gracia to provide a home for her family.
Following her return home Gracia authored two books, In The Presence Of My Enemies, and To Fly Again.
Her children are now grown and have families of their own. Gracia enjoys the role of “Lola” to her grandchildren and is becoming accustomed to the unique culture that is Florida where she now resides.
If you ask Gracia about life these days, she will say, “the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.”