- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

From combined dispatches
More than a year after she and her husband were captured by Philippine extremists, missionary Gracia Burnham returned to Kansas yesterday and was reunited with her three children.
"It's good to be home. Keep praying for me and my kids as we begin to rebuild our lives," said Mrs. Burnham, 43, who was rescued on Friday when Philippine soldiers ambushed her kidnappers, members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group.
Her husband, Martin, and a Philippine hostage were killed during the two-hour shootout. Mrs. Burnham was shot in her right leg.
Sitting in a wheelchair with her wounded leg propped on a pillow, Mrs. Burnham was greeted yesterday first by her youngest child, 11-year-old Zach, who hugged her. She then hugged her other children, 15-year-old Jeff and 12-year-old Mindy, along with other relatives.
Mrs. Burnham later talked briefly to reporters, saying she supported U.S. efforts to assist the Philippines in fighting terrorists.
"They are not men of honor. They should be treated as common criminals. We support all efforts of the government in bringing these men to justice," she said.
Family members said Mrs. Burnham might have been saved when Mr. Burnham fell over her after he was shot.
"She thought she lay there for about 20 minutes," Mrs. Burnham's younger sister, Mary Jones, told Manila television. "She said that it was very peaceful, and she was glad that she was able to be with him when it happened."
Mr. Burnham had attempted to convert his Muslim captors to Christianity, New Tribes Missions officials said.
"We might not leave this jungle alive, but at least we can leave this world serving the Lord with gladness," Mrs. Burnham said Martin told her, according to New Tribes.
The Burnhams, who worked in the Philippines since 1986 as missionaries, were kidnapped in May 2001 from a tourist resort as they celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary. They were held by the Abu Sayyaf rebel group for a year and 11 days in what became the Philippines' longest hostage saga involving foreigners.
Regarded as the most violent of the Muslim separatist groups, the Abu Sayyaf claims to fight for an Islamic state but pursues kidnap for ransom.
The Burnhams worked in the predominantly Catholic country for the Florida-based New Tribes Mission. Mr. Burnham was a pilot who flew supplies and missionaries, and Mrs. Burnham handled radio communications.
The Burnhams' children have been living in Rose Hill, Kan., at the home of Mr. Burnham's parents, Paul and Oreta Burnham. Residents of Rose Hill planned to welcome Mrs. Burnham later yesterday.
Among those greeting Mrs. Burnham at the Kansas City International Airport yesterday was Melba Burnham, the slain missionary's aunt, who wore a yellow ribbon for the occasion.
"We'll miss Martin. He was a great guy. We're glad the children will have one parent," she said before Gracia Burnham arrived.
The body of Mr. Burnham, who was 42, had been flown to a U.S. military base in Japan. A memorial service for him was scheduled for Friday in Wichita, Kan.


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