- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

ROSE HILL, Kan. Relatives of a missionary who was killed in the Philippines after a yearlong hostage ordeal said yesterday that they were numbed by the news, but that their religious faith would sustain them.
"The Lord will give us the strength to get through this," Paul Burnham, Martin Burnham's father, said at his home before dawn and within hours of his son's death.
Martin Burnham, 42, and his wife, Gracia, 43, had been held hostage by Muslim extremists for more than a year. He was killed yesterday and she was wounded during a rescue attempt by U.S.-trained troops who raided a hide-out. A third hostage, a Philippine nurse kidnapped shortly after the Burnhams, also died.
Mrs. Burnham was said to be in stable condition at a hospital.
Mr. Burnham's parents, Paul and Oreta, were informed of their son's death before dawn in calls from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Philippine ambassador to the United States. Paul Burnham informed other family members.
The missionary couple's three children Jeff, 15; Mindy, 12, and Zach, 11 were in Missouri with Mrs. Burnham's parents, Norvin and Betty Jo Jones. They were reported to be on their way to join other family members in Rose Hill, about 15 miles south of Wichita.
Through the yearlong ordeal, the family had glimpsed the thin, exhausted couple on television news clips and heard from them sporadically in letters. But the correspondence ended months ago.
Doug Burnham, brother of the slain missionary, said before an early morning prayer service in Rose Hill that "our faith in the Lord is still the same. That has not changed."
"It is kind of shocking news. It is difficult. God has given us strength. It is kind of numbing right now. I suppose the full impact has not hit us," he said.
Among those attending the prayer service at Rose Hill Bible Church was David Burnham, an uncle.
"Whatever His will is, we will accept it," he said.
Pastor Robert Varner, who conducted the service, said later that Martin Burnham's suffering has ended.
"We are disappointed. We are saddened. It wasn't what we hoped for, but the fact is, there has been some closure to this," Mr. Varner said.
The pastor said the family had been troubled by not knowing where the couple were being held. "The unknown takes a lot of toll on them. At least now they know where Martin is."
Asked how the ordeal has affected his church, Mr. Varner said: "It does take emotional energy, emotional strength. It has been a time of strengthening, learning our strength depends on God."
Pastor Joe Still of the First Baptist Church in Rochester, Ohio, who served with the Burnhams in the Philippines from 1984 to 1991, said "God decided to release Martin straight to heaven and allowed Gracia to come back to us."
The Burnhams' religious group, the New Tribes Mission, had posted pictures of the couple and a call to prayer for their freedom on its Web site. Yesterday, the site's headline said: "Hostages Free Martin w/ the Lord."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide