Pray for the Burnhams' Release
by Tom Stewart
December 25, 2001
On May 27th 2001, American
missionaries to the Philippines, Martin and Gracia (pronounced GRAY-shuh) Burnham,
serving with New Tribes Mission ---New Window (NTM)-- a Bible
based, Christian outreach, attempting to plant indigenous, New Testament churches
"among every tribe within this generation"-- were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)-- whose name means "Bearer
of the Sword." ASG is an Islamic separatist movement, which promotes an independent
Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, areas in the southern
Philippines, that are heavily populated by Muslims. The ASG has ties and funding
from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. "Remember [the Burnhams] that are in bonds,
as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in
the body" (Hebrews 13:3). At Christmas
2001, as worldwide attention is drawn to American Special Forces and U.S. Marines
searching for Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, Martin and
Gracia Burnham have patiently endured more than seven months of captivity by the
ASG, in part due to Osama bin Laden's support of the ASG. "I
will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and
doubting" (1Timothy 2:8).
Martin is a pilot for the New Tribes Mission in the Philippines. He is the son of NTM missionaries Paul and Oreta Burnham, and was raised in the Philippines. Gracia serves with her husband in several support roles for the NTM aviation ministry. She is the daughter of Rev. Norvin and Betty Jo Jones of Arkansas. Martin and Gracia Burnham have three children: Jeff, 14; Mindy, 12; and Zach, 11. All three were born on the mission field in the Philippines. "4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:4-5). On May 26th 2001, Martin and Gracia traveled to Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. The Burnhams were among a group of twenty people that were kidnapped by the ASG on May 27th. They were taken by boat to the ASG stronghold on Basilian Island, along with Guillermo Sobero-- a naturalized American citizen, who resided in Southern California, but was subsequently executed by the ASG on June 12th. Though government troops initially surrounded the ASG on Basilian Island, the insurgents escaped with their hostages, along with newly captured Filipino nurse Deborah Yap. Presently, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to rely on military action to free the captives-- of course, exposing the hostages to the same danger as the hunted terrorists. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
On May 30th 2001, the United States refused to pay a ransom demanded by the terrorists. Villagers have reported seeing hostages tied together with a rope, being led through the jungle. "Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee" (Zechariah 9:12). The ASG claims that Martin Burnham was shot in the back by the Filipino military in the crossfire of ongoing clashes on June 3rd 2001. "14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled... 17 For it is better, if the Will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing" (1Peter 3:14, 17). As of December 21st 2001, about 7,000 government troops are reported to be hunting down the ASG. Since President Arroyo has drawn the line forbidding American troops from participating in the hunt, they have only acted in training and advisory roles, such as the training of the counter-terrorist force known as the Light Reaction Company (LRC), which killed eleven of the rebels in a clash on December 7th 2001. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the Name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7). However, the possible uniting of the Abu Sayyaf Group with the larger Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), may complicate the release of the Burnhams, as the war between the Philippine government and the Muslim separatist groups would escalate. At the close of Christmas 2001, only the Burnhams and Deborah Yap are still being held on Basilian Island-- 600 miles south of Manila. "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).
A television interview in November 2001 saw the graveness of Martin and Gracia's circumstances. Martin had lost an alarming amount of weight. Martin and Gracia report in a letter that they are "very weary, but God has protected our health and (we) have not suffered major sickness or injury. We do need medical attention though." May we be instructed by Martin and Gracia's patient suffering. "20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps" (1Peter 2:20-21). They indicate that food is often scarce, and with little protein. "But God always sends a provision and we've always had water," Gracia wrote. "Don't wish to complain -- just thought you'd want to know our situation." Do we who name the Name of Christ focus away from ourselves to the LORD? "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Philippians 4:12). Gracia confided in the letter: "We think about everyone so often -- and I'll admit that I cry a lot... It doesn't mean that I've lost my faith -- I'm just incredibly sad, especially to be separated from the kids." "3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2Corinthians 1:3-4). On December 21st 2001, representatives of the New Tribes Mission, family members of Martin and Gracia, and representatives of the U.S. government met in Washington, D.C. for what NTM described as an encouraging meeting. They were told that the United States will take a "more active role in efforts to secure freedom" for the Burnhams. Heather Mercer, recently freed from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan, also met with the families to encourage them that she and others were praying for them. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
When the Early Christians of the Book of Acts were imprisoned for Christ, they knew that only an appeal to the Almighty would be of any value; but, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they were more concerned about the testimony of the LORD than their own security or deliverance. "29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:29-32). Likewise, it is reported by hostages freed by the Abu Sayyaf that "Martin and Gracia are shining lights for Christ among all the hostages and their captors." Remember, when Herod Agrippa imprisoned the Apostle Peter to deliver him up to death, the Church interceded. "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him" (Acts 12:5). God miraculously freed Peter from the two chains securing him between two soldiers, and opened all of his prison doors, without the notice of "four quaternions of soldiers" (Acts 12:5)-- sixteen soldiers. Though the Church was praying without ceasing at Mark's house, they were not expecting Peter to be released by a miracle. "13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. 14 And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. 15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. 16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished" (Acts 12:13-16).
"The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isaiah 61:1).
May we pray in faith to our God for the deliverance of Martin and Gracia Burnham from the hands of wicked men. And, "He will deliver" (Daniel 3:17) them!
Gracia Freed; Martin Killed ---New Window
"SANFORD, Florida (June 7, 2002): Military action between the Abu Sayyaf Group and Philippine forces has resulted in the death of Martin Burnham and the release of his wife, Gracia." --New Tribes Mission
Martin Burnham Went to Heaven ---New Window
Martin Burnham was occupied with what he was supposed to be doing, when he left. "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13). As a missionary pilot, Martin was transporting people, supplies, or simply encouragement. He was attempting to maintain a Christlike walk-- even in the most difficult circumstances of captivity in the Philippine jungles. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1Corinthians 10:31). Martin said,
"We might not leave this jungle alive,
but at least we can leave this world serving the Lord with gladness.
We can serve Him right here where we are, and with gladness."
If we will endeavour to serve the LORD in the fullest way that we understand, then we will be exercising the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (1Corinthians 12:7). If we "walk in love" (Ephesians 5:2), we will be exercising our spiritual gift, whatever it is, even if we know not what to call it. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1Corinthians 13:2). If we are pointing to Christ, then we are walking "in faith and love" (2Timothy 1:13). We will either be evangelizing the Lost, revitalizing the Backslidden, or discipling the Faithful. "Make full proof of thy ministry" (2Timothy 4:5).
Next article "From the Editor's Desktop"
Christian Response to Terrorism ---New Window
"The Koran teaches the Muslim faithful to kill idolatrous pagans, unless they repent and convert to Islam. 'When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful' (Sura 9:5). 'The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel' (Proverbs 12:10). Cruel is the word that best describes the Islamic application of such Koranic teachings, requiring the slaying of idolatrous pagans. 'An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger [Hebrew, malak, i.e., angel] shall be sent against him' (Proverbs 17:11). The very idea of converting by the sword horrifies every true teaching of Christ that demands fidelity to God with 'ALL thy heart... ALL thy soul, and ... ALL thy mind' (Matthew 22:37) as True Religion, '6 not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the Will of God from the heart; 7 with good will doing service, as to the LORD, and not to men' (Ephesians 6:6-7). The Christian Scriptures, as opposed to the Koran, emphasize the necessity of an uncoerced heart confession of Jesus Christ as Saviour and LORD, realizing that anything less is a false profession of Christ, i.e., 'And why call ye Me, LORD, LORD, and do not the things which I say?' (Luke 6:46). '9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be Saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto Righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto Salvation' (Romans 10:9-10)."
Subpoints of the article:
The Face of Terrorism (2001): Militant Islamic Fundamentalism
Terror: How Almighty God Uses Man's Wrath to Praise His Name
Faith in God: The Christian Response to Terrorism
Terror: The Beginning of God's Judgment
Question and Answer: On Terror
Section Index for Fellowship
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