Answered prayer brings mixed emotions
For more than a year I have prayed that kidnapped American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham would be released unharmed and allowed to return to their children. Though I have dutifully prayed for others in similar circumstances, this time I was touched on a personal level. Years ago, we attended church with the Burnhams, so it is with mixed emotions that I acknowledge the answer to my prayers.
I simply cannot imagine what the family is going through right now. On the one hand there is great sadness over the loss of a brother, son and father, but on the other hand there is great joy over the return of a sister, daughter and mother.
Throughout the almost 13-month ordeal the family's faith has never seemed to waver. They have stood firmly as a testimony of a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine, a God who never leaves us even as we walk through the deepest valley of the shadow of death.
My husband and I first met Martin and Gracia while attending church together in Kosciusko, Mississippi. They were missionary candidates undergoing a yearlong training at the New Tribe Institute in Durant, Mississippi, just a few miles from Kosciusko. Though our time together was short, our meeting forever changed me. For the first time in my life I knew missionaries my age whom I could relate to.
The Burnhams were intent on making missions their life's work. Not for a few weeks during summer vacation or for just a year or two, but for as long as God would allow, they desired to dwell in the most primitive of circumstances ministering to tribal people by living among them, learning their language and, most importantly, loving them.
As a young woman expecting my first child, it was difficult for me to imagine anyone wanting to give up life in modern day America for a hut in a remote jungle, but Martin and Gracia Burnham were excited about the prospect. Later, we would have the privilege of meeting and getting to know Martin's younger brother, Doug, and his wife, Teresa, both equally committed in their desire to serve the Lord.
When kidnapped, Martin and Gracia Burnham were forced to leave the life they loved, but from all accounts their hearts never left the mission field.
Even while being virtually starved to death and made to march for hours on end through the dense jungle, Martin led his fellow kidnapping victims in prayer and singing, and he and Gracia shared what little food they had with their captors. Throughout the entire ordeal the Burnhams maintained a faith that can only come from someone who knows the Lord in a deeply personal way.
Many times during this past year hopes were raised as reports of planned rescue attempts filtered back to the states. Other hostages were released and reporters were permitted to interview and photograph the Burnhams. They were allowed to mail letters from Martin and Gracia to their family back home.
According to one news report, a few days before his death, Martin Burnham wrote one last letter, a good-bye letter to his beloved children. He gave it to Gracia, but it was lost during the rescue attempt. Soldiers later returned to the area to successfully find a father's final words to his children.
As I pause to consider that this Sunday is Father's Day, it is my fervent prayer that the sweet sound of amazing grace will continue to bring comfort to the Burnham family, but especially to Zach, Mindy and Jeff, the children of Martin Burnham.
For more information regarding the Burnhams go to www.ntm.org.