Lessons from Gracia Burnham
One of the cool things about my job is that I get to go to different missions conferences hosted around the country. This last weekend I was at Missions Fest Seattle. I was representing Youth Missions International in a booth at Missions Fest that was hosted by Westminster Chapel in Redmond WA. It was a privilege to stand in this booth and talk to hundreds of people in the greater Seattle area about missions and to share how YMI could serve them. One of the blessings of gatherings like this is that I get to talk to all the different exhibitors and hear about the many ministries that God is using to spread His gospel around the world. It is very humbling to talk to some people who have served on the mission field for 30+ years. The wisdom and faithfulness that just pours through their speech is so encouraging and convicting that it re-energizes my desire to serve Christ with the rest of my life.
One of the speakers at MFS this year was Gracia Burnham who you might remember was the surviving wife of the couple kidnapped in the Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf Group. They were held captive for over one year running in the jungle and fighting to survive. Then on June 7, 2002 Gracia was freed in a gun battle between the ASG and the Filipino military. Sadly, her husband was shot and killed in that battle. After a year of captivity she was free but the price paid was overwhelming. Well, God has turned this truly awful story into a beautiful testimony that Gracia shares of God’s faithfulness and grace. There were two lessons that really stood out to me. One was that while in captivity, God really convicted her about her anger and hatred toward those who were holding them captive. She started to see them as people that needed Christ and not as the oppressive devils that any person would naturally hate. She started serving them along with her husband and showing the love of Christ. Since coming back to the States, Gracia and her kids have purposely reached out to the same captors that oppressed her and her husband. As a result, three of them have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. Her actions towards her captors are exactly what Peter commands us to do as Christians in 1 Peter 2:13ff. May God give us the grace to endure the hard times of life and live in such a way as to share Christ through our actions, words, and forgiveness.