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Nearly 10 months ago, a small group of men from a rural Kansas church began meeting six mornings a week to pray for the release of two kidnaped missionaries from their hometown. They never imagined their prayers would be needed this long.

“The initial thought was, ‘This thing will be resolved in 30 days or so,’ ” says Robert Varner, pastor of Rose Hill Bible Church in Rose Hill, Kansas—the home church of hostages Martin and Gracia Burnham.

Instead, the eight men—among them Martin’s father, Paul—have met at 6 A.M. Monday through Saturday since last May, holidays included. They pray for 30 minutes each morning.

“We pray for their well-being and for their Christian testimony,” Varner says. “We pray that their ministry might be greater in spite of their situation.”

The Burnhams’ hostage crisis has turned into a lengthy waiting game. Stationed in the Philippines since 1985, the missionary couple was kidnaped May 27, 2001, while taking a rare overnight vacation on an island resort in the western Philippines. They were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary (CT, Feb. 4, p. 24).

Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim terrorist group that says it is fighting for an independent state, has either killed or released for ransom 17 other hostages since last May. Only Martin, 42, Gracia, 43, and a Filipina nurse remain captive, constantly on the move through thick jungle terrain (see “Agency Disputes Rumors about Burnhams,” p. 32).

“It’s been up and down emotionally,” says Betty Jo Jones, Gracia’s mother. “So many times they tell us, ‘It’s going to be soon.’ ”

For family and friends, anxiety and disappointment build after proposed deadlines for the couple’s release continue to pass. Christmas, New Year’s, and the Burnhams’ birthdays were particularly difficult, ...

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March 11, 2002

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