Martin and Gracia Burnham were running again. For the fourth time in two weeks, the Armed Forces of the Philippines had found the American missionaries and their kidnappers, the Muslim terrorist group known as the Abu Sayyaf. Each of the last three times, the military had come in with guns blazing and reckless disregard for the hostages. And each time, the Abu Sayyaf had slipped away with its captives—the result of incompetence and corruption in the military's ranks.
The Burnhams were not yet used to the sound of M16 fire and bullets whizzing by their heads. But this time, there was a sound wholly unfamiliar to them: a thump, followed by a shwoo woo woo, then another thump, and an explosion.
The Burnhams ducked, then stared at each other, eyes wide with shock, disbelief, and anger. "They're shooting artillery at us!" Martin shouted, incredulous. "They have to know the hostages are here—what's this heavy firepower about? These must be the most accurate artillerymen in the world; they think they can fire from ten miles away and kill the Abu Sayyaf but avoid us?"
The Burnhams did not imagine then that they would endure 362 more nights in the jungle and 13 more firefights between their captors and the Philippine military. But they already knew their situation was desperate.
"The Abu Sayyaf didn't want to be recognized by the Armed Forces, of course, and neither did we," Gracia Burnham writes in her new book, In the Presence of My Enemies (Tyndale). "We knew. … that a frontal attack to rescue us would probably turn out badly."
Speaking to Christianity Today, the former New Tribes missionary is more specific. "We knew there would be a rescue attempt, and we figured both of us would die in it," she says. Abu Sayyaf leaders had arranged ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more