On September 3, 1901, Macedonian guerillas captured an American missionary named Ellen Stone and her traveling companions and dragged them into the mountains of their Turkish-controlled Balkan province. From the moment during the abduction when the revolutionaries brutally killed a Muslim trader who wandered onto the scene, things looked bad for Miss Stone and her party.
This was the first time America found itself facing the capture and holding for ransom of an American missionary on foreign soil. It was the first time, but—as we are reminded by Martin and Gracia Burnham's tragic story—not the last, that American missionaries would pay the price of citizenship in a superpower. For it was not the gospel she brought but the perceived power and wealth of her nation that made Ellen a target.
We see this, and much else, with greater clarity in the account of the "Miss Stone Affair" recently published by Pulitzer prize-winning author Teresa Carpenter.
Carpenter's book, The Miss Stone Affair: America's First Modern Hostage Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2003), tells how Stone, a Massachusetts-born descendent of Miles Standish who had dedicated her life to teaching the Bible to young women at schools in the Balkans, found herself caught up on that brisk fall day in 1901 in the region's political unrest.
Like the many other American missionaries who would experience a similar captivity, Stone was victimized by insurgents who believed the injustices they had faced justified using human lives as negotiating chits. And in becoming one of those chits, Stone found that what had before seemed a lonely pursuit of a divine calling had now brought her into the international spotlight.
As Miss Stone's captivity dragged on, she found herself—as would ...1
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