Missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham have been held captive in the Philippines by the Muslim guerilla group Abu Sayyaf for more than a year. Those of us who have never faced such horror can perhaps gain insight into their situation by learning about captive Christians from the past.
The Apostle Paul spent roughly one-quarter of his missionary career in prisons. His jailers were Roman authorities, not jungle guerillas, but this didn't improve his conditions. As John McRay wrote in CH issue 47:
Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged, a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated; prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, blood-stained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter . …
Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison, like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable . …Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.
In settings like this, Paul wrote encouraging—even joyful—letters and continued to speak of Jesus. Paul was eventually executed during Emperor Nero's sadistic reign.
In the seventeenth century, when England was trying to decide what kinds of Christians it would tolerate, a country pastor named John Bunyan was arrested for unauthorized preaching. He refused to stop his ministry, so he was imprisoned for 14 years, separated from his second wife (who lost a baby as a result of the trauma) and four children from his first marriage.
Bunyan described his feelings in the autobiographical ...