In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham

JayeByrd By JayeByrd, 5th Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Religion & Spirituality

A brief look at a year in the life of Gracia and Martin Burnham, missionaries to the Philippines. They were among the hostages taken by Abu Sayyaf and held hostage in the Philippine jungles for over a year. Her book tells of that ordeal. This review was originally published in the Boonville Daily News, June 2009.

Prelude to Danger

Gracia, pronounced gray-sha, met Martin at Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri. They fell in love, married, and decided they were called to be missionaries.

Part of their training had them spending a year in a secluded area of Mississippi learning to live a primitive life style. It gave them a taste of what it would be like to live on the mission field in a primitive culture.

They were stationed in the Philippines, where Martin, a pilot/airplane mechanic, was in demand. He flew cargo, including groceries and medical supplies, to the various mission sites, flew passengers out and back for medical care, flew mail and who knows how many other missions of mercy.

Gracia would spend Martin’s flight time keeping in radio contact with him. This was necessary, as she needed to know his location if for some reason he had to go down.

Chaos in the Middle of the Night

They enjoyed their missionary life and their family of three—two boys and one girl. Gracia made reservations at a resort for just the two of them to celebrate their anniversary.

That weekend, so full of promise, took a disastrous turn when, in the middle of the night, the door to their room was broken down. On orders, they hurriedly dressed, were taken away on a boat, and held hostage by terrorists for over a year.

Life on the Run

This book chronicles much of the happenings during the year they, along with others taken at the same time, were held captives by the Abu Sayyaf, an Philippine offshoot of Al Qaeda.

They lived on the run, were subjected to fire fights, didn’t have adequate clothes or protection, didn’t know when, or even if, they would have safe food or water. They were deprived of the simplest personal items taken for granted in our society.

Gracia has given us an up close and personal look at the lives they lived as hostages, and their personal spiritual journeys, until Martin was killed in the same fire fight that freed the rest of the group. She ends her story saying, “I resolve to keep living in the embrace of God’s gladness and love for as long as he gives me breath.”

Meet Gracia

Gracia learned early on how to live in a crowd when she was born in Cairo, Illinois, the fifth of six children. Her father was a preacher, which meant they moved fairly often from Illinois, to Tennessee, to Michigan, to Canada, and on to the next church or school. She graduated from Calvary Bible College where she met her husband.

Gracia continues with her public speaking on behalf of The Martin and Gracia Burnham Foundation which supports missions around the world. Her Web site is

My first though when I met her was she was very aptly named.


Abu Sayyaf, Gracia Burnham, Hostage, Mission, Missionaries, Philippines, Primitive Culture, Spiritual Journey, Terrorists

Meet the author

author avatar JayeByrd
I'm well into my fourth career. I write Opinion pieces, usually political. I write eclectic poetry, short stories, and essays. I also edit and teach writing.

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author avatar Joyce Singha
6th Aug 2014 (#)

I will check the book in the library. I had heard about this incident but didn't know she had written a book. What brave people and to have survived after a year of captivity. How did you get to meet the lady? That in itself would have been interesting.

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author avatar JayeByrd
6th Aug 2014 (#)

Mrs. Burnham was the speaker at a prayer breakfast a few years back. She is quite a lady. I think you will like the book. Being on the run through the jungle with the Abu Sayyaf was difficult at best, deadly at worst. Interesting.

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author avatar A.M>CrewsAnita Crews
6th Aug 2014 (#)

You constantly surprise me, Jaye. Both in your writing and in person. You have met some very interesting people. This is a real testiment of faith and I liked your review.

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author avatar Lee Hansen
7th Aug 2014 (#)

I read this book. It was a very riveting account of what took place.

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author avatar JayeByrd
7th Aug 2014 (#)

Riveting, yes! Think about how difficult it must have been to write.

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author avatar Annie69
24th Aug 2014 (#)

Where were their children during all this? It must have been awful for them as well, even if they had been safely stateside.

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author avatar JayeByrd
25th Aug 2014 (#)

The children were sent stateside to stay with relatives. It was a troubling time for the entire family, especially with the father's death on the day they were rescued.

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