On June 7, 2002, Martin was fatally shot during a raid by the Philippine army. Gracia, wounded in the leg, was freed. In "In the Presence of My Enemies" (Tyndale), Burnham details what happened, but admits she little remembers what she felt during her captivity: "My job was rather to put one foot in front of the other, to stay alive one more day." In this Beliefnet interview, Burnham tells of her ongoing effort to come to terms with her hellish year.
From the first pictures we saw of you on your return, you've been smiling and upbeat.
Well, I was thrilled to be out of the jungle. We'd started praying that we'd get out of there even if it meant death. We were sick of the whole situation.
I still am happy. Things can go really wrong at home, the kids can be in a bad mood, but I just find myself being really, really happy. Even at Martin's funeral, I was just so happy to be amongst friends, to be home. It's hard to explain. I know if Martin had come home without me, he'd be the same.
There's been some political questions about whether Christian missionaries should go to the Middle East or other Muslim areas. When you went to Mindanao, which has a good number of Muslims, how did you feel about that?
Certain areas are more Muslim than others, and we stayed away from those regions. I'm not saying that it's wrong to go to a Muslim country. If that's what God leads you to do, you do it. But God hadn't led us to a Muslim area.
You weren't targeted because you were missionaries?
No, and some people are calling Martin a martyr. That's a nice thing, but I don't think that's true. We were just at the wrong resort at the wrong time.
How did your captors respond when they found out who you were?
I thought they'd be upset. [Before being kidnapped ] we were working with people who worship the spirits, and try to appease the spirits of their dead ancestors. When Abu Sayyaf found out we were working with these people who don't really believe anything, that was a plus for us.
We kind of agreed that we believe in the same God. Martin and I thought that one through long and hard. Is the God we're praying to the same one they're praying to? We started talking with them about Allah and they said, Allah made everything, He owns everything. He's going to be the one that judges. He hates sin. He can do anything. He's all powerful, all present. He sees everything. As we went through these attributes of Allah, we saw that that's the God we worship too, the Almighty Being. We just call him something different.
But you did come to the conclusion that Allah is the same as the Christian God?
That is my conclusion. I've never studied this, and some people might be appalled to hear me say that. My only expertise is that I lived for a year with these guys. I think they are trying to please their God. And I didn't hear a whole lot about their God that doesn't agree with ours.
It seems from your book that you developed a human relationship with some of your captors.
There was one guy who just clicked with Martin. I could tell they thought a lot of each other. The other thing is, Martin and I like people, and we got to know them as people. Everybody's needy and those guys had a lot of needs.
Are there any happy memories of captivity?
One night, we were in a kind of safe place, and we hostages were in a little hut. Normally, we tried to be quiet and behave, but we just started singing--Carpenters songs, Beatles songs, singing at the top of our lungs. The festive mood spread, and even the Abu Sayyaf guys were on the porch, sitting and talking. I'd say that was a pretty happy memory.
How have you set about recovering? Has any religious habit been especially useful?
I haven't made a conscious effort to recover. I guess I've made a conscious effort to stay close to the Lord. Because, to be quite honest, I felt so close to the Lord in the jungle. If I needed a drink, I would ask the Lord for a drink. If I needed something to eat, I would ask God for something to eat. Every little thing I needed, I would ask God. Here in America, if I need somethink to drink, I go to the tap and get it.