Kan. missionary, hostage survivor hopes prayers answered for group captured in Haiti

Gracia Burnham reacts to hostage situation in Haiti
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - More than a week has passed since a group of missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti, a situation in which officials in the impoverished nation say the leader of the Haitian gang that took the missionaries hostage is seeking $17 million, $1 million ransom for each of the people kidnapped.

For insight into the situation, Eyewitness News spoke with one Wichita-area woman who has firsthand experience being held hostage as an American missionary in a foreign country. Gracia Burnham and her husband, Martin, were missionaries in the Philippines for 17 years. Burnham now lives in Derby and continues to share her story across the nation through her books and speeches.

Twenty years ago, Gracia and Martin Burham were taken captive by a terrorist group in the Philippines.

“When bad guys burst into our room, ‘Alah akbar, Alah akbar,’ and took us to a waiting speed boat, deep down in our hearts we knew we were in big trouble,” Gracia Burnham said.

It’s a similar feeling, she believes the group of Christians captured in Haiti are currently feeling.

“Government intervention can’t change bad guys into good guys,” she said. “our only hope was the lord and we just kept asking Him to be near us, to comfort us, to get us out of there, which I’m sure is on everyone’s minds that’s involved in this hostage-taking in Haiti.”

For more than a year, the Burnhams were held captive. During a rescue effort in June of 2002. Martin was killed and Gracia was freed.

“I pray for them the way I prayed for myself in the jungle,” Gracia said. “God help them to get some food today, give them peace down deep in their gut, in their heart. So, I know exactly how to pray for them. They’re never far from my mind at all.”

The mother of three said she prays in faith.

“I know He’s doing something really good in those hostage’s hearts because that’s what He did in mine,” Gracia said. “That’s what I shared in the books, how God changed me from an angry, depressed hostage to a joyful overcoming, victorious one.”

Now, Gracia hopes prayers are answered in Haiti as they were for her in the Philippines.

“I’m hoping they can come home to their families, of course. But, there are no guarantees. And, I was reminded this morning that 200 million people, statistics say, are suffering because of their faith. Maybe, we need to expand our praying.”

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