Hostage Crisis Survivor's Book Offers Hope for Hard Times

Allie Martin

A former hostage of a Philippine terrorist group says there is hope for those who have gone through trying times. In her new book "To Fly Again:  Surviving the Tailspins of Life" (Tyndale, 2005), author Gracia Burnham offers inspiration, encouragement, and understanding to anyone facing life's hardships.

Gracia Burnham and her husband Martin served as missionaries to the Philippines with New Tribes Mission from 1986 until May of 2001, when they were taken hostage and were held captive for more than a year in the Philippine jungles by the Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. In June 2002, Martin was killed in a firefight between the terrorists and the Philippine military during a rescue effort.

Over the years and months that have passed to distance her from that terrifying ordeal, Gracia Burnham has gained many insights. In her new book, she details her life since her captivity, and the lessons and spiritual truths she gained both during her captivity and its aftermath. "The things that God worked into my heart in the jungle are still here," the widow and former missionary says, "and it's neat for me to be able to appropriate what I've learned."

One way Burnham has observed this happening is in dealing with her children. "I don't have to expect perfection from them," she says. "I'm much more willing to forgive, to not expect them to be something they're not, because I learned about God's grace in the jungle."

Since her rescue, much of the normalcy has been restored to the former hostage's life; however, she finds her perspective has changed in many ways. For one thing, she says she has come to realize how much she used to take for granted.

"I heard a statistic the other day," Burnham notes, "that 75 percent of the world's population does not sleep on a bed. So, when you crawl into bed at night, you're doing something unique. And here in America, we don't just crawl into bed, we crawl into a bed that has a bedspread that's matching the curtains, and we've got the remote to turn the TV off when we're ready to go to sleep. We just have so much, and I think we don't even know it because all our neighbors have so much."

The author now lives with her three children in Kansas. In "To Fly Again" she describes the spiritual insights she brought back from her time in captivity and those she has learned since. She discusses pivotal lessons from the hard times, such as learning to forgive and minister to her captors, worrying about having enough water, and receiving a simple gift gladly – even the gift of hearing a hymn.

The main thing Burnham seeks to do through the book is to encourage readers as they face events and challenges beyond their control. She says her time as a hostage in the Philippine jungle revealed something to her of God's grace in the most trying of circumstances, and her hope is to pass that along to others facing difficulty in life.

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