Since a military assault freed Gracia Burnham from her radical separatist captors in 2002, she has sought to turn her “day of grace” into a living lesson of radical forgiveness. Now the popular speaker and author urges her listeners to think hard about what they will do with the day of grace each of them has been given.
Gracia and her husband, Martin, had been longtime New Tribes missionaries in the Philippines when they were abducted and held hostage for more than a year by Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group demanding an independent province. Martin was killed during the Philippine Army’s rescue operation, and Gracia was wounded in the leg.
Visiting TWR’s Cary, N.C., headquarters Aug. 1, 2013, to discuss the possibility of broadcasting her remarkable story to international audiences, Gracia closed her 40-minute inspirational presentation to the ministry’s staff by telling about Hurayra. He was a fearless guerrilla with whom the Burnhams had developed a paradoxically friendly relationship during the ordeal, Martin teaching him English and Hurayra being assigned to steer Gracia through the dense jungle at night. Eventually, Hurayra departed the main group with some of the leaders, and the Burnhams wondered what had become of him.
Several years later and an ocean away, Gracia received a phone call from the U.S. Office of Victims of Crime informing her that another of her former captors had been arrested in the Philippines. Gracia didn’t recognize the real name given for the man, but she knew the alias: Hurayra.
“Praise the Lord, now I know where Hurayra is,” Gracia said. “He’s in the custody of the Philippine military, he’ll go to trial and be charged with kidnapping and murder. I am so glad Hurayra is not dead, because his day of grace is not over. And maybe in prison, he will hear the gospel of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will open his eyes to the truth.”
In this life we likely will never know why God chooses one person for a mission and not another, or why he allows some of us to live in abundance while other Christians face starvation and persecution, Gracia said.
“What I do know is our day of grace is not over either,” she said. “We have today. And we can do whatever we want to with today. Today, we are called to take up our cross, the one assigned to us. … And the promise of God is that grace will be given equal to the weight of the cross.”
Gracia has collaborated with TWR’s Project Hannah women’s ministry, which has also received financial support from the Martin & Gracia Burnham Foundation. On this video, hear Gracia tell of listening to TWR broadcasts during her captivity in the Philippine jungles.