By Stefan J. Bos
ASSIST News Service
MANILA/KANSAS CITY, (ANS) -- The injured but rescued US missionary worker Gracia Burnham, who lost her husband but not her faith in Christ, hugged their three children Monday in Kansas City Monday June 10, after a year-long hostage drama in the jungle of the Philippines.
"Welcome home, Gracia," people shouted as the 43-year old from Rose Hill near Witchita, Kansas, was greeted first by her youngest child, 11-year-old Zach. With her wounded right leg propped up by a pillow in a wheel-chair, she than hugged Jeff, 15 and Mindy, 12 and other relatives, before Zach wheeled her into a hallway amidst tight security at Kansas City International Airport.
She was taken to a secure area guarded by the FBI to greet other family members, including her parents and the parents of her late husband, Martin Burnham who died at age 42, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The body of Martin Burnham has been flown to a U.S. military base in Japan and was expected in America within the next few days, pending an atopsy.
The body of 45-year old Philippine nurse Deborah Yap, who was also killed in the clash between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf Group on Friday, June 7 arrived in her small hometown of Lamitan Sunday, June 9, on the southern island of Basilan, an Abu Sayyaf base.
Gracia Burnham said that she supported the efforts by the Philippine government to crush the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has alleged links to the al-Qa'ida network of Osama bin Laden. The group says it wants to create a Muslim state in the southern Philippines, but critics argue the rebels have been more busy with taking hostages and asking for ransom.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Saturday, June 8, that the air force and army will unleash their full arsenal now that the rebels have no more hostages. More than 200 soldiers arrived Monday, June 10, to reinforce the offensive. The soldiers are the first of up to 1,800 additional troops to be deployed in three southern islands, AP quoted officials as saying.
"These (Abu Sayyaf Group) are not honorable people," Gracia Burnham said. "A very bad thing happened to Martin and I when we were taken." However she also added that "God was good every single day of our captivity. Martin was a source of strength to all the hostages."
Other former hostages, who were released earlier, explained recently that Martin sang inspirational songs and that he often said "thank you Lord" when they prayed for their release.
Earlier at the airport in Manila from where she left, Gracia Burnham said that they "needed every single prayer" people said "for us during our ordeal in the jungle."
She also wanted "especially to thank the military men, the Americans, the Filipinos who risked and even gave their lives to rescue us." And she asked people to continue their prayers for "me and my kids as we begin to rebuild our lives, and thank you."
Robert Varner, the pastor of Rose Hill Bible Church, said that a chartered bus carrying Gracia Burnham and other family members was expected to arrive in Rose Hill later Monday June 10. The Associated Press reported that residents were planning to line the street from the city limits to the Burnham house for their arrival.
Residents, friends and family also set up a Martin & Gracia Burnham Benefit Fund for donations to help Gracia and her children.