Keeping You Strong

KFourteen years ago, June 7, 2002, Gracia Burnham was forced to leave her dead husband lying in the rain on a soggy hillside in a Philippine jungle. As captives of the Filipino terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, American aviation missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham endured a year on the run across densely vegetated outlying islands.

Their Muslim kidnappers engaged in sixteen gun battles with the Philippines military up to that fateful June afternoon when the military surprised the rebels’ jungle camp, killing Martin and a Filipino hostage. A bullet ripped clear through Gracia’s left thigh and the government forces immediately evacuated Gracia from the tragic scene.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Gracia via phone about her year of captivity and her life now as a speaker, author, and grandmother living in rural Kansas. Surviving as a jungle hostage only to have your soul mate killed upon your rescue might send many a person into a horrific tailspin. What has kept Gracia from giving up under such duress?

Gracia carries a 3 x 5 card in her Bible that Martin carried in his. Martin wrote these words from 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 on the card: “He will keep you strong to the end . . . . God, who has called you . . . is faithful.” Gracia explains that this Bible truth assures her that “I can make it after all. I can survive.”

Gracia talks frequently to audiences from cancer patients to school children about being brave and resilient beyond one’s own strength. “We can all look at our lives and see how we’ve gone through a terrible trial that we never would have chosen,” Gracia says, “but God does show up. He is still loving and good.” And as Gracia can attest, God gives fresh strength in the uttermost parts of the planet.

How has God shown up and given you strength when you need it most?

Brave and Resilient Tip #138: You can gain strength and make it after all.


  1. Dorease Rioux says

    There are things we may never understand on this side of Heaven. It’s much easier to relinquish our NEED to make sense of heartbreak, chaos, infirmity, injustice, and adversities when, no matter what, we make the decision to focus on THE ONE WHO LOVES US MOST … to focus on our blessings with thankfulness … and to keep on trusting Jesus. As a result, we can experience God’s peace in the midst of the uncertainties and battles.

    • Thank you, Dorease, for the reminder to realign our focus when we’re in the midst of the tough times. Only He can give deep, sustaining peace.


    It’s so encouraging to hear these words of faith from those who have endured much and found God to be loving and true!

    • I agree, Candy! Gracia’s message of clinging to God through anything is indeed a timeless message of encouragement and hope.

  3. Good to be reminded of this story, Beth. It sure puts more petty ordeals in perspective. Praise God for His ability to carry Gracia through this.

    • Garcia is such a humble woman who does help us gain fresh perspective, Nancy. We all have struggles, and yet, when we learn of how others triumph in the incredibly tough times, we can be strengthened in our own trust of God carrying us.