On May 27, 2001, Gracia and Martin Burnham, American missionaries living and working in the Philippines, were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and spirited away to a jungle prison.
A year later -- on June 7, 2002 -- Philippine troops located the captors and their hostages and attempted a rescue operation. Martin Burnham was killed in the operation, as was a Filipina nurse also being held. Gracia Burnham, who suffered a leg wound in the fight, underwent surgery at a military hospital and is now back in the U.S. with her children.
A memorial service for Martin Burnham was held on June 14. There, more than 3,000 mourners, including former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, Sen. Sam Brownback, Rep. Todd Tiahrt and other dignitaries attended the service at Central Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas.
In the weeks before his death, Burnham asked his wife that should he die as a hostage, he wanted his funeral to feature a sermon by Kansas City pastor Clay Bowlin, and a special song, "Ashokan Farewell." Dan Smith of Dan Smith Ministries sang "Not Ashamed" and "Safely Home". The Calvary Echoes , a men`s quartet sang "I`ll Fly Away".
Bowlin, senior pastor at Northwest Bible Church in Kansas City, went to school with Martin Burnham at Calvary Bible College in Kansas City in the early 1980s.
He told how people around the world prayed for the Burnhams' release, and how Gracia was to later tell him that God did just that: "He brought her home by helicopter and brought Martin by angels' wings."
Recalling how Burnham would be embarrassed by too much attention, Bowlin recalled how as a missionary pilot Burnham would bring mail, supplies and encouragement to other missionaries in remote tribes deep in the Philippines jungle.
"He was content being behind the scenes," Bowlin said during an emotional 30-minute sermon. "He made a difference in a quiet, faithful way."
Burnham's last words to the Rose Hill Bible Church where he spoke on May 23, 2001 - just days before his return to the Philippines and his capture - were printed on the funeral program: "I wasn't called to be a missionary; I wasn't called to the Philippines; I was just called to follow Christ; and that is what I'm doing."
"Martin died well, and he earned the respect of his enemies and all his friends," Bowlin said.