Recent Reading: In The Presence of My Enemies

In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham. Remember the Burnhams? Missionaries on furlough, they were kidnapped from their beach resort by Abu Sayyaf thugs in 2001, and were held hostage for more than a year before a tragic rescue attempt, in which Martin was killed and Gracia wounded by “friendly” fire.

Gracia’s account of their time as hostages is written in simple and natural language, interspersed with flashbacks to her Christian upbringing, marriage to Martin, and ministry work in the Philippines. Frank and brutally honest about every aspect of the hostage situation, Gracia’s story describes problems from disease and diarrhea to struggles with faith and morality. Gracia readily admits points when they behaved in less than a Christian manner, giving in to faithlessness, despair, distrust, and hatred; yet always finding themselves brought back to faith by little miracles which saw them through to the end of the ordeal. They dealt with struggles of faith as we all do, and were never always perfect, but were constantly reminded that God watched over them, and had called them to live and die for his purposes.

By the way, there were parts where I couldn’t help but smile at how Filipino the story was, from the onomatopoeic first line, to descriptions of food and drink, to retooled vocabulary words and other cultural quirks. In some ways the book is as much a look into the Filipino psyche and culture as it is a kidnap-and-hostage story.

More info: