Saturday, June 08, 2002

Sister of rescued missionary thankful, but sad over death

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        JAMESTOWN — A Butler County school counselor expressed relief, gratitude and grief Friday after learning her sister survived but her brother-in-law was killed in the Philippines after a yearlong hostage ordeal.

        “I'm really relieved this is over. It's been hard not knowing for a whole year,” said Mary Jones. “I'm thankful my sister is alive. I'm sad we lost Martin. He was a gifted pilot, a good husband and a good father.”

        Ms. Jones' sister, Gracia Burnham, 43, and Gracia's husband, Martin, 42, had been missionaries in the Philippines the past 16 years. The couple, a California man and 17 Filipinos were kidnapped May 27, 2001, by Muslim extremists.

        Ms. Jones made a weeklong trip to the Philippines in late January to appeal for their release.

        “I never thought this would happen,” she said Friday. “I didn't think either of them would be hurt or die. I honestly thought they would come home. I know it will be very hard for her.”

        Ms. Jones and her husband, Lance Perry, planned to travel today to the Philippines for a reunion with Mrs. Burnham. She told Ms. Jones by telephone Friday she had not eaten for nine days before the rescue.

        “It was just a relief to talk to her,” Ms. Jones said. ... She told me everything that happened (Friday morning) ... and some of her experiences the past year. She cried. For what she's been through, she sounded really at peace.

        “I'm really thankful she got that year to spend with him. He told herit was the best year because they had so much time to plan and discuss what they were going to do. ... They were just incredibly close. They really loved each other, and they liked each other, too.”

        A nonprofit organization has been established to accept donations for Mrs. Burnham and her children. Donations may be sent to: MRGR Ministries Inc., P.O. Box 6034, Leawood, KS 66206.


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