Slain Hostage’s Good Deeds Are Recalled
Hundreds of mourners, including former Sen. Bob Dole, packed a church Friday for the funeral of Martin Burnham, the kidnapped missionary killed in the Philippines during a bloody rescue that freed his wife.
A large floral arrangement covered the coffin, somber piano music played and slides chronicling the missionary couple’s lives were shown at Central Christian Church.
Burnham’s wife, Gracia, 43, still in a wheelchair after being shot in the leg during the rescue from Muslim extremists, bowed as Pastor Joe Wright led the mourners in prayer.
Letters from relatives were read by Burnham’s uncle, the Rev. Galen Hinshaw.
“My dad was the most generous person I have ever known,” the Burnhams’ 12-year-old daughter, Mindy, wrote in one of the letters.
The Rev. Clay Bowlin, a Kansas City pastor whom Burnham had requested give his funeral sermon should he die as a hostage, recounted their time as Bible college students and Burnham’s career as a missionary pilot.
“Lord, 23 years ago, when my brother and I were in college together, you were with us then, and you’re with us now,” he said. “His great gift was for encouragement. He put others in front of himself.”
The Rev. Oli Jacobsen of New Tribes Mission recalled Burnham as “kind and gentle, but he was no weak person.”
“He always took time to hike to missionaries’ homes, even though it was often quite a distance, to spend some time with them,” Jacobsen said.
The service was expected to draw more than 4,000 people. In addition to Dole, other dignitaries included Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Burnham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were killed last week during a firefight between the Philippine army and Abu Sayyaf rebels, who had been holding them and Gracia Burnham since May 2001.
Gracia Burnham returned to her home in Rose Hill, Kan., on Monday.