Another Martyr And An Arrest
For 376 days terrorists on Mindanao Island in the Philippines held their two Americans hostages captive. Each night in their hammocks, forty-one year old Martin sang his wife, Gracia, to sleep as Abu Sabayu, the rebel leader, promised one minute to release them, the next to kill them.
The missionary couple was in the Philippines to share the Gospel. Martin used his skill as a pilot to fly Dr. Melicor to remote villages to care for his patients. During their captivity Martin and Gracie prayed for their kidnappers, and patiently explained the difference between biblical beliefs and the teaching of the Quran.
On Friday, June 7 in driving rain, the terrorists erected their tents and then gunfire exploded throughout the camp. Before they could even roll to the ground, Gracie felt the pain in her leg. They slid down a steep hill. Gracie turned toward Martin lying beside her, and hunkered down. The fighting continued for twenty minutes. Then it was quiet.
When the Scout Ranger, Rodelio Tuazon, reached the two missionaries, Martin was partially covering his wife. A helicopter was called and lifted Gracie to care and safety. Four days later she was reunited in Rose Hill, Kansas, with their three children, ages 15, 12, and 11, but Martin didn’t get to feel the embrace of his kids.
Why did God allow these devoted missionaries to be abducted from a resort where they were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary? Why didn’t God honor the intense efforts of their mission and their family with an earlier release? Why did Martin get mortally wounded in random gunfire exchange and not Gracie? Martin died fifteen years ago but the questions remain.
In the first century these were the same kind of questions being asked in the Jerusalem Church when King Herod arrested two of Jesus’ disciples, James, the brother of John, and Peter.
“Now about the time that Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem with the famine relief funds from Antioch King Herod laid hands on some members of the Jerusalem Church to do them harm. He executed James, John’s brother, by the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter into custody. The arrest occurred at the time of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So after arresting Peter, he placed him in prison, handing him over to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. After the Passover, Herod intended to bring him out for public trial. So Peter was kept in prison while the church was fervently praying to God on his behalf.” Acts 12:1-4
Why did God allow both Peter and James to be arrested? Why was James immediately executed while Peter was held in custody? Would God allow King Herod to get away with the murder of one of his children and would sixteen soldiers be able to keep Peter locked up? Luke raises a lot of questions to grab our attention, and the rest of the chapter will help us get some answers.
LORD, continue to strengthen and comfort Gracie and her children and the grandchildren you have given her. Use her teaching and her books, In the Presence of My Enemiesand To Fly Again, to help us all keep believing when we don’t have all the answers. http://graciaburnham.org
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