Friday, May 16, 2003


An article about Gracia Burnham, a missionary who was held captive in the Philippines for over a year and whose husband was killed in the rescue attempt, was on the front page of the LA Times a few days ago. It documents her adjustment to living in the States.

Although my family didn't go through such an ordeal, I can understand some of the dislocation the Burnham family is experiencing. I, too, "grew up flying in [my] dad's red and white Cessna" in a "bush" setting.
Martin Burnham was a missionary pilot, delivering mail and supplies to those who spread the Gospel in the Philippines. The kids grew up flying in their dad's red and white Cessna to the mahogany forests or the beaches, to mountain villages brushed by clouds. They rode motorbikes to the waterfall. In the warm dusk, they played soccer with their parents.

Life here is different. It feels splintered.

"There's always some place to run off to," Gracia said — a game, a practice, a lesson. "Americans stay busy all the time. There's no end to it."

Mindy, 13, misses helping her mom make homemade pizza from scratch. They don't seem to have time in Kansas.

Zach, 12, misses the river. He misses his inner tube. "I don't fit in here," he said. "I'm different."

During the year his parents were held captive, Jeff, 16, taped all his football games. He couldn't wait to show them to his dad. Now, he says, sports are stupid. All he wants is to learn to fly.

The Burnhams have all they need in Kansas — more than they ever had before. The community of Rose Hill built them an airy brick house on Primrose Lane. A local dealer donated a new Dodge Caravan. Just the other day, landscapers came by, unbidden, to lay down sod. Gracia is grateful. But she also feels disoriented....

She folds the laundry. She buys the groceries. She goes shopping for antiques with friends. Now and then, though, she longs for the quiet she had in the Philippines, the time to reflect and to pray. She drives to the Wal-Mart parking lot and sits alone, singing hymns.
By Stephanie Simon.

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