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Archive for Saturday, October 27, 2001

Parents of missionary couple coping

October 27, 2001

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— Betty Jo and Norvin Jones live in a small Arkansas town of Cherokee Village, more than 300 miles from Paul and Oreta Burnham of Rose Hill.

Yet, the couples share the same nightmare.

Their children are missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham.

Like the elder Burnhams, the Jones are relying on God in the hope that their child will make it home alive.

Martin and Gracia Burnham have been held captive by Muslim rebels in the Philippines since May 27.

"We're leaning on the Lord and staying strong," Gracia's mother, Betty Jo Jones told the Wichita Eagle for a story in its Friday editions. "We're getting a lot of support and good wishes from people everywhere and that's helping."

Martin and Gracia, both 42, were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a resort on a Philippines island when they, and 18 other visitors, were kidnapped by a group of rebels known as Abu Sayyaf. The group is believed to have connections to Osama bin Laden and have already killed one American hostage.

Members of New Tribes Mission, Martin and Gracia have spent 15 years as missionaries in the Philippines. Their three young children have stayed with Paul and Oreta in Rose Hill since the kidnappings.

Since the beginning of the ordeal, the Burnham and Jones families have remained in contact. Betty Jo and Norvin have made several trips to Kansas to visit their grandchildren.

The families are similar, especially when it comes to their faith.

Paul and Oreta are missionaries, as are three of their other children. Norvin and Betty Jo spent seven years in Canada working as missionaries while Gracia was a child. Norvin is now a pastor at Foothills Baptist Church in Hardy, Ark., which is near Cherokee Village.

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