Tag Archives: witness

“In The Presence of My Enemies”: thoughts about Gracia Burnham’s book

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comI’m always in the middle of reading a book, and every so often I come across a really great one. This past week I read Gracia Burnham’s book “In The Presence Of My Enemies”, the true story of her kidnapping by a terrorist group in the Philippines. She and her husband Martin, along with several others, were taken hostage in the middle of the night and kept in torturous conditions. Sadly, after 1 year and 11 days, Martin lost his life during a rescue attempt by the Philippine army. They had survived 16 gun-battle rescue attempts, and on the 17th the Burnham’s were shot, she in the leg and he in the chest. The book kept my interest with every single word and I had a hard time putting it down.

Gracia and Martin experienced a living nightmare. While most Americans were trying to make sense of 911 and the craziness and sadness of that, these two missionaries were in the middle of the jungle wondering if they would ever get home to their three children. Reading this book, I saw such real Christianity lived out. Not many people can say that they experienced anything near this kind of horror. But people do live out difficult trials and can learn from Gracia’s insight – I know I sure did.

Her words taught me that…

The toughest of times have the ability to strengthen relationships.

I noticed something pretty amazing about Martin and Gracia.  During the most difficult times they learned to rely on each other. Instead of turning on each other in frustration and fear, they helped and comforted each other. They shared a toothbrush, learned to sleep leaning against one another and continually watched out for the other. They didn’t let this awful trial come between them, but instead, they learned to work together and allowed it to strengthen their marriage.

My heart sunk to the bottom of my toes. Everything we owned in this life was back there in that backpack. The sheet we pulled over us at night, my long sleeved shirt, our toothbrush…A horrible wave of guilt swept over me. How stupid of me. I just lost it all. ‘ Oh Martin, I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry!’ I cried between sobs. My husband did not reproach me. He just quietly answered, ‘You know honey, we’ve got to save our energy for walking. I forgive  you. And you need to forgive yourself. Its going to be ok.'” ~Gracia Burnham

During difficult times it’s wise to know when to speak and when not to.

When either Martin or Gracia wrestled with discouragement and despair, the other gently listened. They just let the other feel whatever it was they were feeling and didn’t jump right in to fix each other with words; I’m sure they barely had the energy or even the ability, but nonetheless, they just loved each other through their feelings. When Gracia spent several days crying, Martin let her. He held her and he wiped her tears or let her sit by herself. He knew that she had to work through things on her own. He realized that he couldn’t heal her heart, but that he could support it.

[pullquote type=”right”]The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…Proverbs 37:23[/pullquote]” ‘Oh, I’m not giving up my faith’, I’d tell Martin.  ‘I still believe that God made the world, He sent his Son, Jesus, and Jesus died for me… I’m just choosing not to believe the part about God loving me. Because Gods not coming through.’ …I was really mad at God. After about three days of living with this torment, I was totally miserable. When I wasn’t at the river crying, I was in the house crying. Martin learned not to say anything, because he knew this was something I had to work through myself… I knew that I had a choice. I could give into my resentment and allow it to dig me into a deeper and deeper hole both psychologically and emotionally or I could choose to believe what Gods word says to be true whether I believed it or not.  This was a turning point for me…I simply gave in and handed all my pain and anger over to the Lord right then and there….From that day on, the Lord somehow let me know in my spirit that he was still faithful.” ~Gracia Burnham

 Trials are meant to strengthen our faith.

I felt Gracia’s struggle and if I were her I would wonder: “Why would God allow this? Where is He? Does He even care about me or even know where I am?” She had to wrap her brain around her faith and what it looked like before her abduction, versus what it looked like in captivity. Trials do this to everyone, especially if you are being held against your will, hungry, tired and thirsty. She chose to believe Gods promises such as,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Not because she felt the truth of those words right then, but because God can’t lie.  She learned that God walks through hard and difficulty with us and doesn’t rescue us immediately from trials. He supplied so many needs and Gracia began to be thankful for each one. She told one story about a care package miraculously finding it’s way to them. Gracia watched as their captors rummaged through the box before giving it to them, helping themselves to a package of candy bars. She was angry. She was happy to receive the soap and peanuts and all the wonderful supplies in the box, including a new pair of Martin’s prescription glasses…but she was so mad about the stolen candy bars. God worked in her heart and she changed her attitude to one of thanksgiving. So many of us do the same thing…focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Reading her raw struggle was awesome and such a valuable lesson.

[pullquote type=”right”]Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5[/pullquote]”We began making little piles of all the wonderful things.  But at the same time, we couldn’t stop thinking about those Snickers bars. The bounty we had wasn’t quite enough somehow. And then we looked at each other and said, ‘You know, this box has arrived from our mission out of nowhere–and we’re complaining about what the Abu Sayyaf took? We should be rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness.’  We decided we needed to share. Martin began going from group to group giving…We had asked the Lord earlier in the month to send us something nice for Thanksgiving and realized something incredible: It was Thursday, November 22– Thanksgiving Day!”  ~Gracia Burnham

 The picture is always bigger than what we can see.

Although Gracia would never have chosen to go through what she did – to enter into such suffering and the heartache of losing her husband – through her very words I was able to see part of a bigger plan. Deep in the jungle, amongst 50+ terrorists, men who may have never heard the name of Jesus, Gracia and Martin shared the gospel.  They lived it and spoke it in the midst of the most horrendous trial.  Gracia taught the other hostages the words to “How Great Thou Art” and they sang them while the terrorists listened. Martin had several conversations with others about God and in his kind and gentle way he was able to share Jesus. I know that when this couple gave their lives to be missionaries they never imagined that this was how they were going to be used.

“…I was able to harmonize while we sang the song (How Great Thou Art) every day and sometimes several times a day. The Abu Sayyaf never hissed at us for singing it….More than once Martin said to me ‘Maybe God has us here just to praise him in this very dark place.'”  ~Gracia Burnham

We are stronger than we think.

Gracia never thought in a million years that she could endure what she did…walking miles with no food and sleeping night after night in mud…being bitten by bugs, filthy for weeks at a time, separated from her children…the fear and terror of being shot at, running for her very life, living with out the basic essentials,  the humiliation of having to go to the bathroom in front of strangers and the heartache and shock of watching her husband as he was shot and as he took his last breath on this earth. But she did it. And she did it well!  What an amazing example of strength and resilience.

I looked back at where Martin still lay. The red spot on his shirt was larger now. His complexion was pasty white. And then I knew–the man I loved more than  anyone in the world was gone. I wanted the world to stop in that moment, to reflect on my dreadful loss, to mourn the senseless death of my wonderful husband. Unfortunately, the circumstances demanded otherwise.  I had to think about getting myself off this mountain alive.” ~Gracia Burnham

Click for purchase information!

After reading her book, I want to hug Gracia Burnham and give her a life supply of candy bars!  I can’t wait to read her next book, called “To Fly Again”  I have no doubt that she did!  Through the pages of her book I feel as if I know her, that she is a kindred spirit.  Her story glorifies her God, and my prayer is that yours and mine will as well.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This is my story, this is my song, Colette[/custom_headline]

 

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]ONE MORE DAY! Enter our July Giveaway NOW!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway! 

As of this post, the giveaway includes:

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie,and
“In the Presence of My Enemies” by Gracia Burnham!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!

1. Subscribe to our email newsletter – click HERE!
2. Follow us on Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!! The giveaway ends this week!!!
[/content_band]

Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Horia Varlan http://flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4268896468 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

a lesson learned in the dust

FullSizeRenderWhen you look at me you see an introverted brunette. A lover of antiques, photography, strong coffee, and my totally amazing farming husband. A little deeper though, overflowing the capacity of my heart, is a place. A people. An experience that forever altered my view of the world, beauty, and life.

I was born into a family of 2nd generation Christians. I grew up in church. The Bible was fed to me by day and played on my tape recorder by night. At the age of 4 I asked God to forgive me for pinching my sisters and taking short cuts on my chores, and God forgave me of my sins. As I grew up, I grew away from what I had always been taught. I didn’t run away, start drugs, or live immorally, but I began to doubt the reality of my faith. I began to struggle with cynicism and bitterness; I wandered and pretended for years. During my senior year God used Psalm 139 to grip and destroy my hardened heart. Little did I know that God was forming those “ashes” into the stage from which He could begin His work.

The following May found me on a plane bound for adventure. I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I was about to see, but no amount of self-coaching could have taught my heart these new emotions I was about to experience. When our plane finally landed, this place was no longer just an outline on a map. It was real, and about to wreck my heart forever.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]It was ZAMBIA.[/custom_headline]

I wish I could tell you the exact moment it happened. My new point of view came together in pieces. A mosaic. Feelings of helplessness, giggling dark skinned babies, and broken particles of my old calloused heart are what make up this work of art that God has put together. I want to share with you one pivotal moment that my mind will forever have bookmarked.

389211_402422273135262_2120319288_nI will never forget their faces. Scratch that. I can never forget their faces. Plans had been interrupted for that day for my team, and we stopped at a daytime “home” for abused children. God doesn’t make mistakes. I know for certain this “interruption” was orchestrated by God Himself. There were probably 40 souls present. All of these precious children came to this home for love, support and protection during the day and then had to return to their abusive homes at night. My heart screamed out knowing that these little ones would have to leave the safety of this place in just a few short hours to endure the horrors of “Hell” for yet another night. When we emerged from the bus, swarms of dirty, unkept children greeted us. One by one each child approached, shook our hands and curtseyed at our feet. What a humbling moment as these “untouchables” paid such respect to us who had never known hunger. Us who had secure and loving homes, stable upbringings, and every felt need provided for. My heart ached as I longed to grab their tiny hands, and show these bleeding souls who really deserved the recognition. Who the real brave ones were. We sang a few songs and tried to make them smile; but these children were serious. The nights of abuse etched deeply on their faces. I wanted to come in, snap my fingers and rescue every one of them from these horrors. The helplessness was suffocating. When our time was up, we walked back to the bus, shrouded by children who had given us all their love and trust. My thoughts ran wild and untamed. Outside my window was a little boy looking especially alone. He reminded me of my cousin Lincoln who was 3 at the time. Just then, like a bolt of lightning, the thought raced through my mind.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]“What if that was Lincoln out there?”[/custom_headline]

562613_402424019801754_295080829_nThe revelation took my breath away. I sat there willing myself to not glance back into his sad eyes as the bus began to pull away. The kids began chasing after us waving and yelling their goodbyes. I couldn’t hold it back any longer and the tears began to flow. I turned around in my seat and watched as those tiny faces chased us until their legs couldn’t run anymore, and disappeared into the billowing dust. I couldn’t shake that God whispered question from my head. “What if that were Lincoln? What if that was ME?”

Sometimes my weak human mind falters. Has my Father missed this tiny village? Has His omnipresent eyes somehow forgotten to check on these despised children? Why have I never been truly hungry? Why do I have a house with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer? Why do I belong to a family full of healthy people? How does it seem that the cards have been dealt so desperately unfair? God WHY?

In my weakness, God’s gentle answer revealed His strength. Not one child in a grass hut is unseen, ignored or without purpose. Not one tear falls uncaught. There is not one sleepless night where He is not there cradling their heart. He has them all in the palm of His hands and their names on His tongue.

My heart has been broken and rebuilt by dedicated bush pastors, cheerful blind villagers, brave malnourished children, and the prayers of weak lepers. It’s only by God’s grace I was born where I was. It’s easy to ask God “WHY”, but it’s not so easy when He asks that question back to us. The Bible reminds us in Luke 12:48 “to whom much is given, much is required.” God has redeemed us to be His hands and feet. What an honor!

God doesn’t have to bring us to Africa to make a difference in this world. My story is deeply entwined in Zambia’s grass huts in the same way that others are rooted in a personal tragedy or Vacation Bible School. Every story is unique. Hand crafted. The key is, what are we doing with those God orchestrated events? It doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. In fact, all through Scripture we see that God specializes in the small and mundane. He simply calls us to act. Share a smile with the cashier at the grocery store, leave change and a Bible verse for the next person to come to the laundry mat, invest in the child who can’t fit in at school, visit the lonely widow in the nursing home. No act is too small that God can’t use it in mind blowing ways. He just calls us to plant the seeds. He will take care of the watering.

This introverted doubter flew to Zambia to change lives, but left changed instead. My eyes have been opened to the reality of suffering all around me. It’s not just across the ocean – it’s here even in our own neighborhoods. May we strive to make our corners of the world better places.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For the sake of the world, Kate[/custom_headline]

Kate Foster is 23 from Rochester, NY and recently moved to Athens, MI. She is a lover of Jesus, her husband Ethan and dark chocolate. She dabbles in many things but enjoys crafting, decorating, and photography. You can browse her work at www.etsy.com/shop/fosterhappiness

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/6465169545_619c9099d5_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]A new giveaway from our guest blogger, Kate![/custom_headline]

Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of June and be entered to win a basket full of gifts from our guest blogger, Kate! On mobile scroll to the end of any post to subscribe…On a desktop, subscribe on the right sidebar or in the footer below. OR just use the “Contact Us” tab in the main menu and we’ll do the work for you!

If you’ve already subscribed, tag a friend under a post on our Facebook wall @ https://www.facebook.com/awriteheart and encourage them to subscribe – the more the merrier!

giftbasketkateKate’s gift basket includes Foster Happiness designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!

Sign up today!

[/content_band]

the good news: how to blow it in 10 easy steps

Melissa @ awriteheart.comI’ve had a lot of opportunities to tell others about my faith in Jesus. There have been some successes, but there have definitely been some major failures. A command for everyone who follows Christ is to go, tell, and baptize in His name…Outside the door of each of our homes, or maybe even inside them, are countless individuals who don’t know the good news of Jesus. Here are ten ways to make sure that they never do.

Don’t pray for opportunities.

Thank God for your food and your warm house…Pray for your sick neighbor and your daughter’s spelling test…But don’t ask for Him to open doors for you to tell other people about Him. He might answer it, and then you’d have to move on to the following steps.

Don’t be friends with anyone who isn’t a Christian.

One way to avoid sharing the love of Christ is never to seek out meaningful relationships with unsaved people. Easy-peasy, right? Right. Stay in the bubble and keep those heathens at arms length. If you actually come into contact with someone who isn’t a Christian, the best policy is to invest nothing. Ask nothing. They might infect you with their unspiritual-ness, so definitely don’t spend a substantial amount of time with them. If a tangible need becomes evident, don’t meet it. Just ignore it and someone else will probably take care of it. Or not.

Don’t let them know the real you.

Don’t even think of telling someone how your life has been transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This is super easy if your life shows no evidence that you follow Jesus, but even if it does you can just not tell anyone that it was Him who made the difference. And under no circumstance should you tell them that you have had doubts, fears, or failures. They might relate to it, and we wouldn’t want that.

Be the sin police.

sin policeNaturally, people who don’t follow Christ don’t necessarily know or care how He wants Christians to live their lives. It stands to reason, then, that if you point out the sins of unsaved people and inform them of how badly they need to change before they even understand their need for a savior, they will continue not to see their need and subsequently avoid you and your critiques of their lives. Put a cherry on top and inform them of why you don’t do what they’re doing, so they can see how much better you are than them.

Make up rules that don’t exist.

People love rules, don’t they? Make up a few about how you think people should act or dress or worship or entertain themselves that aren’t in the Bible but are based on your personal preference, and inflict them upon others. It’s perfect because they’ll know they can look to you instead of to the word of God for the standard of what a Christ-follower looks like.

Gossip about other people.

Talking about other people behind their backs is very effective if you want someone to see clearly how you love yourself more than anything on earth, how you only like people who are as awesome as you, and how your friendship actually isn’t friendship at all. In no time you will have lost their trust, and the game is over.

Gossip about other churches.

A great way to let unsaved people know that they should steer clear is to talk negatively about other Bible-believing churches that have practices that you don’t agree with. It shows superiority, disunity, and a lack of vision for what it actually means to be the body of Christ, and will dissuade most anyone from wanting to be a part of any such body of believers.

Insist that Christianity should only be done the way you do it.

worship warsI mean, we all know that when we get to heaven, everything will be done exactly the way you do it right now. Why wouldn’t you share that with someone who could potentially be in heaven with you?

Talk trash on social media.

This one’s pretty fun. Go on Facebook and call unsaved people unintelligent at an opportune moment, like under a post about evolution. It’s sure to evoke lots of negative comments that you can then make more derogatory comments on. If you persevere, you’ll have the last word and many less prospective converts to worry about discipling.

Idolize something other than Jesus.

Soap-boxes, obsessions, and social causes are amazing distractions from what should be the main thing in a Christian’s life. If you can find something to live more passionately for than God, or a message to tell more adamantly than the good news of the gospel, that’ll help divert a non-Christian’s attention to all of the other stuff in their own lives that they could live for.

With these ten tips, you can reach no one with the message of Christ, or you can reach everyone with no message at all. Either way you can rest assured that nothing eternal will ever happen because of you.

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/4735476813_d193258769_o.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]We’ve extended the drawing![/custom_headline]

 

11164773_703187023125149_4659599705545005278_nYou have until May 1st to be entered into our drawing for a Pure Grace perfume and lotion set, AND “Grace” by Max Lucado! The more you share your favorite posts on social media with the hashtag #awriteheart, the more chances you have to win!

[/content_band]