Gracia Burnham & Dean Merrill's Bio:
Gracia Burnham was born in Cairo, Illinois , January 17, 1959, daughter of Norvin and Betty Jo Jones, a WWII veteran and former pastor and Bible teacher, currently residing in Cherokee Village, Arkansas. She graduated from Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1981, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Education.
Gracia was married to Martin Burnham on May 28, 1983 and they graduated together from the New Tribes Mission Training Institute in Durant, Mississippi in1984. In March, 1986, Martin and Gracia left the states for a mission aviation assignment with New Tribes Mission in Northern Luzon, Philippines. They worked as New Tribes missionaries in the Philippines from 1986 to May 2001. Graciaís responsibilities included flight following, radio net control, home-schooling her children, and assisting Martin in his responsibilities of pilot, mechanic, and field leadership.
Martin and Gracia are the parents of three children, all born in the Philippines, Jeffrey (Jeff) born February 11, 1987; Melinda (Mindy) born October 17, 1989; and Zachary (Zach) born December 13, 1990.
Gracia and her children now reside in Rose Hill, Kansas, near Wichita, Kansas. Gracia is author of the book, In the Presence of My Enemies (Tyndale Publishing House), the story of her and Martinís year spent as hostages of the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of the Philippines. Since the rescue attempt by the Philippine military that resulted in Martinís death and Graciaís release, Gracia has been adjusting to life in America and life as a single parent. Gracia has launched the Martin & Gracia Burnham Foundation, which will support mission aviation and tribal mission work around the world, seek to find ways to show Christís love to the Muslim community, and offer assistance to Christians who are suffering for their faith around the world. The foundation will be funded through money raised by speaking fees, sales of books and by donations.
Martin Burnham was born in Wichita, Kansas, on September 19, 1959 and grew up in the Philippines, the eldest son of Paul and Oreta Burnham, who have served as New Tribes Mission missionaries in the Philippines since 1969. He graduated from Calvary Bible College and Wichita Aviation Education Center, and completed missionary training with New Tribes Mission. Martin served with New Tribes Mission in the Philippines for 17 years, delivering mail, supplies, and encouragement to other missionaries, and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities.
Martin was killed June 7, 2002, in the Philippines during a military action between Abu Sayyaf and Philippine forces. He had been kidnapped along with his wife, Gracia, May 27, 2001, by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Dean Merrill is a veteran of 38 years in Christian publishing, having served with such organizations as Youth for Christ/Campus Life, David C. Cook, Christianity Today Inc., and Christian Herald. For seven years he was a vice president at Focus on the Family, overseeing the magazine group, book publishing, an online service, and the in-house agency up until early 1996. He is now vice president of international publishing at the International Bible Society, overseeing start-up publishing entities in places as varied as Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil.
His career began in the editorial field but has embraced larger and larger responsibilities for all aspects of publishing as the years have progressed. As a journalist, he has been published in over 40 Christian magazines. He is also the author or co-author of 23 books, including the Fresh Wind trilogy with Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which sold more than a million copies in hardcover.
Another collaboration launched in May 2003 was the harrowing story of Gracia Burnham, a missionary in the Philippines who endured a year as a hostage of the ruthless Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. She escaped with her life on June 7, 2002-her husband, Martin, did not. The book is entitled In the Presence of My Enemies (Tyndale) and is gaining national media attention.
Dean Merrill's education includes a bachelor of theology degree from Chicago Bible College and a master of arts degree in journalism from Syracuse University. He served a term as president of the Evangelical Press Association in the mid-1980s and is currently a board member of Global Publishers Alliance. He is also an ordained minister.