Gracia Burnham is the author of In the Presence of My Enemies and will be the guest speaker at the Women’s Conference at First Baptist Church of Brandon. Burnham captured the national spotlight as she was kidnapped in the Philippines in 2001.

First Baptist Church of Brandon is hosting its annual Women’s Conference on Friday, March 3 from 7-9 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and food trucks will be on-site from 5-7 p.m.

According to Anna Montes, communications director at the church, the church is expecting a full house for this event. Past events have drawn big names such as Kirk Cameron, performer Charles Billingsley as well as Jen Crider, the daughter of Christian award-winning artist Sandy Patti.

This year’s special guest speaker is Gracia Burnham, a missionary, public speaker and author of several books who made national headlines surrounding her kidnapping. For 17 years, Gracia, along with her husband, Martin Burnham, served as missionaries in the Philippines, where Martin was a jungle pilot delivering mail, supplies to other missionaries and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities. Gracia served in the aviation program and also homeschooled their children — all of whom were born in the Philippines.

In May 2001, the Burnhams were taken captive by a Muslim militant group. In addition to the Burnhams, the group seized several more hostages. In the following months, some of the hostages were killed, but most were set free. By November 2001, only the Burnhams and one other hostage remained in captivity.

For more than a year, and under the total control of their captors, they were living in primitive conditions in the jungle, enduring gun battles and witnessing unspeakable atrocities.

Soon after the events of September 11, the news media took a greater interest in Gracia and Martin’s plight and kept their story in the national headlines. On the afternoon of June 7, 2002, over a year since their abduction, the Philippine military attempted another rescue. Tragically, Martin was killed during the gunfight. Wounded but alive, Gracia was rescued and returned home under a national spotlight.

Her unique story and the captivating way she tells it makes Gracia a popular speaker for churches, conferences and schools. Gracia travels throughout the country revealing the spiritual lessons she learned during her captivity and how God has blessed her and her family since Martin’s death. She is also the founder and director of The Martin & Gracia Burnham Foundation.

“I’ve had the honor of being Gracia Burnham’s pastor for about eight years now,” said Dr. Mark Penick, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Brandon. “When Gracia is not traveling the world telling her remarkable story, she’s rocking babies in the church nursery or singing in the choir. She loves the local church, which is why she enthusiastically agreed to speak at our women’s conference, where women from all across Tampa will come to worship God together and hear a great word of faith and endurance.”

The women’s conference at First Baptist Brandon will also include guest musical artist Amy Shreve. Gracia’s books, In the Presence of My Enemies and To Fly Again, will be there for sale as well.

General seating tickets are $12 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. For more information, visit or call 813-689-1204. First Baptist Brandon is located at 216 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.