Nehemiah 8:9-10 (NLT)
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, �Don�t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.� For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, �Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don�t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!�
The people had completed rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. A census had been taken of the families. And now was to be a time of celebration as the words of God were once again available for the people to hear. As they listened they weep and mourned for the words reminded them of them failures. Yet Ezra reminded the people this was a day to celebrate for they had come back to God and the Lord was the joy of their strength.
Less than a week before Martin Burnham's abduction by Muslim guerrillas on the Philippine island of Palawan in May 2001, the New Tribes missionary gave the devotional at a Wednesday evening service at Rose Hill Bible Church in his small hometown outside Wichita, Kansas.
Some of Burnham's last words in the United States were also the last words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John, said Ralph Burnham, Martin's uncle, during yesterday morning's service at the church. "His very last words were, 'Follow thou me.'" Ralph Burnham said, his voice choking up. "Martin not only spoke of following him, but he took on that responsibility. Of course, at that time neither he nor any of us expected how far he was going to be required to go to. But he was willing to go."
Martin Burnham, 42, kept that attitude throughout the 376 days he and his wife, Gracia, 43, were held captive by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.
Just before a Philippine military raid on the kidnappers that led to Martin's death and Gracia's freedom, the two huddled together in a hammock under a makeshift tent.
"Martin and Gracia had really been thinking that there would be a chance that they would not make it out alive," said Martin's brother, Doug, relying on a phone conversation with Gracia. "Martin said to Gracia, 'The Bible says to serve the Lord with gladness. Let's go out all the way. Let's serve him all the way with gladness.'"
The two then prayed in their hammock, recited Scripture verses to each other, and sang. They laid down to rest. Then the rescue assault began and bullets began to fly, puncturing Gracia's leg and Martin's chest.
"That was Gracia's last [memory] of Martin, that to the very end he served the Lord with gladness," Doug Burnham said. "And she was very proud of him for that." [Source: www.christianity.today
, "Families, church eager for reunion with Gracia today" Ted Olsen | posted 6/01/2002 12:00AM]