Mourners crowd Kansas church for funeral of missionary slain in Philippines

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Hundreds of mourners, including former Sen. Bob Dole, packed a church Friday for the funeral of Martin Burnham, the hostage missionary killed in the Philippines during a bloody rescue that freed his wife.

A large floral arrangement covered the casket, somber piano music played and slides chronicling the missionary couple's lives were shown at Central Christian Church.

Burnham's wife, Gracia, 43, still in a wheelchair after being shot in the leg during the rescue from Muslim extremists _ bowed as Pastor Joe Wright led the audience in prayer.

Letters from relatives were read by Burnham's uncle, the Rev. Galen Hinshaw.

``My dad was the most generous person I have ever known,'' the Burnhams' 12-year-old daughter, Mindy, wrote in one of the letters.

The service was expected to draw more than 4,000 people. In addition to Dole, other dignitaries included Republican Sen. Sam Brownback.

Burnham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were killed last week during a firefight between the Philippine army and Abu Sayyaf rebels, who had been holding them and Gracia Burnham since May 27, 2001. Gracia Burnham returned home to Rose Hill on Monday.

On Thursday, hundreds attended a four-hour visitation in Derby, though most had never met the Burnhams.

``Their strength, their belief in God _ it makes you appreciate people that try to make the world a better place,'' said Rose Hill resident Rhonda Davis.