“What is happening to me?” “Who are these men?” “Where am I going?” “What should I do?” These questions flashed through Eunice Diment’s mind as the motorized outrigger canoe pulled quickly away from the larger boat containing members of her Bangingi Samal “family.” Only minutes before she had been one of a laughing, chattering boatload of people moving across the channel from Panigayan Island to the city of Isabela on the larger island of Basilan in the southern Philippines.
When she heard cries of alarm from the rear of their boat, Eunice thought someone had run into them. But when she caught sight of the man standing in the bow of the other boat aiming a pistol at them, she realized that they were either going to be robbed or killed, or both. She could hear Sulaiman, her adopted “brother,” trying to reason with the man in the Bangingi language. But when she heard the word puti, meaning “white,” she knew she was the one they wanted. They planned to kidnap her!
“Do I have to go with them?” she asked.
“Yes, you must go,” they advised. “But Sulaiman will go with you.” She stepped obediently into the other boat. They pulled quickly away.
“What will happen me?” she wondered. Surely when the men discovered that she was only Eunice Diment, a British missionary-translator working among the Bangingi Samal, they would realize she wasn’t a rich “American.” And if there would be no ransom involved, they would let her go.
After an hour and a half of getting soaked through in heavy seas, they arrived at what appeared to be their destination. When the cold, steely eyes of the “commanders” appraised their captives, Eunice’s hopes of immediate release began to fade, especially when one of them was introduced as “the head of our liquidation squad.”
That night Eunice felt desolate. Sitting in the darkness, alone with her captors, she realized in a new way that she must place her complete trust in the Lord and not in any man. “Psalm 23 came to me,” she recalls. “That was a great comfort. I also remembered Daniel 3:17: ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us … and he will deliver us.’ I held onto those that day and night.”
For the next several weeks, she lived in this windowless, nipa-walled room. Many visitors came to the house during her incarceration — some who talked Bangingi with her, some who stared and laughed. She controlled her tears until the morning when her captors ordered her to write letters demanding ransom and stating the conditions. Until then her captivity hadn’t seemed real. Her captors continued to order her to write more letters. It seemed that everyone was afraid to handle the ones she had first written, and they had been brought back. She must rewrite them.
As Eunice read and memorized Scripture and kept a daily journal, the Lord began to speak to her through the Psalms, and like the Psalmist, she asked him, “How long?” He reminded her that her times were in his hands (Psalm 31:15). He asked her to praise him, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty (Psalm 57:7-9), and when she obeyed in this, she felt great strength and peace. Later she learned there was indeed a set time for her deliverance (Psalm 102:13).
Another verse which came to mean a great deal to her was Psalms 79:11: “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.”
Later Dr. Richard Pittman, Wycliffe Coordinator for Asian Studies, shared with her how deeply the Lord impressed him with this Scripture during that time of prayer and waiting. He had noted it in the margin of his Bible under the date of March 20. Seymour Ashley, SIL* Director for the southern area of the Philippines, also wrote that verse to her, and she had been required to explain it to the commanders as they read the letter.
A negotiator brought a newspaper to the rebels that reported military involvement in the kidnapping. This angered the rebels, and the commander demanded that she write another letter, stating that unless the military withdrew, they could never release Eunice. Instead they would move her to their large base. Having relieved his irritation, he then suggested they play a game of “Scrabble” in English.
New people arrived who demanded to know why no ransom had been paid. They pressured Eunice to urge that this be done. She answered that in writing the letters she had done all she could do. On the day the rebels sent Sulaiman home, they made Eunice write a letter to send with him. It stated that if Sulaiman did not bring back the ransom demanded, they would kill Eunice. They set a deadline of March 11. Even as she wrote, the words of Psalm 118:17 flashed into her mind: “I shall not die, but live.” She didn’t know when the Lord would bring her out, but she knew he would!
Again the commander and three of the men suggested a game of “Scrabble.” They told Eunice, “If you win, you can go home, even if they don’t send the money.” She managed a close win, but she wasn’t immediately released.
On March 20, the Lord gave Eunice the verse found in Psalm 119:126: “It is the time for thee, Lord, to work.” She felt assured that the time had actually come. “This is the day!” she said to herself.
Only when Eunice finally saw guns and soldiers on the approaching boats did she realize the negotiations had involved the Philippine military. Thankful and overjoyed, she was hauled aboard one of the military speedboats. That’s when she heard Colonel Cirilo Bueno of the Philippine Constabulary, coordinator of the rescue efforts, exclaim with feeling, “You’re safe!”
The verse that had meant so much to her during her captivity flashed into her mind, “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.” Truly, it was the “greatness of his power” that had appointed her to live.