Rachel and Beau Burnham—
Rescued, Redeemed, Restored
American humorist and writer Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities.”
The angel Gabriel said, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Rachel and Beau would add to both of these comments, “No kidding.”
Neither Mark Twain nor Gabriel had ever met this pair, but Rachel and Beau could have been the poster children for both statements.
Rachel and Beau Burnham live in Brandon. She is an assistant at The Runnels Center and a home-schooling mom. He is a pastor. They returned to Brandon last spring after they and their three children spent 19 months as missionaries in the labor camps of Dubai. As part of the For All Mankind Movement, their ministry involved the nurture and discipleship of displaced people from all around South Asia. These refugees had traveled to Dubai hoping to provide for their families back home. FAMM’s goal is to introduce them to Jesus and to equip them to serve as missionaries to their own people when they return to their homeland.
The Burnhams’ heart is for any and everyone who doesn’t know the Jesus they know—the one who rescues, redeems, restores, and heals. They know what a difference he made in their lives. And if he could do it for their messed up, crazy, dysfunctional marriage, he can do it for anyone’s.
Rachel and Beau don’t sound wildly unusual until you hear the rest of their compelling story.
They have been married three times, divorced twice—and always to and from each other.
It’s a story far better and more redemptive than anything the Lifetime movie channel could ever write and a great illustration that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
Rachel remembers well the first time she saw Beau. She was a 14-year-old teenybopper, a freshman in high school, and he was a very handsome 17-year-old senior who drove a green truck.
With all of their shallow teenage wisdom, they declared themselves in love. Neither of them had a clue about real love at the time. It was the culmination of every pop artist they heard singing about love on the radio. They were certain they would get married one day. Within six months of their first date, they found themselves parents-to-be.
According to the CDC, approximately 750,000 American teens get pregnant every year resulting in approximately 400,000 births. The other 350,000 choose to have an abortion rather than carry through with the pregnancy. Abortion is easy in today’s world. It is relatively inexpensive, and nobody needs to know—or so that is the lie many believe. However, it does not often turn out to be as easy as taking an eraser and rubbing out an error on the page.
God had His hand on Rachel even then. She never once considered abortion even though the shame factor was huge. “I loved this baby girl from the beginning,” she says. “I also loved Beau and thought we would get married one day and have a family.” She chose to carry her child and is grateful every time she looks at Rebecca Lynn who has been a joy from the very first second she came into the world.
But they did not all immediately live happily ever after—for sure.
Beau finished out the first semester of his freshman year at Mississippi State and came back to Brandon enrolling in a program that would equip him to be a licensed electrician. Rachel completed her tenth-grade year at Northwest Rankin on a Friday. Determined not to be a “statistic’ of the failures of single mothers—teen mothers, in particular—she enrolled at the Education Center in Jackson on the following Monday morning. Within a few short months, Rachel completed high school and began studying to be a nurse at Hinds Community College.
Beau and Rachel had been regular churchgoers through their growing up years. They had heard the gospel, had gone through the motions and identified as Christians, but there was very little understanding of a relationship with a God who was alive and working in every circumstance of life.
Rachel had heard the plan of salvation at Vacation Bible School. Since childhood, her nightly bedtime prayer had always been, “Jesus, please come into my heart. Forgive me of all my sins.” Those repetitious words over and over were something like an insurance policy in her mind.
But her concept of forgiveness and grace were just words. The gospel, the forgiveness of sins took on a new meaning at this time when she says she was filled with shame and all too conscious that “Everybody knew what a sinner I was, and I knew that I was not going to enter into any kind of heaven on my merit.”
God was pursuing her. One night she knelt on the floor in her mother’s closet and prayed for the last time, “Jesus, come into my life and change me. I knew at that point that He was my Savior, and although I did not know a lot, I knew I didn’t have to keep asking him to save me. But I did not know how to live in a different way.” She describes herself then as “saved, but not surrendered.”
Beau had stopped going to church regularly by the time he went to college. In his mind, he had accepted Christ at a youth weekend years before. He had said the right words and believed he was going to heaven because he was a pretty decent person. Unfortunately, he had totally missed the point of the Cross!
He and Rachel were committed to each other and to their future, or so they thought. The week after Rachel’s seventeenth birthday, they married. They quickly discovered that marriage demanded a whole lot more of everything than they had realized.
Whatever expectations each had for married life were quickly dashed. Rachel didn’t live up to Beau’s standards, and Beau didn’t live up to Rachel’s either. He would come home from an eight-hour workday expecting supper to be simmering on the stove. Rachel wouldn’t be there. Housekeeping was definitely not her strong suit.
Rachel says they were never screamers or fighters, but they essentially co-existed like bored roommates who had nothing in common. She says, “There was no self-sacrifice, no loving each other more than we loved ourselves. We each lived for ourselves. That was evident in every aspect of our relationship.”
At 19, Rachel was in full-time nursing school. She was also working on Friday and Saturday nights at a local restaurant waiting tables so that she could put three-year-old Rebecca Lynn in daycare while she attended classes. There was little time or energy left over for Beau. Even so, she resented his lack of attentiveness to her needs. This was not the marriage of her fairytale dreams.
However, there was a man at her workplace who was telling her everything she wanted to hear. He thought she was smart, beautiful, funny, and close to being perfect. Rachel asked Beau for a divorce.
The Second Time Around
The divorce became final, but partly because of their immaturity, it seemed more like a breakup of a high school romance than a marriage covenant. Finding reasons to talk often, they never completely left each other After all there were always arrangements to make regarding their daughter.
Within a year they remarried, certain they would make it work although neither of them had made any attempt to consider changing any behaviors or habits that had contributed to their first failed marriage.
In short order, they added daughter Ella and son Cope to their dysfunctional family. Things did not get bad all at once, but little by little they drifted apart harboring unhealthy habits and rationalizing self-centered behaviors.
Rachel, however, was attending church, taking the children, hearing the Word and outwardly living the respectable life, but there was a disconnect between what she heard in a Bible study and the way she lived as a wife.
When Beau’s company in Jackson closed its doors, he found another lucrative job at a steel mill in Columbus.
He began to live there during the week, but he was making good money and providing very well for his family. They had new cars, a great house, good jobs, a boat, a few other toys and three precious children. In his mind, what else could Rachel possibly want? He thought he was a great husband.
There was again mounting tension between them. Rachel felt like a single mom with three children. She felt neglected. He felt disrespected because nothing seemed to be enough.
When she finally broached the divorce word with Beau, his reply was, “I’m not interested. You have said that before.” He was tough on the outside, but he was also scared. He did not want to lose his wife again. But he had no idea how to make anything better.
Beau almost randomly (if anything with God is ever random) ran across a book in their bedroom one day. He remembered Rachel’s dad giving it to him on the day they married the first time. It was Stormie O’Martian’s The Power of a Praying Husband. He had never opened it in the eight years he had owned it, but he decided to read it.
“It was while I was reading that book that I really came to the end of myself. One night Rachel was working, and after I put the kids to bed I fell to my knees and cried out to Jesus. I knew I had made such a mess of things,” Beau remembers.
He had tried everything else. It was time to try Jesus.
Hard Hearts, Strong Wills, and God’s Sovereignty
Most counselors will tell you that sometimes things get worse before they get better. And such was the case in this situation.
Beau tried to tell Rachel the next morning about his prayers the night before. He believed he could finally be the husband he had not known how to be. Rachel was not buying the story of Beau’s newfound faith. And she certainly did not share his vision for their future.
She still wanted a divorce, but she wanted a “respectable” divorce with biblical grounds. She even prayed for such a thing!
Beau’s transformation persisted. He was not only attending church, but he was signing up for every work detail and discipleship group at their church. He was surrounding himself with godly men who were mentoring him.
At home, Rachel describes a loving helpful man. He was indeed a new creature, but she could not believe it would last. In fact, she hoped it wouldn’t. It really bothered her that he seemed to have discovered a relationship with the Lord on a level she had never experienced.
Beau was studying scripture and applying it. He came to the epistle of James and read, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
He decided he had to ask Rachel’s forgiveness for things he had done during their marriage, most of them previously unknown to her. Beau was hoping for a new beginning for their relationship. Instead, Rachel saw his transparency as an answer to her prayers for biblical grounds for divorce. She was almost giddy about it at first. She would have her divorce. Surely, God was giving her the green light!
It did not come as easily as she thought it would. Beau’s transformation showed no signs of going backward. Their three children were heartbroken and prayed openly that God would intervene and change their mother’s heart.
“My heart was hardened and completely shut off,” Rachel says. “I was still convinced that I had a better plan. I continued to pursue the divorce and in 2011, it was final. I kept reading God’s Word determined that He was going to give me a different answer but every time He pointed me to reconciliation and His will for marriage. However, I was disobedient and continued on my path, praying that He would bless it. I eventually found myself at the point of surrender—not to Beau, but to the one true God—my creator, comforter, redeemer, and healer. I knew from God’s Word that I either needed to be single the rest of my life or be reconciled to Beau. At that point, I was ready to stay single.”
For the first time in her life, however, Rachel was at peace.
Meanwhile, Beau had continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord. He continued to carry a torch for Rachel, but her heart remained cold. It was painful seeing her every time they swapped the children. One day, he finally told her that he was done pursuing her and putting her 100% in God’s hands. From that point on when it was time to exchange the children, he would arrange to have someone else meet Rachel.
He made other changes. In 2013, Beau went on staff with For All Mankind Movement, the ministry that took him back and forth between the United States and Dubai about ten times a year. When he was at home, he spent a lot of time with their children but was true to his word that he arranged for the drop-off and pick up of the children through a third party. He had surrendered that dream of reconciliation, but he never stopped praying God’s best for Rachel.
During that same time, Rachel was seeking God’s heart with an authenticity she had never known before. Her stubborn headstrong desires for her own pleasure and satisfaction were being changed daily by a greater desire to please the God she loved.
One evening in 2013, Beau FaceTimed the children during a layover on a return trip from Dubai. Rachel caught a frame of his face on the screen of the iPhone. Instead of the usual resentment and animosity she harbored for him, she felt something completely opposite, and she knew it was put there by God. He had changed her heart.
When Beau came home, they began to talk about what it would look like to see each other again. Rachel says her mind was totally set on purity. They wanted to do things right for the first time. The Lord had never been front and center in their relationship. Now he was. It was different.
“We didn’t even tell the kids we were seeing each other because they had been through so much. They were still praying their parents would reconcile, but we didn’t want to get their hopes up because we weren’t yet sure where this new relationship was going to go,” Rachel says.
One big issue for Rachel was Beau’s call to missions. Beau’s position with For All Mankind involved church relations and short-term mission trips—a lot of them. Rachel laughs about her attitude at the time. “I asked him if he ever thought he would want to move to Dubai because I was never going to leave Brandon, Mississippi, and the good ole USA!”
She overheard Skype conversations between Beau and his ministry partner and their plans for mission projects in different places. They prayed aloud with such deep conviction and sincere concern for those far away strangers who did not know Jesus. Those prayers began to echo in her mind. God was tugging at her heart.
Rachel wrote in her prayer journal one night, “I want my life to glorify you, Lord—no matter what that looks like.” God did not let that confession go by unnoticed. Rachel would be taking not one but two serious mission trips to India and to Dubai before the year was over. She would also find a supernatural love in her heart for the strangers in the labor camps that she had once had no interest in ever meeting face to face.
On the day before Easter, April 19, 2014, Rachel and Beau, surrounded by three jubilant offspring, pledged their vows to each other. Never had the Cross or the Resurrection held more meaning for two people.
On October 1, 2014, the Burnham family loaded up eight suitcases, boarded an airplane, and moved to Dubai for 19 months. They had made a two-year commitment of training locals in church planting and gospel evangelism.
They describe those 19 months as “amazing.” In the days and weeks leading up to that move, Rachel occasionally got cold feet about one thing or another. Every time she voiced a specific fear—and they were all quite rational—God seemed to go out of his way to give her complete confidence that He was in this decision.
One morning the thought came to her that, “Hey, you just got remarried. Is it wise to move yourselves and your three children to India to the mission field?” She turned that thought over in her mind a while wondering if she was being irresponsible. When she flipped on her radio to K-Love, the first thing across the air was a Proverbs 31 Woman clip. The teaser was, “Is insecurity keeping you from going on the mission field?” And so it continued. God answered her fears at every turn.
The Burnhams have been back in Mississippi for the past year. They have completed their work with For All Mankind. Beau is now the evangelism pastor at The Vineyard Church on Lakeland Drive. Rachel is homeschooling Rebecca Lynn (9th grade), Ella (4th grade), and Cope (2nd grade). She works part time as a nurse at The Runnels Center in Flowood, and life is very, very good.
As Rachel puts it, “We’ve lived two ways—the world’s way and Christ’s way. We have learned Christ’s way is the one that works. If you are Christ’s ambassador on earth, you want to walk like he walked, talk like he talked, treat others the way he treated others. Beau and I aren’t there yet, but we are pressing on.”
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book was a life changer for Rachel. She says reading it was something that was close to “light bulbs” going off in her head about every chapter. Nothing and nobody ever made the whole “men and women are different” case any clearer to her than this book.