“Shall we beat a retreat, and turn back from our high calling in Christ Jesus, or dare we advance at God’s command in the face of the impossible? Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by clauses calling for advance only if funds were plentiful and no hardship or self-denial was involved. On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ.”
John Stam gave this speech at the Moody Bible Institute; little did he know what would take place just 2 years later.
Answering God’s call, Betty went to China in 1931 and John went a year later but to a different region. They went as a part of the CIM (China Inland Missionaries). Then in 1933 they were married. They had a daughter Helen and settled as a family in Tsingteh. It was 1934 and was a time of civil war and hard times for Christians in China. It was December and they heard rumours of communist raids through the city but didn’t have enough time to leave.
The communists caught up with the Stams, they arrested them and took them to headquarters where they held them for ransom and demanded John write a letter to the CIM. John did this knowing full well the missionary organisation was not allowed to pay ransom demands. In his letter he quoted Philippians 1:20 “May Christ be glorified by life or death”
They spent the night in a prison. Betty was holding 3 month old baby Helen who cried and was nearly killed because of it. The next morning they were bound tightly and stripped of their outer garments and forced to march about 19 km to Miaosheo. The group stopped for the night where Betty was allowed to tend to Helen. Betty must have known her fate and actually hid Helen in a sleeping blanket with provisions in the hope that someone would save her baby. The couple were paraded in front of the Town where all the people gathered to witness the execution of the Christians. A Chinese shopkeeper pleaded for their lives but to no avail. The communists saw the bible in his hand and he was made to walk alongside the Stams to be killed. No one else dared to intervene. After marching a little further on John, Betty and the shopkeeper were forced to kneel and were beheaded.
A courageous Reverend Lo Kechou found the Stams bodies the next day and after a little searching found baby Helen miraculously still alive. He concealed her in a rice basket and made a dangerous journey over mountainous terrain and delivered her to her maternal grandparents, the Scotts.
What must have been going through Betty’s mind when she had to leave her baby behind, we will never know? But what incredible faith and courage it must have required. Maybe God whispered comforting words in her ear? Maybe He filled her with peace? I know that kind of faith and courage is available to all of us. We may not ever have to face the same kind of persecution that Betty did but we can apply it in our own everyday lives. A mother’s courage! A courage that comes from God.
I don’t think we understand the depths of what happened there in Miaosheo that day, to undergo that kind of extreme persecution. But what amazes me is how prepared they were. They knew the risks were great but their love for their God was even greater and unwavering! It was not in vain and it wasn’t for selfish gain. They chose to live and die for others. They stood firm to the end.