This is an excerpt from Revolution: An Urgent Call to a Holy Uprising. May it stir your heart as you read!
Some of the greatest leaders in the early church included men like Ignatius, who was fed to wild beasts, and Polycarp who was burned at the stake, and Justin Martyr, who was beheaded. Some of the greatest reformers of the late Middle Ages included men like John Huss, who was burned at the stake, and Girolamo Savonarola, who was tortured, strangled, and burned at the stake, and William Tyndale, who was also strangled and burned at the stake. (Never forget that the English Bible you hold in your hand today cost Tyndale his life!)
More recently, missionary-martyrs like Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Peter Fleming (martyred in 1956), or twenty years before them, John and Betty Stam, left an eternal legacy in just a few short moments of obedience to death. Listen to their stories and you will understand.
John and Betty Stam were graduates of Moody Bible Institute, sailing for China as missionaries during a difficult time for missionaries. (They were actually married in China, Betty preceding John to the mission field by one year.)
They knew the risks involved, as the China Inland Mission was specifically recruiting laborers to work in dangerous, Communist-infested areas. But both of them had been inspired by a poem written after Southern Presbyterian missionary Jack Vinson was martyred in 1931. Vinson had showed no fear of death to his Chinese captors, telling them, “Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God.” The calmness he showed inspired his colleague E. H. Hamilton to write this poem.
Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Saviour’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace
Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not—
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
With courage and faith, John had challenged the graduating class at Moody in 1932. “Shall we beat a retreat, and turn back from our high calling in Christ Jesus; or dare we advance at God’s command in 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 involved. On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ.”
The day of reckoning came for John and Betty Stam. (One recent book, obviously based on John Stam’s words to his class at Moody, calls it, “Victory Day for the Stams.” What a concept!) They were captured by Communists (their little baby, Priscilla, was miraculously spared), then painfully bound, stripped down to their underwear, and kept under guard for the night. The next morning, they were paraded down the street while being mocked and ridiculed, after which they were beheaded—baptizing with blood a stony plot, till souls have blossomed from that spot. They were not afraid of that!
As word got out about their martyrdom, the impact was dramatic, both in terms of new missionary volunteers, new student prayer meetings, and large monetary donations to the work in China. A missionary with the China Inland Mission wrote to Betty’s parents: “A life which had the longest span of years might not have been able to accomplish one-hundredth of the work for Christ which they have done in a day.” That is the power of martyrdom!
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). One short act of obedience to death gave many others eternal life!
Here is an excerpt on John and Betty Stam, and the full article is HERE
On this day, 8 December 1934 the Communists marched John and Betty Stam through the streets of neighboring Miaosheo. A Chinese merchant, Chang Hsiu-sheng, fell to his knees and pleaded for their lives. Finding a Bible and Christian literature in his house, the Communists seized him, too, and marched him to the hill where the missionaries were to be executed. John pleaded for Chang’s life. However, a Communist cut his pleas short by slashing his throat. Betty fell to her knees, shuddering once before the blade severed her neck. The Communists executed Chang the next day.
Two days later, Mr. Lo, a local pastor, found Helen Priscilla Stam hidden in a sleeping bag. Pinned to her clothes were a few dollars that Betty had somehow managed to hide from the Communists. Mr. and Mrs. Lo carried Priscilla many miles and delivered her safely into the hands of other missionaries.