After I had the opportunity to write Hudson Taylor’s biography for Barbour Publishing, Barbour invited me to write a book on John and Betty Stam. At first I had to admit that I was unfamiliar with the couple. But as I began researching the compelling story of the Stams’ lives and ministries I quickly realized theirs was a powerful testimony that I would be highly privileged to share with contemporary Christians. I concluded that it would be most unfortunate if the Stams’ inspiring and instructive story were to be lost to present-day believers because it wasn’t communicated to them.
As a result, John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs was first published in 2000, then reissued under the same title in 2008 by Christian Focus Publications. Here are several reasons I highly recommend this biography to you:
1. John Stam (1907-1934) and Betty Scott Stam (1906-1934) were both raised by committed Christian parents who diligently taught their children God’s Word and who carefully led them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. These consecrated parents loved and actively served the Lord and taught their children to do the same. All eight of the Stam children grew up to be active in Christian service as adults (two as foreign missionaries). The five Scott siblings, having been raised as missionary kids in China, all returned to serve there in adulthood. Such families have much to teach us about raising children who know, love and serve Christ.
2. John and Betty prayerfully sought and carefully followed God’s leading with regard to how He would have them to serve Him vocationally. They also sought to do what the Lord would have them to presently, not just in the future. They faithfully followed His leading even when that involved marked difficulties and when others, wanting to spare them such hardships, questioned their intentions. Their example serves as a corrective to not a few Christians who pursue their short- and long-term plans (as well as their own comforts) while giving little or no thought to what God’s will is for their life.
3. John and Betty put their commitment to following Christ’s call on their lives ahead of their budding romantic relationship with each other. They met and were attracted to each other while students at Moody Bible Institute. But when Betty graduated from MBI one year ahead of John, they did not become engaged since they were not sure it would work out for both of them to serve with the same mission agency in China. They both were following God’s call to serve as missionaries in China but John did not know if he would be accepted by the same mission agency that Betty was to serve with. They patiently waited on the Lord’s clear leading through the outworking of circumstances, and in the end God gave them the desire of their heart to marry and serve Him together in China. They remind us that Christ has the first claim on the believer’s affection and allegiance, even before one’s potential spouse.
4. The Stams model how essential a strong personal devotional life is to maintaining faithful, fruitful service of the Lord. While a student at Moody, John established the habit of rising at 5 A.M. daily for personal prayer and Bible study. He diligently sought to maintain his private time with the Lord while serving on the mission field. A fellow missionary at language school in China testified of John: “He seemed to know Christ more intimately, more practically than the rest of us. John’s spirituality was radiant and contagious. He seemed to be always in touch with the source of power, even our Lord Himself.”
5. John and Betty were committed to helping fulfill Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) wherever they were at, both in America and China. Before going to the foreign field, they participated in street and prison evangelism. For Betty this was a bit of a stretch as she was reserved by nature. But she pushed herself to participate in those outreach efforts and gained confidence and joy by doing so. In China John and Betty constantly (often daily) shared the Gospel, both at their mission stations and while out on evangelistic itinerations. On those outreach tours they shared Christ in tea shops, inns, homes, chapels and open air meetings. Regardless of our temperament or degree of evangelistic gifting, John and Betty’s examples encourage us to play an active role in sharing the Savior and helping advance His kingdom.
6. The circumstances surrounding the Stams’ martyrdom highlight the fact that the Lord is sovereign over and accomplishes great good through even the seemingly untimely and unfortunate deaths of His children. While God permitted John and Betty to be captured and executed by Communist rebels, He providentially protected their three-month-old daughter, Helen Priscilla. She thereafter became known by many Christians worldwide as “The Miracle Baby.” As a result of John and Betty’s deaths, untold thousands of Christians around the globe, from that time till the present, have been challenged and encouraged to serve the Lord with greater consecration and courage. Hundreds of secular newspapers throughout the world carried full accounts of the Stams’ martyrdom, faith and dedication, with the further result that some were even drawn to salvation.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie