Monday, May 23, 2005

Martyrs of China

We have just finished reading about two Christian martyrs: John and Betty Stam. They loved the Chinese people, but even more so, they loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). The following is an excerpt about John and Betty Stam from Asia Harvest publication (May 2005). May we as Christians be found to be so faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who is the only way, truth and the life (John 14:6).

“The Stams were united on October 25, 1933...The newlyweds were assigned to the mission base at Jingde in southern Anhui Province. After many weeks of arduous boat and overland travel they arrived at their new home. Communist activity in this part of Anhui had lessened in the previous years, and both the Stams and their mission leaders felt the risk of a Communist insurgency in Jingde was extremely low. The city magistrate of Jingde welcomed the Stams and gave a personal assurance that they would be safe from the Communist threat. Almost as soon as they had settled in, the Stams started to hear rumours of the Red Army nearing Jingde…Suddenly, in the morning of December 6, a letter was rushed to the Stams’ house from the City Magistrate, informing the Stams that 2,000 Communist insurgents were just four miles from the city. The missionaries were advised to flee…The magistrate, who just a few weeks before had personally guaranteed the Stams safety, was one of the first to flee Jingde…Soldiers made their way directly to the mission compound…John Stam calmly opened the door and welcomed the men inside. Betty served them tea and cakes while John tried to explain their peaceful intentions. When they finished their tea, the visitors politely said, ‘You will go with us.’…The young missionaries, along with their baby daughter, were taken to the prison in Jingde for the rest of the day (December 6, 1934). The Communist soldiers forced John Stam to write a letter to the China Inland Mission headquarters in Shanghai, outlining their ransom demand. Stam knew the request would not be considered, as it was the strict policy of the mission never to pay a ransom for a kidnapped worker, believing such an action would only encourage more kidnappings and result in a more dire situation overall…The next day the Communists abandoned Jindge, taking John and Betty with them, along with little three-month-old baby Helen. After arriving in Miaoshou, the soldiers made John write a second ransom letter to the China Inland Mission, which he did. When the postmaster was summoned to receive the letter he recognized Stam and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ John Stam replied, ‘We don’t know where they’re going, but we are going to heaven.’…John and Betty Stam were bound with ropes that cut deeply into their wrists, then stripped of their outer clothing, leaving them in their underwear…The next morning they were paraded through the town, with the whole population rallied to come out and witness the execution of the ‘foreign devils.’…The Stams were ordered to kneel down in the dust. One biographer recounts the events that followed:
‘A huge sword was in the hands of one of the young Communists. John spoke only a few words as he knelt on one knee. Probably only his wife understood what he was saying. Without a doubt, she was reaffirming him, even if it meant giving up his life. While he was talking, he was struck to the ground, his throat having been cut so completely that the head fell beside the slain body…Betty trembled, but she did not cry out. Her lips uttered a prayer as she fell over the beheaded body of her beloved husband. In this position the cruel hand struck the same blood-stained knife in at the back of her neck and she fell down dead over her husband’s body.’
The bodies of John and Betty Stam were buried in a small Christian graveyard in the suburbs of Wuhu City, in Anhui Province. Remarkably, on the same day that news of the Stams’ death reached America, John’s father, the Rev. Peter Stam, received a letter from his son that had been posted from China many weeks before…John Stam repeated a poem written by another China missionary, J.W. Vinson, who had himself been captured by bandits. The bandits asked Vinson if he was afraid to die. Vinson replied, ‘No! If you shoot straight, I shall go straight to heaven!’ His captors did shoot straight, and Vinson entered heaven as one who ‘loved not his life unto death.’ Earlier, Vinson had penned this poem, which Stam now quoted to his father:

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 that?

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 that?

Afraid? Of what?
A flash – a crash – a pierced heart;
Darkness – light – O heaven’s art!
A wound of his counterpart!
Afraid? - of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? of that?

What fruit, if any, sprung from the blood-soaked soil where the Stams offered their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ? In 1942 a fellow missionary wrote:

‘It was over seven years ago on a little hill outside the town of Miaoshou that the blood of John and Betty Stem was shed in martyrdom. It seemed like the end of the work in Jingde County; but God honoured the death of His two servants…The first baptism in Jingde was held in March, 1941. Five were baptized by Pastor Cheng in the little preaching chapel, which was packed to the doors for the occasion. Truly it can be said of Jingde, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’”