Betty Stam: A Woman Who Promised All
I first read about Betty Stam while reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot. She included a prayer that Betty had prayed early in life.
This is that prayer:
All my own desires and hopes
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all
Utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit
Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt
And work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost
now and forever.
In 1934, John and Betty Stam were new missionaries to China, with a 3-month-old daughter, Helen, working in the small eastern town of Tsingteh, which is today called Jingde, in Anhui Province. The town’s magistrate came to the Stams and warned them that the Communists were coming for them. After John confirmed this, the Stams prepared to leave. However, the Communists caught up to the Stams and when the soldiers did, they demanded all the money the Stams had; and it was handed over. The Communists then arrested John and also took Betty and Helen.
That night, John Stam wrote a letter to CIM authorities, but it was never delivered. The letter was found later bundled up in some of Helen’s clothes. It stated that the Stams were being held by the Communists for a ransom of $20,000. John Stam also wrote to the mission authorities of how he and his wife had been captured, then wrote, “Philippians 1:20: ‘May Christ be glorified whether by life or death.'”
John, Betty and Helen were then taken to the local prison. In the midst of hustle and bustle, the baby started crying, and a soldier suggested that they kill her, since she was only “in their way”. Then one of the prisoners who had just been released asked why they should kill the innocent baby. The soldiers turned to him and asked if he was willing to die for the foreign baby. The man was hacked to pieces for Helen in front of the Stams’ eyes. Thus, Helen was allowed to live.
The next morning, the Stams were forced to march 12 miles west with the soldiers, to the town of Miaoshou. The group stopped for a night, and Betty was allowed to tend to Helen; but in fact, Betty instead hid her daughter in the room inside a sleeping bag. The very next morning, John and Betty were being marched down the streets of Miaoshou to meet their deaths. Curious onlookers lined both sides of the streets. A Chinese shopkeeper stepped out of the crowd and talked to the Communists, trying to persuade them not to kill the Stams. The soldiers ordered the man back into the crowd, but he wouldn’t step back. The soldiers then invaded his house where they found a Chinese copy of the Holy Bible and a hymnbook. He was then led alongside the Stams to be killed as well, for being a Christian. After marching for a short while longer, John was ordered to kneel, and he was beheaded. Betty and the shopkeeper were killed moments later.
The baby, Helen, was found two days later by a Chinese pastor who took her home and took care of her. Reverend Lo Ke-chou and his wife then took the baby girl to her maternal grandparents, Reverend Charles Ernest Scott and his wife, Clara, who were also missionaries in China. The Stams’ daughter later came to the United States and was raised by her aunt and uncle. As for Helen’s parents, a small group of Christians found their bodies and buried them on a hillside.
The Stams’ gravestones read:
John Cornelius Stam, b. January 18, 1907, “That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
Elisabeth Scott Stam, b. February 22, 1906, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
The story of their martyrdom was much publicized and inspired many to become missionaries.
Following is a poem that Betty wrote when she was 10 years old:
I cannot live like Jesus
Example though He be
For He was strong and selfless
And I am tied to me.
I cannot live like Jesus
My soul is never free
My will is strong and stubborn
My love is weak and wee.
But I have asked my Jesus
To live His life in me
I cannot look like Jesus
More beautiful is He
In soul and eye and stature
Than sunrise on the sea.
Behold His warm, His tangible
His dear humanity.
Behold His white perfection
Of purest deity.
Yet Jesus Christ has promised
That we like Him shall be.
To live a life of valor, we must surrender all that we have, and all that we are, to our Lord Jesus and trust Him to work out His purposes in us.