John Stam (1907-1934) and Betty Stam (1906-1934) were American Christian missionaries to China with the China Inland Mission (CIM). They paid the ultimate sacrifice to take the Gospel to the Chinese people.
Betty Stam’s parents were missionaries to China and she grew up in Tsingtao (today called Qingdao). On returning to the West she attended the Keswick convention in England in 1925. There the verse, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) impacted her deeply. It was to be prophetic.
While a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago she met John Stam. Betty returned to China as a single missionary in 1931 and John arrived in 1932. They had become close at Moody. They then married in 1933. In November 1934 they moved together to their mission station at Tsingteh (now Jingde) in Anhui Province with their three-month-old daughter, Helen. They were not the first missionaries to serve in this remote place but they were the first to settle there as a family.
Within a few short weeks on the morning of December 6th they received a message that the Communists were within 4 miles of the city. What they were first told was contradictory and confusing, as no one really knew what was going on. So when the soldiers, who were in many ways a bandit group, poured into the city through the unguarded East Gate, there was no time for John and Betty even to think of fleeing. Their only option was to stay and commit themselves to the Lord.
The Communists quickly came to where the Stams were staying and broke open the gates to the compound. They demanded all the money the Stams had and it was handed over. The Communists then arrested John and took him to the city prison. Betty and Helen were later taken to be with John in the prison. John scribbled a note that was found much later: “My wife, baby, and myself are today in the hands of communist bandits. Whether we will be released or not no one knows. May God be magnified in our bodies, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20.”
The next morning the Stams were forced to march west with the soldiers to the town of Miaoshou which was 9 miles west of Jingde. The group stopped for a night and Betty was allowed to tend to Helen, but she hid her daughter in the room inside a sleeping bag. One can only imagine their thoughts and prayers during that long night. The next day John and Betty were marched down the streets of Miaoshou to be executed. John Stam was ordered to kneel and was beheaded. Betty was killed moments later. Thus, John and Betty Stam became the 73rd and 74th martyrs of the China Inland Mission.
A local pastor searched for their baby daughter and by accident eventually discovered her, still sleeping in the little hut where the parents had been held on their final night on earth. She was later adopted by a missionary family. The same pastor recovered the two bodies and they were later buried. Their gravestones stated the faith by which they lived and died.
“John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907, "That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death." Philippians 1:20
"Elisabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21
Not long afterward, when he had heard the news of the Stam’s martyrdom, Betty’s father said: “They most certainly did not die in vain. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the church. Because of their consecration to the Lord, it seems that I have heard the voice of our beloved child Betty even now praising the Lord in the presence of our heavenly Father, that they had been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of His Name.”
The Stam’s death inspired an increase in number of people offering themselves for missionary service in China. “At Moody Bible Institute 700 students and at Wilson College 200 students consecrated themselves to God’s service, vowing to be faithful unto death.”
Their daughter later chose to hide from public view. A Chinese writer, after failing to connect with her, wrote to her that “we even owe you a gospel debt, if you have stumbled and fallen in your faith…… Please accept our heartfelt apology, and please believe that your parent’s blood was not shed in vain, for from the hard, blood-stained ground of China has sprouted fields of lovely flowers - the souls of many who have been saved.”
There are no guarantees in missionary service except these two - that the faithful missionary will receive a “well done, thou good and faithful servant” in the presence of the Lord; and the assurance that the blood of the martyrs is never, ever in vain.