One short act of obedience to death


John and Betty Stam were graduates of Moody Bible Institute. They sailed 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. 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 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 a 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?

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."1

The day of reckoning came for John and Betty Stain. (One recent book, obviously based on John Stain's words to his class at Moody, calls it, "Victory Day for the Stains." 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! Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, 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!

Excerpt taken from Michael L. Brown's book, entitled Revolution in the Church, published by Baker Books and available through ICN Ministries (www.icnministries.org), p. 239-241.

1 With permission from James C. and Marti Hefley. By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996, p. 57-58.

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