John and Betty Stam Martyred in China
IN 1925, when Betty Alden Scott was nineteen years old, she wrote a covenant before the Lord, giving up all her purposes, plans, desires, hopes, and ambitions. “Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.” Two years later, she entered Moody Bible Institute to train for mission work.
John Stam began his studies at Moody in 1929. He too had recorded a covenant in his journal. An earnest Christian, he joined a weekly prayer meeting for China. Through that group, he met Scott and they fell in love. However, both realized they could not marry yet—the China Inland Mission had appealed for single men to itinerate in sections where it would be impossible to take a woman. They committed their hopes to the Lord. When the China Inland Mission accepted Scott, she and Stam said their goodbyes in a private picnic.
In 1932 the China Inland Mission accepted Stam. Now began a series of “coincidences” which forced the couple back together. Stam sailed to China on the Empress of Japan, turning down a luxury cabin, which he felt would be self-indulgent while other missionaries were suffering hardship. When he arrived in China, mission authorities changed their plans, sending him to Shanghai. Scott was already there because a kidnapping had led the mission to suspend work where she had planned to go.
As it turned out, there was nothing to prevent the two from marrying. In 1934 their daughter Helen Priscilla Stam was born. Shortly after her birth, Communists seized the “safe” town in which the Stams were working. The Communists would not listen to the pleas of Chinese associates, threatening them with immediate death. They had John write a ransom note, but it reached mission authorities too late to help.
According to one account, the baby cried, and the Communists discussed aloud whether to kill her. An old farmer pleaded for the child’s life. “It’s your life for hers, then,” said the Communists, and killed him on the spot.
On this day, 8 December 1934 the Communists marched John and Betty Stam through the streets of neighboring Miaosheo. A Chinese merchant, Chang Hsiu-sheng, fell to his knees and pleaded for their lives. Finding a Bible and Christian literature in his house, the Communists seized him, too, and marched him to the hill where the missionaries were to be executed. John pleaded for Chang’s life. However, a Communist cut his pleas short by slashing his throat. Betty fell to her knees, shuddering once before the blade severed her neck. The Communists executed Chang the next day.
Two days later, Mr. Lo, a local pastor, found Helen Priscilla Stam hidden in a sleeping bag. Pinned to her clothes were a few dollars that Betty had somehow managed to hide from the Communists. Mr. and Mrs. Lo carried Priscilla many miles and delivered her safely into the hands of other missionaries.
The church in China survived Communism to thrive. Read more in Christian History #98, How the Church in China Survived and Thrived in the Twentieth Century.