Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 22, 2009

By Life or By Death

   Betty Scott was born in 1906 to Charles and Clara Scott, a Presbyterian missionary couple serving in China. As a child, Betty showed spiritual maturity beyond her years — a maturity that prepared her for a life of devoted service to God. When Betty was ten years old she wrote these words.

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.

   At the age of eighteen, Betty recorded some personal thoughts that later inspired a twelve year-old girl named Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth, who later followed God’s call to serve as a missionary, memorized and copied Betty’s words into her Bible at the age of twelve.

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes
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.

   Betty attended Moody Bible Institute where she met and fell in love with John Stam, a young man who shared her concern for the Chinese people. Betty and John were married in 1933 and began their service as missionaries with China Inland Mission in 1934. They made the arduous journey to the small eastern town of Tsingteh and settled there with their three month old daughter, Helen. Soon after arriving, the town’s magistrate warned them to flee because Communist soldiers were approaching the town. However, the warning came too late and John and Betty and Helen were arrested and held for ransom. John wrote a letter to China Inland Mission that stated, in part, “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.”

   John and his family were briefly imprisoned and then forced to march twelve miles to the town of Miaosheo in Anhui Province where they spent one night. That night Betty hid Helen inside a sleeping bag. The following morning John and Betty were paraded to their deaths through the streets of Miaosheo. All but one onlooker remained silent. This lone Christian shopkeeper named Zhang Shuisheng tried in vain to persuade the soldiers to release the Stams but instead was arrested and led alongside them to be killed. John was ordered to kneel and was beheaded. Betty and the shopkeeper were killed moments later.

   Two days later, Reverend Lo Ke-chou, a Chinese pastor, found baby Helen. He cared for the child and returned her to her maternal grandparents. Helen’s grandparents returned with her to the United States where she was raised by an aunt and uncle. A group of Christians recovered and buried the remains of John and Betty. Their gravestones read as follows:

John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907
“That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death.”
Philippians 1:20

Elizabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:21

December 8, 1934, Miaosheo, Anhui
“Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”
Revelation 2:10

   The story of John and Betty’s death was widely publicized at the time. As a result, many young men and women heeded God’s call to serve as missionaries and volunteered to serve as John and Betty’s replacements. This Christmas, please take a moment to pray for all who are working to advance God’s purposes in remote and dangerous fields around the globe. Remember these faithful servants as they “declare His glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:3).


  1. I will print this beautiful story to read again and again.

    Have a blessed Christmas!

  2. Hey Chad…

    Have a blessed Christmas and the best New Year ever. Thanks for your faithful readership and your encouraging comments over the past year.


  3. Thanks for the beautyful Article! I am keep reading, and trying to understand as well I can! this is realy great things to learn!


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