As young people, neither Jonathan or Rosalind would have imagined that they were bound for the mission field. Jonathan always had the dream of becoming an accomplished lawyer and politician. He would often practice speeches behind his house and have heated discussions with himself. Until a friend gave him a book to read: The Memoirs of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This drastically changed his life. Since that day he became incredibly involved in his church. He taught a Sunday school class and handed out tracks at the door, but he was still unsatisfied and started a Sunday night church service in the rickety, old schoolhouse. He even started family worship every night in his home, which eventually led to his father’s salvation. It was not until later when he heard G. L. MacKay preach and give an invitation to become a missionary, did he decide to serve the Lord in China.
Rosalind was at the Toronto School of Art, preparing to be an artist like her father. But Rosalind was never truly satisfied with her life. In her own words, she described the inner struggle:
From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other—an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself. In the early part of 1885, when still in my twentieth year, I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to marry, He would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service. I wanted no other.
But since Rosalind never found a man, she continued on her art career. She finished her schooling in Toronto and began preparations to go to London to further her education. But just weeks before she left, she went to a meeting at a mission to play the organ. In her own words:
The following Saturday found me in the large, square workers’ room of the Toronto Mission Union. Chairs were set all around the walls, but the centre was empty. Just as the meeting was about to begin, Jonathan Goforth was called out of the room. He had been sitting across the corner from me with several people between. As he rose, he placed his Bible on the chair. Then something happened which I could never explain, nor try to excuse. Suddenly, I felt literally impelled to step across four or five people, take up the Bible and return to my seat. Rapidly I turned the leaves and found the Book worn almost to shreds in parts and marked from cover to cover. Closing the Book, I quickly returned it to the chair, and returning to my seat, I tried to look very innocent. It had all happened within a few moments, but as I sat there, I said to myself, “That is the man I would like to marry!”
They indeed were married and, three months after their marriage, set sail for China.
As the young couple worked in the small eastern town of Tsingteh (today called Jingdezhen), they heard rumors of communist bandits raiding and attacking villages throughout the countryside. As the Stams were preparing to flee south to safety, the bandits raided their town and took the couple and their two month old baby captive. That night, John Stam wrote a letter to CIM authorities, which read:
“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″
Betty, after seeing a bandit killed before her eyes for trying to protect her and her baby, realized that their lives would probably be taken. In order to save her baby, she took her and wrapped her, some provision, and a little money inside a hooded sleeping bag and hid her in some winter bedding.
Mr. Lo, a Chinese pastor who had worked with John Stam, had been following the group of bandits, hoping to somehow help the Stams. He was the one who came across the bodies of John and Betty Stam on that cold December morning. As he was removing the bodies, he heard a noise coming from some old bedding, as he went to investigate, he found a small sleeping bag containing some supplies, money, and a small baby girl who had been saved by her mother’s bravery.
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