Jan 24, 2012

#531 "Afraid of What?" - John W. Vinson

"The country districts of North Jiangsu China were wild and dangerous in the fall of 1931, but the missionaries kept on itinerating--trusting their lives to God's keeping. At Haizhou near the coast the Reverend John W. Vinson, otherwise known as Uncle Jack as he was affectionately called by the younger missionaries, insisted on going into the country.
'But Uncle Jack,' they said, 'you're not strong enough to itinerate so soon after your operation.'
"'I must go,' he replied. And then added, 'I must witness for the Lord while I can.'
Was he thinking of the words of our Lord, 'I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day. The night cometh, when no man can work.'" May I put in my own little parenthesis here. Are you working the works of Him who sent you? Remember the night is coming when no man can work.
 Let's do faithfully each day what God gives us.
"Well, Mr. Vinson went to a little market town called Yan-Chia-Chi about 30 miles to the southeast. And there he was warmly greeted by a little group of Chinese Christians, many of whom he himself had through the years baptized.
After talking with them a while about the services to be held the next morning, he went to sleep there in the little chapel.
"That very night a wild army of bandits, more than 600 in all, swooped down upon the little town looting, burning, killing and wounding the people all that night and the next day.
When they finally departed they took with them about 150 Chinese men, women and children to hold for ransom. And their prize captive was the American missionary, Mr. Vinson.
"An army of government soldiers pursued the bandits and overtook them at a little village called Lianyungang, where the robbers barricaded themselves behind the village wall. The government troops immediately besieged the village.
"'Do you want to go free?' the bandit chief asked Vinson.
"'Certainly,' he replied.
"'All right, you write a letter to the commanding officer of these soldiers to withdraw his troops and we will let you go.'
"'Will you also free all these Chinese prisoners?' the missionary asked.
"'Certainly not,' replied the bandit chief.
"'Then I, too, refuse to go free,' said Vinson--and he was adamant even in the face of vehement threats.
"That night the bandits tried to break out in the darkness. Many of them were killed, and 125 of the 150 captives escaped. The bandits fled taking Vinson with them, but he could not run because of his recent operation. The daughter of a Chinese pastor was one of the prisoners who escaped from the bandits. She later told of having seen a bandit threatening Mr. Vinson with a pistol and trying to frighten him.
"'I'm going to kill you,' he said as he pointed the gun at the missionary's head, 'aren't you afraid?'
"'No, I am not afraid,' came the calm reply, 'if you kill me I will go right to God.'
"He was killed, shot and beheaded. At the time of his death the writer, also, was itinerating in bandit territory between Zhejiang and Haizhou. When he reached a little railroad station to return home he heard the sad news. And when he arrived home he read the full glorious account written by our Hijo missionaries of Jack Vinson's fearless witness for Christ.
"This writer went to his study and sat silently for a few minutes. Then, picking up his pen, he began to write as though it were some hymn he was recalling from memory. Within 15 minutes the five verses all were written and never have been changed. If ever a poem was given of God, this one was."
I would call it a poem of passion.
The writer calls it "Afraid of What?" Here's the 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,
Glean 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 enter into heaven's rest,
And yet to serve the Master blessed?
From service good to service best?
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?
"Later on at Mr. Vinson's funeral, Chinese officials who knew not Christ marvelled that here was man who refused to save himself. The missionaries then told them of John Vinson's Master, who saved others--himself he could not save. And some of the little churches in Mr. Vinson's country field, which had been cold now, took on new life. And many of the church members became hot-hearted for Christ. And many more received Christ as Savior after Jack Vinson's martyrdom."
And that's the end of Mr. Vinson's story, but I have no doubt that it had an impact on John and Betty Stam.
Betty Stam was a young woman when I met her; I was probably four or five years old. She was one of the guests in our home, but she was on her way to China to marry her fiancé, John Stam. And he had been waiting for her for more than a year.
She went to China; she married John. The Lord gave them a baby, and very shortly thereafter they were captured by Chinese communists, striped half-naked, chained together and marched through the streets of that little Chinese village. And Betty was forced to watch as John's head was chopped off. Then she was forced to put her neck on the chopping block--and she too was beheaded.
Their little baby had been left behind in their home.

The home had been ransacked but miraculously--and surely providentially--the baby was not noticed. And a Chinese pastor found the little child and was able to rescue her. When I was about 12-years old I copied into my Bible a prayer that Betty Scott Stam had written:
"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."

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