Bold and Fearless Women Part 2
In my last post I shared the stories of truly bold and fearless women who we can all learn from. Though there are countless more stories that could be told, here are just a few more to encourage you in your faith.
Crispina 275-304 AD
The last great wave of Roman persecution against Christians began in 303 under Emperor Diocletian. Diocletian thought that the empire would only survive through a return to Roman traditions and the old pagan religion, so he ordered the destruction of Christian buildings, the arrest of Christian ministers and the rounding up and burning of all Bibles and Christian books. Finally, as a sign of loyalty to the state, the emperor demanded that the Christians offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. From one end of the empire to the other, tens of thousands of Christians were arrested. Many abandoned their faith under the threat of death, but others remained true to Christ in the face of terrible cruelties. One such woman was Crispina, a beautiful young mother from a prominent family in North Africa. She was arrested for refusing to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods of Rome. Soldiers hauled her before the Roman governor.
“You have spurned the laws of our lord the emperor” the governor said, “you are required to offer sacrifices to our gods for the welfare of our emperor in accordance with the law.” “I have never sacrificed” Crispina answered boldly “and I shall not do so, except to the one true God and to Jesus Christ His Son who was born and died.” “Leave your superstitions and submit to the gods of Rome” he said. “I know of no other gods besides my God- the almighty God who I worship daily.” “You are a stubborn and defiant woman!” he shouted; you will soon feel the force of our laws against your will. Crispina stood boldly, “Whatever happens to me I shall gladly suffer it for the faith which I hold steadfastly.” “You are insane” the governor shouted, his veins bulging out of his neck and forehead. “Away with your superstitions! Worship the Roman gods!” Crispina remained firm, “Every day I worship” she answered, “but I only worship my Lord, the living and true God and no other besides Him.” “The emperor’s edict must be obeyed.” the governor demanded. “I will obey the edict” she said, “but the edict I obey is the one given to me by my Lord Jesus Christ.” “If you do not sacrifice to our gods and obey the emperor’s edict, I shall order your head cut off, you shall be forced to submit. You know very well that the entire province of Africa has offered sacrifice.” With more determination than ever Crispina replied, “They shall never find it easy to convince me to offer sacrifices to demon. I only sacrifice to the Lord who has made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” “You blaspheme, you think our pagan gods are not worthy of you.” the Governor sneered. “You shall be forced to honor them if you wish to stay alive to worship at all.” “A religion is worthless which forces people to honor it against their will ” Crispina replied. “Guards!” he shouted “take her and cut off her hair, shave off her head, turn her beauty into shame.” The guards pulled her away, did as the governor ordered and brought her back to the council chambers.
“Now will you sacrifice to our gods?” he asked her. “I will not” she answered, “I have told you over and over, I am willing to suffer any tortures. That you lay upon me rather than dirty my soul with idols which are merely the creation of men. “If you will not worship our gods, your head shall be cut off,” said the governor. “I shall be very happy to lose my head for the sake of my God,” she said “for I will not sacrifice to your silly, deaf and dumb idols. My God, who lives forever, ordained me to be born, he gave me salvation and is at my side helping me and giving me strength so that I will not commit sacrilege.” “Why must we endure this Christian woman any longer?” he said, then he wrote out a sentence and read it aloud. “Since Crispina has clung to her superstition and will not offer sacrifices to our gods according to the sacred decrees of the emperor, she shall be put to death with the sword.” the sentence was carried out at once. As the executioner stepped forward, she said, “I bless God, who has chosen to free me from your hands Thanks be to God” soon after her death, Christians wrote down the account of her martyrdom and it circulated widely encouraging believers to hold fast to Christ until the end.
Betty Stam – 1906-1934
Betty Scott Stam was a woman who trusted God with every detail of her life. She grew up in China where her parents served as missionaries. When she was seventeen years old, she came back to the United States for her last year of high school followed by college at Moody Bible Institute. During her years there, Betty penned this prayer: “Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires, hopes and ambition, and I accept Thy will for my life. I give up myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me now and seal me with Thy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, for me to live is Christ. Amen.” Little did she know at the time how God would test her commitment or what a life of full surrender to the Lord would cost her.
Although Betty had always assumed she would serve as a missionary in China, the Lord began drawing her attention to Africa, especially to the suffering lepers. Could she lay down what she thought was her calling, the place where her parents served and she had grown up, and give her life to serve elsewhere? To add to her inward conflict, her attention had been drawn to a young man named John Stam who had plans to be a missionary in China. After much struggle, God did make her call to China clear and after completing her schooling, Betty returned there to serve with the China Inland mission (CIM). The question of marriage was still uncertain. Although she and John had expressed their feelings for one another, Betty had left for China without having any kind of formal commitment, both Betty and John had agreed to leave their future in God’s hands. The following year, after he graduated, John sailed to China to serve as missionary with the CIM. He was soon reunited with Betty and their engagement shortly followed. There were married in 1933 and began their married life together serving in the Anhui province of China. The work was difficult, the area mountainous, and the people extremely poor, but the Stams rejoiced at the opportunity to serve there.
On September 11th, 1934 they welcomed their first child, Hellen Priscilla. Only three months after the birth of their daughter, John and Betty, along with their infant daughter, were captured by communist soldiers. After spending the night in a local prison, they were forced to march twelve miles to another town. They finally stopped at the home of a wealthy man who had fled where Betty managed to hide her baby who was later rescued by a local pastor. The following morning, December 6th, the couple were marched to their execution. The soldiers ordered John to kneel then beheaded him with a sword. Betty fell silently by her husband’s side where the same sword that killed her husband moments before ended her life as well.
Betty was twenty-eight years old when she was killed, John was twenty-seven. When she wrote the words “work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost” she had no idea that it would cost her her life, but I am confident that having laid down her life for Christ she would not think the price too high. Betty was fully surrendered to the will of her Savior; she relinquished all that she had to God and had no claims to herself.
Aida Mikhailovna Skripnikova 1941 to present
In a courtroom in Soviet Russia, twenty-eight-year-old Aida, stood without an attorney, carrying her own case and clinging to the truth. This wasn’t Aida’s first time in a courtroom, nor was it her first time to be indicted for practicing her Christian faith. If the judge found her guilty and sent her to a labor camp, it would not be her first time there either. This young, single woman had endured much for the sake of Christ. This time, she was charged for having been a member of an unregistered church, for distributing illegal Christian literature, for having spread “false” information about the persecution taking place behind the Iron Curtain, among other things. Aida sat quiet and alone at the defense table, uncomfortable in the hard wooden chair. She had thought she might feel nervous but instead, she felt a quiet confidence and sensed the presence of Christ. Jesus had told His followers that they would be brought before judges for His name’s sake and not to fear what they were to say when that time came, for He would give them words to speak in that hour. Aida was not worried. After asking her if she understood the charges against her, the judge asked if she pled guilty. Her response was humbly bold, “No” she said. The trial would now begin.
When Aida first began following Christ at the age of twenty-one, she had no idea that the path He would take her down would lead to a courtroom. She had grown up in a Christian family, her father had been a Baptist minister prior to his arrest and execution for refusing to join the military when Aida was two. Aida’s mother, who was also a devout Christian, sought to teach her children the Scriptures and took them to secret church meetings. Aida was eleven years old when her mother, Aida went to live with family after this. Having been educated in Socialist schools after her mother’s death, Aida’s youth was marked by confusion and rejection of God in a nation that blatantly denied His existence. By God’s grace however, and through the Christian testimony of her older, dying brother, as well as through the searching of the Scriptures, Aida was brought to conviction, repentance, and saving faith in God. Her whole life was now transformed.
From the first day of her Christian walk, Aida possessed a special boldness and zeal for sharing her faith with others. Only months after becoming a Christian, she devised a special way to celebrate New Year’s Day of 1962. She created postcards which included a poem talking about Christ and eternity, the handwritten poems ended with, “Repent and believe the good news.” When the postcards were all complete, Aida bundled up against the icy air and went to the large square in front of The Museum of History of Religion and Atheism. The beautiful, dark haired young woman who possessed such a radiant smile, began handing the cards out to the people passing by. Nearly all of the cards were gone when a strong arm gripped hers demanding “What is this?” The angry man read a card then began looking around and calling for a police officer. Aida was led to the police car and taken in for her first forced visit to the local police station. A report was written up about her “postcard evangelism” then she was released. Her first brush with the legal system would come that April, it was then that the court officials revoked Aida’s residency permit and forced her out of her job. Her life became more difficult after this, but it was only a taste of what was to come.
Not only was Aida bold enough to share her Christian faith with others, but she also advocated for those persecuted Christians suffering in the U.S.S.R. at great risk to herself. Though she had at first tried practicing her faith within the bounds of soviet law, it was not long before Aida realized the politics within the registered churches, and she began to chafe against the unbiblical restrictions. For example, Communist law prohibited the sharing of “religious superstition” with anyone under eighteen years old, and the leaders of the registered church seemed to care more for communist law than they did for lost souls. The breaking point for Aida came when she desired to do more to help her persecuted brothers and sisters who were in prison for their faith. The leaders of the registered church had lists of those who had been imprisoned but treated them as state secrets, rather than spreading the news to other Christians who could pray. It was then that Aida remembered the secret church meetings her mother had taken her to as a child. She remembered that young children had been allowed to attend and hear the gospel. Eventually Aida began going to these secret meetings and spread information about the persecuted church to fellow believers in Europe and beyond. She courageously wrote in defense of the persecuted and her name became well known to Christians globally and also to the secret police who were gathering evidence to condemn her.
After having her residency permit taken away, Aida went to stay with her sister in the Ukraine for a time. There, she was inspired by the boldness of other Christians and decided to return to Leningrad to finish her work. Aida managed to enter the city and evade capture; she and her friends continued their Christian work in a forest to escape detection. It was in the forest, in 1965, that twenty-five-year-old Aida was discovered and arrested for the first time, then sentenced to one year in prison. During her imprisonment, Aida had little to eat and had to sleep on cold, hard cement floors. She was forced to attend re-education sessions and later, sent to a psychiatric facility. After a thirty-day evaluation, doctors said she was normal and returned her to her prison cell. When Aida was released from prison, she was not the same beautiful, young-looking woman who had entered the prison a year earlier. Her once dark hair was now greying, her bright looking eyes now carried dark bags underneath them, but one thing about her appearance had not changed- her joyously, radiant smile.
After completing her thorough and bold testimony to the judge, 28-year-old Aida was once again sentenced to three years in a Soviet prison. Aida left the courtroom between two tall guards. Locking her up however, would not stop her work. The transcripts of Aida’s trial were copied painstakingly by other Christians onto twenty-one pieces of cloth and smuggled out of the Soviet Union. Around the world, people began hearing of “Aida” and prayed for this faithful sister. Upon Aida’s release in 1971, officials told her that she had “learned nothing” but this was not the case, Aida had learned much about suffering as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Aida is still alive today and now resides in St. Petersburg; her faith outlived that regime that sought to destroy it.