The Layman

By Kerry Kind

Stanley Tam was twenty-one years old and trying to start a business on his own in the middle of the Depression. He was a hard worker and persistent, but he went broke. Then one day everything changed when he heard God very clearly speak to him.

Stanley Tam's Story
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Stanley Tam was 21 years old and trying to start a business on his own in the middle of the Depression. He was a hard worker and persistent, but he went broke. Driving down the highway with only $33 left to his name, and ready to give up, he turned to his new-found faith. He pulled the car over and stopped to pray. God was waiting for him there. Stanley poured out his disappointment and frustration. Eventually, God whispered to him his answer, “Stanley, turn it over to me.”

Stanley has spent the rest of his life doing just that. He began by continuing to do the same things he was doing before, working hard, and doing his best. But this time he was doing everything for God, not himself. His business? It began doing well and gradually turned into a successful corporation, U.S. Plastic, that does over $60 million in annual business.

But Stanley did not become wealthy, at least not in dollars. He took a salary and lived modestly with his beautiful wife Juanita and raised his four daughters in Lima, Ohio. His company had been turned over to God, and over the years it provided over $80 million to support spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. This story is told in his book, God Owns My Business.

Stanley is quick to give God credit for anything he has accomplished.

But it all began with a prayer, and an answer, by the side of the road. Hearing God speak to him in his car was a recurring theme in his life. He remembers the morning when God seemed to be speaking to him clearly again: “Stanley, you are never going to amount to much, unless you give me the first hour each day.” This was another moment with God that changed his life.

His daughter Candy remembers, “If I was up early, he would be in the living room, reading his Bible and praying, every day.” Prayer has been the foundation of God’s power in his life, and that is seen in his extraordinary giving and also his lifelong commitment to sharing his faith. He said he would be afraid to ever stop praying.

In the 1940’s, the Lord was impressing upon Stanley that he wanted him to go out into his community and talk to people who didn’t know Jesus. But Stanley was shy, and didn’t know how to do this. He got the idea of buying some Christian films and taking them to people’s homes and showing them Christian movies. (This was before television.) For over seven years he went out two nights a week and spent those evenings in homes showing them gospel films and sharing his faith.

He also wrote a twelve-page tract sharing Scripture and testimonies and put it in the packaging of all the products that they mailed out: up to 1,200 packages a day. Over the years, this resulted in thousands of phone calls, letters, and emails from people who wanted to know more. Stanley says that about 25 people a month have made decisions for Christ that in some way began with the tract.

A crisis arose in Stanley and Juanita’s lives in 1977 when he became sick. At first he just began to feel tired. For over 25 years he had been frequently travelling to churches on weekends. He would spend these weekends meeting laypeople and encouraging them to give their lives to prayer and to witnessing for Jesus. Now he could hardly make it through the day, let alone travel, and when he began passing blood, he went to the doctors. The diagnosis was metastatic bone cancer. His tests and scans showed tumors in at least three locations. The doctor was frank: he had, at best, two years to live.

Stanley has helped over 40,000 people make a decision for Christ.

Many people began praying for him, including thousands in all the churches and missions he had impacted. Stanley remembers the night in the hospital when he prayed until God gave him peace about it all. He just asked God to help him be the best witness he could be before he died, if he chose not to heal him. And he got great comfort from John 15:16 where Jesus taught his disciples in the upper room: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

That day, October 19, 1977, God touched Stanley. The next day the doctors were amazed to find no cancer at all, through exhaustive tests, and he was released. Was he healed? A few weeks ago, Stanley celebrated his 100th birthday by telling a large room full of friends some of the stories of God’s miracles in his life!

It was about three weeks after Stanley’s healing that a missionary in the Philippines wrote to him: “What happened to you on October 19? God woke me up in the middle of the night and laid you on my heart. I prayed for you for about an hour with a deep sense of concern pressing on me heavily. Then the burden suddenly lifted, and I was able to go back to sleep.” Stanley knows that God heard prayers like this one and answered.

He has not wasted the years since his healing. Since he is a businessman, he keeps track of records and numbers. According to those records, he has helped over 40,000 people to make decisions for Christ, apart from all of his support for missions. When asked about that, he quickly says, “That’s a drop in the bucket. I think about the millions and millions that do not know they can be saved for eternity. That’s what I pray about.”

The great Dennis Kinlaw, iconic preacher and former president of Asbury University, said, “Stanley couldn’t live without communication with God. For many Christians, God is a ‘tack-on,’ but time with God is the center of Stanley Tam’s life. He knows what God’s latest thoughts are about him. Most people don’t!”

A few weeks ago Stanley finally moved into a rest home where he has his own apartment, but takes his meals in a dining room with the other residents. Asked if he was enjoying his new environment, he said, “Very much. There are 151 people living here besides myself. So far I’ve had the opportunity to tell 53 of them all about Jesus!

Prayer has a cumulative effect. Stanley’s life is a testament to what can happen if we steadfastly walk with God in prayer and obedience day by day and are blessed to remain and see the results.