February 24, 2020
The following was taken from Faces of Generosity: Inspiring Stories of People Impacting Lives Around the World.
Stanley Tam has lived a long and rich life giving, giving, and giving more. At age 104, it still gives him great pleasure to reflect on his “partnership” with God.
In 1936, Stanley began his path as an entrepreneur, starting a business to extract silver from photographic emulsions, but his success — or lack thereof — mirrored other companies who had tried before him. “I began praying about this business disappointment,” says Tam. “God spoke right to my heart and said, ‘Stanley, it doesn’t need to be a disappointment. You don’t need to go broke from your business. Turn it over to me and I’ll make it succeed.’ So I spoke back to Him, vowing that if I could succeed in business I would honor Him in every way I possibly could.”
Tam started over — with $33 to his name. He traveled through 30 states, struggling for three years to make money from his business. After meeting Juanita, the woman who would become his wife, his business took a sudden turn for the better. “Juanita was my good luck charm,” says Stanley. By 1940, Stanley was so happy with his business that he knew God had answered his prayers, and he decided to make good on his own promise.
“I went to a lawyer and told him I wanted him to draw up documents that would make God my senior partner in the business,” says Stanley. “He just looked at me and said, ‘What? You can’t do that.’ So I went to another attorney, who told me the same thing the first one did, but I told him I wasn’t going to leave until he did something about my request. He finally understood that I meant business. The attorney incorporated my business, issued stock, and set up a foundation so that I could give 51% of my company’s stock to the foundation and do His work through the foundation.” Stanley’s business once again began to grow, reaching $200,000 in annual revenue and then $800,000 several years later — amounts equivalent to $3 million and $10 million, respectively, today.
Then a new business opportunity crossed Stanley’s path. Some of his customers wanted plastic containers for storage; others wanted containers with a faucet, spigot, and tubing. Stanley researched it all and began selling what his customers wanted, eventually establishing a second company. That company, United States Plastic Corporation, an industrial distributor of more than 32,000 types of plastic products used throughout the U.S., now has annual revenue of about $55 million. Originally set up so that his foundation owned 51% of the business, Stanley eventually heard a message from God that said He wanted 100% of the business. It happened when Stanley and his wife were in Medellín, Colombia, speaking at a church.
“As I was speaking, something happened,” recalls Stanley. “The spirit of God came upon that meeting in a very precious way. God began to talk to me, saying, ‘Stanley, what’s the greatest value in all the world?’ As I looked at those souls in the meeting I knew the answer. The Bible says one soul is the greatest value in all the world. Then the Lord spoke to me again and said, ‘Stanley, if a soul is the greatest value in all the world, would you go back to the United States and turn your entire business over to me and use the profits to spread the Gospel around the world?’ I said, ‘Lord, you already have 51%. Isn’t that enough?’ Then He spoke to me once more: ‘Stanley, on the cross I paid it all for you. Now you’re my disciple and I want you to do what I ask you to do. I want you to go back and turn your business over to me 100% and use the profits to spread the Gospel around the world.’ You’ll never know the struggle that went through me, but eventually I said, ‘All right, Lord, you can have it.’ It’s really all about obedience to God. Many people told me that what I was doing just didn’t make sense. But I felt like the Lord had showed me the way to be successful with my business and I wanted to be obedient to Him. It’s awfully hard to give up control of a company when you gave it birth. It’s almost like a child. But obedience comes first. That’s what I was challenged with — obedience to God.”
Since that decision, the foundation that owns 100% of U.S. Plastic Corporation has given about $130 million to the work of the Lord, supporting missions in third world countries.
Stanley was president of U.S. Plastic Corporation, headquartered in Lima, Ohio, for 53 years. His gift of being a smart businessman may be surpassed by his gift for evangelizing. For 83 years, U.S. Plastic has included a Gospel tract in every shipment of goods, which Stanley estimates has brought thousands of people to God. He has also spoken more than 7,000 times at churches in 30 countries around the world. His late wife, Juanita, used to say that she had seen the world through church pews.
Why has Stanley given so much? He says it’s quite simple — “You don’t take it with you. Money has meant less to me every year that I’ve lived. I just let the Lord lead me. When He asked me to do something, I said yes. It’s that simple.”
To read more inspiring stories from Faces of Generosity, please contact your Ronald Blue Trust advisor, email [email protected], or call 800.841.0362. You can also click here to purchase a digital copy.