Stemmah Sariau (right) enjoyed fellowship at LittWorld 2015 with fellow writers and trainers, such as this Kyrgyz writer. Photo by Jeam Wong.
Stemmah Sariau from Sabah, East Malaysia, was a tireless trainer of writers, translators and editors in Malaysia. Even though she was nursing a bad cough, in early November she came to LittWorld 2015 in Singapore, because she was passionate about her calling and wanted every opportunity to hone her skills. Less than a week after her return from LittWorld, she was off to teach at the Sabah Theological College. Unfortunately, her lung infection never left her and, on the morning of Wednesday, November 18, after a light breakfast with her husband, she embraced him tightly then fell back on the bed and drifted away to be with the Lord that she loved so dearly. Stemmah left behind her husband, Pastor Richard Samporoh, their three grown-up children, and an uncompleted Bahasa Malaysia translation of the Bible.
By Lorraine Triggs
Stemmah Sariau was committed to equipping Malaysian writers, and especially women to pen their testimonies. “This is our legacy to our children,” she said, “If we don’t write, they won’t know what we’ve gone through and how the Lord has helped us.”
For the last five years of her life, Stemmah conducted workshops for women, frequently traveling to towns and rural areas in Malaysia’s eastern states. “In the 1980s, we used to have a lot of books published,” recalled Stemmah, “but then the restrictions came.” She pointed out that the situation is becoming quite risky for believers in Malaysia in recent months, with Bibles being confiscated.
Despite the risks, women came to Stemmah’s writer training, eager to hone their skills. An average of 40 women came to her trainings in East Malaysia, and 20 women in West Malaysia. “We didn’t want too big a group, and tried to make it affordable for any woman who wanted to come,” she said.
A practical bent was intrinsic to Stemmah’s workshops. “Don’t get too tied up with an outline,” she advised, encouraging the promising writers to practice “free” writing first. She always cautioned, “Look out for Christian jargon.”
Stemmah’s aim for these women was to write from their hearts. As the women discovered how to express how God had blessed them, the workshops were often therapeutic. “It was an added joy when their stories were published in books or church magazines,” she said.
Stemmah always felt torn between leading more workshops for women and working on other projects, including heading the women’s ministry for her denomination and a Bible translation project. But in all things, she gave of her best.
Lorraine Triggs’ writing and editing experience ranges from Sunday school curriculum to annual reports to electronic communications, but nothing brings her greater joy than interviewing people who are passionate about their ministries.