A Legacy of Equipping Malaysian Writers

Kyrgyz woman and Stemmah by Jeam Wong

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 headshot croppedLorraine 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.

A Chinese Girl’s Christmas in Asia: No turkey died in the process

By Sofina Tan, Singapore

I only began to truly celebrate Christmas when I was 16 years old. And I am glad to say that no turkey died in the process.

You see, I became a Christian at age 16 in a Hakka Church in Singapore. Hakka is a Chinese dialect that I never learnt to speak, but I did develop a lifetime love and longing for the Yong Tau Foo dish that the church members served after we sang carols in their homes.

Hakka Yong Tau Foo is a dish that comprises vegetables and various kinds of Hakka Yong Tau Foo by The Food Canonsoy-based ‘yummies’ stuffed with flavoured minced meat. That includes Tau Foo or Tofu as most people know it, Tau Pok that’s like a puff, and my favourite Tau Kee (soy bean sheets).

We sang Christmas songs in Mandarin, read the Bible in the same language, prayed for the families we visited, and gave them a calendar for the coming year–which usually featured Bible verses in Chinese calligraphy.

Now I appreciate that the Chinese carols I learnt in that season of my life are not merely translations of familiar tunes like “Joy to the World” or “Come All Ye Faithful.”

I love those songs; but I believe in the beauty of being able to bellow joy, truth and the birth of Jesus Christ in one’s heart language and culture.

T’was the night before Christmas with no turkey in sight. No halls decked with coned-shaped trees or fake snow. No chocolates.

It was just a humble celebration of the coming of the Word* that transcends every language, but can be clearly understood in all cultures.

I hope my friends around the world will celebrate and express Christmas in their unique ways and languages. This will allow the world to see how rich it truly is. This will help the world to understand that Christmas does not look complete only if there’s a turkey, although I have nothing against turkeys.

Neither is Christmas incomplete unless there is Yong Tau Foo.

But perhaps Christmas is incomplete if we neglect to understand God’s love and purpose in sending Jesus Christ into the world.

Blessed Christmas, my dear friends!

How do you celebrate Christmas in your land? Comment here and email me your story. Perhaps we can compile a book that will make meaningful present for Advent in 2016.

*Jesus is referred to as the Word of God in the book of John in the Bible.

Sofina Tan Writer SingaporeSofina Tan L.M. ([email protected]) is a freelance writer from Singapore. She loves the Lord. She also loves languages. She blogs in English.