Miriamu is a woman of small stature but great courage. I met her in north central Tanzanian a year ago yesterday (October 1). She was to be our translator for our two month tenure among the Hadzabe Bushmen. Over the course of our time, though, Miriamu became so much more than that; we grew to be friends, co-workers and eventually family.
Her Hadzabe name is Hutema, which fittingly translates to mean small woman. Miriamu was born in the bush of Africa, to a mother of several children and a father who wandered about from wife to wife. At age 12 Miriamu was, as she puts it, given the opportunity to be educated in a traditional school paid for by the Tanzanian government. In reality the situation was a bit more forced than she makes it sound. Miriamu told us that she did not like school the first year, but decided to stick with it and over time grew to enjoy it. When we asked her why she didn’t like it she replied, because I dint speak the language. While in school Miriamu became trilingual, speaking her native language, Kindiga, as well as fluent Swahili and mostly fluent English.
Sometime over the course of her life in school Miriamu abandoned her animist upbringing and became a Lutheran. As a young woman she married a Muslim and had two children, Zainabu and Abduly who are now preteens. Miriamu became a tour guide and has been working to support her family ever since her husband left her.
In a word Miriamu’s life has been challenging, but God has done some amazing things through her.
Miriamu, was the best partner in the Gospel we could have asked for. She decided to go all in for Jesus during our time with her and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Miriamu helped us to put the Gospel in to the language of the Hadzabe, she helped us to disciple several new believers during our time, and in the end she took on the challenge to continue the work of discipleship in our absence. Needless to say God is using her to do some amazing kingdom work.
During our time with her Miriamu began to read through the Gospels. She started in John then worked her way through the other three. About 6 weeks in to the trip we were chatting with her about what she had been reading. She brought up the story of the Woman who was healed from the blood flow when she reached out and touched Jesus garment. When we asked her what she thought it meant, she said, “I think when we are going through a hard time we should reach out and touch Jesus.” Her interpretation was so beautifully simple, so concise, but so true. I loved hearing what the Holy Spirit was teaching her though the Word of God. Her insights were an encouragement and a blessing.
Miriamu’s story is a testament to who God is. Her life is a reflection of God’s desire for the Hadzabe. Look how God has taken the challenges she has lived through and turned them into glory-of-God ushering moments. She is forced in to education, learns English, and becomes the voice of scripture to the 800 Hadzabe people. She finds herself as a tour guide, but God uses her as a missionary. Her Muslim husband leaves her, and God uses it as an opertunity to reveal himself to her children (who now want to be baptized). Look what God has done! He is so able!
As we face similar challenges in our lives may we be the men and women who look to God and trust with faithful expectation that he will use these situations to good. And as we struggle through the difficult times (as well as the good times) let us remember to have the faith to reach out and touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, knowing that in any given moment he is all we need.