On one of our visits to the bomas in the bush, I was again paired with fellow missionary, Laurie Gent, Pastor Frank Mdindi, along with some locals evangelists. The locals knew who needed a visit and acted as a scribe to record the people visited. Pastor Frank was the translator. He has a gentle voice and spirit and the people respond to him.
We came to a boma that had an older woman sitting outside and a few older children milling around. As we tried to introduce ourselves and she seemed curious but agitated. When we asked what her name was, she only gave her surname as if that was a strange question. She did not know her age, which is not unusual in Tanzania but appeared not to have an identity beyond her tribe and family name. That I thought was strange. She was most adamant that we not start our story until her husband arrived. She had sent the children to the shamba to tell him to come.
She was much calmer when he arrived and sat beside her. We began and as I told the story in English and Pastor Frank translated. I noticed that even though the woman heard the words in Swahili just like her husband, he turned and repeated it to her. She listened intently and accepted the words from him. It was as if she didn’t accept the words unless he said them to her. She definitely was much calmer with her husband there. She obviously trusted him.
After the completing the evangecube and the story of Jesus, Pastor Frank spoke with them for in their native tongue before turning to me and said, they are ready. This was his way of indicating that they were ready to be baptized. Pastor Frank performed the baptisms while the local Sukuma team member, known as the scribe, recorded their names and their newly given Christian name. It is customary for them to take a Christian name at baptism. It always amazes me that they come up with biblical names. Sometimes they have names like happiness, but mostly biblical names. Where do they hear these names, I wondered?
Back to my lady, who along with her husband, was baptized. As the scribe asked what her name was to be, she said Miriam would be her Christian name. She said, now I have a name. When the scribe translated for me what her comments were, I was amazed. Now I have a name! Before she was a woman without a given name and now she not only had a name, she also had a new identity as a baptized Christian.