February 2, 2005
What Is In A Name?
One of the things that it took us a while to get used to here in Malawi were the names. For an American, the names of places like Balaka, Namin’adzi, Mpiripiri, Mbawa, Nsoni, and Kawiya don’t exactly roll off the tip of your tongue. Chichewa is not an easy language to learn. Thyolo is pronounced “cho-low.” When you say “Ntcheu,” which is the name of the Synod’s newest Presbytery, it sounds like you are sneezing. But that is, of course, a cultural bias. However, communication is often difficult even for Malawians. In September Dan attended a bi-annual meeting of Livingstonia Synod in the northern part of Malawi. As the meeting got underway, Dan leaned over and asked Daniel Gunya what they were saying. He answered, “I have no idea, they are speaking Tambuka.”
Almost everyone in Malawi is known by their surnames (last names). People who have been colleagues for years do not know each other’s first names. But the first names here fascinate me. They are very creative, and sometimes hard to live up to, I think. We have met two men named “Lovemore.” I wonder if the woman in Ndirande who is named Charity really is full of love and generosity. I know that “Happiness,” a student at HHI Secondary School (pictured), always has a huge smile on his face when I see him, but his father indicated to us that he is not always a pleasant person. Grace, Patience, and Christian are common names. Having one of those names would certainly make you think twice before acting rashly.
I talked to a woman recently who was so happy when her daughter was born that she named the infant, “Praiseworthy.” She wanted God to know how grateful she was for such a special gift.
The other day I was in the Projects Office and I noticed a wedding invitation posted on the bulletin board. Blessings and Mercy were getting married. I think that will be a very strong marriage. If we keep those names in our minds and hearts, we will be strong too.