Sisi. Make wa Zach. Mbali.
These are a few of my new names. I’m relatively used to sisi, as every woman here is your “sister.” But Make wa Zach, well, I’ve only been “Zach’s mom” since last year.
My newest name, Mbali, is a gift in more ways than one. A few months ago I was in a shop and greeted the ladies “Sanibonani.”
I always get a kick out of the many Swazis who are surprised to hear their tongue in the mouth of a malungu (white person). The only danger is once in awhile, someone assumes you understand a whole lot more than the niceities.
This time, though, they wanted to know if I had a Swazi name. I asked how you get one and they looked thoughtful.
You can be Mbali.
What does that mean?
It’s a beautiful flower.
How did you know? (I feign suspicion) My middle name is ROSE!
We were all delighted. It felt like God was saying to me, “See, I know you and Yes, you are supposed to be here.” It was a timely message for my heart- the first couple months in Swaziland felt directionless; ministry had closed down for Christmas and we didn’t yet know what to do with ourselves in this new place.
Not too long after, Brandon was given a new name. His is also fitting, as he embodies so much of the Grace his name Musa expresses. I love that the person who gave it to him could also see his gift of Grace.
One of our ministry’s drivers has been like a doting grandfather to Zachary. He has known us since our first trip here in 2008 and has loved seeing Zach grow these last seven months. So, we asked if Mkhulu (grandpa) would give Zach his SiSwati name. He took a week to think about it and came back with Maswati since Zach is growing up in “the nation of Swaziland.” How fitting since already Zach has spent almost half his life here!
Names have always been powerful. It’s who we are.
I think of Mahlon (Sickly) and Chilion (Wasting Away) in the book of Ruth. They didn’t last too long, did they? Or their mother, Naomie (Pleasant), who asked to be called Mara (Bitter) after her family’s deaths.
God himself tells us who Jesus (God saves) is when he tells Joseph what to name his son.
So what does God call us?
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
-1 John 3:1
This isn’t always easy to wrap our heads around and if we’re all honest, we don’t always feel loved or even worthy of it. Our prayer is that you will be reminded of HOW MUCH YOU ARE LOVED.
Jesus left everything behind to be here with us and die in our place. You ARE loved, so am I, and so is the next person you see. God even loves that person who is voting for the other candidate, the person who got the job you wanted, he loves the orphan and the unfortunate.
We are called to be Christ’s hands and feet. So, let’s love one another because he loves us.
Grace and Peace,
Mbali, Musa, and Maswati