Saturday, March 14, 2009

What's in a name?

As in English, every Rendille name has a meaning. But unlike many names given in North America, names are chosen specifically for their meaning. For example, a name might be given to represent where somebody came from or when they were born – Ndoto was born near the Ndoto mountains. Ngurinit was born in, well, Ngurinit. Mulgis was born near the river bearing the same name. Sometimes it’s something general about them – Hamado comes from the Rendille word hamad, meaning joy. Hirkenna means “rain bringer.” The long dry season ended the day he was born and the rains began to fall. Gumaa’di comes from gumaa’d, which means “Friday.” Guess what day of the week he was born on!

Of course, some names are chosen not just for their meaning, but for a greater, more individual story. Take Gisooya for example. “Gis” in Rendille means ‘to divide up.’ She was one of twins, but her twin died during birth, so her parents decided to call her Gisooya, saying, “God took his part and left us ours.”

And then there’s Limiyoogo. When he was born, he was not breathing. His parents and everyone around tried everything that they knew how to do to get him to breathe, but to no avail. As time was running out, they lifted their hands and asked God to help them, and at that moment, the baby took his first breath. His name means “hands lifted up to God.”

Nabiro, the old woman who lives across from us, had never had any children of her own. She would often say that her heart was burning, so much did she want to have a child. Four and a half years ago, she was able to adopt a baby girl. Finally, a child of her own. She named the girl Hoboso, which comes from the Rendille word for cold, because finally this little girl had cooled the burning in her heart and she was happy.

On a slightly more comical side, some children are named for a particular physical feature. Take Matahween, for example. Her name means “big head.” Or Lokhudeere - “long neck.” Ah, but the names get more interesting still. How about Anzaro (terrible calamity), or Subahdaayi (little black fat). I think my favourite has to be Dufaankhasso. What does that one mean, you ask? Slaughtered a camel ox.

I’m sorry, what? Slaughtered a camel ox???

Seriously! Who looks down with loving eyes on their little bundle of new life and says sweetly, “Awwww! I think we’ll call her slaughtered a camel ox!” I love it!

I was assured that I, too, would be given a Rendille name, and indeed, it did not take long. A mama has adopted me into her clan – Dubsahai – and has now named me Havareya Mirgichan. Havarey is the name of a tiny village farther out in the desert, and so I’ve been told that my name means “from a desert place.” When I told my students, many were confused. “But madam! You don’t come from Havarey! How can you be called Havareya?!?” But I think the name suits me just fine...

You see, life as a Christian has been difficult for me the last few years. I’ve felt spiritually dry and perpetually thirsty for God – a thirst I just can’t seem to make go away. I’ve been in a very desert-like place in my life. It’s been discouraging for me, and, though I know that God has never left me, it’s been hard to see His presence. I’ve gotten impatient and have just wanted out of this dry, dusty period of my life. I’ve often thought, “What good is there in this desert wasteland? I want out!”

And so now, here I am, in the literal desert (ah, God is funny like that!). Both literally and figuratively, I am finding beauty in this place. And more importantly, I am learning that God is here. I am seeing God in a way I never have before here in the desert, and it’s slowly but surely shaping me, changing me. And I know that it’s just a matter of time… the rains are coming.

As I was listening to some music this afternoon, this song came up and stopped me dead in my tracks. It was just what I needed to hear:

My heart is dry and thirsty, Lord,
Let me drink from your well, drink from your well
In this dry and thirsty land,
Let me drink from your well, drink from your well

You see right through me, nothing’s hidden from your sight
So in my brokenness, I run to you
I long to worship you in Spirit and in truth
So let me drink that I may never thirst again

Oh, source of living water, come and heal me again
Let your streams of living water come and wash away my shame
Precious Father, you’re my lover and my friend
Let me drink that I might never thirst again
Let me drink that I might never thirst again...

~ From “Living Water” by Stephen Toon

I just think it’s so cool that even my Rendille name helps to tell about God’s goodness in my life! He is so good!

...especially since He didn’t let me be named “Slaughtered a Camel Ox!”


Jean said...

how awesome! Another small glimpse into your life right now!

Anonymous said...

As I sit here, 7 months pregnant, I am jealous of your courage and strong faith. I have a hard time traveling out of my home state, let alone country!

Maybe you can find out what the Rendille would name someone who "hides behind the keyboard."


nachtwache said...

Praise God! How wonderful Hillary. God has a funny way and so fitting to situations, in sending us signs. That's way the way is narrow and steep, not because it's hard to follow commandments, but because it's so hard to step out and walk by faith and not knowing where He'll send us.
I'll have to ponder this.
God's blessings!!

Rachelle said...

thanks for sharing that with us!

AfricaBleu said...

When I was growing up, I knew a boy called "Asante." His parents had five girls, and he was the last child . . . so he was named "Thank You!" :)