What is in a name?

What is in a name?

It happened twice after the same worship service, one right after the other. If it had happened just once, I might have doubted it was a message from God, but twice? God was reminding me the importance of learning and remembering someone’s name.

It happened twice after the same worship service, one right after the other.  If it had happened just once, I might have doubted it was a message from God, but twice?  God was reminding me the importance of learning and remembering someone’s name.

Manuel approached me right after the benediction, a well-dressed lawyer who recently passed the bar exam in Chile, carrying his young daughter tenderly in his arms.  He wanted me to meet her.  Then he said, “I have been meaning to tell you something for a long time.  I remember the first time we met, seventeen years ago.  It was during an open air evangelism campaign.  I was a young teenager full of doubts about my faith and about continuing in church.  You asked me my name.  I told you ‘Manuel’, and you never forgot.  Every single time we met after that, you called me by my name even though there were dozens of other young people in the church.  If I was important enough to you for you to remember my name, I thought maybe I was important to God, too.  We haven’t seen each other very much over the years, but thanks for always remembering my name.  It has meant so much to me.” 

I am not particularly good at remembering names.  Some people will tell you they have had to introduce themselves to me three or four times before I remember who they are.   Even though I know it is very important for each of us to be called by name and that I should strive to remember the names of the people I meet, I also know my mind is feeble.  I have to recognize that it usually is the Holy Spirit that brings a name into my mind, but sometimes I am just too busy to pay attention. 

Another young man poorly dressed and with the air of the mountain country side of Chile about him, stood off to one side patiently waiting as I finished talking to Manual.  When I turned to greet him, he took a step back and then asked me, do you remember who I am?   I started flipping through my mental card files and came up with a blank. “I am from the little church called Palmera de Cordillería (Mountain Palms). “  No bells rang.  Then, after a pause, a quiet, earthshaking voice like the whisper to Elijah on the mountainside, spoke a memory into my mind.  “Wait!” I exclaimed.  “Don´t tell me!  I know you! You are DAVID!”   His face lit up like a thousand suns and his eyes filled with tears!  “¡Si!” he answered. “¡Soy yo!”  I took both his hands into mine and asked him how he was doing.  “There is so much to tell you,” he answered.  “But God is with me and I am doing well.”

Others began pressing into to greet me, just as happened back when David was a child.  I had visited Palmera de Cordillería with Bishop Ulises Muñoz of the Pentecostal Church of Chile fifteen or sixteen years ago when I was helping to set up the Sunday School program at the Curicó Church. (By the way, I have never had the opportunity to return there.)  The Bishop had told me that the Guide of this daughter church was opposed to any new ideas or programs. (There are 65 daughter churches belonging to the Curicó church under the leadership of different brothers or sisters appointed by the Bishop.  The Bishop is the pastor of these village churches.)  The Bishop preached and I shared the children`s sermon.  The children had stood in the greeting line along with the adults, and one boy, about ten years old, informed me when he shook my hand, “my name is David.”  “Just like David in the Bible,” I answered. “Do you remember who David was?” I asked, but before he could answer the adults pushed him on so others could greet me. David slipped back in the line, and when it was his turn again, he said, “Wasn´t David one of Jesus’ disciples?”  I smiled and said, “Wait here beside me a minute.  When I finish saying good-bye to everyone we will talk.”  I sat down next to David and told him the story of David and Goliath, about David and Jonathan, and how David had been King of Israel.  He listened open mouthed and eyes wide.  When there was no one left in the sanctuary but the Bishop and the Guide, I called them over and asked them to listen.  “David” I asked, “Have you ever been to Sunday School?”  “What is Sunday School?” he replied.  “Would you like for your church to have Sunday School,” I asked after explaining what it would be like and what he would learn.  “Oh yes!” he exclaimed.  The Bishop turned to the Guide and said, “We will be starting Sunday School in this church!”  

Since that brief introduction so long ago, I have only seen David one other time.  He was fifteen or sixteen, and that time he greeted me with “I know all about King David now!”  Ten more years passed.  Even if I could remember what he looked like as a child or a teen, he is a grown man now.  “I wanted so much to see you and say thank-you,” I kept holding his hands as he looked into my eyes.  “Thank you for remembering me. My heart bursting with joy!”  He hugged me, and with the next person waiting to greet me, I said to David, “please look for me again at the next church gathering when we are both in Curicó.  I want to hear your story.”  He smiled broadly and nodded, turned away and disappeared into the crowd.

What is in a name?  Recognition, relationship, hope, transformation.  With two very different young men, one right after the other, the Holy Spirit reminded me of just how much is in a name.

Elena Huegel

Elena Huegel serves with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC)She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.