Names – they are a key part of our identification. Since we arrived in Congo, often people we meet ask us what our local or Tshiluba names are. Bob and Kristi – we do not consider these to be difficult names to pronounce, but anything unfamiliar can be a challenge. Our names are not easy for tongues that are used to Tshiluba and French, so we have been eager to have local names that will help people to find it easy to say and remember our names. The church here told us that we would be given names at the General Assembly meeting in August. It has felt like a long wait, and in the last month, we discovered that people in Kananga have all kinds of local names for us. People have yelled greetings using the names Ngalula, Kabaseli, Kapinga, Mukendi, and others. So—the GA happened last week, and now we officially have names given by the church that we can tell people!
We were invited to the opening worship of the GA meeting. We headed out to Tshikaji for the meeting with 3 goats stacked on top of each other in the land cruiser—but that is a story for another day! We made it just for the tail end of the opening worship, and were introduced to all of the delegates. We were formally given our names, determined by the leadership of the church: Muambi Disanka and Mamu Luse. We were able to share for a few minutes, and we were happy that at this point we have enough Tshiluba to be able to share briefly our joy for working with the church and our hope for what God is doing here.
The names are meaningful, so let me elaborate: Bob is: Muambi (teacher, pastor) Disanka (joy, happiness). Kristi is Mamu (mother, Mrs.) Luse (compassion). We are excited about these names and pray that the names will be a true reflection of our lives. We reflected later that it seems a bit ironic—naturally, Bob has a greater propensity for compassion, and Kristi tends to have a more joyful personality than Bob. As a couple though, we are two people but at the same time one, and hopefully we can benefit from each other’s natural gifts. We also both want to be people of joy and compassion, so we have said that these names are an inspiration to each of us—they give us room to grow!
As we were preparing to move to Congo, we read the book “Bonding and the Missionary Task” by Drs. Tom and Betty Sue Brewster. “Take on an insiders name” is one of their key recommendations to help facilitate emotional ‘bonding’ with people of a local culture. We are grateful for each step in the long process of feeling at home in Kasai!