What’s in a Name? – By Janet Scott, Volunteer

As a teacher for 31 years in public education, I’ve come across a lot of names; names that were chosen by parents because it was then a trendy and popular name, to honor someone in their family or someone they knew, for the meaning of the name, or because they just simply liked the name.  Also as a Japanese American sansei (third generation), I learned the importance of kanji to Asians when choosing names.  In the Old Testament, after Naomi’s husband and two sons died, she tells her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to call her Mara (which means bitter) because God has made her life bitter.

This summer while serving at Project Canaan with my husband, Jere, God brought across my path a most unusual person.  We have served in Swaziland for ten consecutive years and in all these years, I have never met a Swazi with a name such as Unfortunate.  Yes, that was the name of this woman.  If she had introduced herself by her Swazi name, I would have been quite blissfully ignorant, unless I had asked for its meaning, which I often do.  But she chose to introduce herself by the English translation.

When I first met Unfortunate, I was at the farm building and she crossed my path and I asked for her name and when she said, “My name is Unfortunate”, I was so shocked, and not knowing how to respond, I quickly asked what was her work on the farm.  She said she took care of the rabbits and the chickens.  That encounter left a sadness in my heart that I could not shake.

Then a few weeks later, as my afternoon duties took me to the El Rofi Medical Centre to organize the 20-foot storage container, I chanced to meet this woman again, but I had forgotten her face.  She had come to get a drink of water, from the faucet located next to the container, to take the OTC she had just gotten at the clinic.  “Unjani?” (How are you?), I asked, and she answered, “Niapila” (I am fine).  But I said that she was not fine because she came to the clinic for medication.  Then she laughed and I asked for her name and she responded, “My name is Unfortunate”, and my heart sank once more.

Without thinking, my hand plunged into the pocket of my jeans and as I took out a 9 LED mini flashlight (which I get as a freebie with a coupon from Harbor Freight) I said, “You are fortunate today because I have a torch (flashlight) for you.”  She smiled and as I approached her, I introduced myself and said that my husband works in ‘that building’, pointing to the Kufundza Learning Centre.  Looking at the shop, all of a sudden this woman whose no-eye-contact body language, with her face looking down, came on fire.  Her transformation was incredible.  She became very verbal, telling me that she had once worked in an upholstery shop and she had always wanted to work in a carpentry shop.  Upon hearing this, I immediately lead her up the hill to the shop (it’s only about 100 yd. away) telling her that I would introduce her to Jere.  After introducing her to Jere, I told her I could not promise anything, but I would try very hard to get her to work in the shop.

That day was Jere’s 81st birthday and we invited the Maxwells to celebrate with us.  When the topic of the shop came up, I recalled my day’s encounter with Unfortunate, and I asked if there was any possible way to get her to work in the shop.  Well, God worked so fast, I nearly had a whiplash.  The next day she reported to the shop and when I caught her before she left for home, she was sanding bunk bed railings on the belt sander.  Jere taught her how to use the lathe to turn wood and within a week she was turning HFA logo pens for the gift shop and bowls.

Talking with “Fortunate”, that’s what she is called now, she says she is very happy with her job and says that her family is also happy.  We both agree that God deserves the glory for her position.  My lesson learned is that besides asking God to do big things, we need to expect Him to do big things.

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