What’s In a Name?

Most American names are difficult for African nationals to pronounce. Therefore,  on my first visit to Africa, Hamsetu christened me with the African name of Waseela. My sister was given the name Miriama which might be considered a version of the name “Mary” and another teammate was called Nadia or “delicate.” When I asked the meaning of Waseela, I was told it was a common name for a servant. My posture became rigid. “Servant?” I questioned. And she nodded.


Later that evening, we were having dinner at the home of our host missionaries, and I met a kind man helping in the kitchen. His name is Hama. The missionaries we were visiting don’t have a household of servants, but there is desperate poverty, and they do their best to help others by giving them work. Hama’s face brightened when I said, “My name is Waseela.”

Hama clapped his hands together. “My sister’s name is Waseela.”

It shames me to tell you of my prideful heart. I was offended because I’d been given a common name for servants. Shame on me. Perhaps a better name would have been “Arrogant Ostrich.”

Through the week of working with children, God removed a few scales from my eyes as I played with children and cleaned their beautiful faces. One little girl, in particular, touched my heart. Her name is Nafeesa. If she said “Waseela” once, she said it a thousand times.

I had taken fingernail polish to paint the little girls’ nails in VBS. What I hadn’t realized is that nail polish won’t stick to dirty nails. Being the germaphobe I am, I’d carried an excess of hand sanitizing wipes. As I cleaned Nafeesa’s rough hands and calloused feet, I was reminded of Jesus cleaning the feet of his disciples. “Father, forgive me,” I prayed. I painted her nails a bright shade of orange, and the look of joy on her face will stay with me forever.

I believe one of the reasons God has burdened me to return to Africa time and again, is so that he can complete the work that’s necessary to change my prideful heart. At least He’s helped me understand that Hamsetu honored me when she called me, “Servant.” Please pray that I can live up to my African name in the coming days. My name is a Waseela, and I am a servant of the Lord.

#Africanmissions #Nigermissions



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About shelia@sheliastovall.com

Shelia Stovall is a Southern, small-town librarian, and has an understanding of what women like to read. She is a member of ACFW and is currently the Treasurer of the Middle Tennessee ACFW Chapter. Shelia is a member of the Ky. Public Library Association and the American Library Association. Her short story, The Barber’s Sanctuary, won the fiction division of Kentucky Monthly’s sixth annual Writer’s Showcase in the November 2013 issue. Shelia is a weekly columnist for the Citizen-Times, based in Scottsville, Ky. Shelia’s Southern, small-town roots have given her an understanding of community and women's friendships. Her writing deals with difficult contemporary issues, but there’s always a thread of hope amid the calamity. Shelia is passionate about African missions and has traveled to Africa annually for the past four years. Community service is also important to Shelia, and she has volunteered as a crew chief for five years at Camp Habitat, (a Christian youth service camp that partners with Habitat for Humanity).

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