Why your brand matters …

Branding is important.  This is why Madison Avenue (the global center of the advertising industry in New York City) is a center of influence and of wealth.  This is why the hosting television network charges millions of dollars for a thirty second commercial during the Super Bowl (the championship game of professional american football).  A cowboy in America’s Old West — or a Maasai olchekut even today — could identify the owner of the herd with a mere at a glance at a cow’s branding mark.

(Note:  the Maa word olchekut is usually translated as “shepherd” but is used of cowherds and goatherds as well.)

Branding can work for weal or for woe.  If a Maasai teen-aged boy so much as flinches when he is circumcised, he is branded as a coward for the rest of his life.  In the 1985 film Back to the Future, George McFly suffered the effects his whole life of having been branded as a weakling as a youth, until his son Marty altered the present by changing the past.  Currently nearly half of Americans are horrified at the prospect of their country being branded as “Trump Nation.”  Yet nearly half of Americans were terrified at the possibility of their country being branded by the “progressivism” of another Clinton presidential administration.  Branding matters.

Countries in Africa (including Kenya) are often branded as backwards, undeveloped, and primitive.  This is often done by NGOs and even by missions agencies as they are seeking financial support for various developmental projects.  Sadly, this branding often first creates and then perpetuates a cycle of dependency.  But this is often done by comparing the poorest of those in the slums with those comfortably middle-class (economically speaking) from suburbs and cities in the West.

Many of you have seen pictures of endemic poverty in African slums in Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria), or Johannesburg (South Africa) and been told “this is Africa.”  Others have seen the perpetual corruption and impunity of dictators like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and been told “this is Africa.”  Those of you at least our age remember the popular song “We Are the World” and pictures of emaciated Ethiopian children with the swollen bellies of starvation and think “this is Africa.”  Still others hear “Africa” and think only of stories of genocide (e.g., Rwanda in 1994), perpetual civil wars (e.g., Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC; formerly called Zaïre), Boko Haram’s atrocities against christians (mostly in Nigeria), social unrest and violent atrocities after a contested election (e.g., here in Kenya after the December 2007 election), or even just of “zoo animals.”

But how many Americans would like the USA to be characterized, branded, only by images of Old West gunfighters, or urban rioters, or the terrible morals in so many Hollywood movies, or the ostentatious conspicuous consumption of wealthy celebrities, or the gruesome practices of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, or by the divisiveness of “the other side” during the 2016 elections?  Most Americans would protest, “that is not my America.”  And so for those of you who do not live in Africa, we invite you to take a second look with new eyes at the various countries of this continent.

It is as important to celebrate glorious success as it is to bring needs to light.  So when we host visitors here in Kenya, we want them to see the rich texture and vibrancy of Kenyan life.  We’ll visit a church in the Kibera slum, talk with successful Nairobi entrepreneurs and artisans, swing by a world-class Nairobi shopping mall, sit with small-town church members in their large stone church building, and drink tea in a remotely rural Maasai hut.

Here is one example of positive branding for Kenya.  It’s a music video / commercial for Safaricom, the largest telecom and micro-finance service provider in East Africa.  It is a celebration of Kenyan life, culture, and people.  Like the best advertising, it is not pushing a product so much as celebrating a vision for life.  I invite you to watch and listen to this short video (less than two minutes).  The lyrics (in kiSwahili) and translation (in English) follow below.  This is the Kenya we know and love.  These are the Kenyans with whom we partner.  Yes, there is still need, which this branding doesn’t depict.  But in this season of America’s Thanksgiving, celebrate with us the greatness of Kenya’s people.

UNGAANA, PENDANA
 ….. LET’S UNITE, LET’S LOVE

Kitu gani chatuunganisha,
….. What is it that unites us,
Mume kwa mke, ndugu na dada,
…. husband to wife, brother and sister
Marafiki tunaowajali,
…..  friends whom we care about,
Washiriki hata makazini,
….. colleagues with whom we work?

Jambo la muhimu,
Kwa hamu na gamu,
Twatumaini taifa,
Libebalo
ndoto, zote zetu
 ….. The most important thing is
 ….. earnest anticipation of
….. a nation which carries
….. all of our dreams.

Ungaana (ungaana), Pendana (pendana)
….. Let’s unite together (let’s unite),
…..
Let’s love each other (let’s love)
Tumeungana twaonekana,
….. We have united, we have seen that
Tuko huru tuko sawa,
….. We are free, we are equal

Ungaana (ungaana), Pendana (pendana)
….. Let’s unite together (let’s unite),
…..
Let’s love each other (let’s love)
Dunia ijue tuko sawa,
….. Let the world know that we are equal
Twaunganisha ndoto zeta
….. We bring together our dreams

Ungaana kwa upendo
….. Let us unite together in love
Ungaana kwa upendo
…. Let us unite together in love
Ni Upendo watuunganisha,
…..  It is love which unites us
Mume kwa mke, ndugu na dada
….. Husband to wife, brother and sister.

 

 

 

Shalviah Tzadika

Shalviah Tzadika arrived at home on 22 January 2015.  Shalviah means “the peace of the LORD” or “the shalom of Yahweh.”  Shalom refers to peace in relationships:  not just an absence of strife and discord, but personal and familial wellness and wholeness.  This is truly that “peace which passes understanding” (Philippians 4.7) which we are able to experience as the peace of Christ.

Tzadika means “justice” and “righteousness.”  Every childish cry of “it isn’t fair!” echoes our longing for justice.  These days righteousness seems to be “just a church word,” but it simply means being in right relationships vertically and horizontally.  And while there may be “no one righteous” and “no one that does good” (Romans 3.10, 3.12), yet we are clothed in Christ and covered with his righteousness.  Just as the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1.7), the righteousness of the Father cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9).   So by naming our daughter Tzadika, we are blessing her with this promise.

Shalom and justice/righteousness:  it is impossible to fully have one without the other, and impossible to truly have either apart from God.  We pray that our Shalviah will be filled with the peace of the Lord that she might bear “the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1.11).

Though we address her as “Shalviah” and “Tzadika,” we have also given her a nickname, Shamirah.  This name means “protection” as well as “guardian” or “protector” (it is the feminine form of “Shomer”).  We recognize that both peace and justice/righteousness provide protection.  We also know that each must be carefully guarded.  So we pray that Shalviah’s heart will be forever protected (Proverbs 4.23; Philippians 4.7), that the peace of the Lord will guard her and that she will grow up to be one who protects justice/righteousness and peace.

Our older children had a role in naming their new sister, discussing options with us at length.  Alitzah read through a long list of names, with their meanings, suggesting possibilities.  While we were reviewing the short list, when Eliana grasped the meaning of Shalviah, she said, “That should be one of her names, because she is a very peaceful baby.”  It is true.  We also pray that these names both reflect and form her character.

 

(In case you’ve forgotten or never known, these are the nicknames for our other children:
Alitzah is Tzitzah
Hannah Gail is Shoshannah & also Kanara
Eliana is Tzahala & also Ailona
Zerachiah is Shomer
Ahaviah is Zemirah
Have you ever wondered why we named our other children as we did?)

Oh, and for those of you who will want to know:
She arrived at 7:23 pm and weighed about 7 lbs.  The following day with a more precise scale she weighed 3.1 kg (6 lbs 13.28 oz) and measured 52 cm long (20.5 in).  Our lovely midwife was here to assist.  Of course, Shalviah is beautiful.

peace and righteousness,
joshua & ruth,
alitzah + hannah gail + eliana + zerachiah + ahaviah + shalviah

my name is Joshua

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My name is “Joshua” not “Josh.”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with short forms of names, diminutives or nicknames.  In addition to their given names (which we commonly use in full), each of our children has a whole collection.  In our house you might hear Yaya, Lala, or Didi, just to name a few.  (Can you guess which short form was derived from which child’s name?)

But I prefer to be called “Joshua” rather than just josh.  Sure, I’ll answer to the short form and am not upset by its use.  But that’s not my name.

The english name Joshua comes from the Hebrew name Yehoshua and the Aramaic form Yeshua.  These names all mean Yahweh is salvation, Yahweh saves-heals-rescues-delivers.  (The personal, covenental name of God in Hebrew, often written just YHWH, is often replaced in english bibles with LORD in all caps.)  So whenever someone calls me by my given name, I am reminded who I am — rescued-by-Yahweh — and of whose I am — the Rescuer’s, the Healer’s.

On the other hand, the english noun “josh” refers light-hearted, jesting banter.  The verb means either “to tease (someone) in a playful way” (when transitive) or “to engage in joking or playful talk” (when intransitive).  There is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with banter.  But I’d rather the core of my identity be tied to the saving acts of my God than with a jest.

Of course the english name Jesus is our pronunciation of Yesous (in greek), which is in turn the greek pronunciation of Yeshua.  So when I am called by my name, I am reminded that all disciples of Jesus are called to be christophers, Christ-bearers, as well as christians, little Christs or partisans of Christ.

There was once a high priest named Joshua.  In a vision, the prophet Zechariah saw him dressed in filthy rags, being accused by the satan.  God himself rebuked the accuser, and God’s messenger directed the priest Joshua’s filthy garments to be removed, and caused him to be dressed with clean festal garments and a clean turban was put on his head.  God told this Joshua, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you.”  (Zechariah 3.1-5)  This reminds me that in Jesus, my own iniquity has been taken from me and I am clothed with robes of righteousness and joy.  I am, in fact, clothed with Christ.

My parents, of course, named me after the second most famous of those to bear this name, Joshua – “a man in whom is the Spirit” (Numbers 27.18) – the successor of Moses, with a prayer that I would one day grow into the same level of faithfulness which he exhibited.  That Joshua’s parents named him “Hoshea” (deliverance, salvation, healing, rescuing), no doubt prayerfully dreaming that Israel’s deliverance from her bondage in Egypt would come during the lifetime of their son.  Significantly, Moses changed his name to Yehoshua (“Joshua” is the usual english transliteration), emphasizing just who it was who was doing the delivering, saving, rescuing and healing.

(See especially Numbers 27.15-23 & 13.16b, though his story is found throughout Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua.)

Back when I had more time for my trumpet, one of my favorite pieces to improvise on was the african-american slaves’ spiritual, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” (sometimes jazzy, sometimes bluesy).  That’s an awesome story, and a fun song.  But my favorite part of the story comes before the better-known story of the siege and defeat of that city.

Now usually the first thing one of God’s spirit-messengers (“angel” is just the english pronunciation of the greek New Testament word for “messenger”) has to tell a human is “Don’t fear.”  Sometimes that means “don’t be afraid,” because the person is terrified.  Sometimes it means “don’t give me the reverent awe and worship that is only due the Creator.”  Because angels aren’t fat babies with wings, nor are they gentle and motherly young mothers with sweet smiles and perfectly brushed, long flowing hair, plus wings and halo.  God’s angels are actually mighty warriors whose presence and holiness are intimidating.  This is why the prophet Daniel fell on his face in sheer terror when approached by Gabriel (Daniel 8.17) and John the seer, when face-to-face with one of God’s holy messengers, fell at his feet to worship (twice! — Revelation 19.10 and again in 22.8).

But not Joshua.  When he saw an angelic warrior standing against him with drawn sword, his first response was to boldly confront him:  “Are you for us, or for our enemies?”  Had not the LORD, and Moses, and the whole host of Israel commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous?  Had God not promised to be with him?  “No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not abandon you nor forsake you.”  I want to have that sort of faith, that kind of trust, in God’s promises.  I want to be “a man in whom is the Spirit.”

Names matter, and can be powerful.

Hello.  My name is Joshua.  And you are … ?

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For the curious, we’ve also written about the meanings of our children’s names.

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