“Somangayesonke” It’s probably not what naturally trips off your tongue. We have just enjoyed three weeks with the Rector and his wife of our linked church in Bloemfontein in South Africa. Fr Andile & Yoliswa Mbutye, Rector of Mangaung St Patrick, have shared in a variety of settings and services, and have even seen London. They have three children, and explained why their youngest boy is called Somangayesonke; it translates as ‘Everything came to a standstill’. Sunday afternoon, and Yoliswa is ready to give birth, so Fr Andile drives her to hospital. The birth is not imminent, so Andile is sent home where he changes and relaxes. The peace is shattered by a phone call; the baby’s heartbeat is faint and birth is drawing near.
Fr Andile drives into hospital, but is involved in a serious road traffic incident, so is rushed into hospital, in danger of losing his leg. He tries to say he needs to see his wife who is about to give birth, but they sedate him. Yoliswa is still waiting for him, unaware that he is lying in the same hospital. When Andile comes round and asks for his wife, and Yoliswa is wondering why her husband has not come for the birth, someone finally puts the two bits of information together. “Your husband is in the casualty ward!” “What’s he doing there? He should be visiting me here, not someone in casualty!” Only then did Yoliswa discover that he had been in an accident.
Meanwhile, the churchwarden and his son have seen Fr Andile’s car, and try to prevent the tow truck man from removing the car – there was a tendency for a tow truck man to remove a car involved in an accident on the authority of a police officer, who received a payment from the tow truck man, and the owner would then have to pay a heavy redemption fee for the car minus much of any personal belongings left in the car – and in the process, ended both being arrested.
In one night, the parish lost its Rector and his wife to two separate hospital wards and its churchwarden and his son to police custody; Monday morning in the parish, and ‘everything came to a standstill’, so their healthy son was named after the event. Children are often named in South Africa in a way relating to an event.
In contrast, the Romans often named their children prosaically Primus, Secundus, Tertius, etc., or First, Second, Third! The names we chose for our children were a little more dynamic, marking mostly not events but our faith. Timothy Daniel (Honouring God and God is judge), Nathanael James (Gift of God and after James), Thomas Michael (he was meant to be born on St Thomas’ day and ‘Who is like God?’) and Emma Joanne (contraction of Emmanuel, God with us, and God is gracious). Timothy, James, Thomas and John (Joanna is feminine of John) were all disciples and so marked our hope and aspiration for our children.
Not surprisingly, the names given to God’s Son are also full of meaning: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way… You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins… ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel’… And he called his name Jesus.” (The Bible, Matthew 1.18, 21, 23, 25). Jesus (Yeshua, Joshua) means God saves, and was the name of the Old Testament hero who led the people of God into the Promised Land after Moses. The name was chosen carefully to tell us that Jesus will save his people from their sins, taking them to the Promised Land by his death on the cross. Christ, more accurately ‘the Christ’ is the greek for Messiah, the anointed one, referring to the three great offices of King, Priest and Prophet, all anointed and appointed by God – and Jesus is Priest and Prophet and King. Emmanuel means ‘God with us’ and tells us that God was fully in Christ, God incarnate (in flesh). The names tell us God sent his son to live as God among us (Emmanuel), serving us and saving us from our sins (Jesus), to tell us of God’s perfect will (prophet), to save us by his sacrifice (priest) and so to rule us forever in joy and peace (king), our true Messiah (Christ)
Praying that you may name and know the living Son of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, and knowing him, may rejoice to serve our Saviour until led into his Promised Land of joy and peace for all eternity.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,