What’s in a name?


On a recent “Fly ‘n’ Build” mission trip in the remote highlands of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, I got to tick-off a number of firsts. I saw my first machete-wielding two-year-old. I wrangled my first snake outside of Australia. I also named my first child.

Noah means “peaceful”, but because of the way he lived his life, he became the man who “walked with God”.

His name is Elisha and, no, he’s not my son.

For 13 days in August, a team from Adventist Media Network (AMN) lived, played and worked with the people of Valasi. Strong bonds were formed even in this short space of time, so much so that one of the teachers at the school in Valasi asked us to name his newborn baby.

It’s one thing to name your own kids, but to be asked to name a child with whom you have no real connection really was a huge honour.

Baby Elisha and his family.

Elisha. The name wasn’t just selected for it’s meaning—“God is my Salvation”. It was chosen because of the similarities between the biblical account of Elisha and the story of AMN’s visit to Valasi.

Elisha helped build a school (2 Kings 6:1-4). The AMN team built two classrooms/dormitories for a school. Elisha had to travel great distances. Our route to Valasi included two flights, an overnight boat ride, and a six-hour trek through rivers and up mountains. While building, Elisha had to deal with a broken axe (2 Kings 6:5-7). Yours truly busted the villagers’ axe.

So, on a Sabbath afternoon in the beautiful mountains of Guadalcanal, a baby boy was named and dedicated to the Lord.

The naming of a child holds a great amount of significance. The meaning of a name, and the story behind the name, can help shape the course of a person’s life, even from a very young age (click here).

Giving somebody a good name is one thing, but it means little if the person fails to live out that name. Herod is a beautiful name, meaning “song of the hero”. King Herod, however, will go down as one of history’s most iconic antiheroes. The meaning of Judas is “praised”, but unfortunately there’s not much that’s praiseworthy in the life of Judas Iscariot.

There are those, however, who turn their names into something more. Noah means “peaceful”, but because of the way he lived his life, he became the man who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). David built on his “beloved” name, and the Lord called him “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Elisha’s family with the “Fly ‘n’ Build” team from AMN.

Four days after naming and dedicating baby Elisha, we left Valasi. None of the AMN team will probably ever see him again. Our hope and prayer is that in 30 years time, Elisha will still be the man whose “God is [his] Salvation”. Or perhaps even something more.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches . . .” (Proverbs 22:1).

Linden Chuang is assistant editor of RECORD—digital.