Does a Name Matter?

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Michael Arthur Patterson was so excited he almost forgot to be careful as he hurried toward the stairs that led from his family’s apartment to the florist shop below. He could hear his father coming up the steps. “Dad! Dad!”

“Easy, Mike! You’re close to the stairs.” Mr. Patterson warned.

Mike reached for the wall and put one foot forward to feel for the top step, but he didn’t stop talking. “You’ll never guess! You know how Kenya Washington has wanted to come to Sabbath School with us? Well, her mom and dad said they would all come tomorrow!”

“Really? That’s great news, son! Let’s invite them to dinner too. Rose?” He raised his voice to call to his sister, who had lived with them ever since Mike’s mother had died four years before.

Aunt Rose came up the stairs behind him. “I heard. Of course we can have them to dinner. The Farmers are already coming, so we’ll have a real party.”

“Are you sure? That’s a lot of people!” Mr. Patterson asked.

“It’ll be fun!” Aunt Rose said cheerfully.

The next morning, Kenya rode with the Pattersons, while her family followed them to the church a half hour away.

“What’s that little clicking noise?” Mike asked.

“Clicking noise?” Kenya sounded confused.

“Yes—there! I heard it again,” Mike exclaimed.

“Oh! You mean this?” The clicking sound grew louder as Kenya shook her head back and forth.

“Yeah, that. What is it?” Mike asked.

Kenya giggled. “It’s my hair! I have it in lots of braids, with beads on the ends of them. Nairobi says when I shake my head, it rattles!”

Mike laughed too. “Awesome! I wish my head would rattle.” He shook it, but it didn’t do anything except get his hair in his eyes.

“Kenya?” Aunt Rose asked from the front seat. “Do you mind if I ask how you and your sister got your interesting names?”

“It’s because of my great-grandma,” Kenya explained. “She came from Kenya. My mom always wanted to go to Kenya, but she says she probably never will, so she named my sister Nairobi, which is the capital of Kenya. Then she named me Kenya. In fact, my middle name is Jayne, which was my great-grandma’s name.”

“Poor Morgan. Your brother’s probably jealous,” Mike’s dad said with a laugh.

“No, he’s glad he was born first. He says our names are silly,” Kenya said.

“Well, I like them,” Mike said.

When they reached the church, Kenya offered her arm to Mike. She had learned how to hold his arm firmly at her side so Mike could feel when she went up or down a step. “Here’s the railing,” she told him, putting his other hand on it. Once he was that far, Mike knew his way around the church very well, and he was the one to lead Kenya to Primary class. They left his dad and Aunt Rose to welcome the rest of her family.

Ms. Kimoto, the Primary teacher, was happy to see Kenya, and gave her a present for being a visitor. Kenya enjoyed Sabbath School very much, especially the singing. She already knew Susannah Farmer and some of the other children, having met them at the Pattersons’ flower shop. Mike was surprised to learn that the lesson was about the Sabbath. He wished he could see Kenya’s face as Ms. Kimoto and the class talked about creation and God’s blessing of the seventh day. She seemed very quiet. But he could hear her repeating the memory verse with the others: “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation. Genesis 2:3.”

“Ms. Kimoto?” Kenya spoke up.

“Yes, Kenya?” Ms. Kimoto smiled.

“I was just wondering. Does it really matter that much which day we call Sabbath? Saturday and Sunday are right next to each other, and they’re a lot alike. Does God really care?”

Mike held his breath. He had been afraid she would ask that! She had asked him the same thing before, and he never knew how to answer it. He had told her it was in God’s commandments, and after all, if God wasn’t the Boss, who was? He didn’t think she’d liked his answer. What would Ms. Kimoto say?

“That’s a very good question, Kenya. I think you’re right that what matters most to God is that He loves us and wants us to love Him too. Suppose I ask you a question. Could I call you Nairobi and your sister Kenya?”

“No!” Kenya giggled.

“But you’re a lot alike. As long as I love you both, what difference does it make?” Ms. Kimoto asked.

I’m Kenya!” Kenya said decidedly. “She’s Nairobi! It would get all confusing. It’s one thing if you make a mistake. Mom does that all the time. She’s even called me Morgan!”

The whole class laughed at that.

“But if you did it all the time, I don’t think I’d like it. And Nairobi wouldn’t either!”

“Don’t you think maybe that’s how God feels when people say it doesn’t matter and deliberately call Sunday Sabbath and Sabbath just another work day?” Ms. Kimoto said softly.

Kenya was quiet. “I’ll have to think about it.”

“Good idea. And pray about it too. You should never change your mind about anything just because someone tells you to, not even a teacher. Look it up in your Bible and find out for yourself. And never stop asking questions! Now then, class, it’s time for us to sing one more song before we go upstairs.”

Kenya was quiet all through church. Mike couldn’t tell if she was just being polite or if she was thinking.

That afternoon, Mike’s apartment was crowded to the walls with laughing, talking people. In the kitchen, Nairobi helped Mike, Kenya, and Susannah supervise Susannah’s four younger brothers Luke and John, who were four and two, were much too excited to sit still and eat. Morgan escaped to the living room with Mr. Patterson, Aunt Rose, Mrs. Farmer, and his mom and dad. Mrs. Washington said there was enough food to feed a small country. Everybody laughed.

After dinner, they all sang until the little ones went to sleep. The older kids played Bible games. Kenya leaned close to Mike. “Is Sabbath always like this?”

“Not usually this crowded, but always special,” Mike said with a grin.

“I think I like it,” Kenya said. “I’ll be thinking. Praying too!”

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