Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 13, 2006


Never, Genesis, and Anxious are my new Zambian brothers


          The names of many Christians in Zambia are surprisingly different from American names. My interpreter for three sermons preached in Lusaka was a winsome and intelligent man named Never.

          Out of respect for him I refrained by laughing at his name although my host and African son Alfred chuckled when he introduced Never to me. He realized it would sound funny to me and of course it did.

          Since normally I would not ask a new acquaintance why his parents gave him a strange name, I did not ask Never to explain his name to me. I was left to wonder. Was his birth perhaps a surprise? Did his parents “never” expect to have a son? I have no idea.

          I did resort to a play on words when we parted company. As I embraced my new friend who could translate Alabama English into Tonga, I said, “I will never forget you, Never, and I will always be thankful for your friendship.” He smiled affectionately.

          Last names are seldom given in introductions in Zambia, at least among Christians. I came away with no idea what Never’s last name is. While we were together, he was Never and I was Walter. Titles mattered little. In fact, not a single person was ever introduced to me as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” That facilitated a sense of family that could be warmly embraced.

          Genesis was one of our gracious hosts for the week in Zambia. A dear friend of Alfred for many years, Genesis works in the office of the president of Zambia. He is an accountant by trade and highly respected by his peers and friends.

          We learned that Genesis had taken the week off from his work to assist us in our travel in the country. At several points along the highway, our chartered bus was stopped by armed police officers who inquired about the nature of our business. When Genesis, recognized as a government official, offered an explanation for our group, we were quickly given permission to proceed.

          In a roadside market Genesis saw me struggling to understand what might be a reasonable price for a wood carving. He came to my rescue and told me what to offer the man badgering me to buy his wares. The man quickly agreed to accept my offer of ten dollars for a carving he insisted was worth fifty dollars.

          Well dressed, intelligent, and informed, Genesis helped our team feel welcome and secure. His presence during our entire visit proved to be a very special blessing. I never asked but I guessed he must have been his parents’ firstborn child.

          We met Anxious at his school along the main highway from Livingstone to Lusaka. He is an orphan, both of his parents having died with AIDS. A rising junior in high school, Anxious is 17 and a good student.

          Our team chatted with him outside the school and took pictures. He is a handsome lad, serious minded, and disarmingly friendly. His support of three hundred dollars a year is being paid by the Frazer Sunday School Class in our church.

          When I met Anxious that day I felt compelled to give him a new name. No one should have to live his entire life named Anxious. So I said to the young man, “Today I give you a new name. From now on your name will be Perfect Peace.”

          Anxious smiled, said nothing and left me guessing that he was probably thinking to himself, “This dear old man from America must have a screw missing somewhere.” Still I hope one day to hear from Anxious and to see that he has signed his letter, “your friend, Peace.” He wants to go to college and study engineering. I am anxious to help him do that.

          Because of their unusual names, some of my brothers and sisters in Zambia will be easy to remember. That reminds me of another orphan, a pretty little girl named Memory who needs help to go to school. + + + +