We know that many of you get confused about the names of your kids in Meru. Let me try to explain it as best I can. Frankly, I still get confused too.
In Meru, there is a tradition that the firstborn son is named for his father’s father, and the firstborn daughter is named for father’s mother. Now when I say “named for” I do not mean it in the same way we Americans use that phrase. For example, my husband’s mother’s name was Eleanor, so, had we had a daughter using Meru tradition, you might think her name would be Eleanor. But no.
Instead, we would give our daughter a name that reflected the character of her paternal grandmother. We might have named our daughter in that case “Charity” for instance.
In Meru, the names given in the mother tongue of Kimeru are the names the children go by in the family and in the village and even at school. Thus, a boy might be called Mwenda after his paternal grandfather because it means generous and kind. These names are very important to the people of Meru.
But wait! You’ve noticed that most of our Cherish kids have a Christian name such as Mary or Betty or Martin. Yes, they do. That’s because at some point these children are baptized and thus given a Christian name to use also. Example, our friend Peter Mburugu -- Mburugu suggests a man of prestige and good standing in his community and it was given to him by his parents. When he was baptized he became Peter. If you were to travel in Kenya with him, you would note that his countrymen identify him as Mburugu. Note that this is not Mr. Mburugu which would suggest that his father’s name was Mburugu. It was not. He was named for his father’s father.
Still with me? Our sister, Josephine was also given a Meru name. In Meru she is known by many as Kagwiria, named for her paternal grandmother. What a great name for her since it means a joyful person! Her Christian name is Josephine, thus Josephine Kagwiria.
Moving on. When she married Mburugu, she remained Kagwiria, but due to British and western influence, she was also known as Mrs. Mburugu by many, assuming Peter’s given name as her own.
And when they moved to the U.S., their children added Mburugu to their given Meru names so that it would be clear at school that they were part of one family.
Let’s get to YOUR sponsored child. Perhaps you have two blood brothers whose names are Jeremiah Gitonga and Peter Mwirigi. This does NOT mean they have different fathers. It simply means they are going by the names given to them in the tradition explained above.
Some of you may have had siblings with three names such as Eric Mwende Muthoni . This probably means that the boy is using his given names + a family name…that of his dad or his grandfather, etc.
Now, as if that weren’t confusing enough, let me add one last note. Just when you think you have everyone’s name figured out, you’ll learn that somewhere along the way they were given a nickname (just like here!) and you won’t know what to think. The AIDS epidemic caused some kids to assume a grandmother or guardian’s name along the way, etc.
Fret not. The folks in the trenches at Hope International Ministry Trust know who’s who, and they can clarify family relationships for us if we ask them.
More importantly, YOU can strike up a correspondence with your youngster and his/her HOPE guardian and get more information if you like. Remember you can communicate directly with your youngsters by writing c/o Hope International Ministry Trust, P.O. Box 832, Meru, Kenya. Postage for a standard letter is $1.05.
I hope this has helped some. God bless you for loving on kids here and abroad. You are doing the work of the kingdom in Jesus’ name.