Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baby Allen Has A Name

In PNG, babies are often not named for several weeks after birth.  Most babies are named by the time they are about 6 weeks old.  Once in a while it takes longer.  The reason for this isn't completely clear to me, but it may be that in the country with the highest infant mortality rate in the Pacific, and one of the highest in the world, people wait to see if the new one will survive or not.  Maybe, without a name a baby seems less like an individual, and it is easier, or people anticipate that it will be easier, if the baby dies.

I've seen the parents of babies with and without names watch their babies die.  Believe me, it doesn't make it any difference if the little one has a name or not. 

Or maybe the reasons are lost in antiquity, and now it's just the custom.  Sometimes, however, a specific reason comes to light.

A few weeks ago, I cared for a little one on the ward.  He was listed on the chart simply as "B/O Anna"--Baby of Anna.  He was almost 6 months old, so I asked his mom why he didn't have a name.  Her answer stunned me.  "His father has left and is with another wife.  He doesn't care about us."

"Well, he needs a name," I replied.

"You can give him a name." 

When I looked up at her eyes in surprise, I knew that she meant it.

"Really?  You want me to give him a name?"


"I'll have to think and pray about it."

To be honest, I didn't think about it much.  When I have been in a similar position before, a name turned up in by Bible reading the next day that I suggested.  Other times there was an immediate inspiration, like a medical student, or a volunteer from America.  There is a little Christiana, named after our recent student.  But no name turned up in my readings for the next couple of days, and no other ideas presented themselves.

The next time I saw him on the ward, and thought about it, I got an inspiration.

"My father's name is Allen.  He is a good, kind man, a man of God."


And so it was settled.  The little one was Allen.  I took a photo of him, and after a couple more days he was well enough to be discharged.  There were several photos of moms and babies on my camera, and when I downloaded photos a few weeks later, I couldn't remember the significance of the cute little guy with the pretty young mom.  Just one more CLK, a cute little kid.

Then a few days ago, I was doing rounds, and saw a newly-admitted baby.  His name was Allen.  "Oh," I said.  "My father's name is Allen."

"Yes", the young mother replied, "you gave him his name."

I was embarrassed not to have recognized them, but if you saw as many cute babies as I do all day every day, you'd understand. 

He had a mild pneumonia.  He wasn't as sick this time as last time, and was able to go home after just a few days.  I remembered to get another picture this time, which helped me sort out which picture was him before.  You can see that he has grown and thrived.

Bless you, little Allen.  I pray that you grow to be the man that your namesake is.

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