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There was a movie that came out years ago called Dances with Wolves. It starred Kevin Costner and was about a soldier that was stationed at a remote prairie post back in the late 1800s. He was all alone and eventually made friends with and became integrated into a tribe of Native Americans. While living with them, he learned their language, married, and became totally enculturated into the tribe.
A great scene is when the soldier learned the name that the village had given to him. They gave him the name “Dances with Wolves” since they once saw him playing with his gangly adopted wolf. While I don’t recommend watching this movie based on the foul language spoken and other “nonfamily friendly” elements, I can relate to living among and enculturating to people of a radically different life and belief system.
A couple of years after we moved among the remote jungle-dwelling people, I was given a name by my tribal friends. Sitting inside a small, smoky hut with my friends one evening, Nggame told me that he had given me a name. They all knew me by Maik (Mike), but now I would have a new name—one that had meaning to them. Nggame gave me the name “Inyabua,” which means “he pities them.” Nggame said that I came to help his people, and I had done so much medical work and had learned his language. He could now see that I had pity for his people and that is why I came to live among them. That was back in 2008-ish, and the name has stuck to this day. Most people far and wide around this area refer to me as Inyabua.
It has been a great privilege to work over a decade among such an amazing and beautiful people. Having been given a tribal name is only one of many, many blessings associated with our ministry. Our family has become one of the tribe in so many ways, and since the church was born, living and working alongside the tribal believers has been a true reward. Living a real life Dances with Wolves scenario has not been without its trials and tribulations, but I am thankful to God that he allowed me and my family to be part of his plan to reach the people in Southeast Asia.
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