With all of the change that I've been experiencing (and hopefully embracing!), there is one that is of the greatest personal importance to me. My name. For many years now, I have thought about the difficulty that Ugandans have hearing, pronouncing, and remembering my name. Melanie just doesn't quite fit with the rules of pronunciation in these local languages, so my name ends up coming out more like 'melon.' In fact, that is the most common way I have heard my name described. "Melanie: you know, like watermelon!" I have to say that as much as I love the name Melanie, I do not like the name watermelon :) My African friends here have also struggled to remember my name, which is understandable when it is so foreign to them. It pains me to see them struggle and be embarrassed when they are unable to remember my name, so I've been thinking and praying about what to do in order to make my new friends and acquaintances more comfortable with speaking my name.
I have made the decision to change my name here in Uganda, and instead of being called Melanie, I will be called Melody.
I never imagined the amount of mental strength it would take for me to be known by another name. The name Melanie is such a part of my identity, and how I think of myself is intimately connected with my name. I have always loved my name, and I rejoice to know that I may still be called Melanie by my friends and family in the States, but here in Uganda I am learning to also think of myself as Melody.
So much of being a true missionary is assuming a new identity. When most people think of going to Africa as a missionary, they think about all the different things missionaries will be *doing*, but rarely do people know how much of a different person missionaries must *be* to live and work among a different people. Here, I speak differently. I laugh differently. I have different patterns of thought. I care more about different things. It is all a part of being Jesus to these precious people. Just as He became flesh for me, I desire to be that same model of incarnational love to the people of Uganda.
It is all good, and wonderful, and exciting, but it is also a bit uncertain, unnerving, and unsettling. In this transition time, as I stumble through figuring out who the Ugandan Melody is, and how much of the American Melanie can/should remain, I cling tightly to my Rock who never changes. Looking to Him for my direction and strength.
Because you have been my help, in the shadow of Your wins, I will sing for joy! ~Ps 63:7