As I completed filling up the baptism certificate for Everleigh Fennix Martin, I reflected at how important our name is. This baptism certificate will become an official document for baby Everleigh. It is initiated and endorsed by all the Open Door Churches pastors. Baby EverLeigh Fennix Martin is our very first Open Door Churches baptism in this Covid-19 pandemic time. This made me reflect on my baptism registry, which is Seluvaia Kalina Malua.
My name is a gift of identity unique and valid only for me. It is on my birth certificate, on my baptism certificate. In my Tongan custom, the name of the first child is to be named by the paternal side of the family. I was not the first born but I was the first daughter and the only daughter born to the family of five brothers. My paternal great grandmother, ’Ofa he Kelesi ( Love of Grace) named me Seluvaia, after her aunt but it is a biblical name, Zeruiah, King David’s sister. My paternal grandaunt, Kulia, named me Kalina (a beautiful flower in Hawaii) after her only daughter who was a year older than me. Customary in Tonga, the second name is commonly used.
The Paternal aunt, that is my fatherʻs sister/sisters are called Fahu, she holds the highest status of authority in the structure of the extended family in the Tonga custom. It is a unique custom and it’s still practiced by my family today. My name came from the two Fahu generations in my family. The Tongans believe it is an honor and blessing for the child to be named by the Fahu. Now at my age, It is a great honor to hold this title in my extended family. This Fahu authority is played out in all extended family gatherings and celebrations. it is mandatory that the Fahu presides in important family gatherings. I also represent my late grandmothers and my late mother to preside in extended family funeral gatherings. This is a platform for women in the family to express and extend blessings and grace for the family.
When I became a US citizen, I changed the order of my name to its present state, Kalina Seluvaia to make life easier for me in this new land, Seluvaia or Zeruiah is not an easy name to pronounce.
In my almost Thirty Eight years in my promised land the United States, it’s safe to say it was far from being easy. I can relate more to the Israelites wilderness experience for 40 years. They were beloved people of God and the biblical narrative informs God had rescued them from enemies and provided for them water and food in the desert and then helped them gain land in the promised land of Canaan.
My life journey as an immigrant in America had it’s own hardships. My name has been through a couple of changes and my physical appearance has been changed with age and bad health as my role in the family evolved to the empty-nest stage. But like the Israelites, I felt that God’s pillar of cloud guide my days and pillar of fire guide my nights. I am surviving well despite the many hiccups living in the complex society of the United States. My life is a living testimony of God’s unending love and amazing grace unfolding,
This week’s scripture reading from Joshua 24:2-3,14-15, I am reminded that I cannot dwell in the faith and blessings of my ancestors in the past. They had blessed me with a biblical name and baptized me to set me off in the right path with God. I cannot dwell in the shadow of my pastors who mentored, encouraged and directed me on my way with Christ is my light. Joshua reminded me that I am in a new land, I am in a new appointment. I must make an active choice daily, who my God is. I must have an active covenant service with my God. The roles, the authorities, the strength and wisdom, I have are gifts and grace of blessings given me to serve God, and God’s people.
Joshua, the new trusted new leader of the Israelites in the promised land gave the Israelites the right to decide for themselves who their God is. They are to make their own covenant with God. Joshua in verse 15 said that for him and his household, they will serve the Lord. But what so amazing was, the peoples’ response. They shouted“ We will serve the LORD! “The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”v24
As I go through the daily grinds of life in these uncertain times, my goal is not to lose sight of my Lord Jesus. But this is what I found, my faith is strengthened and deepened when I use every minute of my time to serve no other but my Lord, my God. Can you join me in this service, to serve our Lord and our God?
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa