Early one morning in Semarang, Indonesia I bounded up to the outside General Delivery window of the local post office. Lying in the corner of the small covered porch was a naked boy, obviously close to death. Someone had placed a crumb of bread near his head; he was too far gone to know of any help at hand. After inquiring if anyone knew who he was or how he got there, an Indonesian friend and I loaded him in our car and proceeded to the government hospital. After some mild resistance at admitting the child, and some reminders from doctors that I could have found several hundred such children, my response was, "Yes, I could have--but this is the one I found." The child had been discarded and was severely socially neglected. He would not respond to any question, and refused to stay on the hospital bed. He would jump down and strip off the hospital gown, then squat in the floor and gaze blankly ahead. Nurses gave him milk, but he neither swallowed nor spit it out.
That evening my wife and I returned to the hospital to check on him. He was lying tied to the bed. I sat on the edge of the bed and tried every means possible to get some kind of response from him. Nothing. His glass-cubicled room was adjacent to an examining room. I looked through the door to a chalk board on the wall divided in columns. Down the left side were the names of the patients and their room numbers. The right side contained the nature of their illness. When my eyes fell on this lad's room number I immediately looked to see what name had been entered. The Indonesian words, TIDAK ADA NAMA appeared in that space. Translated, it read: NO NAME. We left with a sick feeling in our stomachs, and a deeper void in our hearts. Here was a person created in the image of God with no identity.
That was the beginning of a pilgrimage that would forever shape my understanding of mission. The task entails all the ways we relate to persons that will enable them to come into their full identity in the Lord Christ. A name is a badge of honor, because it carries within it all our identity. In that city of 800,000 at the time, I learned a lesson about identity. With the increased flow of persons to the world's cities how many nameless ones are wandering around, devoid of any sense of who they are, much less a sense of purpose or hope?
"The world is so full of nameless ones,
Wandering and lost, unseen, unknown.
Is there no hope, and none to care?
No one to help them, no one to share?
Give them a name through me,
Oh, give them a name through me.
Lord God above, look down in your love,
And give them a name through me."