Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Naming of Xandalf

At some point in the course of the one week mission, someone in the group declared that there would be a "Spanish Word of the Day." It so happened that the word on this most special of days was, "Zapatos", the Spanish word for shoes.

A couple of hours passed and it was declared to now be verbal pop quiz time. And so... the man whose name was about to change opened his mouth to give voice to that name.

There is something significant that happens surrounding the changing of a name. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, Gandalf the Grey became Gandalf the White.... and Gary became Xandalf.

Each character had a significant life event that brought about the change. Abram's name was changed to signify a promise from God that he would be the father of many nations. Jacob's name changed to show that it was God who provided  his power and position. Saul's name changed when he began witnessing to the Greeks. 

Gary's name changed when he incorrectly identified shoes.

It should be noted here that no disrespect is intended. Surely this event simply merits a record. My interaction with the one who would become Xandalf this past week has left me convinced that he is one of my favorite humans on the planet. I respect deeply his scholarship, intellect, wit, and willingness to dig in deeply. 

He pursues life with enthusiasm and gusto. Something as simple as a game of Frisbee somehow swells to epic proportion when he takes the field. 

The question was asked, "Gary, what is the word of the day?" The response came after a thoughtful pause, "Zandolf." He said it with a created confidence that added to the hilarity of the moment. Zapatos had become Zandolf.

We all immediately thought of our favorite wizard, "Gandalf." We all began hopping about with our best hobbit voices. Frodo, Sam, and even Gollum could be heard. 

The parallels were too funny to miss. Our dear Xandalf was older and wiser than those standing around, and he had been guiding us as a mentor and leader. All week long he had been harassing those in the group that wore gear from Ohio universities other than his own. 

Xandalf graduated from Xavier. He had been proudly proclaiming it every time someone wore an Ohio State or University of Cincinnati shirt. So... naturally, the "Z" in Zandalf had to be replaced with an "X".

Xandalf was born in that moment.

Those of us on this trip will never forget all the transformational moments. We saw lives changed with the building, giving, and receiving of homes, small businesses, and efficient stoves. We shared prayers, exchanged tears, and felt the Spirit of God renew our souls. 

And... we will always remember the naming of Xandalf.

"Xandalf is thirsty."
Xandalf likes bananas.
Xandalf builds houses.
Xandalf inspires us all.

Thank you Xandalf.... we look forward to your return.

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