Sister Agnes was getting annoyed and she knew it was wrong to get annoyed. She said a silent prayer under her breath to Saint Monica, the patron Saint of patience, wives, mothers and victims of abuse. She had seen ‘madness’ among the natives since she was posted to Asemkese from England but this took the cake. For more than 30 minutes, the band that had followed Acheampong’s parents to the school sat arguing- no, debating what Christian name the young boy should be given. The group
was divided over whether to register the boy as Nebuchadnezzar as proposed by his uncles or Abednego as proposed by his Aunt. Other suggestions had been made too; Job, Hachmoni, Hanani etc.
This was not a debate that had started today. It began the day the young couple made their intention known that they wanted to send little Acheampong to school. Almost immediately a meeting was held to determine what Christian name Acheampong should be given. Acheampong’s Uncles wanted their ‘son’ to be christened Nebuchadnezzar; they argued that, that was a name of a great man and that more importantly the witches of Asemkese could not spell it if they wanted to attempt any incantation against the little boy. Acheampong’s Aunt however wanted her little boy to be named Abednego. She loved that name. She indeed wanted it for herself when she was baptised but she was told by the Priests that Abednego was strictly off-limits to women. She swore to herself that any person born in the family afterwards was going to be called Abedengo.Which witch in Asemkese can pronounce Abednego? That was certainly a good and hard name. It was a well known fact that in Asemkese when the witches wanted to kill anyone they had to get that person’s full name on paper. As a tradition therefore, the villagers of Asemkese- the Catholics mostly, chose names difficult to spell or pronounce for their children. The Rev. Father Peter Blankson of course considered the whole idea to be foolish.
In Asemkese, there were a few persons named Abagtha, Abimael, Ahishahur, Habazinaiah and so forth. Indeed many of the expectant mothers who went to Church went with the sole purpose of hearing a ‘hard and difficult’ name from the Bible. Confused, the young couple who were not Catholic or literate invited three family friends to help solve the dispute which was getting too serious for a small family quibble. The three persons couldn’t help; one abstained from voting preferring that the boy be named Zebedee though he did not have a reason for that. Two of Acheampong’s mother’s cousins who had heard what Acheampong’s father’s relatives were doing to their ‘sister’ came immediately from their village to join in the debates and as expected they brought their own suggestions. Unable to reach an agreement before the day of registration, the whole band decided to follow the young couple to the school. Their intention was to convince whoever was going to do the registration about their choice and for over 30 minutes, that was exactly what they did.
As the young group continued to debate, Sister Agnes, who was clearly frustrated by the fuss, caustically remarked, ‘Even Methuselah would have died prematurely if he was exposed to this.’
The room grew silent. The group turned to look at the Nun as if they had just noticed her existence.
‘Methuselah?’ Who was he?’ they questioned. Sister Agnes then told them in as few words as she could, all about Methuselah. They liked the name. It wasn’t as good as Nebuchadnezzar or Abednego, or even Zebedee but it was a novel name and difficult to pronounce and spell. It was settled! Little Acheampong was going to be called Methuselah Kwaku Acheampong, and that was the name he was known by, until his baptism when ‘Paul’ was added.