Driving through the Flathead Valley in western Montana, I noticed that the road signs are bilingual. In Canada, you expect French and English signage. In Los Angeles, you often see Spanish and English on signs. But on this drive, you will find translations from the Native Americans on the U.S. highway 93 road signs. The Salish Pend’d Oreille language appears with the English translation underneath.

These signs are a product of an ethno-geography project in western Montana in the past decade. The Culture Committee worked with the Montana Department of Transportation, the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other agencies to complete this task (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, 2004). The town of Kalispell is named for a Salishan word meaning, “flat land above the lake.” During the 1700’s, Salish was so prevalent as a language that settlers who spent time there noted that speaking solely Salish “one [could] converse from the United States to the Willamette without the necessity of an interpreter” (Jocelyn, 2010, Altalang.com). It made sense to preserve their language this way.

So why is language so important? Naming things is the first job God gave man.
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19).

If you have ever been responsible for naming a child or a place, you can imagine that this was no small undertaking. I have often asked my English students when we study etymology, “Can you think without words?” Language is part of what makes us who we are.

Our American culture embraces new words and blends new cultures into our existence daily. The United States is a melting pot not only of languages but of peoples. Children attend school with students of all races, creeds, and religions. Are you afraid to share your background with them? Show them how you call upon the name of Jesus because it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). This is a name to be shared on the many roads you travel regardless of the language.

Everyone needs to know that Jesus came to this earth for all people. He lived and worked among us. He suffered greatly in our behalf. He took the punishment of all people’s sins upon Himself. He was crucified, died, and then buried. He rose from the dead after three days and has ascended into heaven. We are thus forgiven. We share in the eternal inheritance in heaven and share the name of Christian. This is the Gospel message.

Sharing the Gospel is a command and a blessing to all believers. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9- 10).

Dear Lord, help me share the name of Jesus with all You put in my path so that every knee shall bow and worship Him. Thank You for the blessing of praying in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture references are from the ESV.

What’s in a Name?
Written by: Terri Bentley, Meridian, ID
Published by: Lutheran Women’s Missionary League 2013