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Living Generously, Sharing Faithfully

How Do You Say Hello?

By Doug Bing, Washington Conference President


Here in the United States, we greet people with simple terms like “Hi, how are you?”


We usually don’t stick around to see how they really are. Frankly, the response is also usually a simple we are fine. Most often we respond that way because either we don’t want to say how we really are, or we know that the person doesn’t really want to know how we are.

Sawubona is the standard Zulu greeting. I don’t really know how it is received in that country. However, I was intrigued to learn that this particular greeting goes deeper than a typical hello.

The word sawubona literally means “I see you.”


It is deeper than just physically seeing someone. It refers in a deeper sense to seeing one’s personality, their humanity and their dignity.

The response to sawubona is the Zulu word ngikhona. It means “I am here.” The extended meaning states that you feel you have been seen, understood and recognized.

I like the deeper meaning behind these two words as it shows a respectful dignified connection between two people.

It also is rather like our connection with God. Samuel, as a young boy serving in the temple, learned this firsthand. The story goes that Samuel was asleep one evening, and he heard his name being called.

He went to Eli, the high priest, in response. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him. Samuel went back to bed, and it happened again. This happened three times. Eli finally told him that if it happens again to say, “Speak Lord for your servant hears,” I Samuel 3:9.

It was in that moment that Samuel realized that God Almighty saw him as a boy that God wanted to use for mission and ministry. In his response he merely said, “I am here.”

I believe that God is still saying to each one of us today Sawubona.


He tells us daily that He sees us. He knows our personality. He knows our humanity.

Yet he still says, “I see you,” He still says “I have something for you to do. I have a mission for you to fulfill. I have a ministry for you to be involved in.”

Our response needs to always be ngikhona. “I am here Lord. I want to have a connection with you and want to fulfill your will for my life.”

As we continue to pray this year for all churches to be revitalized and return to becoming growing churches, God has a role for you to play. He has a mission for you to fulfill.

Will you say to God “I am here. I will go and do what you ask of me to do”?