What's In A Name Anyway?
I recently wrote a blog to share about the new door God has opened for me. In that blog I explained that my family and I are working with Stadia Church Planting and a mission working in Southern Asia called Enhance. When I was asking God what else He wanted me to do for the kingdom while facing this aggressive cancer, he clearly opened this door! I also shared that this mission is about training and empowering young women in Southern Asia who desire to be leaders in their poverty-stricken villages to transform their communities. One of the leaders of Stadia was given the idea and name for this mission by God in the stillness of the night. God spoke!! These 25 women graduates who need our support are called “Gail’s Girls”. What an honor God has given me to represent these girls.
When I thought more about the name, it’s not just about my involvement or my legacy. I asked myself, “What does this name mean? And what’s in a name anyway?” I thought again about one of the reasons Stadia saw my family as one to be a catalyst for this venture. I thought about the chain of women leaders in my family. We have been privileged to live in a country where we have had the freedom to lead and to worship God. We have had many opportunities for education, mentoring, and growth. I want to share part of my story. Some of you reading this don’t really know me personally, but if you already know me and my family well, I don’t want to bore you. However, I want to give honor to God for His blessings and to those who have impacted my life greatly!
My name is Gail Hamilton. I was born 58 years ago to Paul (which means “humble”) and Betty (actually Elizabeth which means “consecrated to God”) Nevel, two young people in love with each other and with the Lord. Paul had been drafted into the Korean War 2 months after they were married. For the next 2 years their love and faith were tested and grew deeper. When Paul returned, they started a family and over the next 15 years they had 4 daughters and then a son. They built their family and faith on the name of Jesus. I am their second daughter and am extremely privileged to have been raised in a faith-filled family in a privileged nation! Unlike so many in this world, I was fortunate to live a wonderful life with a loving and supportive family, and I have had the chance to know Jesus all of my life.
My name, “Gail” comes from the name “Abigail”. It means “Father’s Joy”. I have always loved that about my name. I have tried to live up to the meaning by living in a way that would please my earthly father and my Heavenly Father.
My home church was the First Church of Christ in Altoona, PA. I loved going to church! We had great Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, relatives who attended, and adult mentors who made church not only a place to learn and grow, but also a place to have fun. I can think of the names of many who greatly impacted my life and my faith in those early years. I am grateful to all of these people! Along with my family, they helped me to build a relationship with the Lord and start to understand the power in the name of Jesus (which means Savior). I loved the opportunities I had, but I didn’t realize that so much of the world was not so fortunate.
I later went to Johnson Bible College, now Johnson University, for 2 years, and then transferred to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to study nursing. I met my husband, Don Hamilton, while at Johnson. Don is from Anderson, Indiana. Speaking of names….what is a “Hoosier” anyway?! Don says, “It’s a person from Indiana!” But there has to be more to the story! He also grew up in a Christian family, but lived the prodigal life for a while until God called him back.
It is interesting that the name “Don” means “world leader” as God not only called him back into a relationship, but He called him into full-time ministry as he is a very gifted leader. Over the last 34 years, Don has led Capital Area Christian Church in Mechanicsburg, PA as senior pastor. He has lead groups to various missions across the world, has been part of multiple church plants and church planting organizations, has mentored other pastors, and has led our church to greatly impact our community through various service opportunities. He also established Community Care Point, a non-profit organization, through which our community has been blessed with a community park, fitness trail, sports fields, exercise equipment and a one acre playground designed for wheelchair access for children of all abilities on the church’s campus. I could go on and on to tell you what a wonderful man and great leader Don is, but I will let the meaning of his name combined with the power of Jesus name, paint that picture for you.
I worked as a nurse for many years, and then taught nursing students at our community college as we had a family. I led the worship ministry at church for many years, as worshipping God through music is one of my passions. I later went back to school for my Master’s Degree and became a nurse practitioner. I learned to play the drums after graduating, which was another dream I had hoped to pursue. I’m sure it was not always pleasant for my family with the loud banging coming from our basement! However, it was my husband who bought the drums for my graduation present! This again shows what a good man he is and how he was willing to sacrifice for my desires. Over the last 11 years I have worked in Adolescent Medicine at Hershey Medical Center, working with young boys in residential drug and alcohol rehab and young people suffering with eating disorders... until life changed on December 16, 2016.
Don and I have 3 biological daughters who are all adults now. Andrea is our oldest and she works in full-time ministry as the children’s director for Mosaic Christian Church in Baltimore, MD. The name Andrea means “womanly and brave.” She certainly fits both of these descriptions. She is a very gifted leader, willing to take risks with fresh ideas, and always adds the element of fun. We always say, “She is a party waiting to happen!” She readily shares Christ with those who don’t know him yet. Although she is small, she is mighty, yet filled with grace and wisdom.
Our second daughter, Lauren, works for the March of Dimes, a non-profit organization, in Nashville, TN, as their senior development manager, directing and managing fund-raising events. She is married to Dan Jones, who also grew up in our church. He is a very talented drummer, and they are pursuing some of his dreams in music. Lauren’s name means “crowned with laurels, and independent”. She too is a gifted leader and naturally takes on leadership responsibility with creativity. She enjoys organizing events - from her job, to ministry, to any family event. We know if Lauren plans an event, it will be creative, fun, and organized! She is independent, confident, and passionate about her faith in Christ.
Kristin is our youngest daughter. The name Kristin means “follower of Christ”. Kristin has a passion for teenagers and is the student ministries pastor at our church. She leads with a deep spiritual wisdom, love, and passion for her students to know Jesus. She walks with them through the tough issues of life and holds them accountable to Jesus, the One who holds the answers. She leads from a tender heart with deep convictions, and she’s great at loving the teens while keeping them on task at the same time.
After having 3 daughters, I felt we were done. However, Don really wanted 4 children. He was actually quite happy with 3 daughters and wanted another daughter! Little did we know at the time, but God had plans for another daughter in our lives. Rachel came into our lives when she was 16 years old and was 5 years older than Andrea. She was being severely abused by both of her parents, and finally decided to disclose what was happening to her counselor at church camp, who happened to be my sister, Julie.
Over many years, and through many miracles of God’s power, healing, therapy and love, Rachel became our “added daughter”. It is interesting that the name Rachel means “ewe, female lamb” and “daughter”. In the Bible, Jacob had to wait and work 14 years to finally have Rachel as his wife. Our Rachel waited a long time too to receive the love and freedom she deserved. She is married to Mark Mullelly, a wonderful man and father. They have given us a 3-year-old grandson, Finn. His full name is Finnegan Mark Mullelly, a true Irish name! Finnegan means, “little fair one, fair-headed”. Yes, just like his daddy, he has the Irish red-hair and fair skin! Rachel is leading the missions and community outreach ministries in their church near Philadelphia, PA. She is also teaching a Bible study at a women’s shelter in their community. She is passionate about missions and spent 6 weeks working with a mission in southern India when she was in college, and later lived 9 months in an orphanage in Haiti working with children.
It seems that God put a lot of strong women leaders in our household and we are extremely blessed and grateful! My three sisters, Bonnie Hamer, Julie Nevel, and Karen Kennedy, are also strong women leaders in ministry. My mother led her children with a graceful and Godly spirit and served in children’s ministry for many years. I only knew my maternal grandmother while growing up, and she too was a strong woman leader of faith in her church and in the community. My grandfather passed away when she was only 55 years old. She had not previously worked outside the home before he got sick. She learned to drive, got a job as a bookkeeper at the local YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) and within several years, she became the executive director!
Women leaders of faith have a strong impact on their communities and are key leaders in the Kingdom of God. I have seen and experienced the evidence of this impact. I am privileged to be part of a chain of such women. It is exciting to be used by God and I have loved serving in ministry with my husband and helping to mentor my daughters and other young women.
I don’t tell my story to “brag” on my wonderful family. I realize that I have had an exceptional life and many, many blessings from God. I have found that when you are facing your mortality, you think more deeply about things and their meanings. You do more evaluating of your life – the good and the bad. You look more deeply into your past and here I have found great privilege and abundant grace and blessings that can only be attributed to Christ and to those before me who loved and lived for Christ. I am part of a chain of faithful Christ followers.
I have always thought about the Scripture in Luke 12:48, which reads, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required." (NLT) I know this pertains to me!
I encourage you to think about and thank those who have had a positive impact on your life. Think about the ways God has blessed you and how He has been pursuing you with his love and blessings. Even if you come from a chain of severely broken lives, you have the opportunity and privilege to be the ONE who breaks that chain and put Christ in every link forward. This will change your future and your legacy!
Please consider joining me as we extend a positive chain of love, support, and leadership to 25 young women, Gail’s Girls, in Southern Asia. What’s in this name? – a group of young Christian women who are their Heavenly “Father’s joy”, through their faithfulness, trust and passion for Jesus, changing lives and transforming communities in the midst of poverty and persecution. Our legacy will grow together as they continue to bring thousands more to Christ in his difficult part of the world! Please view the videos that Don and I have recorded at www.gailsgirls.org. Thank you for your many prayers and for walking this journey with us!