Holy man makes return to our region

Clad in a white robe, his feet bare, the soft-spoken man who calls himself “What’s Your Name” sits in a Broomall house answering questions.

Suddenly, a heavy downpour outside stops. The long-haired, bearded figure politely excuses himself and heads to the window. Seconds later, he’s in the backyard searching for a rainbow among gray clouds that have just been hit with a blast of sunlight.

“A rainbow is something significant to people,” says What’s Your Name.

He doesn’t find one this time, but the evangelist, who spends most of his time outside, has seen more than a few rainbows while spreading his message in 47 states in the United States and in 13 foreign countries.

“Twelve years ago, I felt a calling to set out on foot without a coat and without money,” says What’s Your Name. “The basic message is love of God and love of neighbor. I do believe in Jesus as the savior, but everybody has God working in their lives. I encourage people to pray in their own way.”

Although his appearance is strikingly similar to popular images of Jesus, What’s Your Name stresses that he isn’t posing as the Christian Messiah.

“I am not imitating,” he says. “I happen to look somewhat like the icons and statues. I just happen to wear clothes for practical reasons that people identify with.”

What’s Your Name began his journey wearing typical street clothes with his hair cut short. As the clothes became worn through exposure and use, he explored alternatives, eventually making a garment similar to the flowing white robes he wears today.

“I made my first one many years ago,” he says. “I wear clothes that are loose fitting and visible at night.”

Around his neck, What’s Your Name wears a “Scapular,” a symbol of dedication to Christ that dates back to Christian sects of the middle ages.

It was while trekking through Mexico, that What’s Your Name decided to stop wearing shoes.

“To walk without shoes is to walk in faith. In Mexico, I noticed how people were already envious of my shoes,” he says. “I felt guilty. It’s hard for me to be comfortable having things I don’t need when so many others are without. Something I would criticize our culture about … we have so much more, why aren’t we sharing more?”

What’s Your Name has traveled through Ireland, England, Europe, Central America and Israel.

“I’ve been in the most dangerous areas in the world,” he says. “…In Israel, you feel instantly the spiritual power of the country.”

What’s Your Name also saw the effects of conflict.

“It’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If you’re not willing to forgive, there’s always going to be tension. There’s not enough mending.”

What’s Your Name wasn’t always on a spiritual mission. He began to have faith in God after experiences in his late teens.

“I remember God being mentioned once in the first 12-years of my life,” he says. “I had to find out the hard way the reality of evil and my need for healing.”

He adopted his current name and keeps details about his past secret to protect family members and keep the focus on God.

“I think one of the biggest things I do is provoke questions,” he says. “[What’s Your Name] is a name that makes people think.”

After a 19-month absence from the Philadelphia area, What’s Your Name has returned but isn’t sure how long he’ll stay.

As is his custom, he relies on his faith and the kindness of others.

“When it’s offered, I eat,” he says. “When it’s not, I go without. It strengthens your will. The will is important because it’s what we’re responsible for. You can choose to follow your conscience or you can choose to go against your conscience.”

During his time away, What’s Your Name walked south to Delaware and Washington, D.C. He also traveled briefly to Michigan.

Currently, he’s staying with Mary Elizabeth Battles of Broomall, whose association with the evangelist began some time ago.

“My sister Maureen and I were driving in King of Prussia,” says Battles. “We had just seen him on TV and we stopped. We offered him $100, he looked right at us and said ‘I couldn’t.'”

Battles began a friendship that day that has lasted three-and-a-half years. She allows What’s Your Name to stay with her when he’s in the area.

Recently he’s been doing a regular radio show 2 p.m. Thursdays on 800 AM WTMR in upstate Pennsylvania. It was while traveling through this region in 2000 that What’s Your Name first gained national attention.

The evangelist’s visit to Hazelton, Pa., was covered by an Associated Press reporter and the story ran in newspapers across the country. What’s Your Name then was featured on TV/s 20/20 and in Time magazine.

“It was about three years ago,” he says. “It just exploded.”

Despite his increased exposure in the media, What’s Your Name likes to minimize his consumption of news.

“I’m not really a news follower,” he says. “Part of the reason is it influences our way of thinking.”

What’s Your Name explains that he sees a lot of focus on negativity. “Yes, there is evil, but in the long run, there’s a greater good,” he says.

The evangelist points to the positive things that came from the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.

“The world united …,” he says. “I think what September 11 helped us do was to see the importance of God.”

What’s Your Name hopes the awareness continues in America.

“Because of our lifestyle, people have become distant from God, each other, and nature,” he says. “There needs to be balance. People’s lives are too caught up in the hustle and bustle.”

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News of Delaware County, USA
Sep. 25, 2003
Dan Russo

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