Tom and I shared a leisure breakfast with friends at the outdoor café in Hawaii one Sunday morning. We stayed in a resort on the beautiful ocean shore. On the stroll back to our rooms after breakfast, my girlfriend, whom I nicknamed Sherona, mentioned she wanted to go to a church service. The guys declined but I took her up on it and changed into my skirt. We got into her rented convertible acting like Thelma and Louise, two liberated women on a mission.
But things turned sour.
Sherona and I talked too much on that highway and missed our turn off to the Catholic Church just down the road.
“Keep driving east about 25 miles, Sherona, and we’ll come to a park in the next town over with a bunch of churches on one block,” I said.
I knew it well since I took a tour of the island a day before.
We arrived and parked the car. Sherona insisted that we choose a new experience and attend the Hawaiian service. I tried to persuade her to consider the Baptist Church just three churches down with a big sign out front “Jesus Loves You and So Do We.” Sherona held her own for a more native type of service and I followed her into the Hawaiian Church but I had a bad feeling about it.
They spoke a language foreign to us. They refused to acknowledge us. We spoke to congregants but they ignored us. They did, however, allow us to toss our money in the basket when it passed. We were ostracized. Everyone received a blessing at the altar as the service closed except us.
We spent the afternoon in that little town going to lunch and cheering ourselves up eating ice cream and trying on clothes in the boutique.
When we got back to our hotel, we dressed for the party on the lawn at the resort. We found our husbands and told them all about our experience at church that morning.
Sherona’s funny husband quipped: “It’s a good thing they didn’t sacrifice you gals in the fire on that altar.”
I recognized the spirit in that little church and told my friends about my experience.
I toured the island just the day before. My guide, a native to the Big Island, talked a lot telling stories of the missionary’s years ago who took away beloved customs of Hawaiians in the name of Christianity. My guide confessed he’s a brother in Christ struggling with bitterness. He explained his fears and prejudice of white people. I spent eight hours with him, listening and gleaning insight. Clearly, I felt the wall. I didn’t imagine it. Fear feels heavy and cumbersome.
Here’s your tip; goodbye.
When we said goodbye, I shoved a big bill in his hand and gave him a hug. He deserved it not only for a five-star tour but for his honesty to be real and humble.
The disdain we experienced at church that Sunday morning demonstrated a lesson taught without a pulpit.
Hawaii gave me many new experiences: scooping up lava from erupted volcano ash, black sand beaches, wild orchids, Kona coffee at the coffee plantation, a picturesque waterfall that took my breath away. I must admit I saw, too, the ugliness of prejudice and its effect.
It’s funny. To this day, I’ve still never been to a Baptist Service! Something tells me I would be loved.