The congregation is listening intently as Laumanu is standing in the pulpit. Barely five and a half feet tall, she is just able to peek her head over the top of the wooden stand which cradles her bible. Even though I still only understand a small portion of what she is saying, what draws me to listen is the manner in which she speaks - passionately, directly. The trade winds rustle the leaves of the coconut trees and within the pauses of Laumanu's reading of the first lesson, I can hear the birds outside as they greet the day.
I look down at my hymnal. I know I should be following along, but I have no idea where to even begin to look. Instead I carefully trace the faded gold lettering on top of the small blue book sitting in my lap. It's then that I feel someone's gaze directed my way. 3-year-old Mele is smiling at me from across the aisle. She and I don't have to say anything; with a quick arch of my eyebrows (a movement that translates to "yes"), she scurries across the walkway and jumps into my lap. She grabs the hymnal, opens it and starts pointing to words - grazing her finger from one song to the next attempting to whisper read though it's still so confusing to the both of us. She grabs my hand and I squeeze her a little tighter. Resting her head on my shoulder, she smiles as she plays with the bracelets on my wrist. Her two-year-old cousin waddles down the pew and starts to play with my hair - delicately touching the plumeria blossom I found on the road on the way to church this morning. Mele and her cousin spend the rest of the hour with me. The final prayer is spoken, the congregation makes moves to exit, the girls giggle, smile and wave goodbye as they skip down the road hand in hand.