Children crowded the simple wooden benches on the right side of the church. Village elders and older children filled the benches facing in from the wings, while we sat with other local adults on the benches to the left of the aisle. Tapestries of the Good Shepherd and the Last Supper spread across the white wall above the pulpit, while a minister spoke in compassionate Fijian to the children.
After a pause a boy raised his hand and spoke, perhaps answering a question put to them. Mynah birds squawked outside as a quiet giggle rippled through the congregation, then the minister spoke on, smiling.
Sitting on the bench behind me, Al, my Fijian guide, tapped my shoulder and explained in a whisper what had just happened.
"The preacher was giving the children a lesson on the evils of alcohol. He explained that he put an earthworm in a bottle, then filled the bottle with alcohol, and the worm died. 'Now what is the lesson here?' he asked the children. The boy raised his hand and said, 'You have to drink a lot of beer to kill the tapeworm inside.'"
The congregation broke into song, and it was a good thing because I couldn't hold back my laughter and Al laughed along with me under the cover of the hymn that bounced off the simple white walls and flowed over the community and out to sea.