Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 22, 2022

Hale Pule 2022

 Although I am an atheist, and I believe I have been since the time of childhood, I can't help but miss this old church.

It's a small, simple wooden church with no grandeur or gothic architecture. Instead, because of its quaint and humble appearance, it blends into the tall lantana and wild grass that grows around it. It never made sense to have a church like this sitting on the remnants of an old coral reef that now sits three miles from the beach. Especially here in Wai'anae, I always felt like this church compounded the problems in our community rather than resolving them. It wasn't all bad, though; at one time, the pastor and his family helped feed and clothe us in exchange for some of my father's handy work with the steeple, some plumbing, and fixing up the pastor's car. Needless to say, my parents ended up spending a lot of time at that church. Me? I ran around with the pastor's kids while services were going on. We tried to stay quiet while the services were going on. Sometimes we were not successful. But, as we got older, the pastor's daughter Darlene and I fell in love. I had an excellent job, and my dad was back on his feet now working as a foreman at an appliance warehouse in Kalihi, and they lived in a much better place. A dinner was arranged with my parents, myself, Darlene, and her parents. (the pastor and his wife) The dinner was great; it was lively and jovial, without tension or awkwardness. That is until there was a pause in the conversation. "Daniel," the pastor nodded toward my father. "Mary," he nodded to my mother. "Elise and myself, well, our whole family. We love you and Mary and John here; I mean, we practically built the congregation of this church with your help. I mean, where would I have been without you, Daniel?"

"Thank you, pastor Ed," my father smiled. "It's all in service to the church and the lord's work."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," it seemed like a great weight had been lifted off pastor Ed's shoulders, which seemed strange. "Which I know you and Mary will understand that Elise and I cannot approve of this thing between John and our daughter."

"You're members of the congregation, you see?" Elise tried to explain. "Now, if it were the son of another pastor, it wouldn't be a problem, but it's John."

"I don't understand what you mean?" It wasn't hitting my father quite right; he had so much love and respect for pastor Ed that he didn't realize right away that Pastor Ed and his wife were saying they didn't want a dark-skinned Hawaiian boy dating their daughter. "You're the only pastor here," when my father got it, his demeanor changed. He stared at the pastor and his wife for a full minute before saying anything else. "Wait, Pastor Ed, you can't be serious?"

"Our mission has always been to save this community from their savage, heathen ways. You've been instrumental in doing that, but even god knows that men like myself and my family, we can't lay with the savages, right? Darlene and John think they're in love because they're young, but it will pass. We actually know a pastor in Pearl City who has a nice upstanding son that Elise and I both approve of," Pastor Ed reached over and squeezed Elise's hand while Darlene sat there humiliated. I was pissed beyond words, but my parents were the most upset. After everything they did to help the church and contribute to its success, they realized that we meant nothing to them. "Pastor Ed," my father said as he stood up from the table along with my mother. "No matter the circumstance, my wife and I would gladly accept Darlene into our family as a daughter-in-law because she's a good girl, and Darlene is brilliant. We know John would be a good husband and maybe a father, and it's not because he's our son; it's because he's a good man, a good human being, and that's all that should matter. That's what we Hawaiians call aloha. It's unconditional and without judgment. Isn't that what god's love is supposed to be about? I am not a pastor but a lowly Hawaiian, and I know that. Pastor Ed, you're a fool, and I would never waste my son's good qualities on a family like yours, you hypocrite."

My parents never went back to that church, but something strange happened not too long after. The pastor's wife suddenly fell ill for several months. She never recovered and passed away before the year was up. My father heard about it and was decent enough to see the pastor and offer his condolences. Pastor Ed fell into my father's arms in tears, apologizing to him for his arrogance. My father accepted his apologies, but the damage was done. By the middle of the following year, Pastor Ed left the church and moved back to the mid-west from whence he came. My father took over as the temporary pastor until he could be fully ordained while still working his warehouse job. So, today, as we drive away in the hearse from this ancient church in Wai'anae, where my father's funeral services were held, I am overcome with nostalgia and pride. I may be an atheist, but I'll miss this church because my father helped build it, repair it, and build it again. He was the true foundation of this house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

credit: Pinterest



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