Church was every morning and evening. Our house sat right behind it, so if I chose not to go, I usually stayed hidden from the inquisitive brown eyes during the duration of the service. This particular evening, I was laying in the hammock strung across our veranda, reading. The hour of evening service was announced by the ringing of the church bell. Martin, the catechist, would take the old, rusty hammer reserved for this purpose, and strike the empty gas cylinder that hung from the eves of the open building. The clanging would ring throughout the village, signalling to the faithful that it was time to come again to get their souls wiped clean. A quietness settled over the village in that hour. The echoing axes stopped chopping, women laid off yelling at their young, and even the infants sensed that now as a time to be still.
I lay there in the hammock, listening with half an ear to the sounds of the service. The evening zephyrs carried scents of fragrant flowers that bloomed only at dusk, and also the prayers of the faithful. Streams of 'Lord have mercy' and 'Christ have mercy' were caught up on the breeze, wafting past me and up to heaven, hopeful offerings of fragrant incense to a God they really didn't know.
I let my book fall to my side, and rested my head back on the taut web of strings. The fading tropical sun's quick glory radiated through the trees, blessing the village with its golding light. I watched the clouds above the leaf roofs change from dusky rose, to orange, a quick, bright flash of molten amber, and then the sky became a palate of deep purples and blues as the sun sank below the ocean's rim.
From the church, lines from the closing hymn rose in the Islanders' perfect harmony:
'Abide with me, fast falls the evening tide.
When darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
All other helpers fail and comforts flee.
Help of the helpless, Lord, abide with me.'