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Pahoa turns to prayer as lava bears down on town

    Rose Soto

Pahoa, Hawaii >> It’s been said that prayer has the ability to move mountains, so why not lava?

That was the message Sunday evening where more than 100 people gathered behind the Pahoa Community Center to send their prayers and blessings to all those who may soon have their lives turned upside down by the so-called June 27 lava flow. 

Smoke from the lava heading toward the small town of about 900 people was visible in the sky while pastors from several different area churches led individual prayers for attendees.  

Hawaii island resident Angela Woods attended the invocation alongside her husband, Maika Woods, and their three sons, Kala’e, Kekuahiwi, and Maluhia. She said that almost two-thirds of her church could be affected by the lava — a thought that inspired her to take action and reach out. 

After a few emails, Woods got in touch with New Hope Pastor Morris Niimi, who helped organize the prayer circle. He said he was more than eager to gather people for a moment of peace during this trying time. 

“You know, the people here are in turmoil,” he said. “I sense the anxiety. That’s why we want to be available to the people and lift their spirits.” 

Morris said in the event that lava progresses into the Pahoa Village in the next few days to weeks, he along with other church members are prepared to help those in need by opening up their doors and providing assistance where they can. 

“We’re willing to help the people, no matter what it takes,” he said. 

The Rev. Diane Hultman, member of the Pu’ula Congregational Church in Kapoho, also had an inspiring message that evening. 

“In 1960, lava came down and surrounded the church, but didn’t destroy it,” she said. “There’s always hope.” 

As of Sunday, Hawaii County officials said the lava had “slowed considerably.” 

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported Sunday that the decrease may be linked to a deflation at the summit. If that’s the case, HVO said the flow advance rate could rise again in the coming days as the summit resumes inflation. 

A brush fire caused by the lava that started Saturday. The fire began in a remote area above Apaa Road mauka of Highway 130 and county officials said the fire had been contained on Sunday. 

Construction continues on the Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road — two roads that will be essential to area drivers if lava severs Highway 130.  

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said the roadwork will be done by Wednesday. 

The next lava flow community update meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

County officials are currently running an Incident Command Center and Informational Resource Center at Pahoa Community Center. Residents with questions are welcome to visit the center from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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