Cross stolen from Hilo church


The cross is Christianity’s most prominent and cherished symbol, so the pastor and parishioners of a Hilo church were stunned when a 7-foot-tall cross was stolen last week from the front lawn of their house of worship.

“People are shocked,” the Rev. Merle Lai of United Community Church said Monday. “They’re saying they just can’t believe that this would happen. Who would dare to do it?”

Lai said a witness told her a “young white male jogger” took the white wooden cross and ran off with it.

“She said she saw the jogger run up to the cross and touch it, and that caused it to tip a little bit off balance,” Lai explained. “She saw him pull it up and just run off with it, carrying it on his shoulder along Kinoole Street in the Puna direction.”

Lai said the theft at the church, which is at the corner of Kinoole and Mohouli streets, happened about 9:25 a.m. Aug. 12.

“I’m very grateful she was able to call us and let us know what had happened,” she said. “Because of the heavy storm that we have faced, Iselle, I think that the base of the cross was loose. It was probably worn out, as well. We really should have looked at that particular structure, and we didn’t.”

On Monday, four small concrete blocks that anchored the cross lay next to a mound of soil where the uprooting occurred.

The reported witness didn’t return calls from the Tribune-Herald.

Police Lt. James Gusman said Tuesday the incident is being investigated as petty misdemeanor theft. He said police don’t have a detailed description of the suspect.

Lai said the cross stood in front of the historic church, which was once known as Hilo Chinese Christian Church, for about a quarter century.

“The cost of it was really minimal,” she said. “Twenty-five years ago, it was probably really inexpensive to construct the cross. But it meant so much to us. It’s priceless.

“… The cross memorializes Christ’s death and his resurrection. It reminds us of his victory over sin and death.”

Lai said there have been offers to pay for another cross, but the one stolen is a significant piece of the church’s history and can’t be replaced. She’s hoping someone will come forward with more information to help the church recover it, or that the thief will return the cross.

“There’s much forgiveness regarding what happened,” she said. “We just want to get the cross back and appreciate very much any help we can get from the community.”

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call the church at 935-8416 or the police nonemergency number at 935-3311.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.