COURTESY OF THE H-5 PROGRAM
The van, now missing, is shown here as H-5 volunteer Patrick Walters unloaded Hawaii Foodbank supplies. At left is the H-5 logo that is on the van.
Thieves steal ministry van used to feed the homeless
A van used by church volunteers to deliver hot meals to homeless people was stolen Monday night in Pauoa.
The volunteers who feed 2,300 people each month from the 1997 white Plymouth van hope the H-5 logo on the back will be recognized and lead to its return.
Utu Langi, founder of the Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope project, also hopes the thieves will have a change of heart.
"My Bible is in there. I hope they'll pick it up and read it," he said.
Langi parked the van in its usual spot on Pacific Heights Road near the Pauoa Road intersection Monday night, and discovered it missing yesterday morning. He reported the theft to police. The license number is GRT 818.
The H-5 program is based at First United Methodist Church, 1020 S. Beretania St. Hot food prepared in the church kitchen by volunteers Tuesday through Sunday is delivered to 11 sites from Waikiki to Waianae.
The thieves didn't stop the feeding program, said Langi, who used his own pickup truck last night to take food to about 20 people who take shelter under a Wahiawa bridge.
Today, volunteers will be at Kuhio Beach pavilion as usual.
But loss of the larger vehicle will be a hardship on the weekend when meals are served at multiple sites.
On Saturdays, Langi and his wife, Samiana, usually take their three children along for deliveries on the Leeward Coast, starting at Kaena Point and making at least 15 stops on the way back "wherever people are," he said.
"I want my kids to be thankful for what they have and realize they are always in a position to help someone, regardless of what they have," Langi said in a Star-Bulletin story last November. On Sundays, H-5 delivers dinners in Chinatown, Keehi Lagoon Park, Ala Moana Park and Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako.
Langi was honored by the Red Cross as its True Blue Hero for July for founding the meals project which, he said, "got rolling big time last year," inspiring a church member's husband to donate the van.
On Mondays, he uses the vehicle to pick up food from the Hawaii Foodbank and Safeway Stores.
This ministry had its roots in a random good deed in 1997.
Langi, driving home from work, passed a man curled up on a bus stop bench. He circled back and gave him the blanket he had used to cover his carpentry tools. Next he solicited blankets from his church, and the mission to the homeless has grown ever since.
"This is my way of saying mahalo to the Lord for what he has done for me," said Langi, who describes a life that included a jail term in Tonga at age 13 and felony drug convictions here. He is now enrolled at Hawaii Pacific University on track to a seminary education and ordination as a minister.
Anyone spotting the van should call the police at 911.