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Published: Saturday, 6/21/2008

Small group is fueled by faith to pray for lower gas prices

BY LAURA BENNETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Area residents gather before prayers at the Exxon-Mobil fuel station at McCord Road and Hill Avenue in Holland as part of Pray at the Pump. The movement calls on divine intervention to bring soaring gasoline prices back to Earth. (THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/audio.gif> <b><font color=red>HEAR</b></font color=red>: Worship members <a href=" /assets/mpg/TO48793620.MP3" target="_blank "><b>pray at the pump</b></a> 
 Area residents gather before prayers at the Exxon-Mobil fuel station at McCord Road and Hill Avenue in Holland as part of Pray at the Pump. The movement calls on divine intervention to bring soaring gasoline prices back to Earth. (THE BLADE/LISA DUTTON) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/audio.gif> <b><font color=red>HEAR</b></font color=red>: Worship members <a href=" /assets/mpg/TO48793620.MP3" target="_blank "><b>pray at the pump</b></a>
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As cars surged steadily down McCord Road, a familiar melody rose from the circle of people beside the gas pumps at the Exxon-Mobil station on the corner of Hill Avenue.

"He's got the gas prices, in His hands. He's got the gas prices, in His hands ..."

Heads bowed and hands clasped, Rocky Twyman and the congregants of his small worship session hoped to do what the country's leaders haven't: Put an end to the steep increase in national fuel prices.

"God is telling us to stop depending on ourselves so much and trust in Him," said Mr. Twyman, founder of Pray at the Pump. "Bush can't solve this. McCain and Obama are not going to be able to solve this."

Paul Aduba, pastor of Toledo's Anglican Church of the Pentecost, feels that Mr. Twyman's mission provides an valuable opportunity to put beliefs into practice.

"The problem with this country is called microwave Christianity," Mr. Aduba said. "You put it in, two minutes, it's done. Nobody wants to toil. Nobody wants to pray."

Before the prayer, the Rev. Mike Fortune, pastor at Toledo's First Seventh-day Adventist church, drove congregants in a lap around the station. The enthusiasm in the van was palpable.

About 15 participants, some parents with their teens, some from out of town, put their beliefs into practice. About 15 participants, some parents with their teens, some from out of town, put their beliefs into practice.
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"Diesel?" he asked. "OK!" the others responded. And they were off, filing out of the van in a chorus of whoops and shouts.

The event drew a diverse crowd of about 15 people, the "largest group yet," according to Mr. Fortune.

Some worshipers wore shirts with messages that read: "The church has left the building. Gone outreaching." Some were parents with teenagers or small children in tow. Some were in town from as far away as Washington.

"We know You love us like crazy, Lord. We just ask in Your name if You will work and intervene," said Mr. Fortune, as he looked toward the sky. "We also want You to bless this gas station and its owners."

As Mr. Fortune spoke, the crowd erupted into "Amens" and other murmurs of ap-proval. Mr. Aduba rocked on his heels.

Michael Hood of Holland was driving home after picking up his son from summer school when he saw people clustered at a gas station. He had read about the Prayer at the Pump movement and decided to join in.

"I truly believe that the people who are behind this - big gas companies and so forth - don't care about the people. It's just about how much money they can make, and how far they can push gas prices before there is a public outcry," he said.

While the group prayed, two trucks pulled up to the pumps. The drivers left without filling their tanks with gas.

"I just lost a diesel sale, so I'm not happy about that," said an employee of the gas station, who asked not to be named. "The owner said he would love to lower gas prices, but those people really need to target the corporations. It's the refineries, not us."

Chris Oliphant, 28, was riding by the station on his bicycle and stopped in to see what was causing the commotion.

"We need some hope. We need something to change," he said. "See, I drive, but I'm on a bike right now."

Yesterday the price of gas at several Toledo-area stations hit $4.09 a gallon. The national average for regular fuel was $4.075 a gallon, according to AAA. Since Mr. Twyman's project began in April, the price of gas has climbed steadily.

"These prices are getting really expensive and crazy," said Chrissy Bialecki, 17, who attended the prayer session. "But everybody knows that if you pray, things will happen."

Contact Laura Bennett at:

lbennett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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