RIP Mack WolfordSubmitted by RoadSong at 2012-05-30 17:50:44 EDT
Rating: 1.16 on 6 ratings (17 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
It is not my place to judge or mock the beliefs of others. I leave that to judges and mockers...
Fact is, I thought Mack Wolford to be edgy-wild-weird, and he was on my list of people that I intended to speak with during my next roadtripping. My intention was to do some filming. Too little too late. Religion and what it does to the heart of a man or woman has always made me feel curious.
He died for what he believed in, and for that he gets street cred.
By Julia Duin, Special to The Washington Post
Posted May 30, 2012, at 5:37 a.m.
Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.
He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The son of a serpent handler who had himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not. He was the kind of man reporters love: articulate, friendly and appreciative of media attention. Many serpent-handling Pentecostals retreat from journalists, but Mack didn’t. He’d take them on snake-hunting expeditions.
Last Sunday started as a festive outdoor worship service on a sunny afternoon at Panther Wildlife Management Area, a state park roughly 80 miles west of Bluefield, W.Va. In the preceding days, Wolford had posted several teasers on his Facebook page asking people to attend.
“Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother” he wrote on May 23.
The festivities came to a halt shortly thereafter and Wolford was taken back to a relative’s house in Bluefield to recover, as he always had when suffering from previous snake bites. By late afternoon, it was clear that this time was different, and desperate messages began flying about on Facebook asking for prayer.
Wolford was 15 when he saw his dad die at age 39 of a rattlesnake bite in almost exactly the same circumstances.
"I hated to see him go, but he died for what he believed in.”
In a Post interview for last year’s story, Jim Murphy, curator of the Reptile Discovery Center at the National Zoo, described what happens when a rattlesnake bites.
The pain is “excruciating” when there is a bite, he said. “The venom attacks the nervous system. It’s vicious and gruesome when it hits.”
But Mack Wolford refused to fear the creatures. He slung poisonous snakes around his neck, danced with them, even laid down on or near them. He displayed spots on his right hand where copperheads had sunk their fangs. His home in Bluefield had a spare bedroom filled with at least eight venomous snakes: usually rattlers, water moccasins and copperheads that he fed rats and mice. He was passionate about wanting to help churches in nearby states — including North Carolina and Tennessee, where the practice is illegal — start up their own serpent-handling services.
“I promised the Lord I’d do everything in my power to keep the faith going,” he said in October. “I spend a lot of time going a lot of places that handle serpents to keep them motivated. I’m trying to get anybody I can get involved.”
His funeral will be held Saturday at his church, House of the Lord Jesus, in Matoaka, a town just north of Bluefield.
*Lights candle and White Sage*
Pastor Mack Wolford.gif