Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia, hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw.
Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday.
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.
His May 23 Facebook post read, “Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother”. He also invited his extended family, who had largely given up the practice of serpent handling, to come to the park.
Wolford was 15 when he saw his father die at age 39 of a rattlesnake bite in almost exactly the same circumstances.
“He lived 101 / 2 hours,” Wolford told The Washington Post last fall. “When he got bit, he said he wanted to die in the church. Three hours after he was bitten, his kidneys shut down. After a while, your heart stops. I hated to see him go, but he died for what he believed in.”