Category Archives: Church

West Coast rumble?

Screenshot 2016-03-17 03.07.06I’ve covered plenty of revivals in my time but what happens when one starts at your own church? Most are calling it the “West Coast Rumble” and naturally, it has its own Twitter handle already. Yep: #WestCoastRumble. Two 30-something pastors are key to the events here. The meetings started the last weekend in February and they haven’t stopped yet. First, some background. Last fall, I began attending a charismatic church called Seattle Revival Center that’s in a suburb called Newcastle across Lake Washington from Seattle and about nine miles from where we live. Chelsie, a woman who has special needs kids befriended me and (my daughter) Veeka, which was an enormous inducement to continue attending there.

Charlie Shamp's preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current revival services in Seattle

Charlie Shamp’s preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current “West Coast rumble”  just east of Seattle.

Starting Feb. 25, the church had a revival weekend – a “declaration” conference they called it – that I didn’t attend, as I had another conference in town that was more important for me to be at. Nashville evangelist Charlie Shamp, the Sunday morning speaker, got such a good reaction that they had a Sunday evening meeting as well. I had listened to Sunday morning online off the church’s website as my daughter wasn’t feeling great. I found the service rather underwhelming, to be honest, but others didn’t and so many people were said to be getting healed of various ailments, they extended meetings to Wednesday. I dropped by briefly that Wednesday night, but Veeka’s early rising hours the next day meant I couldn’t stay.
So I began watching services each night on the live feed from the church’s web site. What’s kind of fun is the chit-chat between those of us watching it (one can log in and leave comments and they have Google translate for non-English speakers) and the folks in the service will actually pray for petitions you email in. Some folks have contacted the church to say they’ve been healed while sitting by their computer watching it all. There’s no way to verify a lot of that but I’ve never heard of revival services incorporating various devices the way this one does.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

That Thursday night (March 3), Shamp was being handed cell phones by some of the congregation whose friends had called in asking for prayer. On Friday night, Shamp asked audience members to call people right there and pray for them with their cell phones lifted up. I am sure this evangelist had only planned to stay in Seattle this one weekend and he wasn’t expecting a revival to spring up around his preaching, but as folks kept on showing up at the church, he’s remained in town. I’m not sure whether his wife has had to Fed Ex him a suitcase of clean clothes, but I think he turned 34 while all this was going on.
The pastor of Seattle Revival Center, aka SRC, is called Darren Stott and he too just had a birthday – I think that too was his 34th. He’s a pretty hip dude who gives some profound sermons but I don’t think even he was expecting something to blow up at his church. My grasp on some details is a bit foggy, but beginning in January, there was a revival at another church in San Diego that had the SRC folks all excited. Some even flew down to experience it, as they said there had been prophecies of a revival going up the Interstate-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver, BC (which is technically not on I-5 but we won’t argue over details).
Here is this Darren’s explanation of these meetings. One of his better quotes: “It feels like God has flown through the windshield of our bus, knocked us out of our seat, hijacked the bus and taken us to a new place we’ve not been before.”

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Another moniker they’re applying to this event is “apple wine;” Washington state being the country’s largest producer of apples, exporting some 125 million boxes a year. So, there’s always an apple sitting by the podium during the service and there’s even a prophecy (from the San Diego folks) about God releasing apple wine over Seattle and the entire state. Which is pretty funny considering how secular a place this is. Politically, it’s bluer than blue. Culturally…let’s just say that when I take my many religion books to Half Price Books, a well-known local used book retail outlet, they just stare at me and explain how there’s no demand for books about God. In terms of religious movements, at least Los Angeles had Azusa Street (a famous 1906 revival that lasted four years) but nothing like that has happened further up the Left Coast.
In one of his taped messages a week or two into these meetings, “I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” Darren said. “The Pacific Northwest is one of the most difficult places to be a pastor. Churches are closing down all over the place…(but) this is what I was born for!” That said, he added that he’d had 15 hours of sleep in three days, as people were flooding the place.
It’s sure been interesting to see how SRC has marshaled resources  to try to meet the demand. I talked with one couple who said they were experienced at handling revivals and they’d quickly shown up to offer their services at managing things. The church’s website was ramped up to provide some history of the past three weeks plus new graphics have been added plus links to videos of the meetings. Whoever’s doing the camera work for the services is pretty good although I know the church staff is stretched to the max and there’s been announcements asking for members to help out more. Soon after the meetings started, they put a black taped line around the perimeter of the sanctuary as a place for people to stand when they want prayer. It’s an efficient way to manage a lot of people at one time.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer. Notice the catcher in back of her.

Anyway, on Saturday night (the 5th), a guest pastor named Suri came up to do the prayer for the offering. He called up two SRC pastors and then the three of them collapsed to the ground convulsed in laughter. So we watched the three of them roll about on the floor (one holding an apple) as everyone walked up and put money into the collection baskets. There’s a lot of talk about getting “drunk” on this apple wine of the Spirit at these meetings and some take that literally.
The truly funny moment (to me) was when Jeannette Wuhrman, the female half of the couple that helps out with revivals, got up to say announcements. She gave instructions on leaving one’s email near the back so they could be updated by the church on what’s going on “as soon as we know what that is.” That doesn’t sound funny but it actually was, because of course the church doesn’t have a clue what the end result of these meetings will be and they seem to be making it up as they go. Which lends an endearing quality, actually, as nothing is worse than something that’s obviously produced.
Most of the meetings are centered around Shamp calling out healings that he believes are happening among people there, or among those listening online or even among folks who know nothing of these meetings but have some connection with those attending or listening in. The church has posted one set of X-rays by someone claiming healing from cancer. There was one woman who got up at a service to say she was healed and then I saw her a few days later back in her wheelchair. Hmmm. There’s been echoes of 1990s Toronto revival stuff at these meetings; people claiming that God has given them gold fillings in their teeth (SRC has actually posted a photo of one such person’s mouth) plus reports of feathers drifting through the air. I’ve not seen any of the latter.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

I finally did get to attend an entire meeting on Saturday the 5th on a rainy night. I’d say the sanctuary was about two-thirds full but not packed by a long shot. My daughter came with me and soon after we arrived, we went to the front and were prayed over briefly by the evangelist but nothing seemingly happened, so we repaired to a seat near the back. Next, there were several baptisms. I was noticing that the worship team had been playing pretty continuously since 7 pm and they had to be exhausted. There’s been a different worship team each night. This group came from elsewhere in the state, so apparently someone’s been calling around to bring in reinforcements or bands are calling the church to volunteer their services.
At around 10:30 p.m., everyone who wanted prayer lined up on the aforementioned border of black tape that had been placed around the sanctuary. Easily 70 or so folks lined up. As the evangelist and other ministers moved around the perimeter of the room, most of those being prayed for – like 99% – fell back to the ground in a faint-like trance known as being ‘slain in the Spirit.’ When they prayed for Veeka, she dropped to the ground and said later that she felt faint and overwhelmed, albeit in a good way. Unlike nearly everyone else, I did not fall. Believe me, I’ve been prayed over by the best of them – from Rodney Howard Browne (here’s my essay on what that was like) to the folks at the Toronto Airport Vineyard – and it simply doesn’t happen to me and I’ve stopped stressing over it. Veeka felt convinced that something deep had happened to her during the service and she had great hopes of being healed.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

We returned the following Wednesday night (the 9th) where they were having a special prayer time for kids. Veeka went up for prayer, but felt nothing and didn’t drop to the ground as she had before. Plus, she was distraught over having prayed for healing on Saturday and then Wednesday night, only to have nothing happen. Kids don’t process too well not being healed when the preacher is stating that folks are getting delivered of everything from bladder problems to cancer via their cell phones, so I’ve not taken her to any nightly services since. Adults can better handle such disappointment, but kids don’t. I will say she likes listening to the nightly services on her iPad at home, so you never know.
I went back last night (the 16th) briefly. There were about 100 people there when the service started and maybe 125 when I had to leave to pick up Veeka from the Awana meeting, then went home to listen to the rest of the service online. Shamp was calling out specific healings, ie a woman listening in online who was hooked up to a breathing apparatus and a man with the last name of MacDonald. When people come up to the front to be prayed over, he places a hand on their forehead, blows on them and 9 out of 10 will crumple to the ground.

Suri (a visiting pastor) and two SRC pastors lie on the dias during a service laughing hysterically or "drunk" with "apple wine."

Suri (a visiting pastor in the white shirt) and two SRC pastors lie on the platform during a service (choose one) laughing hysterically or “drunk” with “apple wine.”

“Wheat God reveals, He heals,” he said – or maybe it was Darren who said that – can’t remember. “How many of you know it’s a done deal?”
It got very weird at one point last night when Shamp was asking everyone to say “Yum, yum” (in reference to the apple wine, I guess) and believing the Spirit would fall on them if they did so. “Less thinking, more drinking,” he would tell folks as a number of them were strewn about on the floor. I’m guessing SRC has had to requisition every able-bodied male they can find on the church rolls to be “catchers” for all the falling bodies.
So, what do I think? I’ve reported on and attended a bunch of these revivals, ranging from Toronto to Brownsville, many of which had petered out or ended badly. I remember interviewing the two pastors at the head of the Brownsville meetings and I asked them what was the most unexpected thing about having such an event at their church.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

“Toilet paper,” they said. When the crowds show up, you can’t get enough of it. God knows that folks here in the Northwest have felt at the periphery of spiritual renewal. Other than pioneers like Dennis Bennett, this area is not a place known for its great spiritual life although the meteoric rise (and fall) of Mars Hill Church showed that the local populace will attend a house of worship if they find it engaging enough.
I’m certainly not on any inside track at this church, so I don’t know what sort of discussions are going on about the coming weeks. Judging from the online comments during the service, people are tuning in from around the world and there is a procession of local pastors visiting the place. One of them there tonight was a Nazarene, which amazed me, considering that his denomination is not known for being open to charismatic phenomena.

Easter celebration

Mother Carol (the rector) and Veeka

Recent Easters have been pretty crummy weather-wise but this one came through with cool, windy and sunny weather. Some of us were talking about how Easter frocks are never made for the real weather that comes this time of year. What one gets on the racks are summery dresses when the reality is quasi-wintry weather. Anyway, the day before, Veeka participated in an egg hunt at St. Andrews where she happily collected lots of plastic eggs with stickers and some candy. We returned there the next day for Sunday service, followed by a leisurely afternoon with old friends Karen and Tim Forsyth and their son David. It was this time 30 years ago that I was about to fly to France to spend 10 weeks running about Europe. I based myself in Paris, where Karen – who was almost but not quite engaged to Tim at the time – was working as an au pair. It was a fabulous spring running around Europe after 3 years of working my tail off as a police reporter at the Enterprise Courier in Oregon City. And so, 3 decades later, here we are. It is good to have old friends. We even dyed Easter eggs; something I have not done in who-knows-how-long.

Our little egg collector

The aforementioned Wall Street Journal piece got 37,000 (!) hits the weekend it ran and that was before it was picked up on Drudge that Monday morning. The young serpent-handling pastor I wrote about was overjoyed at the news – and then this week he was laid off of his minimally paying job at the local supermarket. Am hoping that someone in the IGA hierarchy didn’t go after him because of the article. As he has a wife and 4 kids 5 and under, I am very concerned about him because there aren’t tons of jobs in La Follette, Tennessee. Also on the writing front, I got another Post magazine article published this weekend. You can read it here. I only had two weeks to put it together but it was fun – has nothing to do with religion but it does concern a new local university that gives out BS and MS degrees in animal studies.

Karen, Tim, Veeka and moi

Currently presents and cards are arriving on our doorstep for that big Day of Days: Veeka’s 7th birthday. I just finished making 21 pink strawberry cupcakes starting at 10 pm for her little classmates to eat up. Invites to her birthday party have already gone out and I’ve bought some of the decorations. I sent out 13 invites, most of them to her classmates and although a few have told Veeka they are coming, none of the parents have contacted me (except one to say her kiddo can’t make it) which is pretty stunning; what do these folks think the word “RSVP” means?? So I have no idea how to plan, how many adults and/or teens to ask to come by to help, how much food to buy, punch to make, etc. etc. Since I needed to get some branches of one of my backyard trees cut down, I had the lovely idea of putting a tree house up there. Veeka is dying to have one ever since I told her that I read books in trees when I was little. And Oma did the same thing. And Veeka is just starting to read. But there are no climbable trees nearby. Then I got the estimate for how much it’d cost. Sigh. It’s about $1,200. Yes, I know the materials are $400+ and the labor is $600+, but still…Am taking contributions for Veeka’s Treehouse Fund if anyone feels so moved!

Veeka’s baptism

Well, it was a lovely time. Veeka kept on saying all day, “I’m so happy! I’m so happy!” And she had every right to be. On the morning of Nov. 6, we had to be at the church at 9:30 a.m. to meet up with the photographer so I got her up early for breakfast and then to get dressed in a long flowing white dress and veil that I borrowed from a Catholic friend. (Those First Communion dresses come in handy!) So this first photo shows Veeka happily standing in front of her bedroom mirror in her dress – and new flowered hair band and white shoes that I dashed out and bought – the black shoes she had from Carley’s wedding just didn’t seem right.

The princess and her mirror

Then it was off to church with me balancing a baptism sheet cake I was providing for the parish coffee hour afterwards. The bakery folks at Giant had fun putting that together.

Of course a few things went wrong – some of them all at once. The clasp on the dirndl I was wearing (might as well get in some of that ethnic Duin background) broke and I was shrieking with dismay until a kind woman from the altar guild put me – and the apron – back together with straight pins. Then Veeka decided – during a photo session on the steps outside the church – that she didn’t like a flash. After she began to wail, we had to jettison that sitting. Then the spot where we hoped to take photos inside the church was blocked by the baptismal font that wasn’t supposed to be there until closer to 10 a.m. – one reason we got there earlier was to get to the steps before the font was moved. Well, it was an ancient font and we were told in no uncertain terms that no, it could NOT be moved again for some photos. Then the godparents were running late, which put our rehearsal late – but oh well, it all turned out as you can see from this recording of the service. Or you can click here and then click again where it says “baptism.”

What the parishioners got to eat

And yes, that tiny little voice giving the “I do”  and “I renounce them” responses is Olivia Veronika herself. After all was said and done, the rector walked her up and down the aisle to present her to the congregation. And to top it all off, Veeka got to have her First Communion that day as well. She definitely got into sipping the wine. It was All Saints Sunday, a traditional time for people to be baptized.

In a later post, I’ll run some of the fabulous photos the photographer has – those haven’t arrived yet but already I am so glad I paid for someone to shoot the occasion, leaving me free to enjoy it. By the way, the godparents were Jeff Kuhner, Grace Vuoto (who is married to Jeff) and Laurie Vuoto. They arrived with their 18-month-old son Ashton who they adopted less than a month ago. He actually behaved quite well during the whole service. My brother Rob and his new wife, Jan, were there, as was old friend Tim Forsyth. The photographer, Lauren Pond, is the shooter I worked with not only for the Papa Fest story but for the snakehandler story which I am glad to say came out in the Post this weekend! You can read it here. Notice I am now referred to as a ‘contributing writer.’ And do scroll through the gallery of Lauren’s photos.

I arranged for a small reception at the house afterwards – will say the table sure looked nice and yes, I decorated those cupcakes.

Baptism brunch chez nous

Various people brought food and I got the punchbowl out, some of Veeka’s teachers from St. Matthews came plus a few of her little friends. She, of course, didn’t want to take her dress off for the rest of the day. We really appreciated the gifts and money people brought or sent. During the baptism, Veeka wore the new gold cross necklace that Oma and Opa sent. Her godparents also gave her a lovely white gold necklace, so now we can toss some of the cheapo jewelry out that she’s been wearing up until now.  We were also blessed with sunny weather that Sunday which is why, in the middle of the reception at the house, Tim offered to help clean my gutters. (He’d noticed from an upstairs window what a mess they were). So, during the reception, he and I were hauling a ladder about the yard. Must have been quite a sight with me in the dirndl with that ladder. But him doing that kind deed saved me the $90 or so I was planning to pay a gutter company.

Playing with balloons

And so I’ll leave you with this image of Veeka pulling on the six balloons we had for the occasion. Must say, I am glad more than ever I did not baptize her as a young child. I don’t agree with infant baptism as I believe the rite is something where the person assents to belief in Christ on their own; not with someone else assenting for them. Dedicating babies is fine but baptism needs to be reserved until a person can say for themselves that they believe. Seeing Veeka take possession of her faith, as it were and – being that she was the only person baptized that Sunday – getting to be the real star of the show that day created in her a happy memory she will never forget.

Preparing for baptism

The days have slipped into an ordinary routine and out-of-town trips are over for a long while – as far as I know – as for the second Christmas in a row, Oma and Opa are flying here. It is too bad they are not here now, as there is every play and ballet imaginable going on in town now. During Christmas, there is never anything to do, but how I’d love to go to all the theater available here. Right now it’s a luxury I just can’t take part in. Seeing “Wicked” was it for the year.

"This Little Light of Mine"

Pictured here is Veeka appearing in a cute little show she was in during the church retreat. Note the little candles on their T-shirts. All the kids were singing “This Little Light of Mine.” Speaking of which, Veeka is getting baptized in less than two weeks. She asked Jesus into her heart a year ago (Nov. 8 to be exact) and lately she’s been wanting to partake of Communion. She has a very alive spirituality and is always asking if she can give Jesus a hug and when will He return on a white horse? So she and I met with the priest the other day and organized the ceremony. A Catholic friend has loaned us a white First Communion dress (although it’s pretty summery so I may need to find some kind of white lacy sweater) and every night now, Veeka and I have been going over basics like The Lord’s Prayer and her responses to questions like: “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?” And she’s learning how to say, “I renounce them!” We’re talking about how to say it good and loud so the congregation can hear. She’s got to say that three times and then, when she’s asked “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept Him as your savior?”, to reply “I do!”

Our little vocalist

Explaining Satan to her is a bit trickier but I’ve told her Satan is like the White Witch in the Narnia tales. Now that, she understands.

This past weekend, had a friend, Joey Marguerite, as a house guest – she from Lewis & Clark days. She’s become a singer and a songwriter, which fascinates Veeka to no end. Veeka, I’ve decided, might not be cut out for ballet but she seems to be a prodigy when it comes to dancing to jazz. Halloween activities will be taking up this coming weekend although the weather is turning sour on us. They are even talking about snow?!

Snake handling, part 2

Veeka outside the Green Valley Book Fair building

This is of the Little One standing in front of a famous site in the Shenandoah Valley where there is this huge warehouse of books. Right in the middle of nowhere. The Green Valley Book Fair  has intermittent book sales and I’ve never been able to get there when they were open until Labor Day weekend.

OK…we left off at arriving in Grundy, Va., in the middle of nowhere in the western part of the state not far from Breaks Interstate Park on the Tennessee line. Last time I was in that area was in 1977 when I was part of a group biking across America. I met up with the photographer who had spent some time researching folks who handle snakes and plainly, Jolo, West Virginia, is a major gathering spot. Trouble is, it’s unbelievably isolated; 420 miles from DC and 22 miles from Grundy up and down a mountain. One comfort: the roads in that part of the country were wonderful. Not a pothole was to be found. None of the photos I took did justice to how pretty the scenery was.

View of Jolo valley

From the 2,200-foot-high ridge overlooking Jolo, the town appears like a 17th century Italian landscape painting: sandstone cliffs, steep hillsides cloaked with green against distant horizons of romantic, smoky blue ridges. However, once I descend Rt. 83 in low gear, reality bites. Aside from a few nicely kept residences, the rest are a depressing array of homes with cardboard for windows; rows of closed shops and stores and piles of abandoned belongings alongside the road. Once a boomtown thanks to coal, Jolo’s mines tapped out 40 years ago. What’s mostly left are the drugged-out, the unemployed and the retirees. Although there’s a new high school down the road, there are no playgrounds in town. McDowell County is dirt poor and number one in ‘domestic migration;’ a nice way of describing the many people who’ve left town.

Turning right at the grimy Marathon gas station, which seems to be the only functioning business in town, I drive two miles up the road to the Church of the Lord Jesus, a plain white rectangular building perched on a narrow slip of land on the left side of the road precariously close to a ravine filled with garbage. The gravel parking lot by the church is tiny. I enter the sanctuary which is quite plain. On the left wall of the church near the front is a photo gallery of… people brandishing handfuls of snakes.

One photo shows a woman holding what looks like a Coke bottle filled with kerosene oil and a burning wick. She’s holding the flame to her hand; a practice I saw once over the weekend whereby people hold flames to their bodies in obedience to a scriptural verse about one walking through the fire and not being burned. Isaiah 43:2, I think it is. And then there’s a verse in Mark 16 about people drinking poison and not being harmed. Sure enough, someone shows me a Mason jar near the pulpit filled with strychnine for the faithful to drink if they feel so moved.

“It’s a faith that’s worth dying for,” one man solemnly tells me.

One of the pastors arrived, carrying a curious-looking wooden box with a lock on it and a glassed-in top with air holes. Within is – you’ve guessed it – a snake. The reptiles of choice, I’m told are rattlers, water moccasins and copperheads, which is what’s available in the local hills. I joust verbally with him for a few minutes about why he interprets Mark to mean one MUST pick up poisonous snakes to be a faithful Christian. He shows me where he’s been bitten four times. People don’t necessarily die of snake bites; often it’s like getting a hornet’s sting, so they tell me. But there are always the exceptions.  The Jolo church was founded in 1956 by Bob and Barbara Elkins, he a coal miner and she the mother of six children from a previous marriage. The church was into “signs following,” a scriptural phrase also from Mark that tells insiders that the congregation is open to the miraculous signs listed in Mark: tongues, healing, snakes and poison. But when one of Barbara’s daughters, Columbia, died of snakebite in 1961 at the age of 23, it made the news. The resulting uproar resulted in the state House passing a law making snake handling a crime. Bob Elkins marshaled members of his family to appear before members of the state legislature in Welch, the county seat, to argue they had a religious right to handle snakes. The law never made it out of the state Senate and thus snake handling remains legal in West Virginia.

Several other Appalachian states, however, have laws against it. Tennessee has a vague state law prohibiting “a person to display, exhibit, handle, or use a poisonous or dangerous snake or reptile in such manner as to endanger the life or health of any person.” Kentucky specifically outlaws religious snake handling, calls it a misdemeanor and levies $50-$100 fines against it. But the courts rarely take much action because the participants are consenting adults and there’s a ton of religious freedom issues involved. That is, worshippers believe they have a First Amendment right to pick up a snake, drink poison and burn themselves as part of a religious service.

Although Barbara died in 1999, Bob died in 2007 and the two are buried just down the road, their legend lives on to the point that a small group of devotees dropped by the spot during the homecoming weekend to pay their respects. Four years later, the sign on the church still has Bob’s name on it as pastor. The current pastor, Harvey Payne, avoids the limelight.

One distressing detail about Friday night, which was the kickoff for the homecoming, was the amount of media present. I use “media” loosely as it was mainly a team of folks from Virginia Commonwealth University doing a documentary, the Post’s photographer Lauren Pond, someone writing a book and a few other photographers from who-knows-where. But when the snakes were brought out midway through the service, all of them sprang into action, surrounding the snakeholders to a point where the rest of us could barely see what was going on in front.

Veeka, by the way, was completely nonplussed by all the snakes. She barely noticed them, preferring to sit in the pew and put to use all the crayons and markers I’d brought with me. Several folks asked me how could I bring a small child to something like this. Well, because a sitter costs $120/day, that’s why. I’d heard that pentecostal folks at these services are very protective of the kids and that sure was true. A few times when Veeka would wander up towards the front, all heads swiveled toward me as to warn me she was where she shouldn’t be, so I’d scoop her up and take her back to the pew. (The front was where the box of snakes was but honestly, it was only on display for a portion of the service; usually they were tucked in the back somewhere). The Little One really got into the worship and believe me, there was a lot of foot-stompin hymns going on. Sometimes she’d dance about and twirl (see photo) just like all the adults were doing. Well, not her mommy, who sat in the pew taking notes. Other kids came the last day of the homecoming and they looked just as bored as Veeka was.

My little worshipper

There were a lot more amazing details about the three days I spent in the backwoods of West Virginia that will either appear in the upcoming article (pub date to be determined) or in another post (if this blog’s readers really want to read more). Sometimes I felt like I was on another planet, eons away from sophisticated Washington and back in a place where people feel their faith is, yes, worth taking such risks and dying for. I also wondered how the snakes felt, having to listen to hours of country music and all of a sudden – whoosh – they’re pulled out of their little boxes and held up in the air. The snakes I saw all looked a bit curious and puzzled; some even looked like they were striking a pose. No doubt they too were bored and happy to be the center of attention.