A West Virginia Pentecostal pastor who used poisonous snakes during religious services has died of a rattlesnake bite. Mack Wolford, who just turned 44, was killed by a snake he had owned for years, reports the Washington Post. He was bitten during an outdoor service at a state park he had hoped would be a “homecoming like the old days,” filled with people speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time,” he said on his Facebook page. “Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother,” he wrote last week.
Wolford was bitten on the thigh when he sat next to the rattlesnake during the service. He was taken to a relative’s home to recover, but was rushed later to a local hospital where he was declared dead. Wolford believed that the Bible requires Christians to handle poisonous snakes to test their faith in God, and remain steadfast in their belief that they will not be bitten or will be healed if they are attacked. Death by rattlesnake is “excruciating—the venom attacks the nervous system, and it’s vicious and gruesome when it hits,” a snake expert told the Post. Wolford was the son of a snake-handler preacher who died of a snake bite when Wolford was 15.