J. Forrest writes: "I am native of West Virginia for fifty-one years and I enjoy writing true stories from my personal life. I live in Charleston WV."
Being born and raised in rural West Virginia might seem like a disadvantage to some people, but where else could my youth have been traumatized by stories about Bloody Bones, The Jabo, and the Barbwire Monster. Stories my New Jersey, born and raised, wife has banned me from telling our two young daughters. Promising me a far worse fate than anything that ever happened in one of my scary stories. But luckily, I had a true story I could tell them that topped all my spooky tales.
When I tell the story of when I had the opportunity to meet Jesus, most people roll their eyes in disbelief. I know it is hard to imagine Jesus showing up in the mountain state, even though our state slogan is “Almost Heaven“.
It was late July and the dog days of summer were in full swing. My best friend Dave and I were typical sixteen year olds. We loved two things, talking to girls and fishing. I must say we were a lot better at fishing.
We had just gotten to Dave’s house when his mother Dora Mae ran onto the porch, threw her hands in the air, and yelled “Halleluiah!”. She then looked at us and said, “Jesus is coming today boys". Dave curiously looked at his mother and asked what she was talking about. His mother with tears of absolute joy in her eyes replied, “Jesus is going to appear over at the old Holden high school this evening. I just got off the phone with Lucinda and she said she had heard it from a reliable source who talked to someone who saw him there last night. So get ready, we are going to meet Jesus".
Lucinda was Dave’s aunt and his mothers twin sister. After Dave’s mom went back in the house he asked me if I would go with him, and I agreed to go. How could I turn down an opportunity of such magnitude. Dave told me not to believe everything his mother or his aunt said. He said they both were a little quirky, to put it nicely. He also told me Aunt Lucinda claimed she had recently spoken to the ghost she had seen in her house. I didn’t really believe in ghosts because my father always told me, “the bad can’t come back and the good don’t want to". But if I had ever seen one in my house, I can assure you I wouldn't stay around long enough to talk to it.
Even though the sisters had a slight credibility problem I did know they attended church regularly. They didn’t belong to any particular church, they went to all of them, including tent revivals with faith healers.
I lived just up the road and I told Dave to stop and get me when they were ready to leave. Needless to say I ran home to inform my parents of the spectacular news. My mom was gone so I told my dad what I had heard. To my surprise he didn’t seem to be impressed. He calmly replied, “If Jesus is there, you come back and let me know so I can bring the rest of the family to see him."
It wasn’t long till Dave and his mom pulled in the driveway and blew the car horn. I hurried out the door and got in the car, because it was July hot and no one wants to be kept waiting in a hot car.
We had no more than pulled out when Dora Mae informed us she was stopping to pick up her sister Lucinda to go with us. When we pulled up in front of her house Lucinda came out and had her daughter Cecilia with her. They were dressed in church clothes and Lucinda was carrying her Bible. She got in the front and Cecilia got in the back seat with me and Dave. I had a crush on Cecilia for a long time and was more than happy to sit beside her.
We were off, and hadn’t gone far when we stopped again to pick up Jenny, a friend of Lucinda’s. Jenny also was dressed for church and got in the front seat. Now there were six of us crammed in this car with no air conditioning.
We were almost to the old school when Dave asked his Aunt Lucinda if she was going to get Jesus to autograph her Bible. Lucinda got mad and yelled, “No I don’t want him to autograph my bible!”. “I will get to hear all I need to hear straight from Him. I don’t even need this Bible now that he is back". She then threw the bible at Dave. He ducked and it landed in the rear window next to the bobble head dog. She then started singing the hymn Just A Little Talk With Jesus. Dora Mae and Jenny quickly joined in, and the three of them sang hymns the remainder of the trip.
We finally made it to the old school and I was amazed that there were so many people there. There had to be at least fifty people standing around. I started to think these women might be right and that Jesus was going to appear. I mean, all these people seem to believe it. Dora Mae and Lucinda along with Jenny quickly disappeared into the crowd. Dave, Cecilia and I stayed close to the car and watched the crowd from a distance. It kept growing as it got darker.
My curiosity got the better of me so I made my way over to the crowd. At that moment the street lights came on and I heard someone yell “THERE HE IS!”. I looked in the direction from where the yell came and could see nothing. Then another person yelled “I see him!”. Then another. Everyone close to the old school house appeared to be seeing Him so the rest of the people started pushing to get closer.
The crowd was getting loud with words of praise and hollering halleluiah. Then I could hear a man with a high pitched voice preaching. Was this the voice of Jesus, I wondered. I squeezed my way to the front of the crowd. There he was, right in front of me. He didn’t look like the pictures we have all seen hanging in our homes and churches. He didn’t have long hair or wear a robe or sandals; this man had a flat top hair cut and was on the chubby side. He wore blue jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of white Converse All Stars. His hell fire and brimstone sermon had the crowd riled up and they answered “Amen!”, to just about every word that came out of his mouth. After listening to him preach for a few minutes I realized his accent sounded local and he kept saying “praise be to Jesus". I concluded this man was not Jesus. I knew we had been duped.
I turned to walk away when a lady said did you see him? No I replied. She answered back, I had trouble at first too but now I can. She pointed to the large tree behind the man preaching. I looked and behold I could see him clearly. Not the real Jesus but the image of him in the outline of the tree. The street light behind the tree gave it a kind of halo effect. A smile came on my face as I stood there and looked. I wondered how this tree came to be this way and if it was some kind of sign of something to come. After I thought about it for a few minutes I concluded only God could have created such a wondrous sight. I then walked back to the car and told Dave and Cecilia that it was a tree that looked like Jesus. To my surprise they didn’t laugh or make any jokes. They went and saw it and agreed it looked amazing.
Later we started on our journey home and Lucinda and Dora Mae laughed about their being misinformed but agreed it was worth the trip. Lucinda got her Bible out of the back window of the car and apologized to Dave for throwing it at him.
It is memories like this that I treasure the most from growing up in the mountain state. I have seen other things like the Jesus tree that looked as if mother nature had some help. Like a thirty foot tall bolder shaped just like a boot. There is also Waffle rock. I challenge anyone to look at it and tell me how else it could have been made with out some help from the Big Man. The list goes on and so does my never ending search for what I have come to call God's Graffiti. All a person has to do is open their eyes when they are in this wild, and truly wonderful West Virginia. The place I have always been proud to call my home.
Online you can find photos and newspaper articles about the “Jesus Tree” located in Logan, WV. Boot rock is located in Williamson, WV, north of the field house. Waffle rock is a rock formation in Mineral county West Virginia.
(© 2016 J. Forrest Wellman – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)