Molokan Jumpers and WOFF? (Video)

There are times when ignorance is embarrassing. As I look back, I regret showing my ignorance in such a bold fashion. Let me explain. At some point between March of 1992 and May 1992, I was allowed to speak during one the “Training Sessions” held at Grace and Truth Fellowship. This was a very informal setting. Different members, as they “felt led”, were allowed to stand up and tell the listeners “what God was showing them” about a certain subject or topic being discussed. On one occasion, I stood up and said something that showed my great ignorance. Previous to coming to Greenville, I had spent time in a library looking up different religious groups. One group I read about was called the Molokan Jumpers. My reading was brief and I only took away from the text one main observation.

It was this observation, which I was so anxious to share. I was new to this type of setting and I would “learn” much during the next few months and years. On that day, it was glaringly obvious that my words would be out of place and only show my desire to be seen as “knowing something others may not”. As best as I remember, I mentioned the Molakan Jumpers and said; “These folks think they are in the Spirit in their services only when they are jumping up and down”. I will never forget the look of the Associate Minister-GS. He looked as if someone had uttered a loud socially unacceptable body sound. He looked at me and it was evident that he wanted to move on and forget that I had ever brought up the issue. I could sense that I had violated some unwritten rule, but I had no idea why until later in May of that year.

During the May Seminar of that year, I would attend my first service of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). It was there I met the WOFF form of worship which included people jumping during the singing of songs. During all the years of being in churches, it was my first time seeing this exact type of behavior.  It looked very similar to what had been described about the Molokan Jumpers!  Now about the time the jumping started, I realized what I had said and why it had been met with utter disbelief! GS never brought it to my attention. It was just ignored and left to die on the vine, so to speak.

Before, I move on, let me say the information available about the Molokan Jumpers was very limited in 1992. The source I read may have had three paragraphs about them. It was just enough to give me a very incomplete picture. Today, there is much more information. In short, the group emigrated from Russia and settled on the west coast. You may read about the group at this link-  http://molokane.org/molokan/#psalm .  One signature practice includes the group singing the Psalms and making it a practice to jump or leap or skip during the singing. There is much more background information on the source webpage. The group is seen as a “separatist” group and has several sub-groupings.

All of these events came back me when I was shown a video of a WOFF group singing on Youtube®.  Before I share about the video, let me interject that during my WOFF years, I was a “jumper”. The social atmosphere did not make it easy to refuse to jump and sing along with the many songs that came right from the Psalms. In fact, it was during October of 2004 that I experienced too much pain to jump during the singing which indicated a serious health issue. All that being said, watch the video.

Honestly, when I first watched it I had a hard time remembering the words to the song –“We Are Called to Walk Together”. What wedding was that song written for? Mark and Zeda? Anyway, as a defense against painful memories, when first coming out of WOFF, I purposed to not sing WOFF songs. After a few times watching this video, the words came back. VERY WEIRD.  The jumping is WOFF-normal in this video. WOFFers did not make a train and proceed around the room. But, it was all similar enough to bring back the tons and tons of memories associated with the HOURS and HOURS spent singing this song and others. I told the person watching the video with me that after a while you sang the words without being aware of the words. It became rote and you were able to think of other things. Did anyone else experience that? I felt sure the folks in this video were able to watch the crowd, watch Brock running and jumping, watch the flag-wavers and so on. Maybe some were even wondering why they were in New Mexico with the Holocaust display? I wondered that myself when I first heard of the trip last year…

Survivors, who have come out during the last year, tell me of certain changes that occur during the singing part of a WOFF service. These changes are not shown in the video.  I am told there is a line of WOFF members that run around the sanctuary during praise services. Again, I understand there is great peer pressure to participate and some have experienced serious injuries during this part of the service. The jumping/running may last for 45 minutes or longer and there is full group participation unless you are excused for medical reasons. In years past, there is such pressure to participate that I remember children and adults being asked why they were not jumping. What are you giving to? Open your heart? Are you under something? What sin did you not expose before you came in here?  It was almost as if it was required to jump in order to show you were “in the spirit”- or at least the WOFF-spirit. Does that sound right?

Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 392.

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6 thoughts on “Molokan Jumpers and WOFF? (Video)”

  1. I attended a Baptist church which the population was mostly African American. There was a lot of jumping, running, skipping. You could tell these people were full of the spirit. I joined this church in 2008 however there was no pressure to be filled with the spirit, jump, etc. Spending most of my life in fundamental churches it was instilled in me that jumping, raising hands, asking “Amen” out-loud, speaking in tongues was not of God. That these things had “ceased”. While I no longer believe this, I still have a hard time during praise and worship services. While in the fundamental church if someone came in from the outside and raised their hands or any of these spirit things, the pastor would stop the service, point them out and tell them that we did not believe in this and they would have to leave if they continued. I have also been in churches that felt if you did not speak in tongues, you must not be saved. I remember going forward wanting to speak in tongues, nothing happened, I questioned my salvation. After years in visiting various churches I feel speaking in tongues is a gift and not everyone can do this. If I don’t speak in tongues . . . this does not mean I am not saved. I try to avoid churches that tell me what I have to do. The only truth that is irrefutable in my heart is salvation, I believe it is a choice, a gift from God, I can either take it or leave it. I don’t need to jump, speak in tongues, not speak in tongues, say amen, not say amen, raise my hands or not raise my hands. I hated when I was told the way to eternal life, and then later told because of my lack of gifts of the spirit, I must not be saved. I feel everyone has a gift, and these gifts are not all the same.

  2. I visited this Cult in January and was amazed to see the entire church in sync with each other jumping for 45 minutes without stopping. I wasn’t the intense worship that bothered me it was however, the lack of genuine spirit in this place. I didn’t feel the presence of God there. I think that all of this is a well choreographed show. We could go to the movies or Broadway and see the same thing. There would be the same lack of God as was felt in Word of Faith? We live in a sad world when people are hurting themselves because they are being forced to participate in these activities. I can only speak for myself but, I think that pushing people past their personal limits to have self-gratification is as sick as anything that I have ever heard of. I was raised to believe that we all have different experiences with God because we all have different needs at different times. To see all of the members of this place try to feel something because they are being forced to is sad. The children in this place seemed to be in misery. None of them smiled and they were even covering their ears during parts of the singing event. It didn’t seem like something that they wanted to be doing. I’m thankful to my God that I have the freedom that I have been born with. Nobody has the right to dictate our lives. Thank you, John, for sharing your incredible journey with us.

  3. Hi John, I was raised a Molokan and it wasn’t until I was an adult that my husband’s (then boyfriend) mother use the word cult that I realized that, that is indeed what it is. I witnessed jumping more times than I count and used to pray to get the holy spirit so I would be made to jump as well. It’s been a long hard road distancing myself from that religion and the people. Thanks for posting about your experience.
    L

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