Interstate 35’s ‘Praying Man’ now crafts prayer staffs by hand

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Interstate 35’s “Praying Man” Virgil Bell, who appeared frequently, wooden staffs in hand, on the pedestrian bridge across the highway in Waco, is now handcrafting prayer staffs, which are sold at a store founded by the nonprofit Jesus Said Love, whose mission is to reduce recidivism into the sex trade through living wage jobs and supporting micro businesses.

Virgil Bell is now crafting the staffs by hand and then praying over them before placing them in the storefront of Lovely Enterprises at 1500 Columbus Ave. (Courtesy photo)

Bell, whom some described as a “modern day Moses,” was a common sight on the pedestrian bridge that connected the downtown area to the Baylor campus, but crews have torn down the walkway as part of the multi-million dollar project to widen the highway.

Bell is now crafting the staffs by hand and then praying over them before placing them in the storefront of Lovely Enterprises at 1500 Columbus Ave.

“Virgil is just part of the Waco community that is meaningful and we wanted to be a part of his story as he prays for our city,” Jesus Said Love founder Emily Mills said.

The two joining forces was by happenstance.

Mills ran into Virgil as he removed his staffs from another business in town with no plans of what to do next.

“I saw him selling the prayer staff and he said he was taking them out of the store and I asked him if he’d like to sell them with us and he said ‘yes that would be great.’”

Mills says Virgil gives each staff special time and attention.

“He gathers up the woods from around the banks of the Brazos and any fallen branches he finds and he either paints them or finishes them or puts a rubber stop so they’re walking sticks,” Mills said.

“They are really anything you want and are multipurpose.”

“Each one he prayers over and gives a special blessing on.”

The prayer staffs range from $20 to $42 for the more intricate ones.

Eighty percent of the proceeds go to help Virgil and 20 percent goes to the mission of Lovely.

The staffs can be purchased only at the store or online.