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6 October, 1999
by Frank Peretti
The Visitation is a suspenseful Christian book. Its plot deals with a false prophet claming to be Jesus, and a burnt-out pastor who has given up on God. The author gives a very detailed history of the pastor, Travis Jordan, throughout the book. This is my least favorite part, because I found it quite boring and too extensive. But I realize that the author needed to put it so I could develop this character vividly in my mind, because he had a very significant role in the plot. The false prophet, Justin Carwell, is a more mysterious character and his upbringing was twisted and wicked. It was more interesting to me to discover his history, because it is dark and clouded, and Travis has to uproot many secrets to find out who Justin Carwell really is.
At the beginning of the story, the remote town of Antioch, Washington begins to have supernatural miracles happen. One manís arthritis is healed from the tears of a crying Jesus statue. Strangers appear, prophesy about Jesus coming, and then disappear. People start seeing Jesus in the clouds. All these "sightings" make people look for Jesus, and they start seeing him in bushes, trees, rocks, etc. Many tourists come to Antioch to find Jesus, and it becomes like a tourist attraction. The town people like it because itís good for business. Eventually a man named Brandon Nichols reveals himself to be the messiah. He acts very kind and understanding, and never directly says he is Jesus, but hints at it and says he is "back." He performs miracles, heals many people of miscellaneous faults, from bald hair to bad hips. He even heals the sheriffís Vietnam shrapnel wound, which easily wins over the sheriff. He also has nail scars on his wrists, his proof that he was nailed to a cross. Many people become believers in Nichols, but Kyle (Travisí replacement pastor) and a few others are against him. One thing Nichols said that made me realize he was false was "Iíve changed." And God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, so Jesus would never say that.
Travis, Kyle, and Morgan (a lady pastor of another church) begin to uncover Nicholsí history. Travis does the traveling and inquiring of people Nichols came in contact with. First he finds out Nichols was a farmhand going by the name Herb Johnson. Next Travis goes to a busy, business-like church, and finds out Nichols went by the name Justin Carwell there. The church leaders are very hushed about the whole thing, and Travis gets very little information from them. But later the pastorís daughter calls and explains that Justin had had an affair with her, and the church didnít want that secret to get out. She once saw a letter to him from Nechville, Texas. Travis finds Justinís parents there. His father is a Pentecostal preacher, and wonít talk about Justin at all. The mother, however, feels like she needs to tell about it. In Nechville Travis learns that Justin started dabbling in the occult as a young teenager. He got the nail scars because his father brutally punished him by nailing him to a fence. Justin left Nechville for a while, but returned later and got revenge on his father, by doing the same thing to him, and beating him up. After that Justin left and occasionally wrote his parents. He was never the same, and his mom said his power came from Satan, and all his miracles were demonic. Travis realizes how dangerous this situation is and how he must stop it.
Throughout the whole time Travis is uncovering Justinís past, he thinks through all of his growing up. I learned how he had at first had some misconceptions about how God reveals himself to us, but then got back on track. He gets married to a beautiful, kind lady in college, and they stay together through thick and thin. Eventually they go to Antioch to start a church there. Travis and his wife pastor the church for 15 years, and Travis sees God do many miraculous things. After 15 years of growing in Christ, Travisí wife dies of lung cancer. At this Travis gives up on God and thinks God no longer has a purpose or plan for him. But at the end of the book, Travis realizes God knew what he was doing all along.
Travis returns to Antioch, and at about this time, Brandon Nicholsí power begins to collapse. People he healed and miracles he performed start to degrade. Some people get their ailments back, and some go insane. The whole town falls to chaos, and tourists and townspeople break windows, loot stores, kill each other, and wreak havoc on the city. Brandon gathers his followers and they leave the town to the farm ranch where Nichols lives. Throughout all the chaos, all Nichols does is laugh.
Meanwhile, Travis, Kyle, and Jim Baylor unbury the real Brandon Nichols, a man Justin Carwell killed and used his identity. Then Justin calls on the cell phone and says he has Morgan with him. They call the state police and everyone gathers in front of the ranch mansion. When the police try to enter they are shot away, and one of Nicholsí henchmen threatens to kill hostages. Nichols makes everyone believe that he is in the house with several followers, and he will kill them if the police approach. Travis discovers that Morgan is OK, and that Brandon is lying. They still think Brandon is in the house, though, but eventually Travis thinks that Nichols is not in the house. He immediately realizes that Nichols probably went to get Morgan at Travisí house. Travis rushes over there, praying like crazy, and Nichols is there with Morgan tied to a chair, threatening her with a knife. There are also three demons there, Nicholsí helpers, and Nichols has killed the sheriff. Nichols is wounded from a gunshot, and slowly dies. The demons laugh at him and leave, because they are through with him. Travis tells Nichols how he has learned from watching Nichols that he will now start trusting God again. Nichols, his helpers gone and his show over, slumps over and dies.
After a while Travis marries Morgan, and is very happy. The town gets fixed up, and the people try to go on with their lives. Travis realizes how God was with him the whole time, and he will now continue to trust God as he did before.
This book was very similar to Silas Marner in that the main character suffers a tragedy and stops trusting God. Then God brings something even better into his life, and he realizes God was there the whole time, and he makes a decision to keep trusting him.