Every once in awhile, there’s a story that just sings. And this New York Times Magazine feature on the child pentecostal preachers of Brazil is such a piece.
Some background: Although Pentecostalism began in the United States in the early 1900s, it has really taken off in Latin America (see the massive Pew Forum studies of this), especially Brazil even more than in the U.S. This growth, especially in the closing decades of the 20th century, was enough to alarm the Catholic authorities that held sway over much of Latin America for four centuries. Some say one reason for the election of Pope Francis, from neighboring Argentina, was part of a Catholic effort to regain lost ground on this continent.
But child preachers? Pentecostalism in the U.S. has such a tradition but Brazil? And female ones at that? The article starts thus:
It was fall in Brazil, and rain drizzled under a gray moon. The faithful were beginning to arrive at the International Mission of Miracles, a Pentecostal church in the poor and working-class city of São Gonçalo, 10 miles from Rio de Janeiro. In front of the church, which was located between a supermarket and an abandoned lot, a banner staked in the muddy ground advertised a young girl named Alani Santos, whose touch could heal …