The name Jesus is stamped behind the pulpit in thick blue lettering. But at the Pentecostal Church of the Miracle the headline act is not the Son of God but a six-year-old girl in a pink dress. A banner advertises “an explosion of miracles” at the entrance to the church – a converted warehouse on the impoverished outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. “She places her hands and the miracle happens.” On the roof a placard promises “health, happiness and victory”.
On the street outside, anxious followers quiz dapper evangelical doormen: “Is she here? Is she here?”
“She” is Alani dos Santos, a “child healer” better known as the Missionarinha or Little Missionary, who is reputedly capable of healing the sickest of congregants with a touch of her hands. Twice a week, bandage-clad and cancer-ridden believers pack this cramped “temple” in search of a miracle.
“Thousands of people have been touched,” says her father, Pastor Adauto Santos, 44, a former hairdresser and car thief who runs what is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most talked-about churches and believes his daughter can cure ailments from cancer to Aids and TB.
“She’s a normal kid – apart from this gift,” he says, adding: “It is Jesus who cures. She is an instrument.”