Sunday, 8 February 2009. 9pm.

They had glitter tonight! In the worship band practice, and maybe even in the service itself! And I missed it!

Let’s back up a bit. It’s been another day already.

Last night the youth group meeting didn’t pan out. In a triumph of failed scheduling, there was a citywide combined churches youth meeting on as well which we hadn’t found out until that day. So only two of our kids turned up, and one of them wanted to go to the big meeting.

So that left just Paul and me and Rosemberg, so we closed the church and sit in his sitting room / kitchen and made popcorn and a microwave cake and ate it. Then we prayed, but I can’t say anything spectacular happened.

This morning we got to sleep in till late (no meeting till evening), which I sorely needed. I’ve been pushing myself too far and it’s not entirely easy to sleep when we have strange noises at odd hours – the fridge wakes up occasionally and makes loud clunks, sometimes it’s so hot we have to leave the fan on, there are houses mere feet away, there are gas and supermarket trucks which blare advertisements, the local children often let off firecrackers that sound disturbingly like gunshots, and an insane neighbour’s rooster (the rooster, not the neighbour – at least I presume) makes strangled metallic gargles at approximately 3am. It’s running on its own private timezone.

At noon Lucia invits us to lunch, which is a ritual I must do every time I visit. Lucia, who lives around the corner, has been one of Paul’s longest supporters. She cooks a great roast chicken with rice, potato salad, and farofa (a crumbly floury thing made from the root of manioc, or cassava – a plant which actually contains cyanide in its leaves, but the root’s okay. Awesome.)

If there were one person who I wish I knew more Portuguese so I could communicate with better (there’s a queue), it would have to be Lucia. She’s probably kept Paul alive with her cooking. As it is we have to make do with hugs and smiles.

(The Wikipedia article on Cuisine of Brazil looks pretty good. Here in Rio state, we’d mostly be eating the Southeastern dialect of food. In Belém we had a brief brush with Northern food, but definitely avoided maniçoba, which is made from the cyanide-bearing leaves of cassava and really *can* kill you.)

It’s moments like these I remember how cyberpunk Brazil is. Condensed space and time, and the future unevenly distributed. Lucia’s son, Felipe, has a 400Kbit Frinet link to the PC in his room and shows me Sim City 4. He’s actually paying less than Paul is for his 100Kbit ADSL link, but the downside is that Frinet is just Category 5 cable strung between lampposts, and it goes out when it rains. Felipe’s talking about a new cellphone which instead of having a screen can project video onto a wall.

Felipe’s niece Larissa, who I photographed four years ago (she’s kept a copy and shows it to me) is now twelve and doing gymnastics in school. She’s good enough that there’s talk of going to Austria for some kind of competition, and the word ‘Olympic-level’ has been mentioned. Of course, this will require finding a business to sponsor her, but still, it seems like amazing news.

The service is at 7pm, but the worship band start practicing at 5:30. It doesn’t cross my mind to drop in and see them. I go up on the laje and look out at the city. There is a lot of noise from everywhere. Our guys are drumming up a storm downstairs, but across the hill there’s also the sound of what seems to be a marching band moving along a street. I look but can’t see anything.

Just before 7pm I go down.

The little church fills up with about eighteen teens and adults and a few smaller kids. I know most of their names now. John (the American) on drums, Matheus like a rock star on lead guitar, Rosemberg on bass, Estefane and Eliene on vocals.

There’s a warm sense of presence in the worship. I feel as if I am being held in strong arms. As if the whole world is.

It’s our once-monthly Holy Communion service so Paul preaches on the symbology of bread and wine. At least that’s what I think he’s saying as my Portuguese only picks up a few scattered words. I think he’s saying that bread and wine was the 1st Century equivalent of ‘bread and juice’, a simple everyday meal.

Like the cake we shared last night.

Small chunks of French bread and tiny individual plastics cups of grape-flavoured juice are handed around. We eat. There is a simplicity and normality in the whole thing, amid the surreality and hyper-intensity of Brazil, that I find very calming.

What little you have, you share, and that’s enough.

We’re walking out when Paul says to John ‘Hey man, you’ve still got some of that stuff on you!’ and that’s when I realise I’ve missed the glitter.


It’s another one of those odd manifestations you won’t necessarily find in many Evangelical Christian textbooks (though it might be somewhere in John Wesley’s unedited journals). It’s popping up with more regularity in recent Pentecostal material though. It seems to occur particularly here in the slum, or so Paul tells me, though he says he’s also seen it in a Bill Johnson conference in New Zealand. I’ve never seen it. Most people in New Zealand I’ve talked to are skeptical and think it’s an urban myth.

The worship team had it during practice. Trina saw one speck and prayed and more came. John says “it was all over” his daughter’s hands earlier. Now it’s faded. It came on suddenly, apparently, when they prayed, and then went away afterwards.

I look at John’s face and there’s certainly a tiny pinpoint of gold above his lip, but that could be actual glitter. The spooky variety apparently looks just like ordinary children’s glitter (golden or multicoloured) has been poured over someone’s skin, and the distinguishing feature is how it vanishes.

It’s one of the phenomena I’d really love to see and document, because it’s so strange, and so beautiful, and I’ve missed it.

What does it mean? I don’t know for sure. Paul guesses it means something along the lines of ‘these children are really valuable to God’, and that seems as good an explanation as any.

I believe the guys when they say it was there. But I want to see the glitter too. I have minds I need to blow, and one of them is my own.

Paul’s disappointed too. He missed it as well.


4 Responses to “Glitter”

  1. Trina Simpson Says:

    Just me again! I have to add my little bit here -the gold dust was amazing! I have seen it before and had it on me before but never very much. I got the kids praying before Worship group practice and saw a speck of it on John’s face. I was excited and prayed for more. Suddenly, John cried out for me to look at my hand which was covered in the stuff! Mateus at the same time showed his hands and they were covered too. Mateus and I prayed for the other 3 people and it came all over their hands too. Mine disappeared when I left the church building. It was soooo cool!

    I don’t know why either – but I felt it was Dad showing his love and increasing our faith. Also showing a little sprinkling of the resources of Heaven…..

  2. Wondering Says:

    Glitter, gold, glory! For me that would be the light then (see 23.Jan. “Rain”)…………Something else I personally find quite exciting is the following. This weekend I listened to a Rabbi’s talk and heard for the first time that there are 4 Jewish New Years. I used to know only of two. So the 4th one this year was going to fall on January 9. Since the Jewish days start after Sundown the day before, this particular holiday started on January 8 after 7.36 or so in Brazil, which would have been the time of your gold-dust service. I had been wondering, if anything special would happen on this day. So: not a meaningless coincidence in my books!!!

  3. W. Says: It is called “The best day of the year” and considered a day of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

  4. W. Says:

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