Curiosity to Cure: Atlanta Traveler Explores Why the World Flocks to Brazilian Healer ‘John of God’

For Global Atlanta. May 2017. 

Why are millions of people from all over the world — including some from Atlanta — traveling to a small town near the capital of Brazil in search of personal and physical healing?

To find out, I flew to Brasilia, having extended my stay in the country after a week of revelry at the famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro, one of the largest outdoor parties in the world. 

Another two-hour drive from the capital landed me in a small rural town called Abadiânia in the municipality of Goiás. This is where a famous spiritual healer named John of God, or João de Deus, lives and runs a spiritual healing center, the Casa de Dom Ignacio.

I had learned about this supposed miracle worker after watching coverage on The Oprah Winfrey Show about a decade ago. John of God claims to have cured over 8 million people of life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and brain tumors, birth defects and handicaps, as well as spiritual and emotional problems. 

Sometimes he performs physical surgeries without any surgical equipment or medication, but mostly he invites you to sit in a meditation room and receive healing via spiritual forces and mystical energy. (The location of the center is said to be of high energy due to the concentration of natural crystals in the valley.)

Medium John, as he’s also known, is not a doctor, but says he merely mediates the spirits of powerful saints and doctors who have passed on.

“I have not healed anyone. What heals is the faith, equilibrium and the love. Who heals is God,” he tells me in a rare one-on-one interview.

Meeting John was surreal. I had to seek permission for an interview while he was “incorporating” spirits and receiving 2,000 people a day. He had a strong presence and his facial expressions and demeanor changed as 30 spirits were said to have entered his body at different points in time. Medium John is in a dreamlike state during this process. While incorporated in spirit, he performs surgeries, despite the fact that he faints at the sight of blood under normal circumstances. He has even performed surgery on himself. He doesn’t speak English, so we communicated via a translator. I had never been so nervous in my life!

I spoke to several other people in Abadiânia who had come to Medium John when all doctors had given up hope. Each had experienced what they described as nothing short of a miracle. Still, Medium John says, “People are receiving energy when they are here but must continue to go to their doctors.”

Medium John’s work can be explained through a popular theory in Brazil called Spiritism, where one can channel high-energy beings and master spirits to guide humans and give healing through metaphysical interaction. Spiritism is a common belief in Brazil, as well as in India and among Native American cultures.

Medium John doesn’t charge anything, and local bed and breakfasts are available at modest prices ($30/night including three meals daily).Visitors can purchase blessed water and prescribed passion flower pills, or reserve time at the crystal beds for a fee. Some argue that Medium John maintains his large family, mine, farms and other investments by his popularity. But Medium John doesn’t charge anything for the visits and he rarely accepts donations. He also makes accommodations for those who can’t pay for blessed water or spiritual prescriptions. 

I discovered that some of my friends in Atlanta had also gone to see John of God in recent years. Mara Anthony, a flight attendant at Delta Air Lines, has visited John of God eight times in the last five years. She also found out about him after watching Oprah and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s testimonials. She was mostly curious as she had studied alternate medicines and was suffering from constant fatigue. 

“I had a profound experience on my first visit,” Ms. Anthony claims. “Not only did I feel more energy and love, I got help with my relationships and clarifications on many aspects of my life.” 

Ms. Anthony has accompanied her parents to Brazil, and her father saw considerable improvements in his PTSD. Though she grew up as a Christian in the South, she doesn’t feel Spiritism interferes with religion. 

“In fact, it has strengthened my Catholic faith and I practice my traditions more regularly by saying the rosary every day,” she said. She claims it helps her tap into unconditional divine love. 

Being fluent in Portuguese and familiar with spiritual tourism, Ms. Anthony now plans to guide groups of travelers who are interested in seeing John of God. 

Susan Kostyrka Gonzalez, a cancer survivor/coach, nutritionist and co-author of “100 Perks of Having Cancer plus 100 Health Tips For Surviving It!” also traveled to Abadania in 2014. She points only to curiosity as the reason behind the visit, but she also had a transformative experience. 

“I felt my fears and worries lift off me and I can say that several things are now working for me that weren’t before. I don’t know if it was the trip, or just my focus on how amazing life is, but one thing is for sure, this experience has left its mark forever,” she noted after returning from her visit. Ms. Gonzalez documents her travels on her blog, The Savvy Sister.

I interviewed more than a dozen people, including one translator, Heather Cumming, who has been working with Medium John for 18 years and has yet to see a person come to the Casa and leave unchanged.

As for me, I also went out of curiosity and found a deeper understanding of the spiritual realm. During my visit to the Casa, I felt love, gratefulness and happiness for everything in my life. When I returned home, my friends and family remarked that I seem different. I was more positive, calm and had more focus in my work. 

I do believe it is important to keep up with your own practices, be it prayers or meditation, to stay connected with your consciousness, and most importantly, keep an open mind.    

John of God rarely travels, but he came to Atlanta in Spring 2006. He will be at the Omega Institute in New York this October. 

Read more about my visit to the center in this Go Eat Give blog post. 

~ Written for Global Atlanta. May 2017. 

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