“I told you I wouldn’t let you leave. Now you’re all going to die. I’m going to kill you!” Six-year-old Everton Goncalves shivered as his uncle David’s eyes rolled back. The car sped up as David accelerated, and his aunties in the backseat began to scream. David laughed at their fear—an evil, sinister laughter bordering on maniacal. “This is it,” Everton thought. “The spirits were right. We’re going to die.”
It sounds like a Hollywood horror movie. But for the Goncalves family this was real life.
On the day of his baptism David was on his way to the font when his eyes began to roll back. He was being possessed.
You see, Everton’s family was involved in macumba—a form of spirit worship that originated with African slaves who brought the tradition to Brazil.
“Uncle David was a medium who received messages from the spirits,” Everton explains. “They would possess him and he would begin speaking in what I can only describe as the satanic version of speaking in tongues. My parents were the translators. They interpreted the spirits’ messages for everyone else.”
When Everton was six his parents decided they needed to leave the movement. They applied for a visa to Australia, knowing the only way to truly escape macumba was to leave Brazil.
When David heard their application had been accepted he was furious.
“My uncle was possessed by an evil spirit at the time,” Everton recalls. “He pointed at our family and said, ‘I will never let you leave this country.’”
A few days before they were due to leave, the family decided to go on a day trip. It was a long drive home and Everton’s father was feeling quite tired. David offered to drive and Everton’s father gladly accepted.
And then it happened.
“I could tell a spirit had possessed him,” Everton remembers. “When I saw his eyes rolling back I knew what was happening.”
His father, who was sitting in the passenger seat with Everton on his lap, knew he had to react quickly.
Without hesitation he reached over and pulled the handbrake. The car spun around two or three times, eventually stopping by the side of the road as though it had been parked. Everton’s father leaned over and pushed David out of the car. David got up and wandered off by himself, still laughing.
“He often disappeared for a few days when he was possessed,” Everton explains. “No-one would know where he went or what he was doing.”
On the day of their scheduled departure Everton’s family was understandably tense. The spirit’s words still rang in their heads—“I will never let you leave this country”. Would they really be prevented from leaving? Would something terrible happen if they did?
“No-one in our family had ever been on a plane before,” Everton comments. “Our relatives were excited to have an excuse to go to the airport. They wanted to come and see us off.”
Shortly after leaving home, however, they got a flat tyre. Everton’s dad got out of the car and changed it.
A few minutes later they had another flat tyre. This time they had to use someone else’s spare.
When they got their third flat tyre it began to feel like more than a coincidence.
“We had to use the tyre from our relatives’ car,” Everton says. “We said goodbye to them in the street because they could no longer come with us to the airport.”
They were almost there when . . . you guessed it, the fourth tyre went flat.
By the time they finally made it to the airport boarding time was over and the gates were closed.
Everton’s father begged airline staff to let his family onto the plane and his pleas were heard.
“We came to Australia determined to start afresh,” Everton says. “My father vowed we would never get caught up in something like that again.”
From left: Ani, Joao, Everton and Carina.
Shortly before the family left for Australia, Everton’s father randomly picked up a pamphlet on the street. It turned out to be a flyer advertising a quit smoking program.
“So much rubbish litters the streets of Brazil, it really is a miracle that my dad picked that pamphlet up,” Everton says.
Everton’s father didn’t smoke but his relatives did. He gave the flyer to his wife’s family and promptly forgot all about it.
Not long after the Goncalves family had settled in Australia they received a phone call from Everton’s Uncle Jose, who had some exciting news to share.
“Remember that pamphlet you gave me?”
Everton’s father did. “Did you stop smoking?” he asked.
“Even better than that!” exclaimed Jose. “I’ve found the truth!”
Everton’s father stiffened as Jose began to tell him about the Adventist Church. After his experience with macumba he was wary of Jose’s new religion.
“I don’t want anything to do with it,” he said firmly. “Leave me out of it!”
He hung up the phone and turned to Everton and his mother, shaking his head in disbelief. “I don’t know what’s wrong with your family—always getting mixed up in these crazy things,” he told his wife.
Meanwhile, back in Brazil, Uncle Jose was spreading the news about Adventism and converting his relatives with the message of the gospel. Pretty soon almost all of the family had become Seventh-day Adventist Christians.
But Uncle David hadn’t.
It took some convincing but David was finally persuaded to visit the Adventist Church. He was blown away by its truths and made a decision for baptism.
On the day of the baptism David was on his way to the font when his eyes began to roll back. He was being possessed.
“Leave me alone!” he snarled.
Recognising what was happening the pastor immediately began to pray out loud, asking for the Holy Spirit to come and drive the evil spirit away. The congregation began to pray too.
Eventually he calmed down and was baptised.
The once-medium is now a faithful member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“He has never been possessed by another spirit since,” Everton says.
When Everton was nine, his mother decided to take him back to Brazil for two months.
Everton had to share a bedroom with his Uncle Gerald, who took the opportunity to tell the young boy a Bible story every night. Soon it got to the stage where Everton found himself eagerly anticipating night-time because he knew it meant he would get to hear another exciting story.
“I was amazed when Uncle Gerald told me about Jesus,” he says. “I wanted to be a Christian.”
From left: Ani, Everton, Joao, Patricia, Carina, Marcelo.
When they returned to Australia, Everton’s mother announced that she wanted to become a Seventh-day Adventist. She began attending the Portuguese church in Ashfield (NSW) and was baptised.
Everton wanted to follow through with his decision to become a Christian but there was one problem: he loved playing soccer and soccer games were always held on Sabbath.
“When I was 12 I finally decided it was time to give up soccer and start attending church,” he says. “My dad was impressed by the changes in our family. He decided to become an Adventist too.”
Today Everton’s family still attends the Portuguese church his mother first joined. His wife Patricia is a member too.
“God is good,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what your past looks like. He has a plan for your future.”
Vania Chew is PR/editorial assistant for Adventist Record.