In recent years, viral Facebook posts have displayed a picture that showed a crying mother who purportedly had a prayer request for her baby daughter. The posts read: "Please pray for my daughter and if you have a good heart to share how to make a big chain of prayer. My God can do anything and I am sure He can save us from this trouble. Amen." They also included emojis showing prayer hands and a red heart.
Below, our story shows the path we took to find the truth behind the photo. Our research found that such prayer request posts exploited the image of the child, who has since died. The posts originated from Facebook "like-farmers" who used the picture in an attempt to grow social media accounts for profit.
The Viral Posts
On Dec. 31, 2021, Wanda Freeman Barzizza, a Facebook account with nearly 10,000 followers, shared a post from another user named Preda Marian. Marian made the post on Dec. 11, 2021. It featured the photo of the crying mother and baby and received more than 132,000 shares.
However, a quick scan of Marian's account showed that the person had no affiliation with the people in the picture. In fact, they had posted the photo at least once before on Sept. 20, when it received another 273,000 shares:
On Sept. 22, a Twitter user tweeted a screenshot of one of the viral posts:
However, this tweet appeared to be posted with good intentions and there was no evidence that it had anything to do with the Facebook like-farmers.
Questioning the Story
On Facebook and Twitter, tens of thousands of users commented that they would pray for the crying mother and baby daughter. However, some people had questions.
For example, @Carol64049836 pointed out that identifying details were strangely unavailable, tweeting: "What's wrong? What is the prayer request for? An injury, illness, what?"
Another Twitter user decided to find more information about the photo's history on the internet. Twitter user Darren Dilliway tweeted: "TINEYE image search shows that the image is from 2017."
A reverse image search of Google Images did not initially produce helpful results. However, as Dilliway pointed out on Twitter, TinEye.com's reverse image search tool found an interesting link. The search engine said that the picture was from 2017. Upon further inspection of the link provided by TinEye.com, we landed on the following date: July 26, 2016.
On that day, @gustavosucaria posted the photo on Instagram. Its Portuguese caption, when translated to English, read: "This mother is wanting to talk to Luciano Huck, and her daughter has a rare disease and needs treatment in São Paulo and is hospitalized in a hospital in Belém." Huck is a Brazilian TV host.
Finding the Names
Next, we tried an advanced search for "Luciano Huck" and specified to Twitter that we only wanted to see results from July 2016. The results showed that the following tweet was posted on the same day as @gustavosucaria's Instagram post:
A reverse image search on Google for this older version of the picture in the tweet led us to a meme website. It claimed that the mother's name was Deyse and the baby's name was Sarah. Those names led us to the truth.
Our searches for Deyse, Sarah, and other key words took us to the Ellinka Hoaxes fact-checking website which is based in Greece. On Sept. 20, 2021, it published that the mother's name was Deyse Lene and that her daughter was named Sarah. The viral picture was originally posted by the mother on July 15, 2016:
We have posted the picture in our story so that users performing reverse image searches in the future can find the facts.
The Mother's Message to Facebook Like-Farmers
On Sept. 14, 2018, Lene posted that Sarah, her daughter, had died. A translation of the post from Portuguese to English read: "There is no pain worse in the world than losing a child. So thank God for every mess your child makes, because a mess is a sign of health. My eternal Sarah." Her medical condition was not specified.
After Lene learned that Facebook like-farmers had been using the photo of her and Sarah to grow pages for profits, she addressed them in January 2021, posting: "Some deceitful, lying people are using the image of me and my daughter on social media to gain fame and money. I will just say one thing. You who are doing this are going to lose a lot. My daughter is in heaven resting with God and if you continue like this you will straight to hell, because that's not the way you treat the image of an innocent child and her mother, using it to earn money."
While the prayer requests that appeared in 2021 were created by like farmers, we did find posts where Lene asked for prayers for her daughter when she was still alive. At least hundreds of people responded with kind messages.
This wasn't the first time that we have covered misleading or outdated prayer requests. For further reading, see our past stories on the outdated or false prayer requests for Greg Comer, 229 Christian missionaries, and 30 Navy SEALs.