Ever noticed that most hospitals have a chapel within the building or somewhere in close proximity? Or even a prayer room? They’re small, simple yet beautiful.

As a freshly admitted medical student, I used to think about our hospital chapel as such an oddity – a place meant for worship and prayer built smack in the middle of a noisy hospital corridor cluttered with the sounds of trolleys rushed to and fro, people asking for directions, doctors screaming out orders over the din to each other and so on. Weird! I’ve thought. Who would even notice this place in the midst of this craziness? And besides, who would have the time to come in here anyways?

A few weeks into my training I decided to enter the chapel one day. There was a sudden change of atmosphere from the noisy buzz outside to a calm that gripped my soul. As my eyes adjusted to the lighting within, I saw two hands lifted up just in front of the altar. An elderly woman wailing out loud on her knees. She wasn’t saying too many words but her desperation was palpable. As I sat and watched her for sometime, I started understanding the strategic positioning of this space.

Many years and different hospitals later, I’ve developed a sense of reverence for these places. They are places of solace. Of light. Of hope. Desperate pleas. Honest prayers. Unhindered praises. Freely flowing tears. Unmasked selves. These are some of the emotions that mark these chapels.

People seeking refuge from the only One who can offer one. Where scientific explanations end and miracles begin. Where the search for a highly experienced super specialist ends with the acknowledgement and the desire for a touch from the Creator of the Universe. The Healer. Where there is no pretence.

Broken souls. Melted candlewax. Raw emotions. And just outside, a world that keeps moving.

Whoever thought of the concept of a place of worship smack in the middle of a crazy hospital environment couldn’t have been more genius. Beyond every level of expertise the world of modern medicine can offer, every man’s ultimate need is the need of a Saviour. In need of things only He can give. And that begins with the breaking down of walls we’ve built around our hearts , with taking off the masks we wear (No, not the triple layer/N95 ones). Right in the centre of our workplaces and our maddening lives.

He was a special child. Mentally challenged they say. Exceptionally intelligent I think. He’d seen me before and recognised me from a distance when his mom came to me to get his regular medicines. He kept nudging her to tell me to remove my mask so he would know for sure. I removed my mask for a few seconds for him. I did not expect the reaction I got from this 14 year old boy with developmental issues. A sudden throaty laughter- one of sheer joy, and a high spirited small jump. He was right about me! He came over and gave me a sideways awkward hug in a way he knew how. And then held his mom’s hand and walked away smiling through his teeth. That’s all it took to make his day. Me removing my mask for him. Covid-19 protocols had to go for a lunch break!

“It’s like we came to the chapel. He feels seen,” his mom called out as they walked off.

Hospital chapels, OPD waiting areas, ICU counselling rooms, operation theatres- are some places where all disguises come off. And they remind us of a greater need.

In a world that teaches us to pretend and live up to the expectations that nobody knows who laid out, there is also an aching people. Aching for grace, mercy and love. Aching for the love of Jesus yet not knowing where to find it.

A touch. A hug. A kind word. A nudge on the shoulder. A word of encouragement. A small note of appreciation.

A conversation with no pretence. A space where they don’t have to keep up appearances. Haven’t you longed for some authenticity like that?

This is what the Lord has been challenging me to be over the past couple of weeks and a thought I’m putting out there for you to ponder on.

Oh Child of God, you who have tasted and known of the goodness of this amazing God, what can you do today to reach out to an aching society? To be that space of no pretence to somebody who needs to be seen or heard? To be that conduit that guides them to the Saviour. To be the salt. To be the light. To shine. Beginning from right where you are. Right now.

In need of Grace, In need of love
In need of mercy raining down from higher above
In need of strength, in need of peace
In need of things than only you can give to me

In need of Christ, the perfect Lamb
My refuge strong, the great I am
This is my song, my humble plea
I am your child, I am in need
(Ross King)

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ( Matthew 5:16)

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