It was somewhere I never imagined I would be. As the woman in scrubs turned her key to lock the door behind us, we faced a corridor with rooms on each side. Rooms filled with white-sheeted beds and hopeless women - the psychiatric ward of our local hospital.
We had come to speak to someone neither of us had ever met but my companion had been requested to visit. Not wishing to come alone, she - a sister in Christ and member of our church - asked me for my company. After a lengthy walk around the hospital's perimeter and questioning multiple employees, we had finally found ourselves in front of this one-story building with its doorway of painted green metal bars.
The woman in scrubs hesitated and questioned who we were before allowing us to enter. Calling out the name of the person we were supposed to visit, she soon nodded to a woman who - somewhat confused but seemingly pleased - stepped out to greet us.We proceeded down the hallway to a sitting area. Trying not to stare, yet in my peripheral vision I caught glimpses of women lying listlessly on beds, some apparently alert while others appeared completely unaware or uncaring of their surroundings. Through one door a woman lay asleep or unconscious, a patterned bandana shielding her eyes from the world.
Our new acquaintance was curious and eager to speak with us. She shared her belief in God and her hope that with our coming and reading His Word to her, she would finally be freed from this place. Without prompting, she insisted on sharing her story of the traumatic events that had led here here. Her loneliness was evident as she often rested her head on my companion's shoulder and hugged her neck. Her thirst for God's Word was clear as well. I would read a chapter or several verses and pause, only to be urged to continue reading more.
"This is the Word of God?" she asked more than once in her slow, slurred speech. Then she would nod and smile as if reassured, and lean back to listen some more. At one point she asked us to sing praises. As we did she attempted to follow along, always echoing a beat behind.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of our visit was when a mother and father with their young adult daughter approached. I had noticed them before, painfully present with their child as she tried weakly to eat her evening meal. While we sang they sat down nearby and the daughter, obviously wounded in mind and body, attempted with cracked voice and broken memory to sing along. After two choruses she sighed and said she was tired and must lay down. I watched as her parents carefully carried away what must be only a shell of the daughter they obviously loved.
The mindless nuisance of a television soap opera and the senseless singing on a secular station did nothing to encourage the atmosphere around us. It was the saddest place. How could anyone hope to recover there with Christ-less care? We said our goodbyes and left with heavy hearts and a promise to return. Already plans are in place for several of our young ladies from church with hearts of compassion to visit our new friend once again. Whether God is opening a new door of long-term ministry remains to be seen but while we can, we will serve. May Jehovah Rapha be our guide!