British people are living through their third national lockdown, since the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared ten months ago – and I am one of them.

Despite this being a dull and dreary, overcast January day, I have dragged myself out of the house.

I am approaching a long line of people, all of us wearing facemasks, each one standing carefully spaced, at a safe social distance, waiting to enter the local branch of my bank.

All I want to do is pay in two cheques that I received as gifts for Christmas.


The queue snakes around the corner of the building and I join what looks like the end of it.

Suddenly a voice calls out, clearly vying for my attention. It’s a middle-aged woman of South Asian descent, leaning back against the trunk of a tree, a few metres further along the pavement, her voice muffled by a facemask. She’s wearing a black hijab and lots of loose, dark coloured layers of clothing.

“I’m actually at the end of the queue,” she informs me, “but I’ve got backache, so I can’t stand in line indefinitely.” She elbows the tree behind her. “This is giving me the support I need while I wait.”

I reassure her that this is fine, I’ll happily make space for her to take the place in front of me, whenever she wants to join the queue – and we soon get chatting, me from where I’m standing in line, and she from beneath the tree, whose roots have been busy pushing up all the paving slabs, making them feel uneven underfoot.

She tells me her family is originally from a Muslim part of India, but they came to the UK when she was a child, more than four decades ago. She’s married with two grown up children. She’s not sure how she hurt her back, but the pain began three years ago, and no medication or treatment seems to be helping.

Even as she’s opening up her heart, I can feel the oh-so-familiar surge of courage-and-compassion rising up within me, and I know that this is a God-ordained encounter.

“What are you called?” I ask her.

“Terrine,” she replies.

“That’s a pretty name,” I say. “What does it mean?”

“I’m not really sure,” she tells me, “but I think my parents said it means ‘tender and gracious’ or something like that.”

I absorb what she’s saying, while sending up ‘arrow’ prayers at the same time, asking God for wisdom and discernment about where to take the conversation.

“I can see you’re a woman of faith,” I remark, “so perhaps God wants to be ‘tender and gracious’ to you today.”

“Perhaps,” she says, “but I don’t really practice my faith. It’s more my husband who tries to live by it, not me.”

We pause for a moment, to allow for the queue to move forward a couple of spaces, taking me to the corner of the building. I watch as Terrine hobbles away from the tree trunk, her shoulders hunched forward, her hand clasping hold of the small of her spine – and heads for a new tree, just around the corner, not far from the bank branch entrance.

I take a deep breath, and continue the conversation, across the stretch of pavement between us, fully aware that others in the queue are now eavesdropping.

“You know, Terrine, I’m a woman of faith too,” I tell her, “I’m a Christian, and I believe that God can heal people, when His people pray in the name of Jesus.” She looks taken aback, but I continue, “Has anyone prayed for your back to be healed yet?”

She looks at me, mouth wide open. “I pray for it myself,” she says, “but Allah doesn’t always hear me.” She bites her bottom lip, and then, “People in this country don’t normally talk about faith,” she says. “Are you like a legitimate Christian? Or are you one of those weirdos who go around people’s front doors. and always turn up in pairs?”

I reassure her that I’m a genuine Christian, and give her the name of my church. It turns out she once went to a church in our city, but an elderly lady told her off for sitting in ‘her’ pew, and she hasn’t graced the doors of a church building since. I empathise, fully understanding how this would have put her off.

“Besides,” she tells me, “I believe that Jesus was just a prophet.” I nod, and she continues, “I don’t get how the Christian God can be your Father, and Jesus can be His Son. How does that even work?”

Thinking on my feet, and praying silently, as I shuffle forward another space in the queue, I explain as best I can how the Christian God is three-in-one. She remains unconvinced, and we agree to disagree on Jesus’ status. “But I feel sure He will heal your back, if you ask Him,” I say.

She mentions her husband, and how he won’t like it if I pray for her. “But he’s not here,” I point out, “and I’m sure he’d appreciate having a wife who’s not in pain all the time.”

She thinks about this and, as I’m now near the front of the queue, she shuffles out from under the tree – to take up her position, just ahead of me, leaning back against the metal barrier rail that lines the wheelchair ramp into the bank branch.

We’re now standing in closer proximity than we’ve been during the entirety of her conversation.

“Go on then,” she says, and I smile. “You can pray for my back.”

“I’m glad you’ve agreed,” I say, before proceeding to speak out a short prayer of blessing, projecting my words through my facemask, asking Jesus to be tender and gracious to Terrine, and to heal her back, removing all pain and inflammation.

She is looking at me wide-eyed, while my gaze is fixed on her back, and my right hand is stretched out towards it. “That was kind,” she says, smiling. “I’m not sure it will make much difference though.”

“Why don’t you try and stand up straight?” I suggest and, reluctantly, she agrees.

Even as she steps away from the barrier rail, I can see a change in her posture. In a step of faith, which she is clearly trying to deny, she holds her head up and gently pushes her shoulders back and stretches her spine.

“You’re not grimacing,” I remark.

She smiles in response. “Let’s see how long it lasts,” she says.

“Well done Terrine,” I say, feeling a deep delight at what God has clearly started doing in this lady’s life. “It’s a step of faith to test what’s just happened.”

The door to the bank swings open, and a facemask-clad attendant holds it open. We watch as an elderly lady emerges, leaning into her walker, heading down the wheelchair ramp.

“You can call on the name of Jesus at any time,” I say to Terrine, “The Christian faith is about taking one step at a time.”

She nods, and the bank attendant beckons her into the building, pointing her to a hand sanitiser station.

The door swings shut. She doesn’t look back.


We might be living in lockdown at the moment, but my encounter with Terrine has reminded me that God can still ordain unexpected opportunities to bring blessing to those around us, who are spiritually searching.

How many ‘Terrines’ are out there? How many people in pain? How many who need to know Jesus wants, and is able, to heal them?

How many of us, if we are Christians, need supernatural courage and compassion to seize a moment when it arises, and boldness in offering prayer in the name of Jesus?

And how many others, the ‘Terrines’ of this world, need to be encouraged to start taking small steps of faith?

If this is you, I would love to hear your reflections, thoughts or stories in the comments below.

Photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash



  1. Thanks for sharing this. It gave me an inspirational and uplifting start to my working day. I was really challenged by your questions too; I have the compassion, but I lack the supernatural courage and boldness to follow your lead. (As yet – I’m a work in progress!) Thank you for modelling what this can look like though, and I’ll pray that Terrine is still revelling in her healing.

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Betty Boo! I’m glad to hear you’ve been inspired and uplifted. I feel sure that, if you ask God for courage to go with your compassion, He will honour that prayer!

  2. I’ve been inspired by this, and other recent stories here, of praying for people to be healed. This is something I’ve done before, but with lockdown I haven’t seemed to have these opportunities and was feeling challenged to look for the opportunities to do so. Just a few days ago I got 2 opportunities in one day! The first was to pray for a neighbour’s back, and then the second was for a work colleague’s back. Thanks for inspiring me and challenging me.

    • Thanks for this encouragement, Tammi! Well done for being brave in praying for your neighbour and your work colleague – and both in the same day too! I hope that both their backs are healed soon, and that you get to hear about it.

  3. Thank you once again for a wonderfully encouraging story of God bringing light through the cracks. I pray that Terrine will come to know the love of God as she continues to walk in her healing. Bless you for always being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to pray for people. It makes me look for opportunities too.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Do keep looking for those opportunities, Janet! You never know where they might lead you, or the person with whom you’re talking!

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