Hospital Cook Nourishes Bodies and Spirits

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Bob Hallinan

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             Most people who frequent a hospital cafeteria late at night aren’t there for happy reasons. Chances are they’re worried about a loved one, and have a lot on their mind. Thomas Allen can spot the souls that need comforting. Besides his job as cook and kitchen supervisor on the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift at The University of Kansas Health System, Allen is an associate minister at Oak Ridge Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, and giving comfort just comes naturally.

            Allen has been praised by customers, patients and hospital leaders for his impromptu late night prayer sessions with troubled cafeteria customers and patients. He’s received the hospital’s Excellence in caring award and is currently in the hospital’s clinical pastoral education program, training to become a certified chaplain.

            In the video, Thomas Allen explains how his ministry came before his cooking. He was going through a rough time, trying to find work to support his family. He chokes up as he describes a powerful vision he had while driving down I-35, with the voice of God calling him to be a minister. He said yes, and began his studies to be a minister. He also had a love for cooking, which eventually led him to his current job, where he gets to keep an eye out for souls who need comforting…but he doesn’t tell them he’s a minister because he says that makes people look at him differently.

            Also on the video, lots of late night interaction and hugs in the cafeteria at The University of Kansas Health System.