Growing up, Nicola Muir loved helping people in her role as a junior soldier of the Salvation Army. Born into a family of Salvationists she had a passion for God – and caring – from an early age. As she grew into her teens she often thought of becoming a Salvationist minister but instead chose nursing in her early 20s. It was a rewarding career but her dream never left her.
Decades later, working as a health visitor, Nicola realised her job was preventing her from using her Christian faith to support patients. While she could provide physical aid, she couldn’t offer spiritual advice as the employee of an impartial organisation. So, with her children all grown up and flown the nest, she decided it was the perfect time to apply for that lifelong dream of Salvation Army ministry.
Her application was accepted and now, after two years’ training in London and five years as a Minister in Wokingham, Nicola is off to the Caribbean for a three-year placement at a Jamaican boarding school. “I’ll be working in the boarding house, co-ordinating after-school activities and health matters, so I’ll be putting my nursing skills to good use,” explains Nicola. “The school is run by the Salvation Army for visually-impaired children from the age of five to 18, so it will be a challenge, but I’m ready for a change – and a new adventure!
“I’m really excited as this is the perfect opportunity for me,” Nicola says. “I always felt my calling was not to a British church but to an international appointment. Ministers have to contribute at least five years’ work at home before they’re even considered for international placements, so when I was asked to go abroad so soon I was thrilled.”
Nicola is also delighted her family will be able to visit. Her daughter Kirsten (30, pictured above with Nicola), is expecting her first child this summer, and plans to visit Nicola over New Year, along with husband Matthew and their latest addition. “Of course we’ll keep in touch, as I don’t want to miss all the firsts that a new baby brings,” says Nicola, “but I believe my leaving is God’s will.”
‘I’ll be able to put my nursing skills to good use’
Now it’s Kirsten leading the way back home, having also been first a junior member and now a very dedicated senior member of the Salvation Army. “I’m in charge of all the children under six at our church,” says Kirsten, “as well as helping run a session for teenagers, where they can ask questions about their faith as they grow and develop. And I sing in the senior choir, which is great fun.”
Kirsten is also very proud of her mum. “I always knew that mum felt strongly about going overseas to be a minister,” she continues. “When she was young she volunteered abroad... it’s amazing that she’s got this opportunity to follow her heart.”
And Kirsten also knows that without her mother’s adventurous streak, their family would never have existed. It was at one of her American summer camps that Nicola met her late husband David, father to Kirsten and her brothers Kieran and Calum. Sadly David passed away in 2004, but her faith remained strong and helped bring her through the loss. “My faith helped me tremendously after David’s death, and my commitment to church became greater,” she remembers. “I got more and more involved in community work, then found myself back where I started, all those years ago. It became clear that the right timing for me was to minister in later life, having had my family and past experiences. I can’t wait for this new chapter to begin.”
- For further information about the Salvation Army call 0207 367 4500 or visit www.salvationarmy.org.uk
Milestone year for the Sally Army
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Salvation Army by pioneers William and Catherine Booth. Ahead of their time, the Booths wanted to demonstrate their faith by offering practical support to people in need, on the streets of London and beyond.
But from those small beginnings little could they have known the millions of lives the Salvation Army would touch. Still going strong in the 21st century, the Salvation Army is present in 126 countries worldwide, with many more dedicated youth teams and activities in the UK than ever before.
The army of caring Christians provides all kinds of services from drop-in centres to clothes banks, emergency response teams, to working to prevent human trafficking.They may be dressed differently from those early days when the ladies wore bonnets and the men naval-style hats, but the spirit and passion to transform communities is just the same.
There's more real life stories in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday