For Louise Nicholson, retirement doesn’t mean an end to striving to bring hope into people’s lives.
From childhood, Louise Nicholson has always wanted to help others. Even though the way she has done this may have taken different forms over the years, she has always stayed true to that calling.
Growing up in Edinburgh, Louise dreamed of working in cancer research. Her first job was as a junior technician in the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Zoology, and she can remember her first boss, Professor Walker, saying that DNA would be used to cure a whole range of diseases, including cancer.
That fuelled a passion that continued when she followed her parents to Australia, and saw her start work for the NSW Cancer Council. She continued to pursue this career path, moving into children’s medical research, working in various fields such as gastroenterology, haematology and oncology.
During this time she co-authored a number of papers with doctors and climbed the ladder in her field, earning her Master of Science and becoming a lab manager.
“I absolutely adored it, I worshipped that job,” Louise says.
Despite attending Sunday school as a child, faith and spirituality had never been a big part of Louise’s life, but all that changed when she had a sudden conversion experience in her early 40s. While this was to lead her away from her old career into a new path, it was a gain for Louise, not a loss.
“It was an amazing conversion that took me out of something I adored into something that gave me more fulfilment than anything had ever given me before,” she explained to the Monaro Post. “The faith was that strong that I could give away the passion of my life, my work, and go into the ministry.”
Louise visited a number of different churches in the search for her spiritual home, initially avoiding the Salvos because her brother was already worshipping there and she wanted to give him space as she explored her own faith. That changed when she found a Salvation Army corps (church) that felt like home and realised that was where she was meant to be.
The career shift didn’t change Louise’s passion for helping others, and she found herself in full-time ministry. In her sixteen years as a Salvation Army officer (minister), she spent 4 years working in drug and alcohol rehab and twelve years as a corps officer.
Seven years ago she was appointed to Cooma Salvation Army, and soon began to make a difference in that community. As well as the normal activities of a corps officer, Louise also played a part in the launch of a Snow Mission at the Jindabyne Memorial Hall. The Salvos had identified a need to provide assistance for overseas workers who came to Australia expecting work on the snowfields and found themselves unable to make ends meet.
Together with the local community and Salvos from other locations, Louise helped put together a place where people could not only get a meal in a safe environment, but build relationships and leave knowing about the love of Jesus and the power of prayer.
As Louise enjoys her well-earned retirement, she can look back on a life in service to others, where God has led her on a path true to her dream of helping others—whether in her career as a scientist or in her ministry as an officer.
As she told the Monaro Post, despite the lovely surroundings on the coast where she is now located, retirement doesn’t mean that desire to serve has changed or that she will no longer continue her efforts.
“I don’t know what, but I am not going to stop. I just want to be someone who brings hope into people’s lives.”