Majors Nora and Scott McNeil attained the rank of major in June 2022 as this story about Major Nora McNeil was in process. However, Major Scott McNeil was suddenly promoted to Glory. The following is about how Nora became an unlikely Salvationist, due in large part to Scott’s loving witness for Christ in her life.
The unlikely Salvationist
by Robert Mitchell
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28.
“My early knowledge of The Salvation Army was red donation bins and the thrift store that I used to visit as a kid,” recalls Captain Nora McNeil. “I never realized that The Salvation Army was a church or anything. We just went to the thrift store.”
Nora didn’t meet the church side of The Salvation Army until July 1995, when she and her husband researched churches in Milford, Mass., hoping to find one that would baptize their infant son. Every church declined because the family didn’t attend anywhere. Nora’s husband suggested The Salvation Army since he used to attend there as a child.
“I responded, ‘How is he going to get baptized—in a red donation box?’ It was really interesting to find out they were a church. I’ve been there ever since,” Nora says.
Nora called and The Salvation Army agreed to “dedicate” her son to the Lord, in exchange for a vow by the parents to raise the child in a godly home, and if the family started attending church there. Nora and her husband agreed.
A life-changing call
At one point, Nora felt a nudge toward Salvation Army officership, but her husband made it clear he did not want to be an officer and never would. The ensuing years were not happy ones for Nora, who suffered through a separation and divorce. She also spent some time in two shelters for battered women.
“I continued to go to The Salvation Army the whole time,” she said.
Nora later met Scott McNeil, who also was a single parent. He led worship and was active around the corps. When he was a child, he had attended The Salvation Army, but drifted away. After he grew up and became a parent himself, he returned to the Army when his son started asking questions about God.
When Nora’s son became restless during services, Scott would sometimes take him to the nursery so that Nora could enjoy the worship services.
Scott moved to South Carolina for several years, but ultimately returned to Milford. The couple was not romantically involved at first, but eventually in 2002, he and Nora began dating. By this time, she was working at the corps as a social services caseworker, after having been a home economics teacher. “God moved heaven and earth for us to be together,” says Nora.
Hearing God’s voice
That same year, Scott and Nora attended a Salvation Army family camp meeting at Camp Wonderland in Sharon, Mass. Nora was dramatically moved by the call to become a Salvation Army officer and hoped this time it might happen.
“My heart was beating so hard as they were doing the call. I honestly thought, if I didn’t get up and go forward, that I was going to have a heart attack,” Nora says. “That’s how vivid the call was. I had avoided it for several years.”
In 2004, Nora and Scott married and entered officer training the next year. They were commissioned in 2007 and have served in several Salvation Army locations throughout New England.
Today, Captains Nora and Scott McNeil have been Salvation Army officers for 15 years and will attain the rank of major in June. the McNeils serve at a Salvation Army church in Manchester, N.H., which boasts a successful Kids Club that draws scores of children, Monday through Thursday. The church also has an anti–human trafficking, Pathway of Hope, food pantry, and many financial assistance programs.
Looking back, Nora said she sees God’s hand on everything that has happened.
“I think it was His plan,” she said. “Since I’ve been an officer, God is constantly near me and provides whatever I need in order to do what He wants me to do. It’s an amazing thing.”