One day at a time
It was early April and COVID–19 was raging. Salvation Army officers around the world were putting in exhaustive hours as they fed people and met their needs.
In Burlington, Vt., Captain Dominic Nicoll didn’t feel well. He was displaying flu–like symptoms and couldn’t seem to shake them. Dominic and his wife, Captain Elizabeth Nicoll, feared the worst.
“At first, we thought he had COVID–19 because the symptoms were so similar,” Elizabeth said.
Dominic added, “The first week I was sick, it felt like the flu. I was just kind of lying in bed and out of it and unaware of what was going on. That was difficult.”
The Nicolls, who have three small children, went to the emergency room once, but doctors sent Dominic home. A few days later, he was on his way back to the hospital—in an ambulance.
Doctors ran tests and found a softball–sized abscess on Dominic’s liver.
“It was days away from popping, and him possibly dying,” Elizabeth said. “He’s only 30. We’re young. It was crazy. Doctors are stumped on how he got it. It really just knocked him out for quite a while.”
Dominic, whose parents are Salvation Army officers in England, was in the hospital for eight days with no visitors due to COVID–19. A lung collapse forced him to be on oxygen for the first three days of his visit.
“It made it difficult to stay happy, but one thing that pulled me through was my relationship with God,” Dominic said. “That was one thing I focused on, even though my family and friends couldn’t come and be around me. I was able to focus on my relationship with God.”
Once he stabilized, Dominic read devotions and the Bible on his phone at the hospital.
“It was a tough time, but God got me through it,” he said.
After the hospital released Dominic, his compromised health sidelined him for a month and half. He couldn’t even be around his children. His wife, who he met at Camp Long Point in 2006, and the corps staff had to carry on without him amid a global pandemic.
“It’s been really tough to try and keep an eye on the kids, who are out of school and daycare,” Elizabeth said. “My husband couldn’t even change diapers. I couldn’t leave the house for more than an hour or an hour and a half.”
Dominic said the couple’s 8–year–old daughter, Gillian, was a huge help with siblings Juliana, 3, and Oliver, 2, when Elizabeth had to run an errand or go to the corps.
“Our staff also really stepped up and helped to make sure that the corps was still running, and I could be home when I needed to be home,” Elizabeth said. “Our staff is amazing and really came through for us during this time.”
Cayman Ford, the ministry assistant at the corps, said Dominic’s illness was “a bit of a shock, at first” because there was so much need in the community.
“Just keeping everything going was what motivated me each day,” he said.
The staff had to overcome yet another obstacle when the corps stove broke. God again came to the rescue when an anonymous donor gave the corps $5,000 for a new one.
Some much-needed help also came when students from Rice Memorial High School in Burlington prepared meals at their own homes and delivered them to the corps.
Elizabeth said the meals, organized by a teacher at the school, kept coming for two months. Some of the students continue to volunteer and help the corps assist about 500 people a week.
“At our soup kitchen, we serve six nights a week, so it’s a huge help for them to be that committed to do that once a week for so long,” Elizabeth said.
Many of the normal volunteers had to step aside because of COVID–19.
“It was really great to just be able to make a new connection with a community partner and give us a little bit of a break,” Elizabeth said. “We’re short-staffed still in our soup kitchen so we’re trying to pick up the slack. It’s nice that they were able to make such a huge commitment to us during that time.”
Throughout the ordeal, Elizabeth said she maintained her strength by “staying faithful in my devotional life” and Bible reading.
“I just took it one day a time and prioritized what needed to get done,” she said. “Anything else could just wait. Driving was usually the only time I had alone and having that time of worship in the car while I was driving was pretty helpful and important.”
Dominic, who is on a new diet, is slowly on the mend.
“He’s pretty much back to normal,” Elizabeth said. “We just have to wait to see what’s happening with his liver and whether it’s going to finish healing or if something else is happening.”
Looking back on the trial, Dominic said he and his wife learned that “God provides” and they both strengthened their spiritual walk.
“It was difficult for us to go through all of this, especially for my wife, who was watching the kids and running the corps,” he said. “It was important for her to take a few minutes each day and just have a moment with God.
“It was crucial for both of us to take those moments and pray and remind ourselves of God’s presence.”
by Robert Mitchell