The first part of our story is rooted in our belief that Creator God desires to have a personal relationship with each of us. Historically, we as humankind have chosen to go our own way; we all need God’s forgiveness, healing and hope. NorthWind’s story is an interwoven tapestry of team members’ stories: stories of a calling to serve those that are hurting and made vulnerable by the circumstances in life; stories of their own healing journey; stories of impact!
If you would have met Bera and I (founders of NorthWind) twenty-five years ago, when we lived in an isolated First Nation’s Community in British Columbia, or fifteen years ago while serving at Eagle’s Nest Ministry Centre in northern Alberta, or five years ago at Eagle’s Cove near Thunder Bay, Ontario, you would have heard a common thread. We longed to welcome Canadian Indigenous families, hurting from emotional wounds and trauma, into a safe environment where they could find hope in Christ and experience whole-life discipleship. We did not see the reality of that dream until recently, but we still witnessed transformed lives throughout those years.
We now have the ability, through obtaining relevant education, proper facilities, and a Canadian charity, to operate our Family Strengthening Program. This program consists of a one to three week intensive and an ongoing community follow-through. The four components present in both parts are counselling, spiritual growth; and programs called LifeBuild (trauma-informed life development and skills training) and Expression (recreation and arts).
Today, this program runs consistently throughout the year at both NorthWind sites: Eagle’s Cove camp and the main counselling and ministry center in Thunder Bay. NorthWind includes other outlets for people searching for healing and hope. These include the Sunday evening Gathering, summer camps, counselling, LifeBuild, children and youth programs, retreats, Bible studies and the northern community Compass teams.
Eagle's Cove's Story
We faced a significant setback when the former owners of Eagle’s Cove closed the camp in 2014. We wondered if our vision would ever happen. We struggled for three years, but we held onto the threads of hope that God would give us a place for people to experience hope and healing. God reassured us that we were not to discard what He had instilled in our hearts years before. But we faced a challenge; we were landless!
We began negotiations to acquire the Eagle’s Cove property in late April 2017. The 178-acre property on Lottit Lake was listed at $748,000. The owner accepted our offer of $500,000, but we only had until May 31 to obtain funding. As a new organization, we did not qualify for normal financing; yet donations began pouring in from donors in Canada, the United States and Europe. The amounts varied from $20.00 to $20,000.00. People offered promissory notes and long-term loans in order to extend the fundraising window. On May 25th, the donations totalled $222,495.00 and the loans totalled $325,000.00, bringing the total to $547,495.00! We rejoiced at God’s miraculous work! The vision that God had given us 25 years earlier began to form into reality.
Please join us as we continue to raise funds to cover the loan amounts. This property will continue to provide a sacred place where families can engage in family counselling intensives and where children can enjoy summer camps; youth can attend retreats, and people of all ages can experience a place of hope and healing all year long!
Thunder Bay Counselling and Ministry Centre Story
When God says “I am about to do something,”
it’s best to stand back and watch in wonder!
In January of 2018, I felt a gentle nudge; I sensed that if a door closed, God would make a way for us. We enjoyed the blessing of renting space at the Redwood Opportunity Centre for eight years. We ran kid’s clubs, youth programs and got to know the neighbourhood through special family events. We held The Gathering on Sunday evenings there, and the group grew. Counselling Staff and LifeBuild coaches used the facility to support people on their healing journey. We enjoyed networking with the Redwood Foodbank, Threads, AA, and, most recently, New Hope Church. A month or so after the gentle nudge, New Hope put our transition into motion when they expressed that they needed more of the space we occupied.
The words I heard in the stillness became the hope I held onto; God would make a way! The search for suitable space for our growing endeavours seemed daunting, but excitement surfaced as we visited a property on 138 May Street South. It included an area for the NorthWind Counselling Centre and space for the youth, children’s and outreach staff. There was another area for LifeBuild, a boardroom for meetings, and a couple of large rooms for the Sunday Gathering. The location seemed a great fit for our vision and mission of supporting struggling individuals and families. The price was fair but it was unreachable for us.
The owners of the property graciously agreed to meet and hear NorthWind’s vision. They engaged in the conservation and showed concern for the challenges faced by so many in our city. We left an hour later not knowing the outcome. A few days later, the owners generously reduced the price and offered to hold the mortgage! Without their generosity, this would not have been possible! Our sincere thanks continues to go out to them!
NorthWind took possession of the great space, equalling 6,900 square feet on June 1, 2018. It is located across from City Hall and the bus depot, which makes it great for those using the bus system. It is also handicapped accessible—no more stairs! Within weeks, more people began attending the Gathering! More individuals saw the counselling sign and walked in requesting help with life’s struggles. By the fall of 2018, children’s and youth weekly programs were running. LifeBuild offered series on boundaries, grief and loss, and understanding addictions. This location has been a part of growing NorthWind.
God takes my breath away! If anyone would have told me three years ago what God was going to bring about for NorthWind, I may have chuckled in disbelieve. We consider it a privilege to watch Him work in all His ways, but especially in transforming lives.