End of the Year Letter
Greetings from the Northland Campus in Dunbar, Wisconsin! As for me and the others who serve here, we are eager to tell everyone that Northland is open for ministry. In fact, we offer robust camp programs and facilities just like we did in previous years.
Let me give you an update. First, we have an active camp ministry with a full calendar of events. Second, the Northland Institute, a one- or two-year ministry training program, started this year; and, third, we have an active seasonal retreat and rental program with a growing number of eager groups. We praise the Lord for these ministries and remind the thousands of churches that Northland is eager to serve each church and group in any way possible.
There are some that will receive this letter with great surprise because they thought the campus was closed permanently. Others perhaps will be surprised when they find out that Northland is not owned by a mission agency, another religious entity, or a private business enterprise. Nope, none of those things are true. Northland is not owned by anyone; it is the same 501c3 non-profit organization that Dr. Paul Patz, the founder, formed in 1958. While there have been many board members serving the interests of Northland Mission, Inc., the current board members serve under that same original charter, under the same ministry focus, and under the responsibility to sustain what God has formed here in Northeast Wisconsin.
It was true that Northland attempted to collaborate with Boyce College and the larger Southern Baptist Fellowship in 2014. However, that budding relationship surprisingly ended abruptly in April, 2015. With that strategic alliance no longer possible along with the weight of carrying a heavy financial burden, it was true that Northland suspended operations shortly afterwards, closing the Northland ministry until further notice. After decades of wonderful, blessed service to thousands of churches and a multitude of campers, students, and friends, it appeared that Northland was about to close its doors forever. But was it?
Shortly afterwards, the ministry leadership diligently sought the Lord for wisdom and direction on a potential strategy that could move Northland forward. Then, in October, 2015, after much prayer and counsel, the Northland board of directors allowed another group of good and godly men to take stewardship over the campus in hopes that their vision and resources could mobilize others to continue another phase of robust ministry on the beautiful Northland campus. The vision was to extend dynamic mission on a campus known for its servant’s heart, its sacrificial founder and staff, and its unique mentoring focus; among other notable qualities. This group served under the original charter in which Northland was founded. These new board members were voted on the board while the other board members offered their resignations. They didn’t purchase Northland; they just agreed to move Northland forward, stewarding the ministry as others have done the previous 55 years.
Then, after four months of prayer and consideration, that board of directors decided to resign and allow our current board of directors the opportunity to steward Northland forward. The rationale for the transition was quite simple—if Northland was going to have a robust future ministry, Northland needed a group of people that were emotionally-connected to Northland, historically-connected to its mission, and strategically-connected to fresh opportunities. The former directors recognized their strategic limitations, and graciously allowed the current leadership to lead Northland. And here Northland stands today! We stand to do ministry to the best of our abilities. But we stand nonetheless to serve, as Northland has always done since its earliest days. We praise the Lord for all of the alumni, campers, friends, and churches that have financially helped remedy the heavy debt load inherited through these transitions. With no money in a foundation and no savings in the bank, God gave a miracle through the gifts of so many who were impacted by Northland over the years. We thank God for every penny that friends have given to help continue this ministry forward.
Those of us who currently lead the ministry are not wealthy, but we have been entrusted with a ministry which does not have millions of dollars in savings to be used for a rainy day. But we believed God anyways. Like we all were taught in the chapel periods, classrooms, and daily interactions with Northland’s leaders, we trusted God for the provision. And He provided, just like He did through our Founder for many years.
What a series of events! I won’t debate that Northland seemed like a ministry “hot potato” for a few years. But I will gladly conclude that God used each step and decision over the last few years, and especially the last 30+ months, to create our current opportunity. I believe those unsettling days are far behind us; and we have settled down and are eager to provide churches and guests with a reliable ministry experience on this Northland Campus once again.
And what a campus it is! If you haven’t been here in awhile, Northland is absolutely beautiful. In fact, when I stepped on the property after a ten-year absence, it was obvious that the Northland Campus experienced a thorough facility makeover, which is now a gift to the churches and to everyone who chooses to utilize it.
Our current on-campus team has been working with a multitude of guests and connections. We believe God has a thriving camp ministry, like in former years, developing again on this site. With 2,500 camper guests projected for summer, 2018, Northland Camp is experiencing wonderful growth. We praise the Lord for these exciting developments.
Those most familiar with Northland understood that Northland was well-positioned financially since its inception. But due to many variables, those funds were used which now means that a sustainable business model must be followed. As a result, we have been working around the clock to secure creative funding through foundations, donors, grants, and ventures; without losing the ministry vision and focus. At this point, we are pleased to see progress on many fronts. That, of course, doesn’t mean there aren’t substantial needs. Financial needs still exist like they do in all organizations.
Some may choose to financially give to Northland. While we welcome any financial contribution, we also want to present some other great ways to support Northland. For example, you could bring campers to youth camp, encourage families to attend family camp, send students to the Institute, volunteer, and pray.
Quite frankly, with nearly 4,000 graduates, thousands more of matriculated students, hundreds of thousands of former campers, and a multitude of friends, Northland’s future going forward can
more easily be accomplished when a strong percentage of supporters find a way to be a blessing. At the same time, we are making a lot of new friends and forming a lot of great relationships. We praise the Lord for how the ministry is moving forward. Pray with us about what you might be able to do in the future.
The Northland leadership specifically invites your church, your family, and your friends to come to Northland to see what great things God is doing on the campus. We would love to have you.
In addition, we have formed a special group that is acting as ministry advisors with substantial opportunity to help Northland move forward. While we have already reached out to 50 pastors who have regularly shown their support, we know there may be others who are interested in strengthening a relationship with Northland once again or forming a new one altogether. We would welcome this.
In addition, we have begun conversations with interested college and camp alumni who are coming together to continue the ministry that our Founder focused the majority of his life developing. We have benefited from the faith of our Founder and from those that served alongside this godly businessman to make this vision become a reality. It lives with us or dies with us. We are the fruit of one man’s step of faith. Surely there are others who share this burden.
In addition, we have asked interested businessmen to serve as strategic advisors for Northland moving forward. Maybe there are other seasoned businessmen which would enjoy the challenge of serving alongside some others who put their business acumen to ministry use. Northland has large ambitions to educate and train this generation of young people. We have a global vision to do so. Reach out and see what you can do.
Our ministry is to continue the Northland ministry with the best of our abilities. With God’s help, a gracious spirit, and a commitment to the Gospel, we can use this ministry as a stronghold in this region of the United States. We can help young people walk with the Lord, train young people in the Scriptures, and encourage each person to love God with everything.
I have personally tried to emphasize a Northland atmosphere where “the Word of God can be preached, the name of God can be exalted, the love of God can be felt, and where people learn to esteem others better than themselves.” If this type of spirit is on this campus, we have a campus that will build people, equip the saints, glorify God, and encourage churches.
Now, that is a great reason to have Northland back. Will you help?
Welcome back to Northland.
Jeff Kahl, Executive Director