By Stuart Swartzentruber
For over fifty years, Northern Light Gospel Mission, Impact North Ministries, and Living Hope Native Ministries had their offices and headquarters in Red Lake, ON. In September of 2018 LHNM moved those offices to Thunder Bay, ON. Why? According to Statistics Canada, in 1960 only 12 percent of First Nations individuals lived in Canadian cities. Today that number is close to 60 percent.
In the late 1980s INM started sending workers to urban centres to help develop churches. This was done while continuing to partner with the churches in remote First Nations communities. Thunder Bay was the first location for an urban church, with Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie following over the next few years. When LHNM was formed in 2006, we continued to encourage the growth of the urban churches as well as churches in First Nations communities.
As the only major city in northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay is a hub for the region. Although the population is only 120,000, it is a medical, educational, and political centre. Because of this, many people from smaller towns and communities are linked to Thunder Bay.
I have been amazed by the connection we feel in the office with the First Nations communities of northwestern Ontario. We have opportunities to connect with people moving here to attend college or university. Frequently we have chances to talk to people visiting Thunder Bay for medical appointments, workshops, or meetings.
Beyond people coming for services, Thunder Bay is home to over 15,000 First Nations individuals. Thunder Bay is a neighbour to the Fort William First Nations. There are close to ten First Nations communities within a three hour drive.
In practical terms, Thunder Bay is accessible and centralized for our staff and board members. LHNM is able to partner with New Hope Fellowship and rent office space from them. Delores and I are privileged to join in the body life of New Hope.
We are grateful for the years LHNM’s office was in Red Lake; it was the right location for that time. We believe that Thunder Bay is a great option for the current office, and are excited to see how the office staff can build partnerships and walk with people inside and outside of the office walls.