The Northwoods Conference Center is owned and operated by the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). The vision of IBLP is to teach Christians how to live by the principles found in God’s Word. Long before IBLP was started, however, the Gothard family came to the Northwoods for weeklong visits during the summertime. They stayed with their grandparents in a summer home located near Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin.
This background provided the motivation to look for property in the Northwoods when the need for a conference center in which to train legislators, business leaders, doctors, educators, and others arose.
The Northwoods Conference Center property was previously a lumber camp and became available for purchase in 1971. In its early years, the facilities were used for the writing of several books published by IBLP, including Character Sketches, Men’s Manuals, The Rebuilder’s Guide and several others.
The artist for the Character Sketches series, Severt Andrewson, lived nearby, as did writer Dr. Larry Guthrie. To assist with research associated with the Character Sketches, a large wildlife library was established. Also, animals such as elk, bison, sheep, goats, geese, ducks, and pheasants were brought to the property for observation and study.
Building the Lodge
When it became necessary to build the present lodge, Bill Gothard asked the Lord to confirm plans by providing unexpected gifts. One week later, IBLP received an unexpected gift of $150,000 from an alumnus of the Basic Seminar who had been greatly impacted by the publications that were written at the Northwoods. Initial plans for the Northwoods Conference Center were then considered.
One of the first projects required $100,000 in September and a final $100,000 the following April. A few days later, a businessman from Titusville, Florida, called to say that he wanted to give a gift to the ministry. He wanted to give the gift in person and was willing to meet Bill anywhere in the country to give it. Since a Basic Seminar was being held in Tampa, Florida, the following week, Bill agreed to meet him there.
The businessman, his pastor, and their wives drove to the Seminar. During one of the breaks, they explained that because of applying the principles of God’s Word given in the Basic Seminar, the Lord had prospered this man’s business, and now he wanted to give a gift of $200,000 to the ministry. Then he said, “There’s one problem. I can give you $100,000 now in September and the other $100,000 in April.” With these provisions and two clear confirmations from the Lord, the project was begun.
Road and Airstrip
Hauling in sand and gravel for the seven-mile road system and the one-mile airstrip was going to be one of the major expenses of the project. As the project was begun, a large hill that was in the way of a proposed lodge wing and airstrip had to be cleared away. As workers began to excavate the hill, they discovered that it was a huge deposit of sand and gravel. The grade of stone they uncovered was the precise grade needed for the roads and runway! The deposit was sufficient for the entire job.
The contractor who constructed the roads and landing strip saw God do so many miraculous things that one day he and his chief foreman expressed a desire to know more about God and asked how they could become Christians. They both prayed to receive Christ as their personal Savior.
A hangar on the runway was built, as well as a dining room, a kitchen, several offices, and a number of guest rooms. When these facilities were completed, another wing of guest rooms was added. God’s provisions for the building were marvelous. One example of His provision was the oak paneling, which was bought from one supplier for the price of pine.
When IBLP purchased the property, a man who had previously worked on the property was hired. He was skilled in excavation and maintenance, and his wife was an excellent cook. One day both of them learned of their need for salvation and received Christ as their Savior. They continued to be the caretakers of the property for the next 18 years.
In 1980, the first legislative seminar was held for legislators and judges from Minnesota and Indiana. Thereafter, annual seminars were conducted for legislators, judges, doctors, pastors, business leaders, and educators. During these seminars, many professionals became Christians and have since risen to positions of influence and responsibility that have opened the way for IBLP to work with juvenile delinquents in cities across the nation.
The fall of 1984 marked the beginning of the Advanced Training Institute International (ATII), a home-education program designed to help families establish their education on the foundation of God’s Word. One hundred and two families enrolled in the program that first year, and a weeklong training seminar was held at the Northwoods Conference Center for the parents of these families.
The ALERT Program
In January of 1994, Ron and Joyce Fuhrman had the vision of starting the International ALERT Academy, a training and service organization designed to train young men in the skills needed for success in everyday life, as well as to prepare them for responding to and assisting in a variety of emergency situations. ALERT was based out of the Northwoods Conference Center until the spring of 2000, when it outgrew the facilities and moved to Big Sandy, Texas.
With the the business of modern day life it’s as vital as ever to take time to break away and seek God. The Northwoods has transitioned through several directors and many programs, but its purpose remains the same: to assist other groups and individuals in drawing closer to God as they take in the relaxing atmosphere of the Northwoods.