Northland Mission is the result of God’s blessing on the life of Dr. Paul Patz (1911–2000) and his family. Born as the ninth of ten children into a life of poverty, Paul Patz trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior at age seventeen. Paul would later recall developing a perplexing burden after his conversion. He felt God calling him into a ministry but was unsure what God could do with a poor farmer with only a third-grade education. As he pondered these things, he continued working the family farm through the dark days of the Great Depression.
Starting with the passion of a young farm boy, God has developed a ministry that has impacted thousands of lives, trained hundreds of college graduates for ministry, and whose influence is being felt around the world. Beginning in 1948, Paul Patz developed a series of inventions that would revolutionize the farming industry and lead to his financial success. He eventually founded Patz Sales, Inc., which has been manufacturing quality farm machinery for over fifty-seven years.
Paul Patz and his family founded Northland Mission Camp on December 31, 1958. They determined in their hearts to give more than they ever had from the profits of their company. While looking for that new avenue of giving, the Patz family established a camp fund. This fund increased during 1959, and property was purchased in 1960.
In the years following, God gave Paul Patz and his family the ministry they sought when He burdened them to use their monetary resources to develop a 1,500 acre facility in northeast Wisconsin that they named Northland Mission Camp (today known as Northland Camp & Conference Center).
Then, in 1976, Paul Patz acted on the need for a Bible-training institution in this region by branching out and opening Northland’s doors to Northland Baptist Bible Institute. The scope of the curriculum quickly outdistanced the institute and after only one year, the name was changed to Northland Baptist Bible College. The college grew and flourished under the leadership of then-president, Les Ollila, throughout the 1980s and 1990s. During that time, a broader range of majors became available, a graduate school was started, and the presence of Northland’s graduates began to be seen on every continent of the globe.
For over twenty years, the camp and college were funded primarily through the Patz family’s generosity and the success of Patz Sales. With a depressed farm industry and the death of Paul Patz in 2000, the ministry now seeks financial partners to invest in the hearts of young people who are the future servant-leaders for Great Commission living.
In 2009, under the visionary leadership of current-president, Matt Olson, after considering the increased scope of what was being offered, a name addition of Northland International University was born, serving as an umbrella to Northland's School of Leadership, School of Biblical Studies, School of Cross-Cultural Studies, School of Communication Arts, and School of Education as well as Northland Graduate School, Northland Center for Global Opportunities, and Northland Center for the Local Church. In all of this, the administration’s goal was to amplify and reinforce the original mission and purpose statements. Paul Patz’s founding vision has not changed, but it has grown and multiplied through increased opportunities because of unprecedented avenues for learning, training, and going.