History of Freedom In Christ Ministries
While Dr. Neil T. Anderson was teaching at Talbot School of Theology, he began counseling students with personal and spiritual conflicts. He discovered that many of those students had two things in common: they did not understand their identity in Christ and they were not experiencing that "Abba! Father!" connection with God. In response to that need, Dr. Anderson wrote the best-sellers Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker. He also started teaching at conferences around the country and around the world. Freedom In Christ Ministries (FICM) was born in 1989. Since then, more than three million people have been reached with the message of freedom through our FICM staff and Ministry Associates (volunteers), FICM conferences and FICM resources being used in more than 60 countries!
History of Freedom In Christ Canada
In January 1992, Dr. Neil T. Anderson made his first trip to Canada (Winnipeg, MB) to share the message of freedom. May 1992 marked Dr. Anderson's second visit to Canada and his first full conference - Resolving Personal and Spiritual Conflicts. With the many invitations that were coming to Dr. Anderson for this seminar in Canada, he approached Robert & Grace Toews to become the national directors for this ministry in Canada. They quickly accepted and began to travel with Dr. Anderson whenever he was in Canada to help people find their freedom in Christ and have Freedom In Christ resources available in Canada. Robert & Grace also began to host video seminars all across Canada.
Dr. Anderson has visited our country almost 40 times to share the message of freedom. Robert & Grace Toews were the national directors for the first seven years of the ministry in Canada and did almost 200 seminars in that time. In 1995 Clay Bergen became the prayer coordinator of Freedom In Christ Canada, and in 1999 he became the national director and moved the Canadian office to Regina, Saskatchewan.
The Beginnings of FICM in Canada
My name is Grace Toews and it’s a privilege to share our story with you. My husband Robert and I were the first directors of Freedom in Christ Ministries in Canada. Both of us had lost our first spouses to illness, mine about five years earlier and Robert’s just over a year before we met. We each had three grown children and each of us was seeking God’s direction for our future. Robert had been involved in public school education all of his adult life, mostly in administration, and also in music and Christian education in the churches he had attended. I held almost every position open to women in churches and I and my family had spent two short term periods involved in missions work, first in Nigeria teaching in a Christian Teacher Training College and then in Malaysia, teaching in a school for missionary children.
The assignment in Malaysia was very difficult for several reasons: disunity among the staff; our teenage sons had difficulty breaking into the “herd mentality” which seems to prevail in such an institution; our daughter, a shy little girl entering Grade One, my husband diagnosed with cancer, and finally, in a strange environment without the support of family and friends. It was during that time that I learned that God and His word are enough when trouble comes. Specifically, I discovered how to forgive the way Dr. Anderson outlined it in The Steps to Freedom in Christ. I also learned the proper view of submission, about generational sins, and how to deal with these in a biblical way as in the Steps. My husband had several bouts of cancer involving a number of surgeries and when we left Malaysia we were advised not to return because of his health.
When we returned to Canada the children and I struggled as we watched my husband’s health deteriorate and then saw him die. I found myself seeking the Lord about what I was going to do after he was gone. The boys had both been married the previous year and our daughter was finishing grade 12. I had always wanted to go back to studying and I sensed the Lord had a new assignment for me so I spent that first year at the local university. It was during this year that I read Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, and I wanted to know more about who we are in Christ because this really resonated with what I had been learning through my experiences in Malaysia and through God’s word. I moved and enrolled at the seminary in the Master of Divinity program and then continued with the Doctor of Ministry degree. This consumed most of my time but after five years the Lord brought a new partner into my life because the work He had planned for us needed a mature husband and wife team.
Robert’s wife passed away with Huntington’s disease a little more than a year before we met, having been in hospital for seven years. Both of us had a desire to be involved in ministry. We met through our children and very soon knew that the Lord had been preparing us for each other and for ministry, so we were married in August 1991. In early December we went to Talbot Seminary to take a doctoral class from Dr. Anderson. On the first morning of classes Neil asked each of us to share briefly about our spiritual journey, why we had come to this class and what we hoped to learn there. Robert and I were very excited about what we heard in the class and we talked about how this ministry seemed to be what we were looking for. Neil and his wife, Joanne, asked us to have lunch with them mid-week and during the meal Neil told us that there was a large response from Canada and he needed help. He asked us to pray about getting involved. We were thrilled!
In June, Neil came to our church, did a seminar there and invited us to come to California in fall to attend and assist in a seminar. This would be followed by the organizational meeting of the founding of Freedom in Christ Ministries at Arrowhead Springs where Neil asked us to present a proposal of what FICM would look like in Canada. Robert is highly gifted in administration so he forged and presented a proposal to the board. The board voted unanimously to accept it, prayed over us, and sent us home with a large box of materials to get started from our home in Regina.
Later we moved to a large acreage where we established an office and warehouse for FICM, Canada, and later a small Christian Retreat Centre for the purpose of ministering to those in ministry. From this base we conducted a two day, in depth workshop in the use of The Steps; six evenings of public seminars using Dr. Anderson’s video presentation of FIC; and during the day, modelling The Steps process by offering private sessions for those wishing to go through The Steps. Individuals from the earlier workshop attended these sessions as prayer partners to see the process modelled. A couple of years later Ken and Carolee Neufeld from Winnipeg joined us, ministering mainly in Manitoba, Ontario, and the Maritimes, and in 1997 Clay Bergen became our prayer coordinator.
In 1999 we felt that we could no longer lead Freedom in Christ and carry on the expanding retreat ministry so we stepped down as Canadian Directors and devoted our time to the retreat center while Clay became the director of FICM, Canada. We found the retreat ministry very effective and rewarding.
In the spring of 2008 we moved to Camrose, AB, where Robert’s oldest daughter was hospitalized with Huntington’s in order to be able to assist with the needs of her family. She passed away in December of 2013. His other two children were also in Alberta and his second daughter passed away in September, 2015 with pneumonia.
We have continued to take individuals through the Steps to Freedom in Christ and The Steps to Setting Your Marriage Free. We have conducted several small seminars in the area, and Robert is still on the board of Freedom in Christ, Canada.