A Woman Who Loves: Nicola Bartel


“Offer the gift of who you are and see what God does with it.”                   

At SheLoves Magazine, we LOVE introducing you to “SheLovelys” all over the world. This month I am thrilled to feature Nicola Bartel, the Executive Director for Mercy Ministries of Canada. Nicola and I shared a 300-sq. ft portable and a porta potty for the better part of a year, which really says something about the strength of our relationship. We also shared a rather pie-in-the-sky dream, which was that Mercy Ministries would have a Canadian home.

NicolaBartelMiraculously, the home was completed in 2010, in no small part to Nicola’s tireless efforts. Courageous young women now come from all over the country to the take part in Mercy Ministries’ residential counseling program. Women can come here, seeking freedom from such life-controlling issues as eating disorders, self-harm, addiction and abuse.

From Nicola I have seen what it means to lead by example, learned to trust when all seems lost, and found rest in the steady constancy of her faith.

As an import from England, Nicola also taught me the value of the word “swish” (it means smart or fashionable), and that I am a “Winter,” meaning I should never, under any circumstances, wear pastels.

My most treasured friends are those who make me laugh until we’re both red-faced and crying, but are also fully comfortable to sit deep in life’s valleys with me. Nicola is just that, with an extra scoop of wisdom and a somewhat inappropriate sense of humour thrown into the mix. I know you will just love her. So do settle in with your own wet cappuccino and join us, won’t you?

Q & A with Nicola Bartel

[On life]

Megan: Tell us a little of your story . . .

Nicola: My family moved from Manchester, England when I was in Grade 2. A confident, bubbly girl, I made friends easily in our new home country of Canada. However, in the final weeks of Grade 7, I was rejected by my group of friends. That experience with fear, loneliness and rejection gave me a general understanding of those standing on the outside, and a great heart for young people on the margins.

As a young adult I was passionate about working with youth, and had a natural ability to relate to teenagers. By age 20, I was a youth ministry leader in my home church and found myself mediating between parents and teens. I soon realized I needed some skill to continue in that field, and enrolled in a two-year counseling diploma.

I felt a sure call to commit to working with youth full time after spending 11 years running a business. Isaiah 52:12 was very much a part of my sense of call at that time, as it reminded me of God’s leading and protection.

I had answered an ad to work in a new home for pregnant teens being set up by a church in the city and thought nothing of it until I was challenged at a youth conference to pursue the call of God in my life. I went home, followed up on my application, and got the job. While waiting to start I attended Douglas College to learn all I could about pregnancy support.

I came alive in my new position–starting as a house parent and eventually becoming the program director. It was during my time there that I decided, almost by chance, to attend  the LifeWomen Conference, hosted by Relate Church. Nancy Alcorn, founder of Mercy Ministries, was one of the speakers that year. When Nancy spoke of the three principles of Mercy Ministries–taking girls free of charge, not accepting government funding and tithing 10% of everything that came into the ministry–I could hardly believe it! God had been speaking to me about two of those three principles for some time. When Helen Burns cast the vision of bringing Mercy Ministries to Canada, I knew I had to get involved. I volunteered for seven years and came on staff as Executive Director in 2008.

Megan: What do you love most about your work with Mercy Ministries?

Nicola: Watching the transformations. I love seeing the Spirit of God work in a woman’s life, taking her from brokenness, darkness and lifelessness to confidence in who she is as Christ emerges in her life.

Megan: What was your career dream as a young girl?

Nicola: A teacher or an actress. I was a bit bossy and a drama queen at heart!

Megan: On your nightstand right now?

Nicola: My parents’ wedding picture, a photo of a 2-year-old me on a beach in the south of England, a hand blown glass heart (gift from my hubby), and a Billy Graham book on leadership.

[On inspiration, finding joy & leadership]

Megan: Love is ___________

Nicola: . . . being fully invested, vulnerable, real and generous

Megan: Leadership is _____________

Nicola: . . . following God’s leading first, serving always, respecting and inspiring others to action (Micah 6:8 and James 3:17 are my leadership/life verses)

Megan: Who inspires you?

Nicola: Definitely the women in our program. I love watching God’s firm and gentle push on the backs of these women as they find the tremendous courage to press through challenges, fears, insecurities and take the risk!

Megan: Let’s say tomorrow is completely open. What would you do?

Nicola: Take my dog for a long walk on the dyke, meet a friend for lunch and a pedicure, do a little shoe shopping (I love shoe therapy), and then have dinner out with my gorgeous husband.

Megan: What would be your #onewordcheckin today?

Nicola: Gratitude

[On making a difference]

Megan: So often we desire to impact our own communities but are overwhelmed with how to begin. Any advice?

Nicola: Get involved in people’s lives and be aware of who crosses you path. Offer the gift of you and see what God does with it. Also, don’t be afraid of things getting messy, stay close to God and others, and maintain a sense of humour.

Megan: Many of us know a women who is struggling with an eating disorder, self-harm behaviours, or addiction. How can we help her?

Nicola: Don’t allow her to isolate or avoid the issue, and stay in relationship, giving her plenty of opportunities to open up to you. Be sure to educate yourself on the support your city offers, so you can refer her for help when she’s ready. We have a great series of books dealing with the four specific issues we see most often at Mercy Ministries: self harm, eating disorders, addiction and childhood sexual abuse. They would be good resources to start with. It’s also important that you don’t isolate yourself as you help someone who is struggling. Ask for advice, and draw others into a circle of care. A team approach is always better.

Megan: What has God been teaching you lately?

Nicola: The importance of being still with Him, instead of doing more. God can do the work with or without my help; He graciously chooses to use me. I am far more effective if I choose stillness before action.

[Just for fun]

What’s your happy place? A wet cappuccino, a good book and a good hair day!
Which three books have most inspired you? Nancy Alcorn’s “Mission of Mercy,” John Ortberg’s “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat,” and everything by Dr Larry Crabb.
What is your favorite word? Cheeky or spicy.
What is your least favorite word? Dull or flat.
What sound or noise do you love? Birds singing.
What sound or noise do you hate? Rap music, drills, and construction noise.
What country would you most like to visit? Italy.
What’s something about you that would surprise us? I do not like heights or driving over bridges.
What song always gets you moving? (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher–I LOVE 70’s music!


Do you know a “Woman Who Loves” we need to meet? A woman who is leaving her own unique mark in our world? We would love to hear her story. The comment section will be open all month long to receive your suggestions!


If your heart is moved by the life-changing work of Mercy Ministries, here are some ways to get involved:

– Change a young woman’s life by sponsoring her stay at Mercy Ministries by clicking here.

– Volunteerinvite Mercy Ministries to your community or church event, or apply to become an advocate by clicking the links provided or emailing [email protected]