XC Skiing at HoneyRock!

Posted February 7, 2017

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Two days after 12+ inches of snow fell in the Northwoods, the Cross Country Ski class of Wheaton College made their way up to HoneyRock for MLK weekend. It was an awesome opportunity to learn a new sport and enjoy the beautiful (and snowy!) Northwoods.

Snow Path

Students learned about all aspects of the sport: dressing for the weather, waxing skiis for optimal performance, technical skills required to ski, and more! Then, they applied their learning and hit the trails both at HoneyRock and on the Anvil Lakes Trail system in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.


Bryce, a CFM Graduate Student, co-led the class. He remembers one of his favorite moments, saying, “On Saturday night we cut tracks out onto the lake and skied in silence under the stars.  As we passed under the bridge I heard a voice behind me say, "This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen."

The MilkyWay

This class isn’t just about learning how to kick double-pole or dog trot (XC ski terms!). It goes deeper than technical skills. We love offering students a place apart from Wheaton College – allowing them time to reflect and silence themselves before the Lord. When asked what her time was like, one student noted the peace she felt. She continued, “I loved we got to spend so much time in the snowy woods just enjoying nature and enjoying hanging out with each other.” This is HoneyRock at it’s best: teaching valuable life skills while making space for authentic community and connecting people with God’s creation.


We can’t wait for next year!

Christian Heritage Academy "Winterium" The HoneyRock Way

Posted January 20, 2017

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Retreat Group

This week HoneyRock hosted a unique retreat for freshmen and sophomores from Christian Heritage Academy (CHA) who came to experience the beauty of the Northwoods, delve into their personal leadership styles, and build up their faith. This is CHA's first Winterim retreat with HoneyRock. CHA came to HoneyRock with their students as a key step in preparing them for their journey beyond high school and to provide them with a different experience over Winterim break.

Snow Backpackers

Wheaton College graduate students planned, built, and led this experiential learning retreat. Every part of the day offered students opportunities for growth and development. Through a diverse set of activities, these students spent four days exploring leadership styles, building self-awareness, practicing personal responsibility, and reflecting on Biblical leadership. After attending in-depth seminars, students applied what they learned through challenge initiatives, activities, and an overnight trip to a historic HoneyRock cabin deep in the woods!

Horses In the Snow

From trekking on snowshoes for 2 miles in 16 inches of fresh powder to successfully completing all of their challenge initiatives, these students grew deeper in their understanding of themselves as leaders and God as our ultimate leader. Students left the retreat feeling “more energized and leadership like.”

Retreat Campers

We are thankful for the opportunity to impact these young peoples’ lives in a positive way, and sharing the word of Christ as they move toward becoming leaders and exploring God’s calling for their lives!

~ written by Sarah Davis and edited by Noah Lawrence

Blasting Away Expectations

Posted January 1, 2017

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If I am ever near a Taco Bell ... I make a point to go, even if I have to do a U-turn or cross six lanes of traffic I am going. This summer I had a day off at HoneyRock and chose to drive about 45 minutes to get to the nearest Taco Bell to get my usual order. I was so excited for a Baja Blast with a Crunch Wrap Supreme. I tried to enunciate in the drive thru so that the cashier would understand my southern accent because she usually doesn’t and I have to repeat myself at least three times. I was dumbfounded when she said to me “we’re out of Baja Blast, I’m sorry”. What?! Taco Bell, out of their signature drink? I had driven out of my way for this specific thing and they didn’t have it. My expectations were not met.

A couple of years ago, I traveled to a conference in New York City for an interfaith gathering. I expected it to be a weekend full of reconciliation, peace and love. My friends and I quickly realized we were at a different conference than expected and spent the weekend talking about social justice and protesting. My expectation was to better understand other religions, how to come together to learn about our differences and how we can make a change in the world. I did not expect to be handed an umbrella so that I could defend myself in a mock protest. My expectations were completely different than what I experienced

When coming to HoneyRock, I definitely had expectations about living and working in Christian community. There are things that I thought would be true which have not been true at all, and there have been things that have really surprised me. It is not that expectations are wrong, but that personal dispositions can destroy a community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together says “those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial”.


What I love about HoneyRock is that it is a place where I am able to live in community with other believers and practice the way that Jesus loved others. He recklessly pursued anyone, not expecting his followers to meet a certain quota. Living in Christian community is an amazing opportunity to practice this love, showing grace to yourself and to others, even when your expectations are not met. It takes the focus off of you and places it on being a disciple of Jesus, loving others even when they do not have Baja Blast or throw an umbrella at you.


Ephesians 4:25-37: So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbour the truth” because we belong to each other. And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you, Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil…. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT) 


~ written by Breann Lindsey, first year graduate student at HoneyRock

The Perfect Tree

Posted December 20, 2016

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Christmas at HoneyRock 2016

One of the many perks of living on a wooded property in the northwoods is that we never have to buy a Christmas tree!  For the past twenty-two winters, the Ribbe family has ventured out a few weeks before Christmas to find the perfect tree.  What surprises me every time is that from a distance, what looks like the “perfect” tree is, upon closer inspection, often a cluster of two or three smaller trees.  To separate one out would leave us with a tree not much better than Charlie Brown’s.  The other dilemma is that each person in our family has a slightly different idea of what “perfect” is.  Thus begins the emotional process of finding, not finding, finding, not finding, finding THE PERFECT TREE.  

This year we found a great tree…tall, full, and shapely (see picture).  Other years, we’ve haven’t been as fortunate and had to settle for sparse, wide or crooked.  But at  the end of the day, once decorated and lit, each tree was beautiful because it was OUR tree. Meaningful ornaments were hung.  Special gifts were placed beneath.  Family gathered around.  PERFECT!

In this busy season, don’t be distracted by an illusion of “perfect”.  Ask God to give you eyes to see truth, and you might find something wonderful!

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”   Psalm 119:18

~ written by Jackie Ribbe, Site & Facilities Office Assistant

Derek - A Story of Transformation

Posted December 9, 2016

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HoneyRock is known as A Place Apart. We find stories of personal transformation in the lives of those who come to HoneyRock to be our truth and the reason we exist. The following story illustrates how HoneyRock's mission "to build Christ’s church and benefit society worldwide by fostering the development of whole and effective people through transformational outdoor experiences" is more than just words on paper - it is real.

One very accurate way to describe my life as a whole before coming to Christ would be sex, drugs, and adrenaline. My life through jr. high and high school was filled with anger: anger towards God for killing off my brother, dad, cousin and friends, anger towards my dad, who was not there, and anger at the world for how cruel it seemed. I self-medicated with whatever drug I could get my hands on, threw punches at whoever got in my way, and took love from whomever would give it. The deeper I got, the less satisfaction I found, so I dug deeper and deeper into this angry, self-destructive lifestyle.

Photo of dstressed teen















I was 18 when I accepted a challenge to go to HoneyRock for 2 years to work on operation staff and see life from a different perspective. At first, I thought “No way! Why would I do that?” But a few weeks later I found myself filling out the application to come and work. When I got there, the summer had just ended and the fall was coming fast. I hadn’t expected such a small group of people and wanted to come home for the first two weeks. I gradually got more comfortable as the staff got to know me, including my past, and began to love me out of my shell. A whole new side of life I had never explored before and quickly grew to love, that is life in the outdoors.


Sailing at HoneyRock

We worked hard on the new dining hall, cutting down the trees all winter long and framing out and finishing the basement. During the summer we spent long days out in the hay fields (when they still did that). I saw people in a whole new light, heard the gospel a thousand times, understood it to be true, but never it never took root. While at Honey Rock I developed a hard work ethic, a new love for adventure in God’s creation, a different perspective on people and an understanding of who God is, but it didn’t stick.

When I left, I spent the next five years working as a carpenter building houses and quickly rose up the ranks to be a foreman. I loved adrenaline and spent most of my leisure time skateboarding, rock climbing, and cliff jumping for fun. I was still drinking and smoking pot, but what was different was that I delved deeper into experiences with women and cocaine. These “good times” almost killed me. On October 5, 2002 I was in an accident where I was thrown from a scooter doing 30 mph and landed head first on a manhole cover fracturing 2 vertebrae and cracking my skull open. I then landed in a grassy area where I shoved dirt and grass into my brain. I promised that if God spared my life I would leave all of my destructive habits behind. He did and for the next 2 years I ran from my habits as fast as I could. Something was missing though and I could not figure out what it was. All I knew is that I had to leave my current situation; in my heart, I desired one place.

Walking toward cart at HoneyRock















I asked to come back to Honey Rock and was accepted. On August 18th 2004 I went back to Honey Rock to work on the Elsen Operations Complex. This time was different though, I had been trying for two years to work my way into God’s good graces by quitting all of my addictions. The problem was that I felt worse. I did not understand why and while I was at Honey Rock I grew even more angry. I saw the graduate students talking about Christ’s love and looked at them with jealousy. I was reading my Bible looking for answers and when I got to the end of Matthew, where Christ died for the same people who were killing him, my heart started to change.

On Wednesday nights we would go to a full time staff member’s house to worship and have a devotion. On one such night, there was a message on Romans 5:8-10: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Biking at HoneyRock

We sang On Christ The Solid Rock and I broke out in tears. I left the house and confessed for an hour and a half as much sin as I could remember. I asked Christ to forgive it all because I was still guilty. The next day I felt that I could breathe again. After that, I read through the New Testament 3 times before Christmas, started making friends, and discovered who Christ said I was. That summer I signed up for and completed the Wilderness Leadership Practicum, found my calling in life outside of carpentry, applied to Moody Bible Institute, and met my future wife.

Since then I have gotten married, have had two kids, have graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a Biblical Studies/Theology Major and currently am the Director of Juvenile Justice Ministry with Youth for Christ Chicago. We led our first backpacking trip this summer (August 1-8) with youth from our City-Life program as well as youth that have been released from jail and used Black Bear Lodge for our return from the trail site.

Double rainbow at HoneyRock















If it hadn’t been for HoneyRock’s hospitality and openness to meet me where I was, I don’t think that I would have encountered and come to love and serve Christ as I do today.

~ Written by Derek with edits by Noah Lawrence

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