Horizontal color 340x130

Northern Light Summer 2021

The Northern Light is written four times a year to share updates from program managers, photos, and peeks into life at HoneyRock.

A Note from the Executive Director

By Rob Ribbe, Executive Director

In the early days of the pandemic I was challenged to not only manage the crisis of the present but also to think strategically about HoneyRock's future. How would we emerge? What would youth, young adults, and ministry professionals need post pandemic? How would the world generally and higher education and Christian camping be different? Where might HoneyRock partner and serve in our areas of expertise in spiritual formation, leadership development, and outdoor adventure?

In my 32 years at HoneyRock I have not seen better effort, teamwork, and creativity from our staff and faculty. While this issue of the Northern Light highlights some of that work, I'll higlight a few notes below:

  • Hopefully you've already heard about our brand work, which sought to better capture and communicate how God is working in and through HoneyRock to raise up the next generation of Christian leaders.
  • You'll see below how our summer camp programs have absolutely exploded in growth, from about 819 in 2019 (pre-COVID) to 460 in 2020 (during COVID) to 998 this summer. Do you want to hear another awesome number? Over 130 of those campers will be on longer-term wilderness trips where destinations include the Boundary Waters and Isle Royale.
  • Leading those programs are our graduate students. We have grown our graduate programs to have nearly 30 students enrolled. These students are emerging and established ministry leaders who are becoming academically grounded, practically skilled, and spiritually maturing leaders. 

As our programs grow, we've been blessed to also build our team. You can see the roles we're hiring below. If you know of someone who'd be a good fit, send the link their way. 

I look forward to writing a summer recap in this fall's Northern Light!

HoneyRock is Hiring!

Tap the photo to see the job description.

Watch Rob Introduce the Logo

About Our Brand Refresh

By Sarah Davis Carrick, Marketing Specialist for HoneyRock

My time at HoneyRock began as a Residential Camper in '06. Fifteen years later, after four high school programs, five summer staff teams, and our graduate degree—I'm still here working my dream job. On July 1, I celebrated four years as Marketing Specialist for HoneyRock.

A brand is so much more than a look or logo. For HoneyRock, it's a collection of experiences that form what people think and shape how they feel about this beloved place. This work sought not to change, but to better capture and communicate our place, our processes, and the growth in the people who have explored, learned, and served at HoneyRock.

About two years ago we began this work, which was completed in-house with support from Wheaton College's Marketing Communications Team. Over the past two years we spent time listening to former and current summer staff, camper families, undergraduate program participants, and permanent staff. We reflected on our history and looked to the future needs of youth, emerging adults, and ministry professionals. As we gathered stories, the themes became clear—place, process, people. 

While you can read more about why we did this work on our blog and see greater detail on the launch page, I invite you to watch Rob's video and read more about our place, process, and people below.

Here, creative innovators and brave risk-takers fostered an environment to disciple and develop leaders. At HoneyRock people have a chance to get away from the distractions, noise, and busyness of everyday life to a quiet place encompassed by God’s creation.

HoneyRock's founders reflected on ancient practices, those that Jesus embodied as he developed his disciples and used them to create a similar environment of discipleship. If you are a faithful disciple of Jesus, you lead others for and towards a greater good. By faithfully following Jesus in heart, mind, and body you are leading the way in God's kingdom.

We invite all people to encounter God through His creation through all he has created, both people and the natural world.This environment makes space for catalytic moments—transformational encounters—that lead us into deeper relationship with God and others.

As a HoneyRocker, you are on a Christ-centered, God-honoring, Holy Spirit-led journey. 

On this journey you can expect to live, lead, work, serve, adventure, and worship together as an educational community centered around Jesus. While you're doing so, you'll take meaningful moments to pause, reflect on God's Truth, and discern how they inform and grow your walk with Jesus. The shared experiences in this community challenge and teach us while extending an invitation to carry a story bigger than our own—to follow Jesus, to be transformed by Jesus, and to influence others for Jesus. 

Here you will not be entertained, but called forward to engage. Along with other adventurous thinkers you will face challenges of all kinds, from wrestling with a new perspective to resolving conflict with a co-leader and friend to embarking on a 10-mile portage. While your journey will not always be comfortable, you will be safe and surrounded by faithful beleivers. Though you might not be sure of your callings yet, you'll be encouraged on by fellow ambitious dreamers. 

This community of believers, partnered with our educational approach, will provide whole-person preparation for a whole life's journey.

Your HoneyRock experience will prepare you to realize God's callings in your life and cultivate the talents you can offer and His name.

As you are on your journey at HoneyRock you can expect to find expert and likehearted guides—the staff and faculty of HoneyRock—who are passionate about fostering the development of whole and effective people for Christ and His kingdom.

We want to see whole people—those who are healthy, restored, and are unified with their brothers and sisters in Christ—living an effective—one who knows their unique callings and have found a place and purpose in the world to boldly live them out. 

At HoneyRock, you can shape and strengthen your convictions and callings not only with like-hearted guides, but also life-long friends.

You and your friends—becoming resilient, caring, and competent contributors to Christ's mission—will leave HoneyRock commissioned with a clear purpose and bold resolve. 

HoneyRockers live their callings in ways that might surprise you. Personally, we become leaders in our families and communities. Professionally, we become scientists, lawyers, theologians, doctors, CEOs, filmmakers, engineers, policy experts, pastor, teachers, investment bankers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and yes, outdoor educators, professors, and camp professionals. 

You will leave equipped and empowered—commissioned—to live for Christ and His kingdom.

Northwoods Adventure Week Retreat - September 20-25, 2021

Northwoods Adventure Week is a retreat for friends and alumni of Wheaton College (ages 55+). There is a 10% discount for first-time attendees and financial assistance is available. We look forward to welcoming new and returning Northwoods Adventure participants back to HoneyRock this September! 


Excited for Summer at HoneyRock

This summer, our Catalyst program will officially launch at HoneyRock! Catalyst, a two-year leadership development program, replaces the Venture, Service Team, and Assistant Counselors programs for our juniors and seniors in high school. This program serves as a training ground for faith development and character formation, while equipping students with the skills required for faithful navigation of high school and beyond.

Rachel Nichwitz - Catalyst Year 1 Program Coordinator

Outdoor and Adventure Leadership Graduate Student


We just welcomed our first session of campers, and are in awe that our enrollment has proven to be the largest summer on record at 998 campers! We are so grateful that God has provided an incredible team of pastors and staff to minister to these children after a year of social distancing and seclusion.

Ashley Kiley - Summer Camp Programs Director

Praise God! We are thrilled to have incredible registration numbers for our camps with longer-term wilderness tripping.  We have created additional cabins for 2:22 and have doubled our enrollment in Voyageur from our previous ‘high’ year!  This year Voyageur will be sending two groups into the Boundary Waters for 13 days and three groups to Isle Royale National Park (a new trip this year).  We have 130+ students going on longer-term wilderness trips—all trips are full in 2021 and we look forward to expanding in 2022.

Michael Odberg - High School Adventure Program Manager

As I reflect on the conversations I've had with parents, and seeing wait lists grow in every session, it indicates that families all over the country are looking for opportunities for their kids to experience community, spiritual growth, healing, and a "place set apart" in God's beautiful creation after such a difficult year. It's a blessing that HoneyRock can be that "place set apart" for so many kids this summer.

Rebekah Greer - Camp Registration Assistant

Growth in Our Graduate Programs

By Muhia Karianjahi, Assistant Professor of Outdoor and Adventure Leadership

Commissioning Ten Graduate Students

We are so thankful to God who continues to grow the Outdoor and Adventure Leadership M.A. program (OAL) of Wheaton College Graduate School, based at HoneyRock. On May 17th, 2021, the HoneyRock community commissioned ten OAL ’21 graduating students. Their commissioning was a colorful celebration that included a dinner and worship service shared with family and friends. We are so excited to see how God will use them in various parts of the world – already, graduates have secured positions running programs in barns, at colleges, and in camps.

Welcoming Thirteen New Graduate Students in Fall 2021

This fall, we will receive 13 new grad students into the OAL program – 10 residential and three flexible learning participants.  Another 15 continuing students will be on their final year in the program (nine residential and six flexible learning), with one located in Japan!  In total HoneyRock will invest in 28 graduate students this fall – the highest number in the history of the program.

Celebrating Program Developments

We are so excited to announce two big additions to our programming! This year, a new MA in Global Leadership, Outdoor Ministry (GLOM) track was added to our offerings.  This program is designed for mid-level camp professionals looking to grow their leadership and practice.

Another addition that we are very excited about is a brand new partnership with Forest Springs Camp and Conference Center through their Leadership Training and Development (LTD) Program. The partnership enables staff and LTD students at Forest Springs to pursue either an MA in OAL or GLOM in a way that integrates their studies and work.

Over the years, HoneyRock has had outstanding international camp leaders pass through its programs.  One such leader is Evelyn Rivas de Umaña MA ’19, the new Executive Director of Christian Camping International – Latin America (CCILA).   

CCILA is a regional association of Christian Camping International that serves 14 countries in Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. In these countries, CCILA’s mission is “to glorify God by linking camp ministry with the work of the Latino Church and ministries, to fulfil the Great Commission by training leaders in the camp ministry.” 

Evelyn, who was originally teaching pharmaceutical studies at Universidad Salvadoreña Alberto Masferrer in her home country of El Salvador, first learned about CCILA from another Wheaton graduate, Lisa Anderson Umana (MA, 1993).  Two years after they met Evelyn graduated from CCILA’s signature training program, Instructors Formation Institute (IFI), and has been one of its trainers since then. That same year, she was part of the newly formed National Association of CCILA in El Salvador.  She eventually became the Regional Director of CCILA National Associations, overseeing the development and health of national leadership teams (NA) in the South American countries. 

In 2014, Evelyn heard about the Outdoor and Adventure Leadership program from Rob Ribbe when he provided the keynote at the CCILA's 50th anniversary celebration near Tegucigalpa in Honduras. “In 2016," Evelyn shares, "my family decided to grow and expand horizons to learn more about the ministry of camps in other spheres. I decided to take the challenge of leaving my country...because the idea was to prepare myself more for the ministry as a missionary.”  

She was granted admission in our MA in Outdoor and Adventure Leadership, and was awarded a Billy Graham Scholarship. 

“In 2017 I traveled with my family to Wheaton to start studies at HoneyRock...I acquired the knowledge, but also the ministerial, administrative and leadership practice in everything related to the camp ministry. I graduated in 2019 [after which] we left with my family to continue working as missionaries, but this time from another country that is not ours. We traveled to Medellín Colombia from where I have served … supporting with other CCILA missionaries the formation of the Colombian CCILA National Association. In March 2021, the CCILA Board of Directors proposed that I become the Executive Director of CCILA and since April 1, 2021 I have been working in this new position.” 

We celebrate Evelyn, her husband Marco, and daughter Mariella who blessed us so much during their two years at HoneyRock.

Looking for a Quick Northwoods Getaway?

Our newly renovated private cabins create an incredible place apart for you and those you love to retreat and enjoy time spent with one another. Whether you're more of a cozy up and read a book type or one who likes to do all of the winter activities HoneyRock offers in a day (or a little bit of both!), we have an experience for you. Learn more about your Northwoods getaway options with the links below!



An Interview with the Schmitz’ on HoneyRock Partners

Andy Tooley, Ph.D.

Our HoneyRock Advancement Director recently interviewed Matthew and Vera Schmitz from St. Louis, MO on their investment in the HoneyRock Partners program.

You and Vera are in your sixteenth year of giving to HoneyRock. What has motivated you both to be a part of our Partners Program for so long? 

Matthew: HoneyRock has had an immeasurable impact on my relationship with the Lord. As a camper, a counselor, and now as a father who can’t wait to send his kids, the mission of HoneyRock is one we are eager to support. 

The Bible often speaks about giving as a spiritual exercise in which the giver and the receiver are “partners in the gospel.” I wonder whether you might share with us how you and Vera view that idea in relationship to your giving.

Matthew: For Vera and I, a focus in our giving is for it to be an expression of faithful stewardship with the resources God has provided us.

What excites you most about being a part of our Partners Program?

If we were called to it, we’d pack up and head to the Northwoods and spend all our time serving and loving and showing kids Jesus! As it is, we aren’t called there, and so we are blessed to be a part of the work being done at Honey Rock through financial support. We love to see HoneyRock thrive!

Learn More About Partners  Become a HoneyRock Partner Today


In Memory of HoneyRockers

Carol Sue Morgan, 81, of Muncie, Indiana, formerly of Morton, Illinois, and Pentwater, Michigan, peacefully passed away on June 4, surrounded by her family. She was preceded in death by her son, Christopher Lee Morgan, a former HoneyRock camper in 1996.  

In 1960, Carol married her Metamora High School sweetheart, Gene Morgan. Together they were early supporters of Coach Chrouser and began their family's three generations of involvement at HoneyRock. Carol and Gene established the “Chris Morgan Camper Scholarship Fund” in 1997, allowing hundreds of campers to experience a summer at Camp.   

Gene was Carol’s faithful caregiver through her fourteen-year battle with cancer. Her faith and comfort in the saving grace of Jesus was visible throughout her life, and to the very end.

Richard Crawford Turner passed away at his home in Eagle River, WI on March 27, 2021 at the age of 90.  He studied at Wheaton College and earned a B.A. in Bible (1956) and an M.A. in New Testament Theology (1959). Dick enjoyed serving as a substitute, then full-time teacher in the Wheaton-Warrenville School District, and later became a school principal. During that time he obtained his Ed.D from Northern Illinois University.  He subsequently became a professor and Chairman of the Education Department at Wheaton College. 

In 1981, Dick became the Director of Outdoor Education at HoneyRock. He and his wife Connie ran the summer Day Camp program for nearly 20 years, coordinating the Wheaton Education majors as counselors for the program.