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Northern Light Winter 20

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

snowy treetops at HoneyRock

From the Director of HoneyRock, Rob Ribbe

While a lot of exciting things are happening in my world at HoneyRock, there's one opportunity I'm especially looking forward to later this spring: the tri-annual global gathering of Christian Camping International (CCI) in Sydney, Australia.

This May, 200 delegates from the 28 national and regional associations of CCI will gather for five days to worship, learn, and plan together for the expansion of the Christian camping movement around the world. My wife, Jackie, and I will travel along with our Global Initiatives and Graduate Programs Manager and his wife, Muhia and Marcy Karianjahi to represent both Wheaton College Graduate School and HoneyRock. There, I will lead a multi-day executive leader training track for the conference as Jackie, Muhia, and Marcy will be able to deepen our global relationships. To learn more about our involvement and outcomes of our time in Australia, email me directly at

I hope you enjoy reading what else is happening at HoneyRock, below!

In this edition:

From the Director | A Beacon of Excellence in Christian Camping | Prayer Requests | By the Numbers: HoneyRock Fleet | PDF Guide to the Vanguard Gap Year of Wheaton College | 2020 Wilderness Trip Options | Women in Camp Ministry | New Outhouses at HoneyRock | Year-Round Health Center

"A Beacon of Excellence" in Christian Camping

Muhia Karianjahi, Graduate Program Manager

A Brief Look Back

Though cultures everywhere have always spent time in the outdoors, and many for spiritual purposes, formal Christian camping is recorded to have started in the US in the late 19th century. Missionary movements introduced the concept in many countries around the world for much of the 20th century. Over the last few decades, however,  indigenous movements in Christian camping have emerged and grown in leaps and bounds in many countries.  Christian Camping International (CCI), of which Mark Heasman is the Chief Executive, works to network those who minister through Christian camping around the world for the purpose of fellowship, encouragement, and sharing of best practices to the glory of God’s Kingdom.

The CEO of CCI Visits HoneyRock

Mark Heasman, CCI Chief Executive recently visited HoneyRock to see our site and facilities, explore our programming, and meet our staff. He reported to the worldwide Christian camping movement that he found HoneyRock “A place where Christian Camping is demonstrated and lived out in a unique way that has been such an example and encouragement to so many. Its...a ‘beacon of excellence’”.

HoneyRock's Role in the Global Christian Camping Movement

Among CCI’s founding influencers were HoneyRock leaders such as Bud Williams and Jake Wetzel.  As the movement now blossoms in all continents, HoneyRock continues to play a leading role in training leaders, pioneering new movements, and spearheading thought leadership. Each summer, HoneyRock hosts international leaders as summer staff to share, learn, and grow relationships. Rajshaker Moorthy, a founder of CCI in India and Rev. Pala Ochieng who leads program training for CCI in Eastern Africa both cut their teeth as summer staff at HoneyRock. Evelyn Umaña, M.A. '19, who formally mentors CCI associations in ten Latin American countries, and Judith Lewis M.A. '12 who manages a camp in Jamaica are also graduates of the MA in Outdoor and Adventure Leadership. Muhia Karianjahi, working at HoneyRock and OAL faculty, is the Vice-Chair of CCI.  

Prayer Requests

  • For safe travel for Rob, Jackie, Muhia, and Marcy as they travel to CCI Worldwide in Australia this May
  • To lead passionate, Christ-following, kid-magnet staff to HoneyRock, especially for our Summer Leadership School (counseling staff) and Guest Services (Camp Store Manager! Kitchen!)
  • For rich learning, safe travel, and open hearts as Vanguards travel to Costa Rica for their international immersion experience


  • We're 25% ahead of camper registrations compared to last year. We're pumped for a full summer of campers!
  • Our summer cabin leader staff teams are almost complete (keep praying in the other roles!)
  • For our Advisory Board, who gave incredible input and guidance during our mid-February meeting.
  • We just hosted the Wilderness Education Association International Conference, held at HoneyRock Feb 17-20 - it was a blast!
  • For an incredible season of winter retreats, led by our graduate students.

By the Numbers: HoneyRock Fleet

We asked Korey Gregornik to break down the HoneyRock fleet for you - here are a few fun stats:

  • 40 vans, trucks, sedans, passenger bus, and heavy machinery vehicles make up our fleet
  • 140,000 miles traveled annually, 80,000 of those miles logged by our passenger vans
  • 1980 is the year of the oldest vehicle we still have in use 

Interested in learning more? KG's here to share.

HoneyRock is blessed to enjoy and maintain a fleet of around 40 vehicles including vans, trucks, sedans, a passenger bus, and heavy machinery. Many of our heavy use vehicles, such as vans, have been replaced in the last few years thanks to incredible donor support.

Safety is always our top-of-mind concern when it comes to the fleet. HoneyRock travels more than 140,000 miles annually. Our vans, carrying students, staff, and campers, represent over 80,000 of those miles. Our program participants experience world-class wilderness trips at destinations including the Boundary Waters, Superior Hiking Trail, and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Though we're constantly working on keeping the fleet in top shape, we're looking at replacing many of our vans in the next few years.

Our trucks and heavy machinery allow us to create and maintain hiking trails and campsites, update and repair buildings on our main site, and to sustain our beautiful and natural environment. Several of these trucks see heavy daily use and although they may not put in the miles as our vans do, they log heavy hours by transporting our horses, snow plowing (another record snowfall this year!), and hauling materials for projects. All of these tasks are hard on the vehicles and in the last year or two, we have experienced the loss of work trucks, heavy machinery failures, and high maintenance costs on some vehicles that date back to the ’80s.

I love working in our own auto shop (did you know HoneyRock has one?) We've been able to roll with the punches and keep the fleet rolling which has provided great mechanical teaching opportunities to our students. We are so thankful to the community of donors that has enabled us to acquire such a strong fleet and their continued support that has allowed us to repair and replace vehicles when needed. HoneyRock is truly blessed to have these resources and we seek to do everything we can to steward them well in hopes of bringing blessing back to the Father and creating space for campers and students to encounter Him in new ways and in new places.

2020 Wilderness Trip Options

Mike Odberg – High School Adventure Programming Manager

Do you know a high schooler who could benefit from being out in the woods for a couple of weeks? A place where they'd be immersed in Christ-centered community, God's creation, and away from the pull of wifi? That's what our 2020 trip lineup offers:

  • Boundary Waters Canoeing | June 22 - July 10, 2020
  • Boundary Waters Fishing | June 29 - July 10, 2020
  • Isle Royale Backpacking | July 13 - July 24, 2020
  • Superior Hiking Trail Rock Climbing & Backpacking | July 13 - July 24, 2020

We're especially excited to get back to Isle Royale! Know a camper who needs a little convincing? Our program coordinators would love to connect! Email Emily Tumilty at for more info.

The Latest Research: 

Over the last several years we’ve been noticing that there seems to be a rise in the number of women enrolling in our programs at every level while male enrollment appears to be stagnant (if not declining). We knew we were not alone in this realization when the Christian Camp and Conference Association reached out to one of our faculty Rachael Botting and asked her to teach a seminar on investing in emerging female leaders within Christian Camping. As it turned out, many upper-level camp directors, most of whom are male, were requesting assistance in working with all the young women rising up in the field. Rachael accepted the invitation and took a deep dive into some of the emerging literature on women’s leadership theory, unpacking implications for Christian camping. Here is a short snippet of her conclusions:

Rachael Botting, Passage, WIN, & Research Manager

Over the last decade, women’s participation in the workforce has been steadily on the rise. Although women are just as likely as men to be in the workforce nowadays, their experiences are fundamentally different: they feel different pressures, set different goals, and are driven by different motivators. Within Christian camping and outdoor ministry, the migration of women into outdoor related fields is a recent phenomenon. It was only 50 years ago that the first group of women was welcomed into the Minnesota based Outward Bound School and research shows that the natural environment continues to be a male domain. Females in outdoor ministry commonly find themselves having to prove their competence in outdoor skills, especially those related to physical strength and program leadership. It is relatively uncommon to find a female in an operations-based role at a camp, let alone a director's role. It is just as uncommon to find a male at a gathering of Christian camp staff spouses. That may not be the case in 10 years. As female interest in Christian camping professions rises, camps will need to challenge underlying assumptions about gender-specific roles, reevaluate parental leave policies, and invest in the development of female leaders. With many men and women rising up to take on significant leadership in Christian camping, the future is indeed bright. At HoneyRock, we are thrilled that we get to be a part of building that future through the training of graduate students, many of whom are women, whose lives impact hundreds of thousands of campers each year.


New Outhouses at HoneyRock!

by George Polcaster, Facilities Manager
Strange as it is, outhouses are part of the wilderness experience but we typically don't give them much thought until we need to go! At HoneyRock we make it a goal to be intentional about everything we do, build, and spend resources on, which is why we've committed to replacing as many plastic, portable toilets with hand-built, well-constructed outhouses. 
The seven sites we've set our sights on include: Wagon Circle, Does Acres, Riverview, Black Bear, Challenge Course, Nature's Maze, and Schmidt Lake. This past fall we obtained permits and installed holding tanks in the ground at five of the seven sites mentioned. This winter, after designing a prototype, the construction staff consisting of Fellows and Vanguards built and set the first outhouse at the Wagon Circle. We used rough-sawn lumber resourced from HoneyRock's property. This is one of the many touches that we believe make these outhouses rustic, durable, and cost-effective. 
All-in-all each of the new outhouses we built, including site work, costs about $2,500. Previously, we spent about $1,000 per year on each portable toilet. Our new outhouses will pay for themselves in about 2-2.5 years. After that, the cost will be minimal for the occasional pumping.
Whoever thought humble, but necessary outhouses could have such an economic impact while also improving our campsites and everyone's overall wilderness experience?! We're looking for projects like these all around HoneyRock...stay tuned!
cover photo of the parent's guide to the vanguard gap year of wheaton college
PDF: Parent's Guide to the Vanguard Gap Year of Wheaton College

Created for anyone helping a high school senior through the "what's next" decision, this guide explores the Vanguard Gap Year program in depth. You'll hear from Dr. Ryken, Rob Ribbe, Charlie Goeke, Vanguard parents and their students reflect on the impact of the program.

Download: Parent's Guide to the Vanguard Gap Year of Wheaton College

Year-Round Health Center? Yes!

Sara Waltz, Health Services Coordinator

We recently were asked, “what happens to the health center when camp ends?” If one person is asking, that probably means a few more are, too! 

Our summer season doesn’t actually end when campers go home. As our final programs are winding down, we’re ramping up to host over 600 Wheaton College staff, faculty, and students on-site with Student Development Week and Wheaton Passage.

Once those programs are over, we catch our breath. As the Health Center Supervisor, I take this time to evaluate our highs and lows during the summer as well as taking stock of our needs. It’s important to wrap up camp well as we welcome our Vanguard Gap Year and Graduate students back in September!

The HoneyRock Health Center is a centrally located, nurse-run, limited services clinic. 

After the school year launches, I begin to assist our students in health maintenance and illness/injury prevention and intervention. We supply very basic over the counter (OTC) remedies, provide referrals to local community providers when the care is beyond our scope, and help students navigate the health care system in the Northwoods. 

As the fall gives way to winter, we begin recruiting for the following summer in earnest. You might be surprised to learn that we recruit three staff (a full-time summer nurse, a 6-week nurse, a nursing assistant, and a rotating group of camp doctors and nurses.

The health center slows down a bit during the school year, but we are still hard at work preparing for our next summer season!

*If you haven’t been to HoneyRock in a few years, you might be surprised to learn that it’s now situated behind Chrouser Dining Hall as a new addition! The old Health Center has been transformed into a (rentable!) private cabin we have named “Wellspring”.

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Sarah Davis

HoneyRock - Marketing Communications

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HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development

8660 Honey Rock Rd.
Three Lakes, WI 54562