Seminars, Work Rotations, and Preparations – oh my!

by Julianna Burlet, Vanguard

Here in the Northwoods, we Vanguards like to keep busy. Since last Thursday, we have had two and a half days of an intensive seminar, three work days, and lots of time spent planning Thanksgiving. Never a dull moment!

Starting Thursday night after dinner and continuing through Saturday night, we had the great privilege of learning from Dr. Matt Milliner and Drs. Amy and Lance Peeler. The focus of this seminar was the Advent season, and we specifically tackled the question “What does it mean to be human?” So basically after two and a half days of sessions with three brilliant professors, we totally have all of the answers. Kidding! But it was truly a incredible learning experience. We learned and took notes in the classroom, but also had chances to put our learning into action by creating picture art in nature (inspired by Andy Goldsworthy), and even composing a song in small groups! Walking away from the seminar it’s impossible to have a perfect definition of what it means to be human, but we undoubtedly gained new perspectives that we now have the ability to explore with one another throughout the course of the year.

This year we will go through three 6-week work rotations. Today is the last day of our first work rotation. As we wrap up our time working around different parts of camp – grounds, construction, housekeeping, kitchen, barn, and office – there’s a mutual feeling of excitement for whatever our next rotation may bring, but we’re all definitely going to miss parts of our old jobs. We hope and pray that those who get assigned to outdoor jobs stay warm as the winter starts to ramp up here!

About a week from now, the majority of our families will be arriving on camp for “A Very Vanguard Thanksgiving”! Our four committees – activities, fundraising, worship, and hospitality, especially – have been working hard in terms of meetings, coordination, and preparation to give our families a big HoneyRock welcome! We are in charge of all of the programming and Thanksgiving dinner, no small task, but luckily for the 12 of us, many hands make light work! We’re all very excited to spearhead this event and also get to see our families!

It’s crazy to think we’ve only been here two months considering the deep friendships we’ve built and countless things that we’ve learned – both inside and outside the classroom – I know we all feel extremely blessed to have been able to share the past two months together and look forward to the next seven!

Thanks you for all your prayers! This is Vanguard signing off for now!

— Julianna, Vanguard

Felling a Tree & Building Courts

by Sarah Davis, Vanguard Coordinator

Two big events happened today & Vanguards have helped out in big ways with both:

1) The big tree behind the dining hall fell to make way for the new Heath Center.
IMG_6302They’ve now been chipping and chainsawing since midmorning to turn the wood into mulch, firewood, and even saving a long section to mill. It’s unfortunate the tree had to be cut, but we’re using all the parts – and excited to see the Health Center move forward!

2) Our broomball courts are being framed up.
IMG_6311Joe has led his construction team, David and Seth, to build the framing on the two courts we’ll have this winter. This morning, they tackled the basketball court while this afternoon they’re getting after the court by Loberg. Once the weather gets a little colder, we’ll start filling them in, and icing will become a nightly chore!

A couple more shots from today:

Chopping Down Stereotypes


On Monday, November 9th, the Vanguards packed into a couple vans and rumbled down the road to a local logging site in the Three Lakes area. Here, we were given the unique opportunity to hear first hand from a logger the practices of logging and the philosophy behind it. It was an interesting experience to hear from a party so passionate about their work and educating others on their purposes.

I don’t know about my fellow Vanguards, but for most of my life, the word “logging” usually conjured up the image of an overly-masculine male, sporting a full beard and flannel, crashing through the underbrush wielding a large axe, felling trees left and right for survival, fitness, and mainly, because it’s the manly thing to do. As intriguing of a description as this may seem, I had no urge whatsoever to verify or bust this stereotype that sat in the deep recesses of my imagination. I would be lying if I said I was excited for this cultural immersion day trip, mainly because that stereotypical image of a lumberjack had fermented in my mind for so long, I had accepted it as truth. Imagine my surprise when upon arriving at the logging site, we were greeted by a well-spoken, semi-clean shaven gentleman with not a single flannel or axe in sight.

loggerWe spent the next few hours listening to Dennis, owner of Enterprise Logging, as he opened our eyes to the true nature of logging. Contrary to popular belief, logging has evolved from the days of mass-mutilating acres of trees to a process summed up in three words: sustainable resource management. Gone are the masses of men, swarming through the forests and felling every shrub within reach. Now days, one can find small operations of trained and purpose driven professionals, pocketed throughout the woods carefully harvesting trees through the use of massive, computer-driven machines. Each uprooted tree is reaped with intention and the land is carefully maintained so as to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of other trees.

listeningIt’s a humbling experience to be immersed in the truth of concepts outside of our knowledge. We were incredibly thankful for the opportunity to learn the truth about logging. It goes to show just how little we know and how much information is waiting to be discovered. We look forward to continuing to explore the Northwoods!

— Seth, Vanguard

A Week in the Life!

The Vanguard blog will now feature posts from our Vanguards! Today, Sarah L. shares about what the last week looked like for her…

Last weekend was Halloween, and our lovely activities committee planned a day of disc golf at the near-by Camp Luther. However, we got rained out, so we had to reschedule our event to the next day. We had a great turn out, with almost 20 people showing up! This included Vanguards (9/12), MSTs, and grad students. It was fun to relax and enjoy a game with so many people who are living on camp!


The ladies who went disc golfing Nov 1 – we had some halloween costumes going on!

On Monday and Friday we had our last sessions of our Ordinary Time Seminar. For this seminar, we’ve been reading With by Skye Jethani. This book is focused on how we should attempt to live with God, not for, from, under, or over Him. I really enjoyed this seminar because it pushed me to re-evaluate how I relate to God. I now better understand that I should be more satisfied in His love for me, and shouldn’t always be trying to do good works in attempts to prove that I love Him.

We didn’t have any Wheaton College professors come up for this seminar, so we had different staff and graduate students leading the sessions. It was especially cool to have the grad students teach us, because it allowed us to interact with them in a new way. We are generally with them in more informal settings, whether it’s playing games in their apartments or just sitting with them at lunch. It was also interesting to get to see all of their different teaching styles, and to learn lessons from With alongside them.

Tuesday through Thursday are our work rotation days. We work from 8-5 alongside the permanent staff, grad students, and MSTs. This rotation I am working in the office! I’ve already been in the office for 4 weeks, and I can’t believe my time there is almost over! I’ve had so much fun learning what it’s like to be an office assistant and getting to perform all the daily tasks of that job.

However, Tuesdays-Thursdays aren’t just about work! In the evenings there’s lots to do! most nights you can find people working out, climbing at the Indoor Wall, or hanging out in the Morgan Center playing pool or ping-pong. We also have some scheduled events during the week. Tuesday nights are testimony nights in Loberg. All of the Vanguards and MSTs gather in our lounge and two or three people have the opportunity to share how God as worked in their lives. On Thursdays, we have small group! We split up into girls and guys, and then have about two hours to dig into the Biblical topics of our group’s choosing. Right now the girl’s small group is working through different “Christian-ese” words and examining what they really mean.

All of the committees have been hard at work the past few weeks trying to get things together for Thanksgiving! I am on the hospitality committee, so right now we’re trying to finalize the menu and create some sort of schedule for the weekend. We are all so excited for our families to come up, and we can’t wait to share HoneyRock with you! See you in less than three weeks!

— Sarah L, Vanguard


Gap Year Information Session at Wheaton!


This Thursday, November 12, Charlie and Rob will be hosting a gap year information session at Wheaton College. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn about post-high school opportunities that are available to those who would benefit from taking a year before entering the college environment. Rob & Charlie will take time to answer the following questions:

  • Is a gap year right for my student?
  • How do I find the right gap year program?
  • How much will a gap year affect the overall college experience?
  • Does it help my student get into college?

In addition, they will speak about Wheaton College’s gap year option – Vanguard. From the multi-disciplinary seminars to the service opportunities, cross-cultural immersion trips to the intentionally Christ-centered community, Charlie and Rob will provide detail to how our program is structured and the benefits that the Vanguard Gap Year provides.

If you live in the area, make sure to invite your friends! From 7:00-8:30 in the Blanchard Lecture Hall, we’ll gather to talk about gap years. Make sure to register here! Questions? Email Sarah at


Exploring the Northwoods, one bog at a time


A major theme of the Vanguard year is exploring the context or cultures that we live in.  This fall/winter the focus is on the Northwoods (rural Northern Wisconsin). As Vanguards make this place their temporary home, they will be intentionally exploring the make up of the larger community.  This has included attending local churches, visiting local industries, and seeking to gain a better understanding of the people who make the Northwoods home.

This past Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit James Lake Organic Cranberry Farm in Three Lakes.  The James Lake Bog has been an active cranberry farm since 1950 and has been locally owned an operated as a organic cranberry farm since 2006.  James Lake farm is one of 5 Organic Cranberry farms in Wisconsin! (There are over 250 conventional cranberry farms in Wisconsin and Wisconsin is the largest producer of Cranberries in the United States)

Vanguards were able to get a tour of the farm as well as its packaging plant where they work with a variety of distributers to sell their berries.  While we were there, the farmers were in the middle of harvest season working hard to beat the winter freeze that typically arrives in early November.  James Lake is one of the only cranberry farms in the area that packages its own fruit so Vanguards got the amazing opportunity to watch Cranberries go from the bog to labeled bags for sale. IMG_1142

One of the highlights from the tour was watching Cranberries come off the conveyer belts and being sorted by 70 year old machinery on one side of the building and then passed onto state of the art (think lasers) quality control machines before going into the packaging stage.  It was quite a contrast.


Our tour guide Ben showing us the packaging machine

The tour wrapped up with us getting time to hear from the owner, John about how he got into Cranberries/farming as well as more information about Cranberries, farming in this climate and the challenges they face in agricultural industry.

We’re very thankful for the opportunity to visit James Lake Farm and are looking forward to continuing to explore the Northwoods!

— Charlie, Vanguard Manager

Creating Committees


Vanguards brainstorm committee projects.

Last Friday, we gathered to split Vanguards up into what we’re calling “committees”: hospitality, activities, fundraising, and worship. The Vanguards on each committee are responsible for making these areas of the Vanguard experience happen – similar to a college’s student activities council. Our primary goal with these is to empower the Vanguards to have an active role in developing their year, using their strengths and interests.

Earlier in the week, before splitting up into committees, Maddie and Logan led a big group brainstorming exercise where all Vanguards wrote different ideas that each committee could pursue. It was awesome seeing how creative they got in this process! Below is a glimpse into what the groups will be doing in the coming months:

Hospitality: welcoming seminar professors, planning Thanksgiving weekend for VG families, hosting a Vanguard “preview” weekend this spring
Activities: developing the community through recreation – activity tournaments, game nights,  other gatherings
Fundraising: taking the lead with raising support for our February Dominican Republic outreach – brainstorming ideas, managing logistics, coordinating the process
Worship: coordinating worship nights, developing an attitude of worship within the Vanguard community, learning and educating about different worship styles

Vanguards meet in Hillside to discuss committees.

Vanguards meet in Hillside to discuss committees.

Three Vanguards, with one staff member as a facilitator, work together in each of these groups to form the remainder of the year. If you’re wondering what the canvas is in the lower left of the first picture, it’s an 8×12 map that the Vanguards created of Israel while Cyndi Parker, “God’s Big Seminar” professor, was here teaching. It includes major cities, bodies of water, and international trade routes.

— Sarah Davis, Vanguard Coordinator

A Vanguard Weekend

IMG_0602It’s been a crazy few days at the HRC. Wheaton College was on their Fall Break, so over 100 Wheaties are up on a work/play weekend. Vanguards have had a fun couple of days, starting with low ropes team building on Friday afternoon and a Rhinelander excursion Friday evening. Most took a trip into the “big city” to visit Goodwill and Walmart. I believe the trip was originally intended for work clothes, but mostly ended up being more about ironic apparel (read: fuzzy onesie and Rod Stewart Tour ’09 shirt). Of course, they couldn’t come back to HoneyRock without stopping by Taco Bell.

Saturday morning, everyone (Vanguards, MSTs, and grad students) slept in a little bit before heading out to the Wagon Circle for Wrangler Breakfast. We had about 35 people – it was so fun to see everyone who lives on site gathered together for a meal. So fun, in fact, that I forgot to get the camera out until the very end. This is the only picture – Logan driving the shuttle back to main camp!

Saturday afternoon, we went out to the high circuit. Thanks to Julianna and Dan, we have some great pictures of the day!

The high circuit always provides awesome growth opportunities! We saw a lot of problem solving, leaning on partners, learning to trust, taking risks, etc… I think our time on the course mirrors what we’ve been seeing in the Vanguard community over the past week. There’s been this start to a shift in group dynamics taking place. Vanguards are learning how to meet one another where they’re at, to trust, to encourage, and push themselves farther than they thought they could go. We’re excited to see where this takes us in the months to come!

– Sarah, Vanguard Coordinator


Work is the Best Fun!

Vanguards are now finally settled into their work rotations! For the rest of the year, Vanguards will work around camp all day Tuesday – Thursday with our full-time staff. While it’s great for Vanguards to learn the specific skills that come with these rotations, they also reinforce personal responsibility, time management, communication, critical thinking and other transferrable skills.

(L to R) Jacleen and the Barn Vanguards, Josh, Dan, and Sarah, rode to the top of Ski Hill!

(L to R) Jacleen and the Barn Vanguards, Josh, Dan, and Sarah, rode to the top of Ski Hill!

At the barn, Vanguards are feeding, giving medications & supplements, maintaining the barns and buildings, cleaning and repairing tack and equipment, as well as keeping our herd tuned up & fresh. Here, Jacleen is riding Charlie, Josh is on Ace, Dan on Hawk, and Sarah on Hope. They had a blast riding to the top of Ski Hill to enjoy the fall colors and give the horses a little work out!

Construction Vanguards, David and Seth, are busy clearing the Loberg attic so they can better insulate the space. They’re working with Baronger and our Construction Manager, George Polcaster, to complete the project before winter sets in. The construction rotation includes regular maintenance, carpentry, mechanical work, drywall and painting.

Axel and Ben prep cookies for lunch!

Axel and Ben prepping cookies for lunch!

Axel and Ben are working hard in the kitchen – yesterday they cooked the best oatmeal raisin cookies for a lunch dessert. In this rotation, Vanguards learn meal prep, menu planning, baking 101, as well as the process of food: where it comes from and the process it takes to get to the table.

Our Hospitality crew, Julianna and Isabelle, are hard at work to turn over cabins from last week’s retreat in time for two retreats this weekend (about 100 students from Wheaton!). They also serve HoneyRock by keeping general use areas (Chrouser, the Chapel, library, etc…) clean and welcoming.


Sarah at work in the office.

Sarah is our lone office Vanguard, but she’s blazing trails! This week, Sarah received an introduction to different systems and tasks that she’ll keep going for the next 2 months as a receptionist/ office assistant. Her role includes responding to guest and student needs, assisting with various projects, organizing mailings, coordinating time cards, etc…

Will (L) and Joseph (R) walk back to the Ops complex after chopping wood.

Will (L) and Joseph (R) walk back to the Ops complex after chopping wood.

Working with Tammy and Scott, Vanguards Will and Joseph have been kept busy on the Grounds rotation. Here, you see them walking back to the Operations Complex after chopping wood. Other tasks include (but are not limited to!) general grounds care, road maintenance, light construction projects, care of activity areas, and soon, snow removal. Will and Joseph are working with Alyssa, Tammy and Scott to keep HoneyRock running well.

We’re so excited to see Vanguards fully involved in both the work and community life at HoneyRock. Tomorrow, Vanguards, Ministry Service Teamers, and Graduate Students are gathering to share a “Wrangler Breakfast” at the wagon circle. We’ll cook eggs & toast, with cheese and bacon as well as chocolate chip pancakes over a fire. It’s going to be a great weekend!

*update: mark your calendars – today we saw our first flurries!

Vanguard Gap Year

Hidden in the Heart of an Apple … An Orchard Grows

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” ~Jeremiah 17: 7-8

The spiritual focus for this year’s Vanguards is the idea of being rooted in God, as Jeremiah describes in these verses. Vanguard, HoneyRock’s new gap year program, is designed to offer 18-20 year old high school graduates a chance to explore their identity and calling in life before entering college. Taking a gap year between high school graduation and college has been an increasing trend in the past few years and has been proven beneficial for students. Vanguard offers a chance for this exploration to take place in the beauty of God’s creation with a Christ-centered community.

Vanguard Gap Year

As part of last weekend’s commissioning ceremony for the 2015 Vanguards, the new Vanguards and their parents planted an apple tree. The tree is the first of what will one day become an entire orchard, as each cohort of Vanguards plants a new tree. The apple tree represents how the Vanguards will grow to be more deeply rooted in the Lord, so that their lives may produce spiritual fruit.

Vanguard Gap Year

To kick of their new lives at HoneyRock, this year’s cohort of 12 Vanguards are spending their first week on a wilderness trip backpacking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When they return, they will continue to form community as they are introduced to HoneyRock culture and establish their daily lives for the next 11 months.

Vanguard Gap Year

Vanguard Gap Year is structured around the historical church calendar and encourages growth of body, mind and spirit. Students will engage their bodies through work and service, outdoor activities, and learning job skills. They will engage their minds through personal study and interdisciplinary seminars on core theological and philosophical questions taught by Wheaton College professors. They will experience spiritual growth through church activities, mentorships, worship, and prayer.

Vanguard Gap Year

This gap year will be a formative experience for these 12 new Vanguard participants. We pray that God will use it to give their faith deep roots and their lives purpose for His Kingdom.

-written by Lydia H. Stucki