The Last 24 Hours – SO MUCH HAPPENED!

Buna Ziwa Prieten (Good Afternoon Friends)!

The layover at the London Heathrow Airport was not a problem. Our team passed through security without a hitch. Coming out of a bathroom near our terminal, I was surprised by the team’s beautiful rendition of the Birthday Song and gifted with fudge cookies as a treat (shoutout to my family). The team agreed that they were almost as good as real birthday cake. For most of us travelers, the flight from London to Bucharest was restful! After finding and recovering almost all of our 66 bags, and meeting the Romanian team that we would be working with, and after a delay related to where the bus could pick up all those bags, all of us boarded the famous Curtain Bus and set off for Craiova. There was definitely a lot of bonding and sleeping going on! We stopped at a gas station along the way for bathrooms and a dozen, 2 liter bottles of water, and later at the Pitesti mall for Romanian pizza (which was served with spicy or sweet ketchup for dipping!). We arrived at the Open Roads secondhand store at about midnight (Romania time) and unloaded most of our luggage (filled with the donated clothes) there. We finally got to our host families at roughly 2am – to be greeted by smiling couples, and for some, young kids who had been allowed to stay up late. Most of us fell asleep almost instantly. Continue reading

A few pics from day one/two was it one or two? What day is it actually?

It is way too late to blog… in fact it’s 2:36am after a very long travel day(s). What’s most important is that everyone made it and almost all the bags/boxes made it! We are expecting the rest to be delivered. God has been good to us this trip and it ran relatively smoothly in every way – which is good – because Madison-Craiova (via Chicago, London, and Bucharest) is quite a haul for 22 people carrying nearly 2 tons (4,000 lbs!) of weight in bags! Continue reading

Post from the Airplane (posting 24 hours later)

Friends, family and supporters,

We are in the air! After a thankfully uneventful boarding process, all 22 of us found seats and are currently taking over a good chunk of the back of the aircraft. Ben Hersh likes the big plane, mainly due to the personal screens with movies and video games (I see many hours of tetris over the ocean in my future). [EDITOR COMMENT: little did he know those fancy little screens would malfunction & shutdown for the rest of the flight by them time this blog post was finished being written!]

Our adventure began around lunchtime today at Blackhawk Church where we lined up all of the bags, checked their labels and weight one last time. We are fortunate that the airline we are flying with sees our trip as “humanitarian” and has given each team member three checked bags (way more than we’d normally get, but we are taking advantage of all the extra space stuffing each bag to the maximum 50 pounds with clothes donations to help stock our partner organizations second hand clothing store). We were thankful to be sent off on such a beautiful day surrounded by beautiful people. Our bus to the O’Hare airport was bursting at the seams with over 65 bags filled with donations (and our own luggage) headed to Open Roads, the organization we will be working with while in Romania. And that was before we all got on it! After a brief stop at Target in Janesville to pick up forgotten items (including one team member who reportedly forgot their underwear), we arrived at the O’Hare airport right on schedule; breaking Blackhawk HSM stereotypes one step at a time. [EDITOR COMMENT: HEY NOW!] Upon successfully clearing security we stopped for a quick snack in the food court before locating our gate and boarding the plane. Continue reading

Almost there!

Almost to Romania! Flight leg one went great, some team members even slept! We just boarded leg two… 3 hours away from landing in Bucharest! Blog posts to come upon our arrival into Craiova. Please leave comments for us to share!!!





A little about M.E.

Hello Readers!

I’m Melissa Ernst and I am one of the leaders for this trip!  I couldn’t be more excited to be joining this team on the adventure God has planned for us. I have been hearing about Romania and the incredible ways that God is working there for the past ten years from the Brady family, Lief, other leaders, students and even my mom. I have long been interested in going to Romania but it was just not in God’s plan for me…until now.

This summer has been a complete whirlwind for me! I think if I would have known back in January that I would have 8 weddings (being in half of them), a new niece arriving, siblings moving, parents moving and a crazy summer at work, I might not have agreed to lead this trip. But, it is clear that God had this trip in his plan for me (not one of the events listed interfered with this trip, crazy!). Continue reading

Meet Angie Ipsen


My name is Angie Ipsen and I’m one of the leaders on the trip. It’s hard to believe that we are leaving tomorrow already, that came up so quickly! I’m excited to have the opportunity to lead on the trip this year after planning it the last five years in my High School Ministries staff role at Blackhawk. It has been encouraging to hear how God has been working in the partnership that we have in Romania and I’m excited to see this first hand this year! Looking forward to seeing how God is working through Open Roads and the leadership team in Romania. I’m also excited about the opportunity that we have to come alongside of them and what God is doing there!

A few things about me. I have lived in Madison for a little over 6 years and really enjoy living here, especially because of the community that God has given me since I’ve lived here. In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors (especially hiking/camping), relaxing at a coffee shop, watching football, running fun 5K runs with friends, and spending time with my family & friends. I have 3 nieces so I love every minute that I get with them!

Thank you for your prayers and support for this trip. We are blessed as a team to have a strong support system of friends and family around us, thanks for being a part of that!





Ben Hershberger Sneak Peak

Hello friends!  My name is Ben Hershberger, I am a rising senior at Middleton High School (only one year left!) and this will be my first time in Romania.  There, now I’m done right? You mean I have to right more? Of course! On to the fun stuff. This upcoming trip to Romania will be my 4th overall Blackhawk GO teams trip out of the country, the previous three being to Honduras.  Honduras is amazing and holds a huge piece of my heart and always will. Due to safety concerns there is no trip to Honduras this summer, but as the saying goes, when God shuts a door, he generally open another.  I am stoked that the door he has opened for me leads to Romania this summer 🙂

I’m the one in the white shirt below, in case it’s hard to tell…

1157724_661762627169853_824500360_n Continue reading

Get to Know Michael Carey

Hello readers! My name is Michael Carey and I am one of the leaders with this trip.

It is incredible to think that we will be boarding a plane in just a few days to begin our journey to Romania. I am very excited to be a part of this team and I am even more excited to experience first hand how God is at work in Romania.

Here are a few fun facts about me:

  • I have been married to my best friend Meghan for over 3 years.
  • I graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in Civil Engineering.
  • I am originally from Minnesota (Go Twins!).
  • I enjoy camping, cooking, and all kinds of sports.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support which has made it possible for us to take this trip. Thank you for continuing to pray and support us as we go. I am excited to see what God has in store for us in these next few weeks.

-Michael Carey

Get to know- David Shillingstad

Hello Everyone,

I am David Shillingstad and I am going to be a Junior at Oregon High School. With 6 days left in Wisconsin my excitement is growing as I prepare to leave for Romania. I am anxious to see how God will use me and what he will show me as I work with the orphans. This trip will truly be an amazing time to build relationships with the many orphans that I will meet. I have done mission work two times before in Mexico when I was younger, and I really miss the experience of seeing how God works in people and uses the opportunity to create changes within me.

I enjoy running competitively on the Cross Country and track team at school, playing guitar, getting to know people, and working with my hands. I have an older sister and brother and also one younger sister. My family and I love outdoor activities! 

My favorite movie is Lord of the Rings because I really enjoy the way that J.R.R Tolkien incorporated his faith into the storyline. My favorite book series, is the Chronicles of Narnia because it is an amazing presentation of the story of Christ. I have been volunteering at the Blackhawk Fitchburg site since it started about a year ago. I love bringing God glory with my gift of giving my time and always trying to put others first.