T-minus 23 hours

Three hours until we head to the airport and I do not want to leave.

They said we’d pull an all-nighter, but when all-nighter only means three hours, it’s not really an all-nighter. It’s just the last three hours of the trip. And then there’s the plane and a layover and another plane and then a bus and then we’re home, only I do not want to be home.

Some people do not like planes or buses. Grace Chen, for instance, does not like planes. Bria, on the other hand, does not like buses. I like both those modes of transportation; in fact, I like all methods of transportation (so far). They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, and I couldn’t agree more. When I’m sitting on a plane or riding a bus, there’s nothing for me to do but look out the window and exist in a state of in-between, neither here nor there, not anywhere really. The journey may be long, but it is a lot easier than actually being somewhere.

It is tomorrow here in Budapest. Julian is playing the Star-Spangled Banner on Romanian flute while Matt is getting a haircut. Andrew is somewhere arranging a six-part harmony of the Doxology and Kira almost convinced me to chug two nalgenes of water, but I gave up halfway through the first one.

Giving up is easy. I like easy things (at least, when my pride isn’t on the line). Planes and buses are easy, as is dribbling a basketball really slowly (Cade), or sleeping (Adia). Going home is not. If I can’t sit in this room listening to Lief, Jimmy, Noah, and Leah sing “You and I” for the rest of eternity, then at least I could settle for sitting on the plane for a very long time.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t think God’s plan is for me to sit on a plane for the rest of my life.

The theme for camp this year was trusting in God. It sounds like a no-brainer, but apparently it’s taken me 18 years to realize exactly what that means (and when I say exactly, I mean I’m just at the beginning). I’ve leaned on my own understanding for far too long in what has possibly been the most presumptuous presumption of my entire life. Never once have I doubted my ability to rationalize what’s happening around me; even if I didn’t understand at the moment, I knew that I’d figure it out eventually. The foolishness was (still is) so real.

There are things I’ll never understand. Another no-brainer—how could I possibly know the plans of the Creator of the universe? Yet in my human folly, the answers seem so near, just out of reach, when in fact I can’t even begin to comprehend the bare beginning of God’s thought. I’m like a kid who spins a globe and figures that it’ll take approximately 20 minutes to walk from California to Florida, and then it also turns out that Florida is actually Austria. I bet God finds humans a hoot.

So I don’t know what life will bring. I mean, I always knew that, but now I know it again. I gotta trust in Him. Things’ll be hard, and I’ll have to trust in Him. The temptation to lean on my own understanding is going to be overwhelming at times, but I’ll trust in Him. I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t want to go home. But I trust in God.

I’ll enjoy the journey while it lasts, but soon it’ll be time to get off that plane. Because that’s when the real journey continues.



Shoutout to my favorite sister: I love you. Just remember that when the heat gets hot, I’ll be there for you.

Waves and Ripples

Hello loyal blog-followers, 

After several days of hugs, tears, and talk-to-you-soons, our final goodbyes have come to an end. After waves of goodbyes after camp, during our last hang out with the campers, before getting on the train to Bucharest, and this morning with the Romanian leaders, it’s safe to say we are all feeling pretty emotionally exhausted. It’s hard to say with each of these drawn out goodbyes if giving about three hugs to each person makes it easier or harder. Either way, it sure doesn’t feel like enough. As I said a very teary goodbye to many of my close friends today, I couldn’t help but laugh as we got into a car playing an 80s station with “Cry Me a River.” For me, the feeling of finality in these goodbyes has left me with a pit in my stomach. If anyone so dares as to ask me the question “are you ok?”, it might break the remains of the fragile shell holding me together and release sobs. (Sorry, Kira, for telling you to not ask me how I’m doing 😬) I know it sounds dramatic, but that really does reflect just how meaningful these relationships have become after just my two trips to Romania. 

As I sit on the plane now flying away from the country I have so quickly grown to love, it’s so hard to let the possibility of not returning sink in. Last year, the pain of the goodbyes was well-cushioned with a hope-filled “see you next year.” And with each person who asks me when I’m coming back, my heart breaks a little more. Maybe God will open a door someday for me to return. Or maybe not. The prayer “Your will be done” is a hard one to pray when I so badly want that door to be opened. But for now, in the next few days, I will be trying to focus on praising God for the incredible experiences we’ve had during our time here and figuring out how they will impact my life as I return home and go off to college. While the goodbyes may be final, the ripple effects of our time here are certainly not. 

It feels like the classic missions trip phrase to say “I came expecting to help others, but in reality, they helped me.” But that is exactly what has taken place for me this week. As Daniel might say, “it just blew me up” (blew my mind). The last night of camp was one of the most special evenings I have ever experienced. One of the coolest things we did during the last sessions was a very simple skit. We had eleven people, American and Romanian leaders, make cardboard signs. One side had on it something they felt without God. The other side represented how they were changed in God. Examples included “empty hearted/full hearted, life without purpose/given a purpose in Christ, defined by judgement/worthy of God’s love.” And okay, I can occasionally be an emotional person, I’ll admit to that. But that last night of camp was the first time I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed by the presence of God that I couldn’t hold myself together. As I was singing Amazing Grace on the worship team while these cardboard signs were brought out and turned around, I tried to hold myself together and avoid a major voice crack. But as we moved into our last song and sang “Trust In You” in two languages, I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face, despite still singing into a microphone. Looking out into the audience and seeing so many other people experiencing the same strong presence of God was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever been a part of. These moments launch deep discussions all around as we moved into small groups. 

Being here has been challenging. It’s hard to not get distracted by everything that will be waiting for us in “normal life” when we come back home. For me, it’s pretty scary to think about the fact that I’m leaving to go to college in Georgia in four days and I’m still half way around the world. But I’m so encouraged to see the way that God has used these couple weeks to prepare me for the next steps of my life. I’m going to UGA with hopes of becoming a teacher some day. And over the past weeks I have ended up having about four conversations with separate Romanian leaders about their experiences being teachers at Ethos and how God has used their passion for working with kids to shine His light. Needless to say, I’ve been soaking up every ounce of wisdom I can get from these amazing people. 

As we move into debrief, I feel like we are only beginning to unpack everything. This time come with emotions that are hard to put into words. But please pray that God would use these tangible experiences to strengthen our trust in Him and His plan for our lives. He’s doing some big things. 

Thanks for following,


It’s hard to explain the feels

I don’t know where to begin, so please bear with me as the experiences that have flooded my heart and mind are processed through this post. If you want a voice to put these words to as you read, this is Noah. Yeah, the one that posted about moving walkways and such, but also the one who has watched a chapter of his life seem to come to a close. This year is the end of the four part chapter that has been my time in Romania, and it wasn’t until after camp that I started to understand how I feel about it. I was posed the question: “So, being your senior year, are you embracing this as your last trip, or running from that idea?” Being the indecisive person I am, my response automatically fell to saying, “both.” But as I sat there piecing together my reasoning, it seemed to all fall into place. 

Three years ago I entered this trip unsure of, well… everything. Unsure of what we were doing, what the Romanians would be like, how to communicate, and so much more. And when I got to Romania, our team was met by a group of Romanian leaders who were feeling discouraged by the hardships of ministry. The year leading up to camp had been rough on the Romanian team, and throughout camp it seemed to remain that way. We left camp unsure of what the future would hold. The next year came, and a similar result followed. The next year there was more hope, but people still left camp unsure. And then this year happened.

During the final night session, as Lief and Daniel read the love letter from God, I looked around the room and saw almost all the heads down—people were taking in each and every word of the message that God loves them no matter what. As we moved into small groups there were puffy eyes and open hearts. I think it is fair to say the small group time we had was some of the best discussion I have experienced in a long time. At one point doubt was introduced to the conversation. Something I needed to hear. As we entered camp, I struggled with the point of being there. Why was I needed? What’s the point of building relationships with the campers if I’m just going to leave? Even though it’s been awesome to see people grow over the past few years, my time was going to end this year anyway, so what’s the point? Having these doubts weighing on me, the discussion was beneficial in reminding me that there is nothing wrong with having doubts, it’s what you do in response to them that is important. When you experience them, follow up on them. Daniel explained to our small group that we need to search for answers, seek the Lord, and trust in him—a great reminder of the camp verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

As I processed this, my response to the question of embracing or running came together. I feel as though the small group discussion was the perfect cap to my time in Romania. I feel comfortable with it potentially being the last time here, but that doesn’t mean I want it to be. It is hard to explain, and the only way I can think of conveying it now is like playing a game with friends late at night. When the game ends, you understand that it is over, and you should try to get some sleep. This doesn’t mean you don’t want to play again, but you know that in that moment, it is time to put the game away, so you can play it again later. I have loved the highs and lows that have come with being in Romania and being in a community so centered on God and so full of his love. I have never felt so accepted and included as I have in my years in Romania. I understand that I may never pull the board off the shelf and play the game again, but the relationships and reminders of God’s love that I have experienced will always be with me. 

As our team shared with each other how we were doing, there was a variety of responses. Some are missing home, some are dreading the return, some haven’t started processing, and none of us know exactly how camp and this trip will affect our lives.

As we start our debrief please pray that we may process what we have experienced. That we may trust what God has done at camp and what he is doing in our lives. We may not recognize now, or even ever, what our purpose on this trip was, but please pray that we can trust that whatever God was/is doing will bring glory to him and show people that he loves them. 

Also, please recognize that in these next few days, all the feels inside of us may not be fully processed. Time, patience, and support will be needed as we return home.

Thank you for taking part in this journey, that is coming to a close, but also just beginning. Because as we know, the journey is long.



To everyone who has loved and supported anyone on this team: Thank you, we wouldn’t be who we are without you.

To Psalm 55:22: Thanks for being an encouraging verse

Buna from Rachel and Adia (Ah-deeyah, as the Romanians call me).

We are writing to you from the van as we head back to Craiova from camp. It is no doubt that everyone has grown from this experience. It’s been a long week, yet one that went by way too fast. We have built many relationships and continued old ones. Yesterday was our last full day. It was jam-packed with fun things like visiting Corvin Castle in Hoanadoara, which was about an hour away from camp. We returned to camp and some of us took naps, some wrote Happy Fun Notes, and others played games. We had baked potatoes and chicken kabob for dinner. Daniel gave the talk for the night session about who God is and why we should accept Him into our life. When Dan was done, Lief read “A Father’s Love Letter.” It’s a letter written from God to us, His children, and is a collection of bible verses. After the letter had the majority of the room crying, the worship team went up and sang Amazing Grace as members of the American & Romanian teams walked out with pieces of cardboard that on one side had a myth that they have believed about themselves and on the other it had the truth of what God believes – and how they’ve been transformed by that truth by trusting God. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was so profound and the feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence was overwhelming. We then had our last small group discussion. All week I felt very proud of the campers in my small group as they had the courage to ask difficult questions and to be vulnerable with us. We finished up our small group time and we had time to write more Happy Fun Notes, watch the movie “I Can Only Imagine,” and go out to the bonfire and make s’mores. Many people stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning! Thankfully our last morning didn’t start as early and we are able to get some rest on the ride down the mountain. Overall it was a really great last day of camp.

Rachel: This trip has really changed my life in many ways. For one, we talk way too much about trains (it’s an inside team joke you’ll have to ask us about when we get home – and if you don’t know what I am talking about consider yourself blessed. J) This trip for me has been both emotionally and physically draining but it has been totally worth it because of the relationships I have made. It is really hard for me to try and build these relationships with the Romanian students because I don’t speak their language and many of them speak only limited English. I want the conversations with each Romanian to go deeper than than “Ce Faci” and “Bine” each way (which means “how are you” and “good,” respectively.) Even though there is that language barrier between us; we still have found ways to show and communicate love to each other. A lot of the campers I have gotten to know have come from tough backgrounds and I realize how much I have to be thankful for. When we were sharing in our groups last night within a one and a half hour period we only made it through one full question, and that’s a good thing. It means that the girls had a lot to say and ask. Last night was the first night that all of the girls opened up about their struggles and hardships. It was so cool to see that they trusted us enough to become vulnerable and tell us their life stories. It is so amazing to see how God is working through all of these campers! Even though some campers don’t believe what we are saying about God, I can see Him working in and through them. This trip has really helped me grow in my relationship with God and even continue to ask hard questions I have. It’s so hard to understand why terrible things happen to good people. This trip has opened my eyes to a lot of new experiences that will stay with me forever.

Adia: Throughout this week, I felt a bit discouraged because I was not able to be as physically active as I had hoped I could be. I was bummed that I couldn’t build community with the Romanians during the games. But as I talked to Karen – another American who serves on the Romania leadership team each sumer, she reminded me that God has a plan and that things don’t always go the way we want them to. It was fitting that the main theme of the week was to trust in the Lord and the verse was Proverbs 3:5-6. There were many talks about trusting God in the face of obstacles, and that rang so true for me the whole week. I realized that God was trying to show me that sometimes we have to make sacrifices in order to live out his purpose for us. This week was a lot of fun, but it was also hard. With late nights and early mornings, full fifteen-hour days, we had to lean on each other and the Lord for strength and encouragement. And when I was discouraged, I was impressed and lifted up when I looked at the rest of my team and saw how they remained positive in the face of exhaustion and chaos. I feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing team of strong and courageous individuals. When one person is down, they come together to make that person feel loved and supported. And even when discouraged and challenged, with God and my teammates right by my side, it makes long days and shorter nights entirely worth it.


To Snyder Fam: Can I get some puppy pics in the comments? J

To Anja Hartmann: Can I get some Cassi pics in the comments? J

To Markhardt Family: Can I get a family pic with Luna in the comments? J

To the familial unit of the sororal (?) variety: Congrats! Both Mel and Larry have called me Nikki

To Matt and Rachel Metz for checking Hannah’s UGA email…don’t forget to buy her football student season tickets

To the Sullivan’s: Is it the PGA championship this week? If so who’s winning?

To Emily Bostrom: for being Luke’s sister. Plz comment. We miss you!

To Merlin, Ed & Eliana: Happy 2 months Eliana!! Ed, no Wanted this year. Merlin, can you just hear your name being called?? Love you guys!

To @irwindoodle we miss you and love you and can’t wait to scratch your chin when we get home.

More than just a hike

Hello Americans! This is Kip here to give you all a quick update. So far we have completed two full days of camp. Yesterday (Tuesday) was the most eventful day thus far. In the morning we rallied the campers and journeyed on a unexpectedly short hike to a nearby waterfall. We were told it would take around an hour just to arrive at the waterfall, but it ended up being an hour for the round trip. The trail we took was narrow and crossed a stream many times, but I couldn’t really see much other than that because we were in a valley surrounded by mountain sides. After reaching the waterfall and capturing some beautiful pictures and selfies, the group headed back to the camp. Such a short lived hike after the legend & lore of Romanian hikes left a lot to be desired for some of us, so about half of the group decided to go on another adventure on a different trail. Even though I was practically running on fumes from lack of sleep and sore knees, I unwillingly decided to go on the second expedition, which is quite possibly one of the best decisions I’ve made on this trip. The trail we trecked was wide and relatively level, contrary to the narrow and steep trail we walked on the first hike. In addition, someone decided to bring a dog along this time. Athough thousands of tall pine trees surrounded us throughout the walk, the visibility was exceptional. Along the way were steep ravines and dropoffs, sunlit mountainsides and gushing streams. The dog actually jumped in one of the streams and enjoyed the refreshing blast of cool water. Seeing some of the best of God’s fantastic creation inspired me and lifted my spirits. Instead of trying half-heartedly to drag my feet along and only focusing on lunch, which had previously dominated my mind, I became upbeat and happy. Even more importantly, I was able to engage in many awesome conversations and experiences with the Romanian campers. Thinking back now, especially on how those relationships became stronger and more intimate on that hike, I can’t help but thank God for using His amazing creativity to transform me from a fatigued, zombie-like figure into an energetic person willing to share God’s love with the campers through conversations. After about a half an hour, Daniel said we had to head back as lunch would be served soon. When we got back, I was extremely grateful that I had gone on that second hike. I’m also pretty sure the dog was too.


(Don’t worry mom and dad, I made sure I got pictures)