Hum Hum

Hello everyone! Leah here, with an actual update from our first full day in Romania. As many of you know, this is my first year going on the Romania trip. Last year, reading the blog, many things went over my head because I had never experienced Romania first hand, so to catch you all up, I am going to share some things I have learned about this country in the short time that I have been here:

  • Soup always comes before lunch but is never the actual lunch, so you have to make sure to save room for the main course.
  • The McDonalds’ here have a meal here called the “Big Tasty” which is basically just a bigger and tastier Big Mac.
  • The sound dogs make is not “woof” or “bark”, but “hum hum”.
  • The toilets have two buttons for flushing: one big button, one small (I bet you can figure out the rest yourself).
  • The people here are absolutely amazing.

The thing that has amazed me the most while being here is the hospitality of all of those who have welcomed us into their homes, church, and lives. Every person I have encountered has gone out of his or her way to make me feel comfortable and loved. Although it is overwhelming to meet dozens of new people, with names that are not very familiar to us, it is a good kind of overwhelming. One that brings hope for strong relationships and joy through the laughter we share. I know it might sound cheesy, but laughter does sound the same in every language (unlike dogs barking).

Last night we had a bonfire with the Romanian leadership team. As we sat around the fire, Dan asked people to share what the relationship between Blackhawk and Open Roads has meant to them, in honor of our ten-year anniversary. Although I am new to this experience and can’t fully grasp how people have been impacted by it all, it sparked excitement in me. I know that everyone experiences this trip differently and that fact scared me coming into the trip. I heard from many people about the phenomenal relationships they have built and their urge to return year after year, and I wondered if I would experience that myself. But each moment that I am here, that fear melts away a bit more.

One of the coolest moments that I have experienced so far was both at the midweek church service and the evening bonfire when we sang songs in both Romanian and English at the same time. To some it might have sounded like a jumble of sounds and words, but even with different languages, the intentions of everyone were the same; lifting their voices to worship God. It gave me chills every time.

We ask that you pray for us to continue having moments like these that encourage us, but also challenge us to grow in our relationship with God and others. Please pray that we are able to build relationships despite the language barrier. And finally, pray that even though all of us will experience this trip differently, that we would be able to see our worth on this team and make the most of each moment.

Shout out to Nikki: yesterday there was a cat and I meowed at it and it came to me and it is now my friend.

Shout out to Malcolm Buisch: Sorry it’s one day late, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Shout out to Nicky for having a whole lotta swag

Shout out to Jay: Love you bro <3

Shout out to Movie Soulmate: Morning babe

Shout out to Mom Metzger for the two kinds of Dramamine that I will use on the NEXT bus ride 😉

Shout out to Bria’s mom: She remembered her retainer!/Shoutout to Kip’s mom: He did not…

Shout out to Ali Pollard: We appreciate your extensive comments. However, the leaders have not yet performed the Ziggy Challenge :/

Shout out to the Hershbergers for lending us Hawaiian shirts. They have gone to good use.

Full day, full hearts

This is Lief. One of my roles on this trip is making sure we have people are writing about their experiences via the blog. We do this in order to process what God is doing in our hearts and keep our support network at home (all of you!!!) in the loop so you can be part of this too… and it is clearly also a place for some silly shenanigans – particularly via the shoutout & comments sections. I need to confess to you tonight that while we started out pretty strong on the blog front, I dropped the ball and everyone went back to bed before I asked someone to write up a blog entry for today. I think it’s actually a good indication about what our first day in Craiova was like – we had a full day. I won’t say much now as I really need to hit the ole hay and I’ll have some students post about it in the morning so you can check that out on Friday. I will say this though: students slept great on Wednesday night (thank you for your prayers), everyone woke up healthy (thank you for your prayers), and from breakfast to 10:45pm the team kept up a great pace (thank you for your prayers -please keep them coming!). There was lots and lots of meeting new people – the coming together of the American team and the Romanian leaders. There was camp planning and everyone jumped right in as if they’ve done this a million times. We had an unexpected visit to the midweek prayer & worship service at the Ethos church where we got to share in the worship service (with just a bit of short notice! Thank you for your prayers!). And a night of laughter, games, worship and stories of God’s goodness around the campfire. Let’s just say that when we finished in prayer at the campfire – we were ready for some rest, but are hearts were full. And tomorrow is likely more of the same. I can’t finish the post without saying how truly remarkable these students are. Parents/grandparents – you have much to be proud of in your kids (this goes for parents of the leaders too!). They are flexible, patient, humble, teachable, and ready for anything. I am so excited to see how God chooses to challenge and encourage this team through each individual who is a part of it. Don’t worry all you Romania team alumni – you were/are also remarkable – and you are also missed – by our team and by the Romanians. It is an honor to serve and have served with such a great group of people – and on behalf of all of us, just as great an honor to get to be part of such a special community here in Romania – as Hannah said last night, they are family to one another – and they let us be a part of it too! God is so good.

Until tomorrow – Noapte Buna,


Eyes Open

Sleeping with eyes open. Suitcase malfunctions. Car sickness. Not sleeping at all. These are all things that have been experienced by members of our team in the past 24+ hours of traveling. Long travel days can easily make you question just how “worth it” a missions trip is. Do we really have such a significant purpose in Romania that it is worth the time, money, energy, and intense jet lag to come across the world for two weeks? I think it’s safe to say these doubts were all put to rest as we exited the Henri Coanda International Airport in Bucharest this afternoon and were greeted by about fifteen Romanian leaders. The hugs from old team members and long-awaited introductions of new ones made the marathon day of travel seem like a small price to pay for such sweet moments. During the bus ride and dinner stop, our relationship with the Romanian leadership team seemed to pick back up right where we left it last summer. When we arrived in Craiova, our friends surprised us with a big ten year anniversary cake to celebrate the decade of partnership that we share together. After cake, it was straight to bed for everyone for a much-needed night of rest. (I’m staying up late to write this, so don’t try to correct my grammar, Mom.)

Just being at Ethos has triggered an unexpected wave of emotion for me. A few things are different. Kids are bigger. Little Kevin is sitting next to me right now and I swear he has grown four inches since last summer. But mostly, it’s the same old Ethos community that we already know and love. The same familiar faces who so graciously host us year in and year out. As I sit and write from Daniel and Dana’s living room, I can’t help but feel like I am home, surrounded by family. From this perspective, our purpose for this trip feels so clear to me: to create a mirror image of God’s family in heaven. We do this by the way we eat together, laugh together, ride hot busses together, worship together and do life together. These relationships we are developing are so deeply rooted in the love of Christ that even a year of time has not been able to shake them. Family is developed not in a place where everyone necessarily “fits in” perfectly, but in a community where everyone knows that they belong. And it is already so clear to see that each member of this team, American and Romanian, belong here. Those who are part of the Open Roads family belong – and they welcome us into their family. I truly believe that these relationships we have here in Craiova are exactly the kind that Jesus had. They are noticeably different in a way that is so simple but so powerful. After reuniting with so many people, I can’t even wipe the smile of my face. What we have here is special. And as we head into the next days, I cannot wait to see how our heavenly family grows. But for now, please just pray for some GOOD SLEEP!

With a joyful heart,


It’s too late for shout-outs but…KATRINA…Irina wants her Lei back

Update: Sponsored by McDonald’s

So apparently “McToast” is a thing here, as are sugar packets containing tiny pills of concentrated sugar (these are pretty great). Other than crashing the Frankfurt airport McDonald’s seating area, not much has happened. Some of us went to look for the “open-air deck,” but “open-air” turned out to mean “smoking,” so our foray into fresh air for the first time in what feels like forever left something to be desired.

The actual 8-ish hour plane ride? It was a plane ride. Some people slept. Others didn’t. But we’ve arrived safely and are looking forward to the next leg of our travels.

Shoutout to oreos for being the best breakfast food

And just like that, we’re off to Bucharest!

Nothing Crazy… Yet

Suh dudes. Grace and Noah coming to you live from the airport! Thankfully the day has been pretty uneventful, starting with a great sendoff full of long hugs and lots of excitement. On the way down, the energy we had was poured into our Taylor Swift jam session, and then contributed to our new ways to keep “Little Lion Man” family friendly. After a quick stop at the Oasis to fuel up, we continued the bus ride, a little less energetic than the first leg (probably due to mini food comas). Upon arrival, our squad took to the check-in and thankfully the airline let everyone keep their carry-ons! We quickly made our way through security and have set to making friendship bracelets, playing euchre, taking walks (moving walkways are very entertaining), and solving Rubik’s Cubes (Andrew just beat his 4X4 record by 2 seconds!). The general feel is excitement, with a little spread of uncertainty, as we step onto the plane and into an entirely different culture. Please keep us in your prayers as we are met with a long day of travel and an introduction to Romania. Pray for safety, strength, energy, and for a sense of peace during travel that can often feel chaotic and unnerving. Thanks for reading and tracking what we are up to! Keep checking for more updates as we continue on this journey, and man, the journey is long.

And now to Kirstin, for a haiku.

Ode to the moving walkway at the bottom of the ORD:

Neon-lit gliding
If they didn’t yet know we’re
kids, they sure do now

To Mama P: Don’t worry mom, I’m making sure to blog!
To Ray and Franny: SING WITH ME NOW!
To Jo: Hope you’re finding cool ways to keep yourself occupied without me to read you Harry Potter picture books.
To Movie Soulmate: Your Horcrux lives.
To Katrina: The string is being put to good use!

Thanks for reading!
– Grace and Noah

We did a thing. Pray for us.

We did a thing. Pray for us.
We have officially said our good-byes and are currently chilling on the train. The last 24 hours have been quite the blur, as have the couple hundred hours before that. They tell me today is Monday, so I’ll try and get out what went down yesterday: it was hot, we sweated through church in the morning, it was hot, we went to the mall to cool off, and we went to a restaurant before ending the night in an emotional rush as we left on our (hour late) train. The final hugs were simultaneously too long and infinitely too short. Long goodbyes just make it harder, but how can you possibly express the full weight of your feelings for a person in just a short embrace? But we tried. Once we did make it to the train, the sleeper cars were, at least for me, a necessary rest from the craziness of the past couple weeks. We moved into the cattle cars as we neared the Hungarian boarder, and I sit and write from there as I watch the landscape blurring past.
As I reflect back, I have a deep thankfulness for the relationships I’ve been able to form in my three trips to Romania. But the stronger the bonds the more difficult the good-byes, especially when it is likely the last time I will see most of my Romanian friends. Last week at camp Noah reminded us that we ought to rejoice always, and assume an attitude of thankfulness that leads to constant joy. But it’s a challenge to be joyful through the challenge of goodbyes, and that will be my struggle in debrief. We are all still processing a camp that looked a little differently from each of our own perspectives, and we will all experience this debrief through our own lenses. The trip has never been one size fits all, and I feel that now more than ever as I look back on what will have been my last trip as a high schooler, having said my goodbyes to the faces I met as a kid clueless to the importance they would one day hold.
We all need prayer now as much as any other part of the trip. Please pray that we would ask the hard questions, think the thoughts we’ve fought to avoid, and trust the big man upstairs through it all. And pray that we would refuse to come home the same person we left as. That we would return a clearer reflection of the light, and that those around us would see more of Jesus in the way we live our lives.
Thank you guys for following us this far, and I hope you can be patient with us as we work out our experiences in debrief and on through our return home.
In his name,
Shoutout to Abby K. for giving me more than I asked for when I borrowed her water… Smooth move X-lax.
Shoutout the the conductor: But can we pleaseeeeeee sit in first class?
Shoutout to Gavin Bazala: A man cave? You’re thirteen years old. You don’t need a man cave, you’re not even a man yet!!! 😂😂😂 but for real I’m gonna need my room back.
Shout out to Kitt Kinderman: Stoked for the Hearthstone expansion. Maybe I’ll be able to get güd with this one. Also I got ur letter and I think it’s funny how you mentioned me losing things the DAY AFTER I lose my water bottle. #Classic. I love you. see you soon
Shout out to Mom Bazala: oh yeah, I lost my water bottle. I swear it disappeared. It was in my room and then it wasn’t. Welcome back Nalgene maybe, please? (I bought stickers that need a place to go. All the Kool kids are doing it) also miss and love you all. Ps still waiting on Aidan’s comments…..

If you’re reading this it’s too late…for a title

Sup dudes, aka hello fellow comrads and aquaintences, Tree and Noah here to give you the low down on the latest throwdowns (don’t worry there weren’t actually any throwdowns, we just wanted to rhyme) 😛 (tongue out emoji). Friday meant the end of camp, but not the end of all of the friendships we had formed. Faces beamed as pictures were taken left and right, topped off with a huge group picture. It was another round of who wore it best as all 90 of us somehow happened to be wearing the same camp shirt. Funny how things like that happen.
The bus came when it wanted, giving us an extra 2 hours to enjoy the beautiful scenery and presence of our new and dear friends. A bus ride filled with 80s music, camp songs, round after round of “who high-fived me?”, and when possible, sleep entailed, closing the door on camp 2017 🙁 (frowny face emoji) We arrived back at what now feels like home at 7, completing a quality 6 hour travel day that was thankfully accompanied by air conditioning. We ended our night with a final game of mafia and then welcomed the embrace of our beautiful friend, sleep.
Today began at 9 when we made our way to a local market to explore hidden treasures of Romanian. The market was alive with the cry of birds, the sound of bartering, and broken Romanian as the 20 of us tried to figure out how much a wooden spoon with a crying laughing face emoji would cost. There were many impulse buys as bags filled with spoons, mugs, and chicken shaped pitchers. Our pools of sweat turned to actual pools when we ventured to Aqua Plus, a facility with pools upon pools that provided much needed cooling in the brutal heat. Living up to our Americanness we got yelled at for being too loud, which was justified as none of us had ever seen Pat get her hair wet by choice before. It was truly a “lit,” as the young ones say, game of Marco Polo. It even made a Romanian spectator so entertained he had to run over to his wife and explain our game, so we clearly must’ve been really fun to watch.
Our day ended on a high note when we met with the campers for a reunion in Romanescu Park, a beautiful space boasting a zoo, row boats for rental that we took full advantage of (which included getting soaked by the fountain), and a lot of neature (neat nature). We shared laughs over stories from camp and tried to capture a fraction of the joy we had the past week with as many pictures as possible. As the sky faded to black we put the bookmark in all of our new friendships, saying goodbyes with the hope we would pick up the conversations in the future.
And with that we SHOUT OUT
To Katrina for letting me write this while she was a team player and folded team laundry. To Sammy: Lavi and Cabs helped free my legs of some excess hair today… Noah I’m missing my fill-in older brother, its not the same having other people constantly making fun of me… Katrina Ali: oita, among others, misses you, but she has nothing on how much I miss random mosquito bites My (Noah’s) Fam: I love you guys lots Brian wreck-those-socks: this is a little late but: you got me good. I was shook To Halle B: hilarious. To Raymond: I wore a tank top today and tried to keep my arms down. – Dan To Ben and Jenna: Your friends say hi. To Jenna: I hope you’re having fun at Kernel. To Mom and Dr Anderson: thanks for the bird update, you better take some pictures for me. I saw a cool Romanian hawk today. To Rose: the 80s jam sesh was, well, jamming. It would’ve made you smile (or something like that but we forgot exactly what Marilyn told us to type… awkward giraffe)

Long time no blupdate

Long time no blupdate! (Blog update) We have been incredibly busy the past couple days, staying up late and getting up early, but we are now on our way back to Craiova!
A few updates from the past couple days…On Wednesday, we conquered a 5 hour hike with the majority of the campers. We hiked along beautiful wooded paths right next to the river. Although we didn’t go to the top of the mountain we were hiking on, the woods opened up right before we turned around to a sound-of-music-like green pasture looking out at the mountains which was a great picture spot. We were all exhausted after the hike, but managed to keep up some of the energy for our evening session. We talked about the story of David and Bathsheba and got deeper in our small group conversations as we talked about the sins we struggle with. Yesterday was very hot and perfect for the “water day” we planned. We began our sports’ team plan with a game involving water balloons. A grid was formed for four teams whose objective was to burst the airborne balloons with their shoes. The balloons were launched from multiple spots around the field. It was no concern to be hit by a balloon, because the sun was beamimg down quite intensely. Andrew, however, decided to turn the competition into a one on one fight. He managed to catch the balloons as they fell and then throw them to opposing teams. When the balloons had all been used, we were introduced to a friendly and safe game of Steal the Bacon. This was followed by everyone getting soaked on an epic dish-soap-filled slip and slide. At night, Daniel wrapped up the week with an explanation of the gospel, leading to small group questions like “if you died tonight, do you think you would go to heaven or hell?” The results were pretty incredible. Great discussions all around. It was awesome to witness the concept of salvation starting to click in the minds of campers, some who had barely heard the gospel before. We finished out the night with a bonfire and American s’mores. After a late night of roasting marshmallows and writing “notes of encouragement” to each other, everyone was quite sleepy this morning. We packed up, finished out with a final time of worship, and set out for our six hour bus ride.
Now writing from the bus, we can speak for the whole team when we say that it is crazy how fast the week has gone by. With how much we have experienced in the past few days, we are looking forward to the next couple days of processing with the Romanian leaders in Craiova. Even though we are still in Romania, it really does feel like we are going home. Even after a few days, we have gotten so comfortable living with our host families in Craiova. We are so thankful for the clear ways that God has been working this week. Please pray that the seeds that have been planted this week in the hearts of campers would continue to grow, and that they would continue to explore their faith as they enter back into their normal lives. Thanks for all your prayers for us at camp! We can’t wait to share more stories when we get back.
With full hearts and dried sweat, Morgan R. and Hannah
And now for some fun facts: 1. Andrew would make a good Amish person 2. Katrina had six cavities 3. Emily is the master cat 4. Actually Mel is the master cat 5. Noah is a cat trainer 6. Bria has schnitzel in her eye 7. Hannah has mastered launching goldfish with a sling shot 8. 4 year old David is attatched to Athena 9. Marilyn and Ed bought fish flavored goldfish 10. We don’t deserve Pat Brady
Shoutouts: Ben P- On the way down the mountain hike, I talked with a camper about long distance relationships. He has a long distance girlfriend and we bonded over our struggles of being so far away from people we love. It turned into a really cool conversation about the importance of trusting God’s plan. It was very encouraging and I’m excited to tell you more about it! Miss you lots 🙂 -Hannah Also from katreetree, you would have enjoyed the hike alot! Although no trees were climbed, but fun was definitely had! I hope you had fun in cali!
Metzger Fam: Missing you guys! I’m so excited to tell you all the stories I have when I get home. Love you all so much!
Jake Genyk: hey there! I miss you! I hope all is well in WI, and that hard days of football are being reimbursed with blue raspberry/atomic lemon and jolly rancher slushies. I am pleased to share that your treats are still fully in tact. We are back from camp now, and I have so many fun pictures, videos and experiences to share with you. I love you! Ask your mom, the twins or my mom to give you a hug for me 🙂
Ashton and Payton : hey troublemakers! Are you holding down the fort? Taking good care of the pets? I keep thinking about getting my wisdom out when I get home because they are crowding my mouth…should be fun? Speaking of, how’s my favorite little sister doing? Still droopy? Chubby/bruised cheeks? Love you guys. See you in a few days! P.S. don’t tell mom, but I may have dropped my phone out a window. Many stories to share!
Carol Smith (Nana) : I miss you and love you! I am excited to see you at the end of the month. Be ready, because I’m having my wisdom teeth removed two days before…can’t wait to tell you all about these two amazing weeks!
The Pincombe Family: Boy have I missed you guys! But I have so many fun stories and great people to tell you about, and I can’t wait to hear how life in WI is! Thanks for being loyal followers of the blog. I love hearing from you. And don’t worry, I’ve gotten my fill of bread while I’ve been here :). Madison, thinking about you lots as you pack up and drive out to Ames in just 2 days. Save some time amidst recruitment and moving in for some Facetime. Love you lots!
Grandma and Grandpa Pincombe: Craving your waffles and can’t wait to spend time with you in just a few days! Thanks for following the blot :).
The Virginia Pincombe Family: Praying for the fellow mission trippers! See you in VA!

David & Goliath

Buna from Morgan P and Abby (who – despite not turning in a bio – is still a part of the team :)). Checking in to let you know that we didn’t leave anyone at the gas station on the way to camp. Since Grace and Bria clued you in last, we spent seven hours on the party bus/”mini bus” caravan playing games and building friendships. About halfway through the ride, we stopped for lunch at an average gas station with an above-average view. We attacked the mountain of 180 handmade sandwiches made by the hired chefs (aka our multi-talented team members) before hitting the road again. To pass the last few hours, we took part in the Great American-Romanian Slang Exchange. Campers, Simona and Ana, taught us some examples of unusual Romanian idioms. So, if we heard it right, GO TO SPINACH! To hold up our end of the deal, Grace pulled out her list of “bro-lingo” and got some Romanians saying things like “gnarly” and “righteous” among other things.
After getting settled at camp, we played a very lively game of “Viking” to break the ice. One of the many highlights was hearing Pat shriek “AHHHHHHH VIKING” repeatedly. After dinner, we all learned the camp song – Domnul, Steagul Meu (The Lord, my Flag), and sang some upbeat Romanian worships songs led by a few of our team members. We also got entertained with an amazing performance by our program team, with Andrew playing Jonathan (David’s friend) as the star character of the night! The theme of the night’s talk was all about friendship, which eventually led into our small group time.
Tuesday morning, we woke up to misty mountains and started the day with a leader meeting as the sun rose over camp. Today was Day 1 of English class… which was more like Romanian class for the two of us because we have a group of campers who are nearly fluent in English already. We made mod podge journals that described ourselves as we bonded over our horrible pronunciation.
This afternoon, it was time for a much anticipated game: “Wanted.” While we were playing games, the Romanian leaders subtly hung up posters with pictures of some of us campers. Our mission was to capture those who were on the posters. Our small group set out to find Ed which meant wrestling him (8 campers, 1 Ed) towards “jail” until he made an unexpected escape. After much frustration and determimation, we finally dragged him in. Our group also successfully led an ambush to retrieve Dan!
Tonight, before Razvan’s message on David and Goliath, we presented our groups with our decorated flags and choreographed routines. We closed out the night with more small group time. Everyone is pretty tired after a busy, fun few days at camp already. So that leaves the two of us, writing to you by the light of a Kindle Fire. Pray we get some sleep (as it is almost 1am), and keep our team and all the campers in your prayers as we continue to enjoy these next few days of camp. Keep the comments coming – they make for great laughs and well-timed encouragement!
This blupdate (aka blog update) has been brought to you by brief moments of free time scattered throughout the day and two sleepy campers.
From, a very giggly and over-tired Abby and Morgan. Noapte buna!
Shoutout to the Olszewski clan from Athena : I will try to learn from Chris’ mistakes and will not eat the treats I got for the family while I am still in Romania. Save some ice cream for me!
Shoutout to Tina Bazala: The fountain wasn’t working but I I am getting plenty of pictures! Miss u! -Mattea
Shoutout to Kitt: Still loving the memes. Also i brought my set of photos. They’re on the wall by my bed. Love u and miss you! -Mattea. Ps write me bacK. 😀
Shoutout to Momma Reed: I miss you so much! It makes me smile to head about Cappy and Finn. Smart pig knows to stay in his yard where he has his many mud/dirt holes. Also, I have been informed that our neighborhood is notorious for coyotes…keep that piggy safe! Give everyone, including the animals, a hug for me. -Morgan
Shoutout to Joshua Chen: I’m glad my drawing was accurate enough 🙂 I miss you and the parental units a lot. I hope you have fun in Colorado and don’t get eaten by a bear. Will you check if Homecoming is still in theaters when I get back? (This is from Andrew: Rw’ U2 Lw F2 Lw’ F2 Rw2 U2 Rw U2 Rw’ U2 F2 Rw2 F2. And thanks.)
To Kirstin: Are you ready to get weird?
Shoutout to the Pincombe Family: thanks for keeping up with the blog and for being loyal commentors. Fun to hear from you halfway across the world. Still on the search tot gelato, but rest assured I’ve tried several Romanian treats. Love you guys lots and am truly excited for a group hug :). Noapte buna!