Reflections from the plane

Hello everyone, this is Kip tapping in for probably our final blog post. As I sit here on the final hours of our last flight, looking at the familiar faces of the students and leaders that I’ve spent the past two weeks with, I am reminded of the power of community. Throughout the entire trip, this team has been an unbreakable foundation upon which we can freely share our thoughts, feelings, and worries without judgement. I am truly blessed and lucky to have the opportunity to be surrounded by such an amazing group of God-fearing friends. There are so many stories and jokes that we’ve had a chance to create, from one of Julian’s many ridiculous and hilarious songs to the times spent awake at a ludicrously late hour goofing around. In addition, the relationships I and the team made with the Romanians this year were eye opening and life changing. Before arriving in Craiova, I personally was a bit anxious about being able to open up more and build more relationships this year, especially considering I didn’t feel like I got close with many of the Romanians last year. But there was one guy named David that I had gotten tight with, and he made me feel right at home when I greeted him this time around. We both love cars and rock music, so we spent quite a bit of time discussing whether AC/DC is overrated or not and the differences in the American and Romanian car markets, among many other eye-catching topics. He was an extremely important figure in my journey this year and helped me create many lasting relationships with other Romanians this year. By the end of our time in Romania, I felt like I could be myself around everyone I talked to; there was an indescribable sense of safeness and inclusivity that I’ve never felt before. Although leaving Craiova early on Sunday morning was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve had to endure, I am inspired by how God showed his grace and kindness to me through amazing people like David and the rest of the Romanians. Returning home will be a tough pill for me to swallow, but I return with the comfort of knowing that as long as I stay committed to surrounding myself with a God-fearing community, my fears and worries about this world with sort themselves out. Thanks so much to all that prayed for us on our journey and to all those still hanging around reading this post, and we will see you all shortly.






To George: Hello George, I hope to see you at school tomorrow and I hope your pet tortoise “walaweegius” enjoys his spa day.


To walaweegius: I love you walaweegius, I hope that you think of me during your spa day, remember to ask for Mcgundus to do your shell wax.

The Final Night

Hello friends and family, this is Cade. As our team was preparing to head to Romania the biggest fear that I had was that I would send a second straight year not making good connections with Romanians. I was nervous for camp because it’s the reason we’re here and I felt like I was bound to waste my time there being awkward. Now that camp is over and we’re on our way out of Romania I can see that God answered my prayers and made those worries seem silly. Thinking back, the final day of camp was predictably the most memorable day. I was a part of the drama team which put together a short skit about the power of faith set to the song “What Faith Can Do”. I had never participated in something like this throughout my whole life and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I volunteered. I felt like I was in way over my head when practicing for the performance on the final night of camp, watching teammates both American and Romanian who regularly participate in drama made me second guess being a part of that team. But again, God proved that these worries that I was having were unnecessary. Those who had experience and knew what they were doing were patient and quick to help those of us who were knew to this sort of thing. Before long dinner time came and there was still much to do to be prepared for the final evening session of camp. Many of us ate our dinner quickly and rushed back upstairs to continue preparing in our various roles. This short time we had to finish getting ready was one of the most enjoyable times of the whole trip. I think it had something to with the incredible teamwork that took place that could only be achieved by a team that was put together by God and knows and loves each other as much as we do. Every single person had a part to play in the night and I felt that it was easy to see what everyone’s role was and how they were being used.

From motions to worship to the drama to the message every part of the night had its own unique impact on the campers and prepared them for the discussions that night. The atmosphere of our small group on the final night was noticeably different than that of the other nights of camp. Not to say our small group was not productive on other nights, we had incredible conversation throughout the week, but it was easy to see that this night was different. The campers were actually quieter than they had been the whole week but that was not discouraging, it was clear that there was internal processing of the events of the night going on inside of everyone. I can’t think of many times in my life that I’ve been able to so clearly see God working, and even saying that I know he was doing so much more than what was visible to me. Thank you so much for reading and I ask that you pray for our time in debrief and that we can effectively process our time at camp and in Romania while still amongst our teammates.


Hi all! This is Elise.

I’m writing this in a hot van, about 4 hours in on our trip back to Craiova. And while I am not physically comfortable right now, my heart is full. Yesterday was our last full day of camp, and we made the most of it, spending a lot of time connecting with the campers. After a morning full of outdoor games, it rained in the afternoon, so we set up crafts and games indoors. I ended up playing a game of Signs. Signs involves passing an “invisible ball” across a circle of people by signaling to others with a motion or sign that they chose at the beginning of the game. One person stands in the middle of the circle and tries to guess who has the “ball” as it is passed around behind their back. This was such an interesting game to play with a mix of Romanian and English speakers because all the nonverbal communication mostly defeated the otherwise challenging language barrier. There was confusion, but plenty of laughter too.

Even with moments like the signs game, the language barrier had been a challenge for me personally. I had found it difficult to connect with certain campers because of conversation limits. By the fourth day of camp, I was worried I wouldn’t even be able to form real relationships with the girls in my small group. But as our last two days continued, I tried to sit by a couple of these girls during a few meals and evening sessions (this may sound simple, but there was a sort of scramble for seats during these times that often left leaders sitting together). I found that even this small (and awkward) action could create a connection. And while I’m not best buds with any of the campers, I did get goodbye hugs from the girls in my small group today! 😊

One last note: We are now back in Craiova! I have been told how much returning to Craiova feels like coming home, and now I truly understand the feeling (don’t worry Mom, I’m still coming back to Madison). It is comforting to be back in a familiar place, and amazing to shower without sharing the shower with other girls’ hair. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re sad that camp is over, but at the same time, we are all breathing a sigh of relief now that we don’t have to be high-energy all the time.

Thanks for reading! – Elise

Shout outs!

To Owen: Good luck this weekend!

To Mom and Dad: Have fun sitting in the heat for hours. Love you! – Elise

To Owen (still Owen Chester): I miss you! Love, Luke & Leah

To Jake Genyk: I had a dream about my shirt last night… Expecting great things! – Ashton

To Larry: Can’t wait for the Spring Green golf outing! – Kip

To George: George… Georgie… I am so EXCITED FOR YOUR LAST DAY OF VACATION ON THE CRUISE. Make sure to not eat too many deep fried mushroom stew shrimp balls! And um p.s. do not spend too much time in the kiddie pool. Chlorine will ravage your skin!

To Emmett: Love ya, you old codger. Can’t wait to give you some belly rubs! – Matt

To Arthur Immanuel Ernst: Welcome to the world! Love, Auntie Missy


To Nikki: Apparently, I’m y(o)u now.

To Noah Pollard: I was just called Pickles today, so no worries. Also, I did a special chomp with a motion and sound effect in the camp video. Hope you see it. Miss you. – Luke Sweeney Stevens. PS no Tylenol pm was consumed on this trip

To all Memorial swimmers: Good luck at All City (Go RW)! – Matt and Elise

Meet Andrew!

Howdy everyone! My name is Andrew, and I am going to be a junior at Middleton High School this year. This will be my second time heading to Romania, and I am simply overjoyed to be returning and continuing to create new friendships, as well as strengthen old ones. I know God has a lot in store for us, and I hope to be present and actively making an impact alongside the rest of the team.

There’s a few things that you should know about me. First and foremost, I love music. This mainly entails playing piano, but also includes being a part of the choir and the musicals at Middleton, which segways into another aspect of my life, theatre. I have been in six productions so far through Middleton Theatre, most recently the musical Big Fish, and I seem to enjoy being in each show more than the last. Also, I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 10 seconds, so there’s that.

I cannot thank you all enough for your support to the team, as well as putting in the time to be engaged with the events of this trip through the blog. Hats off to you.

Until next post,


(P.S. – Nice blog, Ian.)

Meet Matthew!

I’m Matthew Gartland. I’m 17 and going into my Senior of high school at James Madison Memorial. At Memorial I am a part of 2 sports teams: the swim team and ultimate frisbee teams. My favorite pass times are exploring state parks and finding cool places to Hammock.  I have been apart of 3 Blackhawk Highschool Ministry trips before this one: Joplin Missouri, West Virginia, and the Colorado Backpacking trip.  I decided to go on the Romania trip because I Believe it is a good next step I’m my faith Journey after my Experiances with past mission trips.

Meet Noah!

Greetings from Noah

Hello wonderful blog readers!! It’s Noah, coming to you not so live, but very alive, from the blog! I am a graduated senior from Middleton, that loves soccer and music. Some very important (but not actually that important) things to know about me:

  • If I were to marry a Disney character, I would marry Nala the lion (if I could be a lion or she a human, for obvious reasons)
  • I have had 14 teeth pulled
  • I enjoy rewriting songs (I was going to rewrite a song for this, but procrastination got to me…)

Now that we are basically best friends, I guess I’ll share a little more about how important this trip is to me. This will be my fourth trip to Romania and with every trip comes new relationships and learning experiences. I love the heart behind the Open Roads ministry and the way they share God’s love. There are many relationships I look forward to continuing from past years and I also hope to form many new ones. 

While we are gone, your prayers would be greatly appreciated. Please pray that we can be fully present while in Romania and that we can assist the Open Roads staff in the most beneficial way possible. Pray that we can be humble servants who recognize that we aren’t taking God to Romania—He is already there working through the Open Roads ministry.

Lastly, please please please please leave comments on the blog. I have said it every year, and I mean it every time! Comments can be much needed encouragement throughout the trip!

I’ll leave you alone now… until I blog again 🙂

Thanks for reading!


Meet Julian!

Hello, my name is Julian. I will be a junior this next school year at Middleton High school. I was born in St. Paul Minnesota and moved to Wisconsin in the summer before my 6th-grade year. Most of my friends today I met through homegroup through Blackhawk’s Middle school Ministries, and still today I meet more awesome people through their High School ministries with lots of time to meet and talk about God along with fun camps and missions trips. I chose to be apart of the Romania trip this year for many reasons. Mostly because of my trip to Joplin the year before. I really enjoyed that and wanted to be a part of something bigger. Along with that, I heard lots of great things about the trip from friends, and leaders who are a part of the ministry. This will be my first time on the trip. Outside of church, I am very interested in math and science, I enjoy practicing Violin, playing badminton, hanging with the Wolfpacc, and listening to classical music. My family includes me, my brother who will be an eighth-grader next year, me mum and pop and two dogs, Bella, and Charlie. So far this summer, I celebrated my grandfathers 80th birthday in North Carolina on the outer banks, as a family reunion with 22 people. Before I conclude, I would like to say that my friend CTM is a gremlin suckler. Thanks for all the support and prayer you have given me the past couple months so that I could be able to go to Romania!


Meet Hannah!

Hey hey hey it’s Hannah!!!

A few things about me…

  1. I like lists a lot so here we are 
  2. Wowowowow I’m as happy as a face spoon to be returning to Romania for the second year in a row 😄🥄
  3. I’m a recent Memorial High grad and will be attending UGA next year (GO DAWGS 🐾) to study Early Childhood Education 
  4. If it was not clear enough from my college decision, I love warm weather. Although maybe not quite as hot as our record breaking heat wave last year 
  5. I’m a subpar dodgeball player if we’re being honest 
  6. I’m an above average friendship bracelet maker, although not nearly as talented as the one and only Abby
  7. If the game is steal the bacon I go hard 👊
  8. Leading worship in two languages is THE coolest thing. Ever. In the whole world. 
  9. Fineti>Nutella. Personal opinion. #ifyouknowyouknow 
  10. I’m really good at sleeping on planes. And busses. And basically anywhere. I consider it a spiritual gift on this trip. 


Please pray that as we return to Romania, old friendships will pick right back up where they left off and that our new team members will jump right into the family. Also pray for those of us who will be headed off to college after the trip that we would be present and not be distracted by the changes going on in our lives. 


Thanks for all of your continuous love and support! Don’t forget to leave comments!!!!


Meet Grace!

Hi! My name is Grace and this will be my second time going on this trip. With only a few days left until we embark on this amazing journey, I find myself getting more and more excited to reunite with the friends I made last year and meet more people. Since last year, I’ve realized that there truly is no other community like Open Roads, and I jumped at the opportunity to re-apply for the team this year to see all the neat things God has been doing in Craiova.

I guess I should probably tell you all some things about me though. The first thing you should know is that I LOVE movies: soapy dramas, Oscar flicks, but most of all anything that is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just a little bit of trivia, I saw Spiderman: Homecoming four times in theaters over the course of two months last summer; that’s how much I love Marvel. But my geekdom doesn’t end there. When I’m not spending all my time and money at the movie theater, you can probably find me at home learning about Machine Learning, which I guess is the part of artificial intelligence that humans have somewhat achieved, and other various science-y or math-y topics. Oh and another piece of info you may want to know: I am a recent graduate from Middleton HS and I plan on attending the University of Chicago in the fall. Although as the date to sign up for classes approaches, I find that my desired major keeps fluctuating like a diverging sinusoidal graph (sorry, just a little math analogy there for you). Anyways, I’m signing off now to go purchase oodles of friendship bracelet string for the long plane and bus rides.

Thank you for all of your prayers and love,


Meet Kip!

Hey guys, my name is Kip, and I am going to be a junior at Middleton High School this upcoming school year. This is the first time that I am making the venture to Romania, although I have been to Missouri and Alaska in previous mission trips. I have heard many incredible stories and memories from one of my older sisters who has been on the trip twice in past years. I am thrilled with the opportunity to do God’s work and to partner with Open Roads for this mission trip.

A few things about me: my absolutely favorite sport is golf. I was lucky enough to be apart of Middleton’s Varsity Golf team last spring, and our team went to state last year for the first time in two years. I am also interested in computers and programming. I have made a few apps and games in the past (unfortunately they’re not on the app store), with sights on taking multiple computer programming courses at school in the next couple of years. As I mentioned above, I have been on two mission trips, one to Joplin, Missouri, and another to Sutton, Alaska. In Missouri, we built a deck for an elderly couple, and in Alaska we ran a day camp for kids of Sutton.  

Thank you so much for visiting our blog. Make sure you check back to see our progress while we are in Romania. And above all, I humbly ask you to pray for a safe trip for us and for our team to make meaningful relationships with the people in Romania that will make a lasting impact even after we leave. Thanks!