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)

More similar than we are different

Hello this is Ian here. I am just writing to you today to tell you about my experience so far on this trip and at this camp and let me tell you, it’s been amazing. The time spent planning for the camp and meeting Romanian leaders and students was great. When we finally made it to camp we started to hang out and get to know the campers and other leaders better. Yesterday was the first full day of camp and it was filled with laughter, bonding and deep talks in our small groups.

For my group it was very cool when we sat down to have our discussion after the night’s message. We had very deep conversations and it was very cool to see that people all the way across the world from us in Wisconsin have the same questions, doubts, and thoughts as I do. It was also very cool that the guys in my group were willing to open up with those of us they are just starting to know. It was very cool to see the guys in my group open up and be vulnerable and share their deep thoughts and questions/doubts around a bunch of people they don’t know. It is also cool to see the guys able to both laugh and bond, but also be serious and open up. There were several stories that were shared that hit close to home to me and it was cool to be able to connect on a deep level with some of the guys like that and to be able to understand where they are coming from. We’re actually a lot more similar than we are different. Personally the small group time has helped me with my faith and had continued to strengthen and grow my relationship with God. It has helped me to see that other people can get through tough things and still have a strong relationship with the Lord.

Other than the small group time we had a great day filled with fun. We started off the day by having breakfast and a devotional then we broke up into out breakout/English groups. We decorated our notebooks by cutting things that represent us out of magazines. Once we got done with cutting the images and words out of the magazines and put them on the notebooks we shared what they meant to us. It was very fun to see what things represented the others in my group. Then we walked down to the fields where we played some very funny name games and other get to know you activities with all the campers. After that we had lunch and free time and just hung out for a little bit. After all of that we went back to the fields and played different games like Basketball, Soccer (Futbol), Bucketball, and Ultimate Frisbee. We then had an excellent dinner (the food is so good!) and the night talk. The camp theme this year is Mythbusters. We are learning about myths about God and the Bible and finding ways to bust them. It has been a great way to find answers to our own questions and doubts. The myth last night was “Can we trust the Bible to be true or myth?” Tonight is “Was Jesus just a man?” These are great questions that have led to some great discussions so far. Please pray that we continue to see God work through small groups and everything else.

Romanian Camp Flexibility

Andrew and Grace (and Luke’s two cents) here. Since it’s been a day or two, there’s a lot to catch y’all up on. After waking up earlier than we’d normally desire yesterday morning, we loaded up the big bus and several mini-buses and started the long journey to camp. Almost immediately, the campers started sharing their vast number of icebreaking games with us; pretend everybody is ice, and break them. Don’t worry, it’s not quite as ominous as it sounds – no one gets injured in the process. Many of you that have been here before are familiar with the “Who Slapped My Hand?” game, but rest assured there are evidently many other less than imaginative ways to get the entire back of the bus (and beyond) playfully slapping each other. Meanwhile, Luke figured out how to solve a Pyraminx (a Rubik’s cube that isn’t a cube but a pyramid)! We took a rest stop at a park and consumed those famous cheese and salami sandwiches (delicious) while getting to know the campers better. As returners, it was refreshing to have the campers that we’d already created bonds with enthusiastically introduce us to their new friends and make every attempt to involve us. Many new friendships started developing and somehow we got even more excited for camp.

After a relatively slap-free second half of the bus ride (Daniel came back and made sure our new friends & us found more productive ways to connect) we “arrived” at camp and learned that the journey was not quite over… we had to lug our many baggages partway up the mountain (and we are definitely in the mountains!) since the big bus was unable to make it the entire way. The evening was a bit chaotic as we struggled to adjust to the new facilities and catch up with the camp schedule. Many of us had our first dose of “Romanian camp flexibility” as our first evening session responsibilities began right as we arrived and we had to adapt to the ever changing needs of the moment.

In the end, we got done what needed to get done and so began the last part of the evening: small groups. While every small group was different, some members of our team began to feel the full impact of the language barrier as the deeper the conversation got, the translation into English became more sparse. As Americans, one of the hardest transitions on this trip is to learn how to sit back, observe, and pray rather than just sharing our thoughts and opinions. Please pray for us and the campers as the conversations continue to develop throughout the week.

After a little less uninterrupted sleep than some of us had hoped (the guys slept four to a bunk – *double bunk – head to toe!), we awoke to some of the most beautiful fog hugging the tree filled slopes (#mistymountainscold). Our morning was filled with arts and crafts during breakout time (formerly known as English class) where we picked out pictures of things we liked and glued them to the covers of journals. While the rest of the campers headed down to the fields to play more get-to-know-you games, we (Grace and Andrew) hung back to cheer on our small groups as they attempted the obstacle course suspended in the trees. We are about to head out for more large group sports/games right now, but first, some shout-outs:

To Grandma and Grandpa Babler: We are in the mountains at camp in romania, and I bet that it is way prettier than your view! I miss you tons and cant wait to see you soon <3

To Movie Soulmate: Morning babe. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen like a ginger while you’re in San Fran. This morning we sang the Misty Mountains song and I thought about our pool reenactments and that time we went to see Desolation and thought it “wasn’t that bad.” Please inform Nickolas that the Neymar memes have been put to good use. Miss you bae.

To Jo: Hey it’s your birthday! I wish I could be at home with you to celebrate, but don’t worry, I got two bags of Joe this time.

To Ali Mongoose: This is not a shoutout, thanks for the deetz.

To Adeline: You type goodly for a baby.

To America (from David): HELLO DAVID, THIS IS AMERICA.

To Athen-a: there was a dog on the ground eating ice cubes. It was cute and it distracted everyone during team time. THEY DON’T HAVE SPICY CHICKEN.

To David K: We are still waiting for your comments…

To Culvers for having cheese-curds.

~Father Grace and Son Andrew

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

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!