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.

~Kirstin

 

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,

Hannah

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.

-Noah

Shoutouts:

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.

Shoutouts

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.

Stormy & Matiuţ

Hello Friends,

Our fourth day in Romania was yet another great one!

We began our day with another breakfast course of homemade apple juice (from the Ethos Livada/orchard) and different varieties of Romanian corn flakes. After breakfast the American team continued our daily devo and check-ins with leaders. During discussion we decided to share a person, place or event that affected our faith journey, allowing us to connect on a deeper level as a team. We also received letters from home, which helped fight off the homesickness and remind us that there are many people at home praying and watching over our trip. Following our team devo and discussion, Beni, one of the Romanian leaders who works and lives in Ethos, took us to deliver food and introduce us to the families that Ethos supports in Craiova. This experience was challenging for us, as we felt disconnected from the families we were visiting. However; (Rachel Metz; is this the proper use of this semicolon?) because we were with Daniel and Beni who have built daily relationships with these families, we were able to see what Ethos has done and the effects they have had in this community. This experience helped our entire team to better understand what the mission of Ethos is and the problems that face the Craiovan people. We came back and celebrated Lief’s 26th birthday 😉 ;p Lief got an excellent gift in more shoarma, romanian pizza, & souflaki and he graciously shared his pizza with us. We spent the afternoon doing camp prep and tying up any loose ends with our camp teams. This includes the worship team smashing out twelve songs while the “breakout team” was creating some beautiful art and the “program team” organized props (good job to Bria for helping the productivity efficiency). Final preparations for camp while somewhat stressfull, but it also got us excited for the next five days of camp and getting to see it all finally fall into place. After dinner, we ate Lief’s cake and threw a frisbee around. After dinner, we shuffled into vans and went to a concert in Romanescu Park that composed of Romanian worship music and then finished with a surprise treat of vibrant Congolese worship from some Ethos employees from the Congo. Getting to experience Romanian & Congolese worship in the middle of a Romanian public park was unique experience that showed us how vast God is. Then we walked to the park zoo where we watched some storks and geese mingle, a coati and a raccoon fight over a chip, and peacocks chillin on the roof. When we returned to Vieru’s we made 115 salami and cheese sandwiches & were supposed to pack and go to bed, but then we were asked to write this blog hahaha. Go to bed early… yeah right! These next few days will be exciting but challenging for us, so we ask for your thoughts and prayers for us as we start camp.

-Matthew “Garth” Gartland and Luke “Stormy” Stevens

Shoutouts:

To Megan Smith, Happy Birthday!!!

To Megan Smith – Happy July 28! -Lief

To Paige Gartland and Hannah Metzger, for being the same person.

To Matt, for not knowing how to spell his sister’s married name and using her “old one” instead.

To Jay Sullivan, for his big muscles 😉

To the Stevens Fam, for the updates on the family tournaments, did GMA cannonball this year?

To the Ambassador, the cat hath rejected me 🙁

To Angie Shoe, look both ways before crossing the street.

To Pastor Chris, good luck on the sermon tomorrow.

To Matiuţ (matoots), Garth, & Kyle: Do you know what happened to Matt?

Schwarma!!!

Hello friends,

Bria here with what we did yesterday. In the beginning of the day we had good breakfast, and had some productive time in our teams for camp. Later we went to Auchan to gather team supplies for camp (everything from tennis balls, ice cream toppings & nylon stockings to biscuits/cookies, giant jars of pickles, & empty cardboard boxes – and all it has a specific purpose!). The explanation of our annual Auchan trip must be prefaced by explaining the nature of the store. Auchan is essentially the “Big Tasty” version of Costco. Our carts overflowed as we stocked up on Joe and other delicious Romanian snacks for camp and long bus rides. As we returned from our Auchan trip we were suddenly caught in a torrential downpour! We all crammed into the Vieru’s living room as we waited for the rain to pass. Once the skies cleared up we headed up to the Ethos school yard to meet the campers and play some games. We did the “head bop name game” and every one of us had a chance to meet every one of the campers- it was so great to meet all of them. We laughed a lot and had a ton of fun. Then we went outside and played the Romanian game “Energy.” It’s a crazy mix between trenchball & an intense game of tag. The campers loved the game and we look forward to playing it a lot more at camp! We then said goodbye to all the campers for a couple days. We are all looking forward to getting on the bus and up to camp tomorrow am!

Julian and Cade tagging in, after spending time with the Romanian campers and leaders we went down to the city center to enjoy schwarma/”Shoarma” to spend more time with the leader team (American team + Open Roads leaders – over 40 of us!) and was really a great connecting point for all of us. It was great to be able to build relationships. We were both nervous that getting to know Romanians would be a struggle for us, but through our first real conversation with Romanian leaders our fears were diminished. Being in Romania for the first time we were both having a hard time trying to make meaningful connections when there are already so many connections made by the returning team members. I guess that part may just be Cade but either way that worry isn’t as big as it previously was as we are all really connecting and making good connections now.

One of the best parts of the day for both of us was being able to get to know one of the Romanian leaders (David) better. We were able to bond over TV shows, movies, video games, and cars. Especially being first timers, it was a great way for us to get closer to the leaders along and to get to know them better. We look forward to having another friendly face and to get to know him and other leaders better. Later that night after going downtown, another favorite moment for all the guy students and a few Romanian leaders. We spent time at Benny’s house and just sat and talked with the guys and hung out with Lavi as well, we may or may not have woken up Benny’s dad. We went to bed late, but with new friends and experiences.

We ask you guys to pray for us and the team that we make even deeper connections throughout our team, and most especially with the Romanian campers and leaders. And as always, good health, good sleep, and good times.

Shoutouts:

To Movie Soulmate <3: Stay away from intersections, remember what Nick said about efficiency. Work on those calves up the hills and bring me a rock. Tell Ian I bought him a gift. Stay away from the vegan life, you know what’s good for you. Tom Riddle’s diary is safe. Night babe.

To Kip…wait no

To Craig Gartland: I hope Peter Sagan won/wins a couple more stages of the tour while I’m away.

To Rachel Metzger (from Leah): I’ve decided that I do want to know who wins the Bachelorette when it comes out so let me know J Love you!

To Amy Sullivan: How’s the air conditioning feeling in your car?

To the Snyder Fam: I miss you guys so much!! Love you <3 Give Ruby hugs and kisses for me, and grill her about that Witness Protection thing… XD

To Anja Hartmann: I miss you!! I love you <3 Snuggle Cassi for me

To Angie, Jim, Britney, and James Markhardt: Mom and Dad I miss you guys! Britney: How’s the dullard? I miss you lots!! James: I miss you lots bud, cuddle Luna for me!

To Angie Xu from Brianna: no problem, we’ll take it out of your paycheck. 😉

Shoutout to Angie Ipsen: We hope you are healing and feeling better! We miss you! And this year we really have have kept up the tradition: #prayforAngie J

Shoutout to Ray: It’s true: the journey is long – but goes quick! Jimmy taught us the dance moves. So good. We miss you.

Shoutout to Franny: Igor is looking healthy! -Noah

Special request for Rachel Metzger (❤️, Leah):

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,

Lief

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,
Dan
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…..