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

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!!!!