Evde Hissetmek

Emily Bettenga is a freelance Media Makeup Artist based out of Minneapolis. In November, Emily took the opportunity to travel overseas with a group from her church. Discover what she learned about living a life with radical love, faith, generosity, and encouragement. Read about her nine-day journey experiencing the “radical hospitality” of the people of Turkey and the sense of feeling at home in a foreign land.

If you were to ask me where it is that I feel the most at home, I don’t think that I can honestly say that “home” for me is one specific place. There are many people and places around the world, near and far away, where I have felt at home and felt close to God. I think at the end of the day that’s really what it is for me… home is where I feel Him the most. Travel always seems to bring a microphone to His voice and a heightened awareness of the senses He’s given me, so to say that I felt at home in Turkey should be no surprise to anyone.


I knew before I left that going there would be an incredible experience, but to land in Istanbul and feel instant peace is a pretty indescribable feeling. It wasn’t just me who felt this way either. It was a peace felt by my entire ten-person team. Ten friends who are now family. Evde hissetmek… “to feel at home” – it’s the best way I can describe my 9-day experience.

River Valley Church located in Minneapolis, MN, is where I have been serving  and attending for the last three years. Almost every week we are sending out teams to different locations, in and out of country, and on November 13, 2017, it was my turn to board a plane and see what God had for me to learn 5,500 miles away. We were heading directly into the zero zone, meaning that there are .1% of Christians in a total of 80 million people, so we could bet that pretty much everyone we were going to encounter had not met a Christian before, or heard the truth about who Jesus is. (We had a point of contact while we were there, but for the protection of the people and organization we are associated with, I am not allowed to give their information). Everything was so divinely put together from the beginning of this adventure. I couldn’t help but step through the airplane doors with a confidence that this was going to be amazing.

I wholeheartedly believe that global trips like this should be entered into with the mindset of, “Okay God, how do you want ME to change? Show me a new perspective. Teach me what I need to learn so that I can love others better, and know your heart better than I do right now.” Yes, we were there to make an impact in any way we could and to “plant seeds” (as we call it in Christianese). At the end of the day, this trip, just like any “mission trip”, was more about God refining our hearts and showing us a deeper glimpse of who he is through the incommunicable love that he has for every person created. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than we can comprehend. When we choose to step out of our own worldview and see other ways of how people live, you can’t help but come back with a broader understanding of who God is. Get out and see the world, people!

Jesus’ ministry was all about people, so that’s what we wanted this trip to reflect. A global experience with the focus on building relationships with locals and immerse into the culture as much as we could. Just like anywhere you are, when you understand the culture that you are in, you can better relate to the people you are trying to connect with. Turkey is filled with rich culture, history, and hospitality!


We got to experience so much of what makes Turkey incredible – from the AMAZING food and the Grand Bizarre to the ferries that connect Asia to Europe. We experienced everything from progressive pockets of cities that buzzed with chai houses and college students to all of the cats and dogs that roam the street. (Side note – they are so kind to animals there. Dogs and cats are wandering everywhere and they’re all spayed, neutered and taken care of by people in the city.

As an animal lover, this was incredible to see! You can check out the cat’s of Turkey documentary, “Kedi” to see what I mean!) This place is something special and joy was the main emotion we experienced while being here! This trip was a blast!

We not only traveled to Istanbul but also to the cities of Izmir and Trabzon. Eight flights in 9 days, folks! We were on the go. Everywhere we went was an opportunity to connect with people, learn about their lives and build friendships. Thank goodness for Google Translate! From planes, trains and subway rides, we seized the moments to make connections, encourage people through any means we could, even if it was just a smile and played worship music in cafes, subways, and parks. People were so open to us not only as Americans but as people. I am constantly being reminded that the human connection, especially through the Holy Spirit, is stronger than any prejudices the media, terrorism and political walls try to force upon us. We have so much more in common than you could even realize!

Being home from my trip, a common question to me has been, “what’s been the biggest impact for you”? I can without any hesitation say that the radical hospitality that the people of Turkey and our new friends showed us was unlike anything I have experienced before. They gave their time, possessions, food and love to us. Just when you think they couldn’t be more generous, they throw a birthday party for a girl on our team, or show up to the airport and skip class just to send us off. That’s the kind of person I want to be. The incredible thing is that I don’t have to be in the middle east, or far away to experience this and live it out in my life. I can extend generosity to anyone and everyone I meet. Everyday we encounter someone who needs to feel seen and loved. How many times have I missed opportunities to encourage someone, listen to their story, or learn something from others because I’m choosing to be self-focused?

I’m forever grateful for my Time in Turkey and would encourage anyone to go visit this amazing country, filled with beautiful people. The media and political sides may be putting barriers up, but let’s break those down with love, compassion, and personal connection. My prayer is that I begin to live my life with radical love, faith, generosity, and encouragement. I pray that my mindset would be one that is for people before rather than myself. Jesus lived his life in this kind of way, loving people with no conditions. I understand His character a bit more now. I will forever have a home in Turkey because God is there.

River Valley Church – Minneapolis campus currently meets at Muse Event Center in Downtown Minneapolis (107 3rd Ave N., Minneapolis, MN). Inspiring worship and teaching is a core value at River Valley. They are a multi-site church with eight locations across the Twin Cities. Although their campuses meet in different places, They are all a part of the same church community. They say it this way— “one church, multiple locations.” Service times are Sunday – 9, 10:15, 11:30 am, & 5 pm.


Emily Bettenga is a freelance Media Makeup Artist based out of Minneapolis. She has been in the industry since 2012 and is extremely passionate about creativity and influencing the world through beauty. She has working experience with local and national fashion designers and photographers, commercial, film, runway, bridal and special events. Whatever the job is, she puts her whole heart into it. It is her desire that anyone who sits in her chair leaves feeling happier and more beautiful inside and out!


Ken’s Crew: Walk to Defeat ALS

ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is 100% fatal. Ultimately it peels away all of your physical abilities to include eating and breathing. Every 90 minutes someone dies or is diagnosed with ALS. The average lifespan of someone diagnosed with ALS is 2-5 years. The estimated average yearly cost of caring for someone with ALS is over $200,000. The ALS association helps to provide services and equipment for those with ALS in addition to supporting research. This year the first drug in 25 years to help slow the progression of ALS was approved.

This Saturday, September 16th, at Lake Phalen Ken’s Crew will be gathering to raise money for the ALS Association. This year it will be especially poignant as Ken died this past July at the age of 54 after being diagnosed with ALS 3 and a half years ago. Please consider walking with Ken’s Crew and/or donating at the following link >> Ken’s Crew

Patti Brown is a clinical nurse specialist at Nystrom & Associates.  She lost her husband Ken Brown from the horrible disease of ALS in July of 2017. She has two children and lives in Champlin, Minnesota.

A Skateboard, a Fanny Pack, and Cuba

This past summer I had the opportunity to live in Fort Myers, FL to intern with a non-profit organization known as Ride Nature. Ride Nature is an action sports ministry that uses skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding to share the good news of Jesus with a truly unreached group of people. If you are familiar with the skateboard community at all, you probably know many of the stereotypes that go along with skaters; outcasts of society, drug users, and dropouts with profane language. The skate culture is a very spiritually dark place, and Ride Nature seeks to change that by letting them know that there is a God who wants to know them and meet them as they are, and loves them so much that he sent his own son to die the death we all deserve for our sin.
This is not only the goal of Ride Nature on a local level in Florida but also on an international level throughout the world.

During the summer, I was able to go on two international trips, one to Panama and one to Cuba. Both trips were incredible, but the Cuba was quite the adventure for me, partially because I wanted to make my last trip with Ride Nature as memorable as possible. To help accomplish this goal, with the strong encouragement of the other guys, I packed for the trip using only a fanny pack. With my Bible in one hand, skateboard in the other, and a fanny pack around my waist, we set out for Cuba.

We flew into Havana with our group of about 8 people, bringing in a few dozen skateboards to donate, as well as some skim boards. Ride Nature always brings boards to donate on mission trips, but this was especially important to us while going to Cuba, as the government restrictions don’t allow skateboard to be imported to the country at all. Every skateboard in Cuba has been brought in from individuals after they visit another country. When a skater in Cuba breaks a board (which happens very often in skateboarding), it can be months before they are able to get a new one and start skating again.

Surprisingly, we made it through customs with all the boards with no hassle at all. On our previous trip to Panama, all our bags with donation boards were confiscated, and we had to go back to the airport multiple times and pay hundreds of dollars to get the bags back.

Each day of the trip in Cuba, we set out to a different skate spot to build relationships with the skaters there, hold skate contests, and share the gospel everywhere we went. We had a few different contacts in Cuba before going who were skaters, and they were able to let the community know where we would be and when. The community of skaters in Cuba is very large, but a tight knit group of guys that all seemed to know each other well.


Each day we went to a new spot the group of skaters got bigger and bigger as word got out that we were there, and that we had skateboards to give away. It was cool to see the same guys around each day, and it was almost as if we were able to disciple them throughout the week as we shared our testimonies and gospel messages with them each day. One of the days about halfway through the trip, I broke my board while trying a trick down a ledge, which was a real bummer. Not only was it unfortunate that I couldn’t skate the rest of the week, but I also couldn’t donate that board before we left (we usually donate our own boards before we leave). On the same day shortly after that, I realized that my fanny pack had been stolen from one of the cars we were using. Praise the Lord that my passport, Bible, and most of my clothes were still back at our apartment. Believe it or not, that day was my favorite day of the trip because of what happened next.

We had a very large group of skaters gathered that day, and my friend had just given his testimony to them, and our translator and trip leader was sharing the gospel and explaining how you become a follower of Christ if you want to make that decision. One of the skaters from the crowd started talking to our translator and to all the guys in the crowd in Spanish, which we eventually found out to be something along the lines of “Guys, why wouldn’t we all want this? Let’s all pray together right now!” Then we saw nearly every one of the several dozen skaters there bow down with their eyes closed, and ask the Lord into their hearts. That is one moment from my life that I will never forget. I may have lost half of my possessions I had in Cuba that day, but that is not even comparable to seeing others saved by Jesus.

Many of the churches in Cuba don’t allow people in if they have tattoos and piercings, and they preach to their congregations that they should stay away from people who are not Christians and stay strictly surrounded by a Christian bubble, with no concept of evangelism or fulfilling the great commission. Many of the skaters we talked to were hungry for the gospel and extremely receptive but were simply rejected by the churches for not looking and acting like your average church-going people.

God doesn’t require us to clean ourselves up before coming to him, and he wants to meet us wherever we are. No matter how we look, act, or whether we pretend like we “have it all together” or not, we are all sinners. We are all sinners who have been saved by nothing but the grace of God alone, and to pretend our sin is less than the sin of others does nothing but minimize the cross and put us in a place of self-righteousness. If we have accepted the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then we owe it to others to tell them how they can have it too.


Dave Hackett is from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He is a manufacturing engineering student at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dave is passionate about action sports and videography. Follow David Hackett on Facebook and Instagram @davehack97

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