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!