Global Engagement Series: Emily Durbin’s Experience in Turkey

After Emily Durbin ’23 graduated in May with a bachelor’s in business management, she embarked on one more opportunity to serve alongside her Azusa Pacific University friends on a three-week Global Engagement trip to Turkey.

Why did you choose Turkey?

We originally planned to go to Spain and Morocco, but something happened with the host there, so we were redirected. Turkey was an amazing experience, and I believe that change in location was from God.

Where did you travel to in Turkey?

We started in the capitol, Ankara. Then we went south to Antakya. In the Bible, it was called Antioch. We also went to Cappadocia, then to Istanbul and back to Ankara before we flew home.

How did you serve on the trip?

We visited the site of the big earthquake that happened a few months ago. The devastation there was really bad. We worked at a kitchen on an assembly line, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What were the biggest highlights of the trip?

The people we served were so kind and a few of them invited us to their homes and gave us tea and Turkish delight. We’d talk for a long time through our translator because most of the people didn’t speak English.

We worked with an organization that serves refugees. Many were Iranian. At the end of our time, we hosted a testimony night and they shared their stories of coming to Turkey, how they met Jesus, and what they dream of doing when they leave Turkey. It was so powerful to hear their stories. We also taught them English, which was a cool experience.

I really enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful areas of Turkey. We visited mosques, including the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

In Cappadocia, we stayed in a cave hotel. We’d wake up at 5:30 a.m., look out of the cave, and watch the sunrise with hundreds of hot air balloons flying up into the sky. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

What was the dynamic like on your team?

We all grew a lot closer over the course of the trip. Every night we’d get ice cream and do a debrief about our day. It was interesting hearing each person’s perceptions of Turkey. I’m from Colorado and it reminded me of home. Another girl said it reminded her of Korea and someone else thought it was like Ecuador. It was special that the Lord made this place remind us all of the places we loved. I loved serving as a leader of the team alongside my friend Deborah. The Lord blessed us with an amazing team.

What was a big takeaway from the trip?

Building relationships with people was a big one. The Turkish people were so kind. They would give so much, whether it was tea or food or rides wherever we needed. I learned how to love people more selflessly from their example.

How did you grow personally and spiritually?

Personally, I grew in my understanding of people. It was a very relational ministry. I also grew in my understanding of missions and how God can use you in the little things.

Spiritually, I learned to trust God more. There were a lot of days on the trip where we didn’t have much planned and we had to figure things out as we went. Looking back on the trip, trusting God was really transformational for me.

Would you recommend global engagement trips to other students? What advice would you give them?

I would 100 percent recommend the experience. This was my second global engagement trip. My first one was to Thailand last year. These trips inspired me to want to do missionary work long term. They’re literally life changing.

My biggest advice would be to have an open mind and heart. Don’t set expectations based on what you hear from friends' experiences. Each trip is unique, so be open to how God is purposeful with your journey.

Where God places you and what He has you do on those trips will be transformational. If you’re open to what God has for you, it could change your life like it did mine.

One of our four cornerstones is service. What does service mean to you?

Service is not about you. Some of the work we were doing wasn’t the most exciting, like keeping watch over earthquake relief supplies, but it was what the people there asked us to do. Service is being aware of what others need and doing what you can to fulfill those needs.

All APU undergraduate students serve 120 hours over the course of four years. There are many opportunities during the school year and the summer to serve both locally and globally. Learn more about global engagement trips here or by emailing [email protected].