Natalie and her global engagement team outside the Taj Mahal

Nursing major Natalie Hultgren ’26 spent two weeks serving in India on a Global Engagement trip through the Office of Service and Discipleship this summer. Engaging with doctors and nurses to serve the lower caste population expanded Hultgren’s heart to learning about the image of God in all people.

Why did you choose India for your Global Engagement trip?

I chose India because I wanted to witness a culture that’s different from any place I’ve been. Also, as a nursing major, I was drawn to the medical aspect of the team because we got to serve in clinics. 

How did you serve on the trip?

We served in New Delhi with our host, Dr. Todd Emerson, the head of APU’s health center, helping take patients’ vitals and distributing their prescription medicine. We prayed with them and shared about Jesus’ love. Additionally, we shadowed nurses and doctors, especially ophthalmologists. The people we served were part of the lower caste, who don’t have access to a lot of medical care.

What were a few highlights of the trip?

Simply praying over the patients, especially those who did not know about Jesus, was really impactful. Even in short conversations where we got to learn about each other’s culture, we let them know that God loves them. Westerners tend to take individual attention for granted, but because of the hierarchy in India, looking people in the eye and telling them how loved they are is incredibly moving. Other highlights included participating in a foot washing ministry, observing holistic care, and meeting nursing students in India.

What was the dynamic like on your team?

It was great! Since the five of us on the team are all nursing majors, we had a lot in common and were able to discuss our similar experiences. Having the Emersons on our team, leading us and introducing us to the people that they’ve met on their previous trips, was enriching. Our team felt like a family. 

How did you see God move on the trip?

God showed me that every person is made in His image. I saw God move in each patient when they realized how loved they are. Their joy despite challenges was also inspiring, especially seeing the way they cling to each other for hope. We learned that God was already moving there, and He will continue to pour His love to all who will receive it. 

How did you grow personally and spiritually?

I consider myself a doer, so I approached this trip thinking I would complete so much, but God showed me that service isn’t always about how much you do. For example, I got sick and had to stay at the hotel for a couple of days, which made me feel guilty at first. There were also moments while I was observing doctors at the hospital and I felt like I wasn’t doing all that I could. God taught me that through such meditative and educational experiences I’m able to watch as He moves in people’s lives. He just wants our hearts, and I realized going on a mission trip isn’t about me, but about letting Him work in my heart.

Would you recommend Global Engagement trips to other students? What advice would you give them?

Yes, I would! Culture shock can actually be a good thing, and I encourage others to embrace it rather than shy away. It teaches you so much about yourself and how God reflects His image in others. This is an opportunity to see God’s presence in other parts of the world and meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. Additionally I felt like APU’s team and leaders created a protective setting, so I always felt safe with them.

Service is one of APU’s four cornerstones. What does service mean to you?

Service means offering your heart to the Lord. You must simply walk faithfully in whatever direction He calls you to. Sometimes service is done in seemingly small acts, such as when we handed toothbrushes to children in the clinics. Service doesn’t have to be grand to make a huge impact for God’s kingdom. 

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