This summer, Kerem and his family embarked on their fifty day trip to the United States of America. This trip wasn’t a vacation, at least not in the usual sense of the word. Rather, the purpose of their trip was to visit supporting and like-minded churches and give updates to their supporters about the gospel work happening in Antalya. Kerem and his family were blessed by the trip because for the first time in their ministry they were able to visit more supporting churches than ever before. The length of the trip also provided ample time for Kerem and church leaders to discuss and pray about what future ministry in Turkey looks like. However, the Koç’s trip was also filled with plenty of hardships. Two times their rental car broke down and three other cars they received as replacements from the rental company had other mechanical issues. This made their eight-thousand mile trip much more stressful than what they counted on, however, these difficulties reminded them to give thanks and praise to God in every circumstance.
While Kerem was away from the church, Hakan Güven along with other foreign worker members led APK. Hakan not only preached in Kerem’s absence, but visited church members and led classes for those preparing for baptism. APK has been very blessed by Hakan’s ability to lead, serve, and preach while Kerem is away.
Via Christus is happy to announce that it translated and published Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God At His Word. Thank you to everyone who prays for and supports Via Christus. Translating gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources is a crucial ministry in Turkey. It wouldn’t be possible without your support.
Although the Koç family are glad to be back in Antalya after a long trip, this season hasn’t been without difficulties. Kerem, leaders at APK, and mentors from Acts 29 are all considering where Kerem’s gifts can serve APK the best, but also where his gifts can serve the church in Europe and Central Asia. Recently, Kerem has accepted the role of Acts 29 regional director, a role that oversees church planting efforts with Acts 29 in Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. As of now, Kerem has been encouraged by mentors and friends to take a six month sabbatical, something he has desired for a while but hasn’t had the time or help to do so. This sabbatical will provide Kerem with some much needed rest, but it also will provide him opportunity to pray about how his family will continue to serve the church in Europe and Central Asia. Please pray that the Lord will use this sabbatical to give clarity, healing, and rest to Kerem and his family.
We ask that you would be praying for APK at this time as new measures are taken to bring about health within the church. The most important change will be plural eldership, something APK will pursue rigorously for the next year. There will also be changes in how the congregation understands church membership, church discipline, and evangelism. Pray that APK’s leaders will humbly lead and serve the body to understand and live out these biblical marks of church health.
Nothing causes rejoicing at Antalya Protestant Church (APK) like when those who were once in the domain of darkness are transferred by faith into Christ’s kingdom of light! We are thrilled to announce that recently a lady by the name of Dilek and a gentleman by the name of Volkan have professed faith in Christ and are attending doctrine classes at APK. We are greatly encouraged by their public profession of faith and involvement in the church, and we are looking forward to their baptism.
As we mentioned in our last update, Kerem and APK rejoiced in baptizing Kerem’s sister Senem, his brother-in-law Aydin, and his two nephews on February 17, 2019. The Mediterranean was particularly cold that February afternoon, but it couldn’t dampen our joy and excitement in seeing our brothers and sister baptized into Christ’s church. After the baptism, APK and visitors enjoyed a picnic on the beach to celebrate.
Acts 29 held the “Seven” conference in Antalya last month with the help of Pastor Kerem and volunteers from APK. There was a 120 visitors total and eight different nations were represented. Attendees enjoyed teaching by Tony Merida, Phillip Moore, and Lucas Parks from the first three chapters of Revelation. After the main conference, Pastor Kerem led a group on a seven churches tour. The conference also provided attendees interested in doing ministry in a muslim context the opportunity to network and to share experience with one another.
APK felt blessed to have a safe and sweet Easter service last month. Pastor Kerem preached the gospel boldly from 1 Corinthians 15. After the service, members of APK and visitors enjoyed a large fellowship meal with one another.
Pastor Kerem and his family thank all their supporters for their prayers through a difficult season. And although the season was difficult, Kerem, his family, and APK are encouraged by the truth that God uses difficult situations and circumstances to conform his people more into the image of Christ, and cause them to depend more on Him.
Hakan and Seray Güven continue to be an indispensable part of APK. Hakan not only fills the pulpit from time to time, but he also is engaged in much of the member care at APK. He also leads sermon application during Wednesday night studies, and also teaches the doctrine classes that new and prospective members attend. His wife Seray is constantly involved in practical service such as cooking fantastic meals and desserts, meeting with women from the church, and helping with cleaning. Kerem and APK are very thankful for Hakan and Seray’s faithfulness in serving the saints.
Pastor Kerem and his family will be leaving for a long trip to America in order visit friends and partners in ministry. They will begin in Miami FL, making their way north along the eastern side of the country, cutting west at Massachusetts, and heading south from Detroit MI, where they will pass through the Midwest and journey back to Miami for their return flight. The entire trip will be from June 11 to July 30, and Pastor Kerem would love to stop and visit with anyone interested. If you would like to meet with him, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more details about his trip (The map below shows the exact route).
A new year has begun and Antalya Protestant Church looks back with thankfulness on all the Lord has done in 2018. We especially want to thank all of you who support APK and Via Christus. The Lord graciously provides for our work here through your generosity and all we can do is receive, and give thanks.
The Christmas season, as usual, was one of joy and thankfulness. Members of the church came together quite regularly to enjoy the season with one another. Many Christmas songs were sung and a large assortment of baked goods and desserts were made, shared and consumed. And as usual for APK, Christmas proved to be a wonderful time for members to have conversations with unbelievers about the nature of Christmas, and also to invite unbelieving friends and family to APK’s Christmas service. Many unbelieving visitors did come to the service and sat under a clear gospel presentation from Pastor Kerem.
Praise concerning Kerem’s family: The Sunday service before APK’s Christmas service Pastor Kerem received joyful news that he had been praying for and hoping to hear for years—his sister Serem professed faith in Jesus Christ. But the good news didn’t end there. Aydın, Serem’s husband, and Özgün, Kerem’s and Senem’s Nephew, also professed faith in Christ and told the church of their desire to follow Him. As one can imagine, there was much rejoicing that came from this wonderful news.
The women of APK have set a goal to meet together for breakfast once a month to have fellowship, prayer, and encouragement in the gospel. Buse Koç and Ashley McCartney are organizing the meetings. Please pray that women from APK would make great use of these times of encouragement.
As always, we at APK ask for your continued prayers. We have been extremely blessed to see the Lord answer prayer in regard to calling sinners to Himself. We ask you to do the same. Also, please continue to pray for the church’s security. APK is thankful the local authorities provide security for protection but we also pray that the church will stay in favor with the authorities.
This April, APK will host “Seven”, an Acts 29 Conference that will focus on the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. The conference will also include a tour of the historic, Asia minor churches. A link that provides more information about this conference will be provided on this blog soon.
Just as the people of Antalya transition into Antalya’s beautiful fall, so too is Antalya Protestant Church transitioning into a new season of life. APK leadership has had a desire to see a number of changes come about to serve the church body well, but also to serve the community of Antalya well. Some of these changes are more practical, such as: Who makes the coffee and tea? Who is at the church building on weekdays? Who cleans the church building? The goal for this initiative is to clarify responsibilities so that one person or few persons are not burdened with the majority of the work load. Other changes are for worship during Sunday gatherings. These include: administering the Lord’s supper on a weekly bases, the use of a new projector, and a twenty minute explanation of the sermon in English for visitors or members who don’t have a good acquisition of Turkish.
APK leadership also has a desire to see more outreach into the Antalya’s communities. To accomplish this, APK hopes to implement an English conversation club and a university outreach ministry in the near future.
Teaching English is a great way to build relationships and serve the community since many people (especially younger people) want to learn English in order to find a better job or advance their career.
Antalya’s university has over fifty-thousand students. APK has always been aware of the opportunity for university outreach, but now that there are more people at APK who are interested in engaging the student population, university outreach can begin to take form. As of now the goal is for individuals from APK to have a presence on campus in order to build relationships that lead into gospel conversations.
Please be praying for these recent changes and ministry startups. Pray that the Lord will use these efforts to bring people to Himself and to conform his people more into the image of Christ.
During the past couple months Pastor Kerem had the opportunity to travel for ministry purposes. In October he visited France with other Acts 29 leaders and church planters to discuss church planting in Europe. On his way back from France Kerem stopped by Istanbul to encourage local pastors. Also in Istanbul, Kerem had the opportunity to co-teach with Pastor Scott Zeller at a seminar for pastors and church planters called Gospel Renewal. Kerem and Scott encouraged forty to fifty pastors and foreign workers from Turkey, Bulgaria, Finland, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Switzerland and the United States to press on in the good work of the gospel in their cities. Please continue to pray that the Lord would bring much fruit from the efforts of Pastor Kerem’s travels to encourage pastors around Turkey and to see churches planted in Europe and Central Asia.
This November, pastors from around Turkey will attend the Via Christus Academy. The Academy begins Nov. 12 and will finish Nov. 16. This year, Via Christus Academy is welcoming Mike Tindall, pastor of Grace Church Manchester, to teach from the pastoral epistle of Titus. Along with Mike Tindall’s teaching there will be daily outings to historical sites in the greater Antalya region, and of course, much food and fellowship.
Three weeks ago, Antalya Protestant Church welcomed Oguz Alhan and his new bride, Anna, back to Antalya. Oguz and Anna married on August 11, 2018 in Silom Springs, Arkansas. Pastor Kerem Koc and Mike and Debbie Matlock attended the wedding. After the marriage ceremony Oguz and Anna took off for a week long honeymoon through the heartland of America, stopping at St. Louis and Chicago before returning to Anna’s hometown, Lawrence Kansas.
Oguz and Anna were brought before the church on their first Sunday back in Antalya so Pastor Kerem could introduce Anna to the congregation and pray for Their marriage. Oguz and Anna will be serving at Antalya Protestant Church and Oguz will continue to be Pastor Kerem’s administrative assistant. Please continue to be praying for them as they transition and adjust to this new season of life.
Leadership at Antalya Protestant Church is serious about Word ministry. The expository preaching of God’s word is paramount because it is God’s inspired word that changes God’s people, bringing them together and conforming them more and more into the likeness of our Savior. Pastor Kerem finished an expository sermon series on the book of Nehemiah this July that began last winter and he is now preaching a sermon series on the seven churches from the book of Revelation. He hopes to finish the seven churches series in October and dive into First Peter. But word ministry doesn’t end with the preaching of a sermon every Sunday evening. It starts there, but how is that sermon applied to church member’s lives? For this reason, Pastor Kerem and Antalya Protestant leadership stress the importance of the church’s Wednesday night meeting where the sermon is discussed at a more practical, applicable level. The goal is for church members to engage with the content of the sermon under the guidance of Kerem and other leadership, and to be challenged to conform their lives to God’s word. Please continue to pray for the word ministry of Antalya Protestant Church. Pray that God’s people in Antalya, through the preached word, would glorify and enjoy Him to the praise of his glorious grace.
After a short break this past summer SHARE will begin its normal scheduled drops of necessities for Syrian Refugees in Antalya. As usual, volunteers from Antalya Protestant Church will bring donated items necessary for living (Staple foods like rice cracked wheat, beans, and lentils and sometimes clothes and personal hygiene items) to shanty-like villages on the outskirts of Antalya where most of the Syrian refugees live. Volunteers will be guided by two teenage Syrian boys who know a little Turkish and can direct the volunteers to families that need the supplies. Please continue to pray for this ministry. Pray that gospel conversations and relationships will grow naturally as a result of SHARE’s mercy ministry. If you would like to learn more about SHARE please visit the SHARE page on reachturkey.net/share
What is a Healthy Church Sermon Series
This summer, Antalya Protestant Church welcomed visiting pastors from Canada and the United States to preach “What is a Healthy Church” sermon series. The sermon series was thought up by APK’s leadership team as a great way for the church to be blessed by the knowledge, experience and expository preaching of the visiting pastors.
Eric Landry, from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, was the first in the line up to visit APK. Pastor Landry preached a sermon from Acts, focusing on what the church is and its relationship to the kingdom of God. Dr. Tim Trumper followed and preached about revival from Acts 2. Dr. Trumper also taught at the Via Christus Spring Academy. Mike Bartlett, from Grand Rapids, MI, visited next and preached about having healthy relationships in order to have a healthy church. The theme of relationships continued as Trevor Rysavy from Calgary, AB, and Ty Neal from Las Vegas, NV both preached on the importance of forgiveness within the local church.
These men not only preached from APK’s pulpit, but also taught at APK’s leadership development program; a program that prepares men within the church to serve in ministry. All the visiting pastors took time to meet with this group of men to study God’s word and to share their valuable experience of serving the church.
Koç Family Update
Summer of 2018 for the Koç family was of course busy, but by God’s grace Kerem, Buse and their two boys Josiah and David Kuzey are doing well. The Koç family were thankful they were able take a vacation. The family visited Kalkan, a smaller city near Antalya that’s by the sea. In Kalkan they enjoyed time with other family members and celebrated David Kuzey’s third birthday. Also this summer, Kerem was able to visit pastors and local churches while in the United States for Oguz Alhan’s wedding. Please continue to keep the Koç family in your prayers. Pray that the Lord will use them mightily here In Turkey and that will they press on with joy to the upward call of Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is a small article written by me and published by Tabletalk. Hope you enjoy.
Tony Merida talks me about church planting in Turkey...
It is privilege to write to you about our Spring Academy that we just completed. We studied from April 16th to the 20th on the topic of Systematic Theology. We had 15 students ministering and serving churches from all over Turkey. We even had one brother from Bulgaria. All of these men are actively serving as pastors, or are on their way to becoming church leaders. Our instructor, Dr. Tim Trumper, was kind enough to come to Turkey and paid his own travel expenses to serve among us.
We followed a course of study planned and organized by Dr. Trumper. We used J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology as our textbook. This book was available for us in Turkish from a previous publication by Via Christus. We also provided each student with a booklet containing an outline to serve as a resource and guide for taking notes. During the week, we gathered for about 5 hours each day to study, discuss and learn from the Word of God. We were also privileged to be able to visit the historical sites, of Side and Attalia and enjoy meals together. At the completion of the class, our students shared their words of encouragement with us. One of the pastors specifically expressed that he had suffered from really hard year with pressure and stress caused by death threats. He saw this week as a breath of fresh air and he was encouraged to press on during hard days. Another brother wrote back to us and said, “ the lectures were encouraging, educational and challenging”.
Please remember us in your prayers, specifically for the protection for our leaders. Satan targets the leaders first and most of them live under continuous pressure and death threats. This discourages leaders to continue on, since most of them do not have elders in their churches to support them and share in the work. So ministry in Turkey is not just challenging since persecution is possible, but often lonely as well. Pray for security, encouragement and also for boldness for my brothers here, so that they can keep declaring the gospel.
We praise the Lord and encourage you to join us. A few years ago we were not able to train and encourage leaders for ministry in our country. Although there are some educational institutions in the land, most of them are general. God has been kind enough to bring us some of the most humble and qualified scholars in the world to serve us. We praise and give thanks to the Lord for all the financial provisions as well. It helps us so that we can press on.
We appreciate and thank you for your support and care. Grace and peace be to you all.
The end of March and beginning of April was quite a busy time for us. Busy, yet at the same time really joyful. We had our second annual Church Retreat in Çıralı, Antalya. Located about an hour from the city, the pansion is known for it’s many bungalow style houses and is perfect for a quiet holiday. As a church we stayed for 3 nights. We were even able to reunite with some previous members who were able to join us. During our morning devotions we studied some passages from Ephesians and in our evening meetings we reviewed and studied the faith statement of our church. To complete our stay, we celebrated the baptisms of our new believer brothers. On Sunday we worshiped and baptized 3 brothers and welcomed them into the church family. Several friends were able to join us for this time of worship and for the baptisms. After many goodbyes, especially with our former members and friends, we returned to the city. Even though we were all a bit tired, it was a refreshing and blessed time for all of us as a church family.
This year, as in previous years, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday at Antalya Protestant Church. We invited our friends, neighbors, and colleagues to join us for this celebration. The seasons of Christmas and Easter give us a great opportunity to share the Gospel in a place like Turkey. There is much wonder and curiosity as well as misconceptions about the celebration of Christmas and Easter in this culture. Overall, people are more willing attend our worship service at these particular times to learn more about them. It is during these times that our friends are more willing to accept our personal invitation to visit our church. After the church service we enjoyed a fellowship time with lots of foods prepared by our church members. It was during this fellowship time that we were able to build closer relationships with those who are not regular attendees and visitors. We appreciated having the chance to share the Gospel and explain what Christians believe. Once again we were blessed to be in our new larger facility in order to accommodate both our members and guests. Praise to God that he gave us these opportunities.
Acts 29 continues to grow as more people express an interest in becoming a part of the Acts 29 family of churches planting churches. Because of this interest, we have reached out to some churches and people around us. This has provided us with the opportunity to meet with those people and to explore and encourage their interest in pursuing church planting opportunities. I have been traveling to cities in Turkey as well as Russia and Belarus. I traveled to Russia with my friend Philip Moore, the Director of Acts 29 Europe, to assist in the assessment of a pastor and his church. They will become the first Acts 29 church in Russia. While in Russia, we participated in two different conferences to explain more about church planting. A few weeks later, I went to Minsk, Belarus to talk about church planting issues. We visited a few churches and met with pastors and held a conference. We met Godly brothers and sisters and were very encouraged by them and their interest. On my return to Antalya, I stopped in Istanbul to meet with some pastors as well. In Istanbul there are many churches but few of them are gospel centered. There is a lack of the foundational understanding of church planting needs and procedures. We held an Acts 29 conference two years ago in Istanbul and still maintain contact with people who have shown a proper understanding of the gospel and are interested in becoming part of a “churches planting churches” family. I pray that there will be more churches with a focus on gospel teaching and a desire and commitment to plant other churches.
Our students have returned to school after enjoying their Winter Break from studies. We decided to take some time off during the Winter Break for our Acts 29 pastors and their wives as well. It was an opportunity to enjoy some time together. Since 2016, Acts 29 continues to grow as a network in Turkey. Just 2 years ago there was only one Acts 29 church in Turkey, now there are three, with another on the way. Previously, only the pastors got together during conferences and meetings, so we prepared the Acts 29 Turkey Retreat in Antalya. We gathered together all of our families to pray for our churches and for Turkey. It is our vision in this lost land that we will see an increase in the number of church planting churches. Through these churches more people will come to Christ and glorify Him. Throughout our fellowship time, we grew closer as we shared and listened to each other. By having our families and kids get to know each other we believe it will make our church planting churches network stronger. This was an encouraging time for all of us. It helped to strengthen our group and unite us in our vision and efforts.
Our church and ministries have been growing day by day. Due to this growth, our current facilities had become too small. While this growth is a blessing, it has been a challenge for us to continue to meet our needs in this facility. When we invited our friends for events like Christmas and Easter, we were not able to accommodate the larger attendance. For this reason, we have been praying for God to provide us with a larger facility. Thankfully, our prayers have been answered and we have moved into our new facility. This new facility is large enough to meet the needs of our congregation and ministries. The sanctuary is twice as big as our previous meeting place. We will now be able to host Acts 29 conferences and have Via Christus Academy lectures in our facility. We also have two multi-purpose rooms that can be used for private meetings, prayer times, small study groups, and a place for kids to play. In the entrance, we are able to enjoy a coffee shop environment, which allows us to invite people to have a cup of coffee, read books and study the Bible. We even plan to use this new facility for events like an English conversation club, movie nights, and book clubs. Through these activities, we hope that many people will come to our facilities to hear the gospel. Join us in giving thanks for this new facility. We appreciate your prayers for our church and ministries.
The Leadership Development Program focuses on training people for ministry and service in the church. As our church grows and ministries expand, Antalya Protestant Church is investing more time and energy on developing future leaders. This new program differs from Via Christus Academy as it focuses more on the local church with weekly studies. Pastor Mike Gunn taught our first class in this program. He is an experienced minister and has been influential in many countries around the world. The topic of the first lecture in our Leadership Development Program was Culture and Evangelism. Even though this is a more local training program, we invited a nearby pastor and his pastor-in-training to join our first lecture.
Via Christus Academy seeks to provide biblical education to equip and prepare national workers for ministry. Christian educators (theologians, professors, pastors) are invited to conduct the courses, which occur twice a year. The Fall Academy for 2017 was held during the first week of October. Provided with support from various sources to cover all expenses, participants are able to attend the conference free of charge. Fourteen pastors and pastors-in-training, and other ministry leaders from across our country were privileged to participate in a week-long course led by Dr. John Tweeddale, academic dean and professor of theology at Reformation Bible College. Before joining RBC, Dr. Tweeddale previously served as senior pastor of First Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pittsburgh for five and a half years and also taught courses in church history and systematic theology as an adjunct professor at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. Using his pastoral experience and stellar academic skills, he led a study on Pastoral Theology. Using solid reformed resources such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Concise Theology” by J.I. Packer, the 1560 Scotts Confession, and numerous scriptural passages; Dr. Tweeddale defined the church and identified the role and service of the pastor. Participants enthusiastically brought forth situations from their own churches and questions into discussions with Dr. Tweeddale both during and outside of the lecture time.
Formal instruction was limited to four hours per day with the remaining time spend in fellowship and devotional studies. At the conclusion of the conference, attendees joined 80 members of the staff of Ligonier Ministries on a Skype call during one of their morning meetings. Upon departing, many expressed their thanks to Dr. Tweeddale, stating “This was the best Academy held so far”.
We would like to share some of updates that what was going in our lives and how the ministry is going in Turkey and what we do during these times so you can know where we are. We wanted to give this update especially after our trip as family to USA for 9 weeks. Starting from Orlando till Seattle we had long road trip as a family. We visited our friends in different places and churches that prays for us. It was a blessed time but also really tiring for all of us especially with little kids. I had privilege to speak in many different churches and had opportunity to share what is going on in Turkey and in our church.
We came back to Turkey 5th of September, it is great to be at home and with church family. While we are away Hakan was leading our church really well, one young man who is engineer and also working as soccer referee came to Christ and attending our church every week and started his doctrinal studies with Hakan before his baptism. Another young man that studies gastronomy in university who came to Christ six months ago is growing in faith and keep studying word of God, pursuing to be better follower of Christ. Our friend Oguz joined our team; after his graduation he moved from Istanbul to Antalya and started working with us. He was working with us part-time before as translator, editor and proofreader for our book project, now as he continues to those works he will be doing internship with us. He will be assisting me on all of our ministries. So you will likely hear his name often.
We are planning to have another Via Christus Academy in between October 2th-6th, this term we are going to learn Pastoral and Practical Theology and Dr. John Tweeddale from Ligonier Ministries will be teaching Turkish pastors all around Turkey and this region.
If you would like to pray for us here some of our prayer requests;
- Pray for our family that we started to get back to our own routine.
- For Hakan, as he leads people in doctrinal classes before their baptisms and his visit to members of our church and his meetings with people who are interested in Christianity and looking for some answers to their questions, may God use him and give him wisdom to be able to share the gospel in this land.
- For Oğuz, he started a new life in a different city as he started working with us, may God give him patience and strength for this new start. And pray that he would be a blessing for us, for church and for our ministries.
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