On June 1, 2023, responsibility for leadership and support for the work of International Ministries (IM) in Southeast Asia and Japan will pass from current Area Director Rev. Leslie Turley to Global Servant Rev. Kyle Witmer.
Rev. Turley will retire on May 31 after serving as Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan since July 2015. Prior to this role, Leslie and her husband, David, served as IM global servants in Japan and Okinawa for 21 years. She is highly respected and appreciated by the IM global servants working in Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and other countries in her area, as well as by leaders of IM’s many partners throughout the region. In recent years, Leslie has represented IM and American Baptists in advocacy for the people of Burma/Myanmar following that country’s February 1, 2021, military coup, in particular through initiatives that provide educational opportunities for displaced children.
IM’s Executive Director and CEO Rev. Sharon Koh commends Rev. Turley’s ministry as area director. “Leslie did a tremendous job of being available for her area’s global servants in a wide variety of ways. At the same time, she also deepened many of our international partnerships in the region. She will be sorely missed in Southeast Asia and Japan.” Global servants from throughout the region affirmed and expressed appreciation to Leslie for her ministry while together at a regional gathering in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January.
Rev. Turley will be succeeded as Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan by Rev. Kyle Witmer. Kyle has served with his wife, Debby, as an IM global servant in Thailand since September 2014, working with the Thailand Karen Baptist Convention in pastoral education and leadership development at the Siloam Bible Institute in Chiang Mai. Prior to becoming an IM global servant, he served as pastor of American Baptist Churches in Indiana, where he also served a term as the President of the Board of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.
Anticipating his new ministry, Kyle reflects, “One of my goals is to serve people in ways that help them grow and expand their experience of God’s work in their lives. Over the years, I have loved coming alongside people and seeing where I might encourage them in ways that can make a difference in their lives and in God’s kingdom. This position allows me to use my pastor’s heart to serve our missionaries, and it allows me to build relationships with our partners around Southeast Asia and Japan who want to see the kingdom growing on earth as it is in heaven.”
CEO Sharon Koh adds, “Kyle is known for asking good, pastoral questions that express deep care. He brings to the new position a noteworthy and humble sense of enthusiasm cultivated over years as a pastor, global servant, and Bible teacher. I am looking forward to how God will grow and use him in this area.”
As Kyle begins serving in this role, Debby Witmer will continue in global servant ministry as IM’s Global Coordinator for MK (Missionary Kid) and Family Care, a role in which she has served since April 2021. After spending the summer and fall of 2023 in the United States, it is expected that the Witmers will remain resident in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as a home base for their ministries.
Rev. Jim Bell, Associate Executive Director for Global Mission, shares, “I am thankful to God and to Leslie for the excellent program leadership, pastoral care for global servants, and thoughtful engagement with international partners that have characterized her ministry as area director. I am excited that God has prepared and equipped Kyle to carry on this careful oversight and support for God’s work in this area of the world.”
Rev. Turley adds, “It has been an honor for me these past eight years to serve our global servants and our partners in Southeast Asia and Japan and to see God at work in a mighty way. Please join me in praying for Kyle as he begins this unique ministry and as God uses his experiences as a pastor and teacher as well as his gifts and talents for service for the kingdom.”
International Ministries, also known as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, works cross-culturally to invite people to become disciples of Jesus Christ and to proclaim, through both word and deed, God’s reign of justice, peace and abundant life for all creation