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OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries
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The Latest

Mercy Ministry to Ukraine

War certainly isn’t an everyday ministry of mercy for the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries, however, because of our missionaries in L’viv, the crisis in Ukraine was an instant priority. For the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, this sudden need falls under the category of OPC Disaster Response. But, unlike other disasters, and for obvious reasons, “boots on the ground” may not be possible in this situation, although opportunities may be opening up through Mission to the World, the Presbyterian Church in America’s foreign missions’ team in Ukraine, the team in which our missionaries are a part. Keep an eye on the OPC Disaster Response website for updates.

Our effort right now is focused on an OPC Disaster Response fund to support our missionaries and sister churches in and around Ukraine. With funding and prayers, we can support our missionaries and sister churches as they become the help Ukrainian people need desperately right now. We are in contact with our missionaries in L’viv as often as possible, but as you can imagine, they are busy aiding the many internally displaced in the country as they attempt to find a safe haven both within and outside of their home country.

As deacons, you know first hand, there is much prayer and consideration that goes into the disbursement of funds, and often, there is a process for this work. We thought you might be interested in seeing some of the timeline of the OPC CDM:

February 24, 2022
As the conflict begins, we received word from our missionaries in western Ukraine that they were safe, but were anticipating needs from those who would be migrating West to escape the conflict. There is a network of sister churches in their area, and although help would come from many avenues, it was clear the need would exceed the means of their church and ministry there. The OPC CDM, along with OPC Foreign Missions began to confer and pray to determine the best course of action.

February 25, 2022
The OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries’ Disaster Response Subcommittee immediately sent $5,000 to our, and MTW missionaries in L’viv in order to jump-start ministry efforts.

February 28, 2022
After receiving inquiries from churches and individuals, the Disaster Response Subcommittee determined to open a fund, “Ukraine Crisis Fund.” This fund will enable us to come alongside other sister churches in Ukraine and surrounding countries, such as Hungary, Romania, and Poland, who are now receiving refugees.

March 2, 2022
The Ukraine Crisis Fund became available online (in addition to “by check”) and over 100 donations were quickly received. 

March 9, 2022
Gifts exceeding $58,000 have been received to the Ukraine Crisis Fund in just one week! We anticipate the needs in this region will be great. As the funds come in, the DRS will prayerfully consider how to best use them to show the love of Christ to all during this unimaginable time. 

March 12, 2022
Over $110,000 in generous donations have now been received for this fund. 

March 14, 2022
Word of possible opportunities for volunteers to serve in Krakow, Poland with Mission to the World.

Know that our missionaries covet your prayers for them, the flock in L’viv, those they serve, and for the country of Ukraine that they have grown to love. Please also pray that the Lord would turn the hearts of those intent on doing harm. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to show the love of Christ by ministering to brothers and sisters in Christ and by welcoming the stranger. 

If you or your church would like to donate to this fund or to stay updated on the OPC’s effort to Ukraine, go to our website: OPCDisasterResponse.org.


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Meet Your Fellow Deacon Bob Keys

By Hannah White, Intern
Intern, OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

With nearly 40 years of diaconal experience at one church, Bob Keys has many stories to tell and much wisdom to share. Bob has a passion for diaconal ministries as shown in his service to Grace OPC as a deacon since 1982, as a member of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries for over 6 years, as well as his current service at the Presbytery level for the Ohio Presbytery Diaconal Committee. He has been happily married to his wife, Kathy, for 42 years and together they have a son and a daughter and seven grandchildren. 

However, Bob’s story begins long before his work as a deacon or before he was even born—nearly 175 years ago. Two of his great-great grandfathers, John Keys and Isaac Patterson, who were faithful Christians and members of the same Presbyterian and reformed church, actively participated in the underground railroad which moved fugitive slaves north along a route in Ohio beginning from 1840s, to  the 1850s. They would feed, hide, and encourage these slaves before transporting them 120 miles to freedom in Canada. Bob recounts this story, “My forbearers were not concerned about the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 where they would have been thrown into prison for these actions. They knew full well the consequences of their actions but were convinced they were doing what was right—no matter the punishment. They were the deacons of that age.” 

Bob not only grew up hearing these stories of the faithfulness of his forefathers, but also got to witness the importance of diaconal ministry firsthand through the service and sacrifice demonstrated by his parents, particularly his father, who was the sole deacon of their church. “I experienced both my mother and father’s faithful service of helping those in need, providing transportation to and from our church as well as opening and closing the church each Lord’s Day. They never questioned if it would profit them to do these things. They never thought how much harder these things made life for them.” He recalls learning from serving alongside with his father from a young age. One of the stories he recalls, required him to fill a silo for one of their neighbors, who was diagnosed with cancer and unable to do it himself. The experience he gained as a boy and the examples set forth by his parents have significantly shaped him as a deacon.

Bob serves in a six-man diaconate at Grace OPC alongside Paul Archer, Charlie Ardovino, Jason Garrett, Andrew Stafford, and Steven Wise. Bob and Paul have served together at Grace OPC for over 40 years! Their years of diaconal service and experience together have been a tremendous blessing to Bob. “I know full-well that I would not have made it through these many years (at least in one piece) without my faithful, wise friend and brother, Paul.” Even though there have been many difficult times in the last 40 years, Bob is very thankful for the brothers who serve alongside him in diaconal ministries. Bob says fondly, “We have never in 40 years split our diaconate or divided with our eldership [over] difficult issues. What a blessing to be able to say this!”

One of Bob’s favorite ministries with the diaconate was leading a group from the church to Victory Missions, a local ministry that assisted the poor and needy in their annual “Turkey Pull”. It began when the volunteers were asked to pull pieces of frozen turkey apart [and] put them into bags to distribute with other canned and boxed food for the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to Christmas. [In] later [years], the frozen turkey meat got replaced with canned meats, however, the term “Turkey Pull” remained famous and a beloved service project for decades. 

Now Bob’s passion is to see a godly diaconate continue through the mentoring of older deacons teaching young men to learn how to love mercy in wisdom and truth. “If we do not have another generation of deacons following us, we will lose the long-term leadership of mercy ministry in our church. It is much more than teaching a man theology to make him a deacon.  Men need to learn to be men of God, wise to serve and eager to love mercy. This is learned by doing, by serving, by carefully watching a mature deacon in action.” Continue to pray for current diaconates across the world as well as the shaping of future generations of deacons to come. 

Should you ever have the chance to meet Bob Keys in person, ask him to tell you one of his stories. His passion and love for mercy ministry is contagious.


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Lighting A Lamp for the Stranger

by Rev. Chris Cashen, pastor of Trinity Reformed Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Lanham, Maryland, and member of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.

Taken from the February 2022 issue of New Horizons magazine.

As Jesus opened his first sermon to his disciples, he told them:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14–16)

That was the imagery given by our Savior: a light on a lampstand. Those who follow Christ are to shine before others.

How can the church today set up such a radical light on a stand that it cannot be hidden?

There are likely many possibilities and many answers to that question. Certainly, the first is being faithful in worship. But that might not be what Jesus meant when he likened his followers to a lamp on a stand for all to see “your good works.”

Light of the World

How can your local church be a collective light in your community, so bright that many are drawn to gaze upon the work of Christ and give glory to the Father? What is the most complete, well-rounded, full-orbed ministry of works and Word for your local church? What ministry can any church, regardless of size or gifts or talents, pursue that responds to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ to be light and, at the same time, builds up the people of God and their love for their Savior?

This article is going to ask you to consider a ministry to refugees. Taking it a step further, this article will challenge you to consider whether any other ministry of outreach can accomplish what a ministry to refugees can accomplish.

Lighting the Lamp

What is refugee ministry? Or better yet, who is a refugee? Here care needs to be exercised: casual definitions of refugees in news or social media can often be misleading. A refugee is a person who has been invited by the federal government to come and live in this country. As defined by the laws of this nation, a refugee is a person who has fled his or her native land in fear for his or her life. Each refugee, accurately defined, arrives in the United States with permission to stay—legally. Many times, refugees spend years in camps outside of their home country waiting to be resettled. And because refugees have fled—usually quickly—from some kind of persecution, they often have little to no personal property or wealth when they arrive on US soil.

Think about this from the perspective of a refugee. You have run for your life, crossed the border out of your beloved home, and lived in a tent with your family for months or even years on end. Finally, your status as a refugee is recognized and approved by the United Nations, and you arrive in a foreign land with a very different culture where almost no one speaks your native tongue. Now you need to find an apartment, find beds, find the bus stop, find work, find schools, find grocery stores, find doctors and dentists, and, in your spare time, learn English. That is the plight of the true refugee.

Given that description of great suffering and need, surely the lamp of compassion and mercy should be lit for these new neighbors.

Putting the Lamp on the Stand

Yet this lamp of compassion is often quickly covered with a basket. Many think that ministry to refugees requires special gifts and talents, such as being a linguist or a cross-cultural expert. Certainly, those gifts are helpful, but they are not necessary. Remember, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world”—not just of Virginians, or Californians. No, once this lamp is lit, it needs to be put on a stand for all to see. There is one gift needed for refugee ministry in the church of Christ: a love for the Lord Jesus. That’s it. If you are seeking to follow Jesus, if you love Jesus, then you qualify.

Some churches might work toward sponsoring a refugee family—a higher level of commitment. Or, individual believers might volunteer with a local organization that works with refugees. Perhaps a Bible study group or a prayer group could volunteer together.

The important thing to note, however, is that putting the lamp on the lampstand is relatively simple and straightforward. If you can drive a car, you are qualified to take a refugee to the grocery store, to a medical appointment, or to an English lesson. If you enjoy drinking tea, you have the talent required to sit in a refugee’s apartment and receive their hospitality. (Even if you can’t understand everything they say, you will be encouraging them with your presence and friendship!) If you have free afternoons, refugee children usually need help with homework since mom and dad don’t understand English and are not of much help in answering US geography questions. If you are mechanically inclined, older apartments, where refugees usually begin their lives in the United States, almost always have those four-pronged electric dryer cords that need to be exchanged for three-pronged cords.

Putting the lamp on the stand, then, is doing for others that which you do for your own family.

What a joy when a local congregation engages in this kind of ministry together—demonstrating the powerful love of Christ as a community to those in need! This kind of ministry to an individual or family brings together the body of Christ in unity and oneness in a way that few other ministries do. When we share together the love and joy of Jesus, something happens to those who are serving.

Lighting the House

Once the basket has been removed and cast aside, the lamp is able to be seen by all. Indeed, it will light the house. But which house is lit? I was told many years ago, if one aims at nothing, it will be hit every time. So what are we trying to hit—what is the goal of a ministry to refugees?

When Jesus fed the five thousand, what was he aiming to hit? Was his goal to fill some stomachs? He certainly did feed the hungry, even as he fed their malnourished souls with the words of life. But in the end, it seemed that Jesus’s target that day was a bit more focused: He was preparing his disciples for future ministry. Christ was changing their hearts from ones that snapped “send the crowds away” (Matt. 14:15), to ones that professed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Through the supernatural event of feeding five thousand with bread from heaven, the disciples were being made more Christlike.

Similarly, the goal of any refugee ministry is to light the house—and the house is the church. As we approach a ministry to aliens and strangers, we might hope to fills the pews of the local church—that is, to generate conversions. And certainly, as good deeds are done in and among new neighbors who fled from Afghanistan, Syria, or the Congo, they are to be coupled with the Word and prayer that these souls would be saved. But, interestingly, Scripture does not reveal what number of souls were converted from the feeding of the five thousand. So let the light be that which shines brightly first within the walls of the local church. Watch as the ministry gets going and see how it draws in others within the body, and then take note of how you and others are changed. How infectious is the joy that comes from serving others as Christ served you?

Refugee ministry is not unique in this aspect, but it does powerfully changes the hearts of the local congregants as they love those who have experienced great hardship.

There, then, is the challenge. Refugee ministry is that lampstand upon which the light of the church can be set—a great blessing to the community, and even more so to the church.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Ukraine were the threetop countries of origin of refugees resettled in the US in 2020.

Further Resources

To learn more about what the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries is doing to minister to refugees, or to read in more detail about becoming a light for refugees, find a four-part series of articles by Christopher Cashen on opccdm.org. Listen to the CDM’s podcast episode on refugee ministry at thereformeddeacon.org or by searching for “The Reformed Deacon” wherever you listen to podcasts.


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