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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