Meet Your Fellow Deacons
 
This series is featured in our quarterly e-newsletter, “The Mercy Minute“.  
If you would like to see your diaconate featured, please contact Allison Hill.
 

Meet Your Fellow Deacon: John West

What is the role of a deacon? What is his primary responsibility in the church? Most likely, the answers many deacons and church members may generate in response to these questions will contain, if not solely focus on, the notion of “service”—service in the church, for the church. John West, deacon at Mid Cities OPC in Bedford, Texas, would agree. However, he would take it one step further. Calling his fellow deacons to a higher order of service than merely performing the tasks required in the local congregation, West claims that it is the deacon’s duty to “cultivate an environment in the church that is conducive to the entire body serving one another and the outside world.” Deacons are to set the standard of service within the Church.

John West has served as a deacon in the OPC since 2019, but previously served a longer stint in a non-OPC congregation. Resultingly, he has spent many years of his life caring for the needs of the local church, as well as thinking about how he can best serve the church in his role. Over the years, his perspective has certainly evolved and been strengthened. Speaking on the significance of the diaconal office, John asserts, “The deacon is the cornerstone of service in the church. It is what I would hope all men would aspire to be. If you want to serve the Lord in the body, then really think hard and long about why you aren’t a deacon. The ability to serve is the gift the Lord has given us.”

Notably, John’s transition to the OPC also impacted his view of diaconal work, as he previously served in a church where mercy ministry largely emphasized long-distance, short-term work. “In the OPC, diaconal work is focused on serving the body. It is ongoing and sometimes it is messy, but it is encouraging to get to see the fruits of your local, long-term efforts,” John says. He continues by saying, “The people who need help aren’t always outside your building—they are frequently inside your building. I feel drawn and compelled to minister to them first.” 

Though with a renewed vision of who to serve, his outlook on how to serve has also changed. John frankly admits, “I’m not climbing up on roofs anymore. Other people are much better suited for that kind of work.” Yet, one thing has remained the same: “I enjoy working with people; I truly love getting to know the people of the church.” 

Luckily for John, people’s needs generally aren’t limited to roofing projects. In fact, he shared that his work as an Information Technology professional has shaped his service as a deacon. John says, “My work helps me do diaconal work better. I am thankful for my vocation, and I can see how the Lord has used it to enable me to bless the local church.” From broadcasting services for the church to working on people’s computers, and even coordinating the efforts of others in the church to fulfill various areas of need, John’s service to the church is closely connected to his vocational employment. 

Another area of service John has come to love is hospitality. This has only been enhanced by his wife, Suzanne, and her gift for welcoming and caring for others. He says they simply have a desire to love and serve people more than things. Hospitality ministry is a sphere of service John has greatly enjoyed observing and participating in with his local congregation. In recounting the encouragement drawn from specific opportunities he has seen hospitality demonstrated, John shares that of a particularly difficult situation: a dear couple’s loss of a child. However, as John recalls, “it was a very rewarding time for the life and strength of the church as we all had the opportunity to pray for them, serve them, and draw closer to them in deep, meaningful ways. It was a blessing to see that family served and provided for.” That, he recalls, was one of the best times in the life of the church right in the middle of one of the worst. “To see the Lord provide for his people through his people is encouraging because it embodies and constitutes the ordinary means God has ordained for the care of his people,” John says. 

These reflections reinforce John’s professed affinity for “helping people help other people.” John again comments on the responsibility of the diaconate by saying, “We build up the body by serving them, but service doesn’t stop with deacons. We build up the body by encouraging them to serve one another.” Thus, to the deacon, he says: “You can’t do it all, but you can ask for help and usually get assistance from others to do anything. People are eager to serve, they just need a leader. You have the privilege to lead by serving.” To the church member, John provides this simple, yet motivating reminder: “You don’t have to be a deacon to serve your church.”


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Meet Your Fellow Deacon Pete Hybert

By Allison Hill, Administrative Assistant for the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

Pete Hybert has been a deacon at Bethel OPC, Wheaton, IL since 1993, and privileged to have a front-row seat to watch the Lord work in many people’s lives. His take-away from it all? Amazement. He says, “You get to see the Lord work. Sometimes it’s not what you expected, but it’s still amazing.”

Pete’s stint as a deacon includes a period when he was the sole deacon. He’s helped walk-ins with various short-term needs, church members with long-term needs and those seeking assistance with a tragedy or disaster. Each situation poses a unique opportunity to see the Lord’s hand of mercy work through the local church. For Pete, this is even true in situations in which it seems there is little headway and temporary discouragement.

Pete knows that it is a privilege to be a small part of demonstrating mercy in tangible ways. That is what he says drew him to mercy ministry. “What I like about diaconal work is the practical side of it.” Pete currently works as a full-time consultant but describes himself as a “jack-of-all trades”. From fast food to working in construction, Pete has found that his wide background and the diverse experiences of his fellow deacons helps them all minister and relate to many.

Mindful of the power of sacrificial giving Pete says with humble confidence, “It’s not that we are genius deacons, and it’s not about trying to do it all. It’s about doing what you can.” “[If] you are able to share time with people, do something that matters to them in the immediate term, and you can talk to them while you do it. That’s what I like about it.” While the goal is to foster independence, “Getting to know people and have them understand their God-given value as an image-bearer [is] something only speaking with them can do [and] it gives you a heart to pray for their salvation.”

Though there have been memorable times of fellowship in helping people move or pumping out flooded basements, Pete has a heart for serving those with disabilities. He and his wife, Faith, a former special needs educator assistant, both have considerable experience caring for and working with people who have long-term needs and disabilities. Serving those individuals and helping them succeed in their own capacities is one of the most enjoyable types of mercy ministry for him. “I try to encourage them and end up being encouraged by them. It’s been rewarding to do what is in our reach to come alongside them.” There is one member of the congregation with long-term needs Pete gratefully says, fuels his work.

“Of course we are willing to help others that we may never see again, but it’s nice to serve people you see and can continue to minister to, physically and spiritually, even when there is little hope of their situation changing.” The ultimate goal is building biblically-founded relationships with people over time.

“It’s always great to see results: growth or even change,” Pete says. As deacons, there is great joy in observing the hand of the Lord in the lives of those you serve.


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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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