Special to the Times-Tribune
Kentucky Missionary of the Year Keith Decker takes no credit for the success of the work he oversees in the foothills of Appalachia. The credit, he says, goes to the Lord.
“God blesses you in what you’re called to do,” Decker said. “When you’re doing the Lord’s work, God lets you see through His eyes and feel through His heart, and you can’t help but love the work He has you do.”
Decker, president of Cedaridge Ministry in Williamsburg, has been named 2013 Missionary of the Year by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Cedaridge, created in 1993, serves as a distribution center for massive volumes of food that is given to the needy in nine southeastern Kentucky counties, but its scope goes far beyond that. The work includes making garden seeds available for families each spring for planting, providing clothing to the poor and to people who have lost their belongings to fires or other calamities, and coordinating national volunteers to build and renovate homes for the poor.
“Keith is a dedicated and faithful man of God,” said Brenda Mack, a member of the Cedaridge Board of Directors. “When we started out with Cedaridge Ministry it was totally operated in faith that God would provide each need, and God has provided. When we didn’t have money to pay for heat, I would ask Keith what we could do. His response was ‘Sister Brenda, God will provide.’”
Decker serves as a self-funded North American Mission Board missionary and also serves as pastor at Corn Creek Baptist Church in Woodbine, a rural community near Williamsburg. He said his work in the Appalachian foothills has been a faith-building experience, watching the Lord supply for the needs of the people he serves.
And 23 years after the ministry’s humble beginning, Decker said he’d gladly do it again.
“I’ll do it as long as the Lord calls me or as long as the board wants me,” he said.
Cedaridge serves about 5,000 people by providing school supplies, furniture, even Christmas toys in addition to the food and other necessities. Last year, some 300 people became Christians through the ministry.
“Through Keith’s faithfulness, many people have been reached,” Mack said. “He once told me he believed God allowed him to be hungry when he was younger so he could know how it felt.”
Over the past two decades, Cedaridge has arranged for more than 100 homes to be built. In addition, each year an average of five to six homes have been remodeled and another 250 to 300 received minor repairs. Some 18 million pounds of food has been given out. And the Gospel has been shared with thousands of people.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Pastor Janus Jones, among others, recommended Decker for Kentucky Missionary of the Year.
“The Lord has multiplied his meager beginning in the basement of the associational building to a large warehouse ministering to thousands,” Jones said. “He has been giving for many years, and he just keeps on giving.”
Teresa Parrett, missions mobilization coordinator for the KBC, said criteria for receiving the award include commitment and effectiveness in evangelism, church planting or ministry, demonstration of going the second mile, outstanding performance in achieving assigned tasks, length of service, an unusual commitment to serving the Lord, positive representation of KBC and NAMB, and being a true reflection of an “On Mission Christian.”
Parrett said Decker meets those criteria and more.
“He has a heart for serving the less fortunate, and is one of the most humble persons I have ever met,” she said.