Kentucky Baptists recently honored Sandra Williams, who since 1995 has served as director of church and community ministries for the Lexington-area Elkhorn Baptist Association, which includes more than 80 churches and 14 new missions.
Williams and her volunteers provide hot meals and sack lunches every week, help children improve their reading skills, provide tax assistance and many other services.
For her continued efforts, Kentucky Baptists presented Williams with the Missionary of the Year award at the Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union Annual Meeting and 125th Anniversary Celebration in Hopkinsville earlier this month.
A North American Mission Board missionary, Williams said she thinks the best way to convey God's love to others is to serve them at all times.
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"It's just not coming in and saying 'Jesus loves you' and then walking away from it," she said in a recent news release from the association. "You're there to walk with them and to cry with them and to laugh with them and to be with them."
Eric Allen is leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention's Missions Mobilization Team, the group that gathers the nominations for missionary of the year. He says Williams' work is vital because she reaches many people who are too often ignored by the rest of society.
Much of Williams' work involves feeding the hungry. Elkhorn Baptist Association Director of Missions Don Reed said every week volunteers serve several hot meals and pack hundreds of sack lunches for the people in their community.
Many of those meals are served in Irishtown, a poverty-stricken area in the shadow of Rupp Arena, where the association has established a ministry center.
Rachel Riquelme was a summer missionary and intern for Elkhorn Association from 2005 to 2007, and now works as family and children's minister at High Street Baptist Church in Somerset.
Riquelme said her time working with Williams demonstrated the important place women can have in ministry. The experience encouraged her to continue following that path, she said.
"The first year I worked with her, I was fighting the call to ministry," Riquelme said. "Working side by side with her and seeing how she was a woman doing ministry and learning from her just showed me that, yeah, this is what God wants me to do."
Before her appointment with Elkhorn Association, Williams was a teacher, music minister and then director of church development for Western Connecticut Baptist Association.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperative missions and ministry organization made up of nearly 2,400 autonomous Baptist churches in Kentucky.