Sue Nash’s involvement with special needs people began when she was a young girl in Southern Arkansas.
"I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Special Needs angels," said Nash. "One of my best friends in elementary school was mentally and physically challenged. I found myself in the position of defending him more than once against the town bullies."
Nash said the bullying continued until she decided to settle it for good and took on both of them physically.
"To this day I don't know how a 6th grade scrawny girl managed to whip two boys much bigger than me," she said, "but I did and sent them home to their Daddy, who it just so happened was the Town Constable in that small town in southern Arkansas."
That same passion led Nash into helping special needs adults about 17 years ago.
“I had a career and when I retired I asked God to show me what I needed to do,” says Nash. “The first Sunday after that I was in church and it was in the bulletin that they needed special needs help. That’s where it all started. “
Nash currently works with special needs adults at , where she has been a member since 1978.
On Sunday mornings at 8:00, around 15 to 20 special needs students show up for Sunday School at the church. Afterward, they all go to the sanctuary for the 9:30 church service where they participate in worship and listen to the message.
“We have six teachers total,” said Nash. “It’s a pretty good ratio of teachers to students.”
The same group meets for church dinner and Bible study on Wednesday nights around 5:30.
“It’s a hands on Bible study where they‘re finding scriptures and asking questions,” she said.
The age range in the class is from around 21 to 59 years old.
The church also has a special needs class for children. Around age 13 or 14 they are old enough to come into the adult class.
A special needs Vacation Bible School is held every year as well. Many of the students come in from Creative Enterprises, a nonprofit organization in Lawrenceville that assists adults with disabilities.
Students not able to participate in the workplace are trained to do tasks such as load the dishwasher, make the bed, grocery shop and use restaurant manners. They also have opportunities to find work.
Some of Nash’s previous volunteering was with Creative Enterprises where she was part of a fundraising committee. One way they raised funds was by holding an annual golf tournament.
“Many golfers from the community came in and played,” said Nash. “We raised a ton of money that way.”
Another way Nash is involved at the First Baptist Church of Snellville is
something called First Tuesday. Around 5:30 on the first Tuesday evening of every month special needs adults can bring three dollars and enjoy an excellent meal and entertainment until 7:30.
Sometimes, especially on special occasions, they can have over 100 special needs adults attend First Tuesday. They come from other churches and from group homes. First Tuesday is not just for the benefit of the special needs students.
“This also provides a recess for the parents and caregivers,” said Nash. "Our ministry isn't just about the students. We minister to the entire families in illnesses and other needs they might have. Our ministry IS a family."
Part of the church’s special needs program includes a deaf ministry where they are in need of interpreters. Anyone is welcome to volunteer.
Since working with special needs adults has taken over her life, Nash has wondered why she never found her calling earlier.
"When the opportunity opened for me to work with these special people in my church I thought I would just go help out in class and then go home with good feelings. But ... that's not what happened," said Nash.
"The first day I spent with them I knew that I had found what God wanted me to do. They fill a hole in your heart that you never realized was there. Life to them is happiness and everyone is good just the way it should be. Their feelings aren't tarnished with prejudices and opinions and it just overflows into your own life when you are exposed to that."