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Posted: 6/20/03

Teen's 'special need' is to make everyone smile

By Heather Price

Texas Baptist Communications

RICHARDSON–Those who know Nathan Williams, an 18-year-old with cerebral palsy, say he is changing the world one smile at a time.

“The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Nathan is just that he has this spirit that is always positive and always full of joy. He is never down. God has given him a special gift of lifting everyone else up because of his attitude,” said Randy Johnson, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Richardson.

When Dan Williams, then pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, baptized his son seven years ago, he asked the boy's “family and special friends” to rise. “It was like 'whoosh,' and everyone in the whole congregation stood up,” said Anita Williams, Nathan's mother.

Nathan Williams holds a special memento from his participation with the basketball team of Richard's Pearce High School, where he made a free throw in a junior varsity playoff game.

When asked about his favorite part of church, Nathan replied: “I like worship. I like singing.”

Williams has been singing since he was 3 years old. He is in the a cappella choir at Pearce High School in Richardson and the Living Sacrifice Choir at First Baptist Church.

While on a choir mission trip to a juvenile detention center, Williams shared his testimony of salvation in front of many discouraged and disbelieving youth.

“I told them about Jesus,” he said.

In a short, straightforward address, he captured the attention of every eye in the room.

“Those hardened teenage kids broke out in immediate applause,” Johnson said.

Living Sacrifice Choir is traveling to Saskatchewan, Canada, this month on a mission trip. Williams will sing a solo during a retirement center performance.

While practicing his song, “Shall We Gather at the River,” Nathan glanced over at his mom, who was accompanying him on the piano. He smiled as he sang every note perfectly on pitch.

“He is just the most faithful kid I have ever seen. He is committed to use his voice and his ability for the Lord,” said Don Blackley, minister of music at First Baptist Church.

In addition to singing, Williams also loves to pray. He is the prayer representative for youth at his church. Every three weeks, he gets a stack of requests from people with special needs.

“When he hears that someone has a special need, he calls them and then he calls other people and gets them to pray for that person too,” Mrs. Williams explained.

With every telephone call, Williams believes he helps them feel better, he said.

Mrs. Williams estimates her son has memorized more than 50 telephone numbers.

Williams has a passion for people and “has more personal relationships than anyone in the youth group,” Blackley said. “He is well loved. He's everybody's friend, and it is because he walks up to people and says: 'Hi, my name is Nathan. What's yours?'”

Williams is one of the most adored members of the youth group, according to the youth pastor.

“He is always upbeat and always talking and saying things like, 'You look great today.' He uses his natural ability God has given him within his handicap,” Johnson said.

This past school year, Williams had the chance to shoot a free throw during a junior varsity basketball playoff game. As the team manager, he had wanted a chance to get in the action.

As Williams was subbed in for another player at the free-throw line, the crowd simultaneously broke out cheering, “Go Nate-Dog!”

Moments after making the second shot, he jumped around in celebration. It remains one of his fondest memories.

His father, who directs the Texas Baptist Laity Institute, often reminds his son of the coach's remarks after the game, “When you are old and thinking back, you need to recall events like this one, when someone special gave everything he had and made a contribution to the team.”

Nathan does not allow his physical or mental limitations to slow him down, Johnson noted. “He has done everything most other kids can do.”

After graduation next May, Williams plans to participate in Transition, a program sponsored by his high school and Richland College. The program allows him to get the needed skills for finding a job while being employed by the school.

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