On August 12, Sugar Grove Christian Church, a country church between Owingsville and Mount Sterling, Kentucky, honored Francis Nash, 70, of Grayson, for 50 years of service as minister (see photo of Francis and Pam Nash, above). Nash started at Sugar Grove in 1968 while still a student at Kentucky Christian College (now Kentucky Christian University). He has since earned three postgraduate degrees and authored three regional history books. Simultaneously, he served 50 years in broadcasting, retiring in 2016.
Nash is the son of the late Donald Nash, a longtime professor of Greek and New Testament at KCU. He married Pam in 1968, and together they serve as executive director and treasurer, respectively, of Workers for Mexico Mission, which underwrites the work of 45 ministers, clinics, camps, training and evangelistic programs, a school for the deaf, feeding centers, and other benevolence in nine states of Mexico. The couple have two daughters and six grandchildren.
Through Nash’s years at Sugar Grove, the church has seen five major extensions and renovations of the main building and construction of a Community/Life Center, all while giving 40 percent of its funds to missions and outreach. Ninety-four different Sugar Grove members have been on mission trips to Mexico (some numerous times), and more than 150 individuals from other congregations have gone with them. The church is also known for its benevolent work, a quarterly newsletter to the community called The Greeter, and for 50 years of radio “mini-messages” on the local Mount Sterling station.
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It would appear you’ve had two, and perhaps three, full-time careers. What drives you to do so many things?
I don’t know that I have any special drive—things just seemed to fall in place. I had to learn a lot of time management, not procrastinate, and keep matters organized and simple. [In an email, Nash wrote: “My wife is the one with the energy. Besides church and mission work, she worked 20 years in a hardware office . . . and has served 12 two-year terms on Grayson City Council.”]
I had not intended to be a minister, but a broadcaster and history teacher. Then a graduating senior asked me after my freshman year about taking over his weekend church in Floyd County. I went to the Hueysville (Kentucky) Church of Christ, having never preached a sermon. I enjoyed it there, but in 1968 Sugar Grove contacted my father about a minister, and it was a much shorter drive, and I accepted it in 1968. I continued to work in radio, and after KCC, went on to Morehead State for 18 years, earning my advanced master’s degrees. Sugar Grove kept wanting me to stay.
We’ll zero in on your church and mission work in a minute, but I’d first like to hear about your long broadcasting career.
I started out as announcer and sportscaster at WGOH in Grayson in 1966, right out of high school. I broadcast the play-by-play of all the local East and West Carter High games—football, basketball (boys and girls), and baseball. I had the same partner for 46 years, Tom Gemeinhart, professor at KCC.
I became station manager in 1978 and separated WGOH AM-FM into WGOH and WUGO for separate formats. We called it “Go radio.” I did the morning show for 30 years, beginning in 1986. The stations were very community-minded. We received four coveted National Crystal Radio awards given annually by the National Association of Broadcasters.
I was very active locally and also with the Kentucky Broadcasters Association; I served on the board and a stint as president in 2000. . . . I was inducted into the Kentucky Broadcasters Hall of Fame. A book of mine, Towers Over Kentucky (1995), is a history of the first 75 years of radio and TV in the state.
There was a big reaction when I left radio after 50 years. People were used to hearing the same voice in the morning and for ballgames at night.
Tell us about your ministry with Sugar Grove Christian Church.
Sugar Grove is about 60 miles from Grayson. I have tried to be more than just a part-timer. We would often go on Saturdays and, of course, for visits, special events, and whenever needed. My flexible radio schedule, good church leaders, and the support and work of my wife have contributed to whatever success we’ve seen. Our motto has always been “Centered in Christ—Focused on Winning the World.”
As attendance grew, we started expanding the one-room building and continued to add on and then constructed the Community Life building. We have tried to keep up with latest technology and trends . . .
The worship service is blended music with hymns and a chorus or two. The youth take over on the last Sunday of every month with their band and songs, as well as handling the entire services on the fifth Sundays.
We have had our mountains and valleys. Average attendance grew from around 85 to more than 150 for several years. With the deaths of older members and people becoming so busy, we have seen a decline of 30 or so in the last decade. One drawback is the church location, on a crooked country road more than five miles from any town.
We eat Sunday lunch with a different family each week on a rotating basis. People housed our family on Saturday nights when needed for many years, but now we have an apartment upstairs in the Community Life building. The church has lots of good leaders, teachers, and volunteers. It’s a very caring church with many programs for the sick, shut-ins, and those in need. Being at one church for 50 years, you really become a part of everyone’s family.
You helped start Workers for Mexico with veteran missionary Clinton Looney.
We had been on work trips with brother Clinton Looney since the early 1990s. He wanted to keep the churches he started going and also expand into other areas and build more support in the States. In the summer of 1995, after discussion with Sugar Grove and much prayer, we formed a 501(c)3 corporation, Workers for Mexico Mission, and partner together. WFMM was able to grow and add more churches and ministers, a medical clinic with HASTEN, Inc., feeding programs, and start the Con Mis Manos school and home for the deaf. Jesus and Michelle Zuniga head up this unique ministry.
We started contacting more churches and friends here, and [with their help] now support 45 ministers in 23 cities, and we’re looking to plant more. We also connected with the college in Queretaro and began to raise support for them. It is now Universidad Cristiana de Mexico with Jaime Castro, director. We supplement salaries for ministers and help with medical insurance. We do a lot of construction, and all [short-term mission] teams raise their own expense money and support for supplies. The number of groups has declined dramatically in recent years for fear of travel in Mexico and because many of our regular travelers are getting older, but contributions to the mission have exceeded $560,000 the last few years.
Brother Looney is 92 and is still helping with preaching and work teams. He’s had a heart for evangelism and Mexico for nearly 60 years.
WFMM now has more than 140 regular contributors, and occasional supporters raise that figure to more than 200. . . . My wife has a full-time job keeping up with the accounting, mailings, and office. I handle the communication, website, and write the monthly newsletters. The Internet and e-mail have been a great vehicle for conducting such a broad mission. We also handle reports and financial statements. Neither of us receives a salary.
In 2012 you wrote an article for Christian Standard about Sugar Grove’s emphasis on missions, and how the church’s giving to all mission often approaches $70,000 annually. (See “A Big Heart for Missions.”) That’s an incredible amount for a small, country church.
My emphasis has always been on missions and I agreed not to take any salary after getting established in radio so we could build and reach out more. The church pays my travel expenses and Mexico mission travel. I go there about four times a year. They have blessed our family with gifts in many ways through the years and paid into the Christian Church pension fund.
Getting folks at Sugar Grove to go on work trips wasn’t easy early on, as most had not traveled or flown much. But they soon came to love the work and the Mexican people.
In addition to Workers for Mexico, we support eight foreign missions and home missions such as Christian Student Fellowship at the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Christian University, two children’s homes, social services, and our own benevolent fund which has helped the Hispanic community. . . . All total, more than $60,000 goes to mission outreach yearly.
You retired from broadcasting, but you’re still serving as minister with Sugar Grove, and now you’re teaching at a Carter Christian Academy in Grayson. Any plans to slow down?
When I retired from radio , the local Christian school was in need of a certified social studies/history teacher, so I agreed to help out. I teach Bible . . . and help with the basketball team. I will keep going as long as my health is good, but naturally, I don’t have the energy I once did.
The responsibilities weigh on you heavy sometimes. You have a deep care for your students along with love and concern for your church members and the Mexican families that rely on you, plus making family time. I plan to teach a few more years and keep working with the church and mission, as the Lord allows.