The crowd roared with sheer excitement, clapping their hands and screaming with joy, all in response to one simple question: "Are you ready to study the Word of God this weekend?"
Much of the jubilant crowd, consisting of about 350 Special Friends Retreat campers and volunteers, had been looking forward to the Oct. 2-3 weekend all year long.
At the retreat for adults over 12-years-old with special needs, campers worship, engage in Bible studies and make crafts. But the highlight of the weekend for many participants is the Friday night talent show.
"I look forward to the retreat and talent show every year," said Julie Deaver, camper from Memorial Baptist Church in Temple. "I wouldn't want to miss a minute of it!"
For her talent, Julie stands alongside her sister, Lauren, and they perform a singing and dancing routine, which is always a hit with the crowd.
Other talents included choirs singing Christian songs, hand puppeteering, joke telling and interpretive dancing.
While campers engage in Bible studies, parents have the opportunity to participate in a support group, where they interact with other parents who understand the trials of raising mentally challenged children.
Scott Sharman and his wife, Phyllis, have served as group chaperones and volunteers with the Special Friends Retreat for nearly 20 years. Their church, Alsbury Baptist Church in Burleson, ministers to around 40 adults through their Special Friends ministry.
"There's a lot of comradery that comes from this retreat," he said. "There's a lot of community that's built among the participants."
Since many of their students come from different group homes in the Burleson community, Sharman said the community and close relationships formed through the retreat are advantageous to strengthening their ministry.
This year marks the 29th year for Special Friends Retreat. Year after year, new and old faces come together to worship God and study the Word. These returning faces are not only campers, but also dedicated volunteers, parents and leaders who work with a Special Friends ministry at their church.
To inquire about beginning a Special Friends ministry at your church or for questions on ministering to special needs individuals, contact Diane Lane, Texas Baptists' childhood specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.