Buddy System

An attendee at a previous Luke 14 event hangs out with a Carson-Newman football player. The Luke 14 party will be April 5 and 6 this year.

For the 15th year, Luke 14 Ministries will throw a party honoring special needs individuals in the Lakeway Area

The party will take place at Manley Baptist Church on April 5 and 6, with children and their families being hosted from 4-8 p.m. on Friday evening, and adults and caregivers attending from 3-7 p.m. on Saturday evening.

The Luke 14 Party is the brainchild of Darlene LaPlue, who has been involved in disability ministry for over 20 years.

The first party was thrown in 2005 and has grown every year since.

Last year, more than 500 guests attended the two-night event, which features interactive activities, crafts, games, decorations and a delicious banquet.

It draws inspiration from Luke 14:13-14a, which advises: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.”

Blessings have abounded for this event, which began as a ministry of Manley Baptist Church before growing to include a family retreat and two overseas ministries, then forming their own organization, Luke 14 Ministries.

“Everything we do focuses on serving those with disability and revealing Christ’s love to them,” LaPlue said. “The Luke 14 Party is what we call a ‘Jesus Kind of Party’ because we believe it hosts the kind of guests Christ himself would gather at His table.”

Throwing a ‘‘Jesus Kind of Party’’ takes a host of volunteers, from decorators to actors.

But the best role is that of a “buddy,” a volunteer who stays with a guest throughout the evening, making sure they have the best possible Luke 14 Experience.

“It is four hours that will change your life,” volunteer Joe Stout says. “When you are a buddy, you think you are showing God’s love to someone, only to realize you aren’t doing anything compared to the love you are being shown. It will make you understand what love and joy really are, watching your buddy interact with the world around them.”

Volunteers are always needed, and interested persons can register on the Luke 14 website, at www.luke14.net. Volunteers are asked to commit to one or both nights, and will receive all necessary training prior to the event.

It is a breakneck few days leading up to the event, as the transformation of Manley Baptist Church begins Wednesday evening after the church’s services and continues into Friday afternoon just before volunteer orientation. But the change is dramatic, as the volunteers work to reflect the year’s theme in their decorations and designs. This year, the theme is “Wonders of Creation,” and Darlene LaPlue has some special plans in store.

“We’re going to put wonder around every turn for our guests, and show them how amazing God’s creation is, from the wonders of sea and space to the stunning beauty of the Smoky Mountains.”

Wonder like this is hard to come by, but in 15 years, Darlene and her team have learned how to make it happen for a very special group of guests.