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Serving at Falls Creek satisfying lifetime mission for Lawton doctor

DAVIS—There’s nothing more satisfying than playing a part in seeing hundreds of people coming to know Jesus as their Savior.

“Not many people realize that the first aid station at Falls Creek plays a significant role in that,” said Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center Director James Swain.

And no one knows that better than Dan Horton, M.D., who has a family practice in Lawton. Horton has served as a doctor at Falls Creek every summer for the past 40 years, and he has no intention of retiring.

“It’s rewarding that maybe you’ve had a part in kids knowing Jesus,” said Horton, between assessing a dislocated elbow, a broken wrist, a rash and dispensing Ibuprofen.

Raised on a dairy farm near Lawton, Horton attended school and church at Scott School, which became a church on Sundays, with “Rev. Farmer” traveling from Lawton, First to preach. The future doctor graduated from Lawton High School, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine. At one time, he considered becoming a veterinarian, but decided to devote his skills to treating two-legged mammals. Following his internship, he worked three years at a public health service in Lawton, before opening his family practice in 1974.

That was about the same time he went to Falls Creek to serve in the first aid station, along with Charles Green, another Lawton physician. He actually had ulterior motives, because Green’s daughter, Saradell, whom Horton was dating, was working as a nurse at Falls Creek. The couple was married in 1976.

Horton continued to serve as a Falls Creek doctor, and when his three children were small, he also served as a doctor for Children’s Camp at Falls Creek.

Horton, a member of Lawton, First, said he always looks forward to a week at Falls Creek, not only because of his desire to serve the Lord in a unique setting, but also because the first aid nurses and staff have become like a family to him.

“It’s like a family reunion, so you not only get to be around the kids, but you also get away from the routine of the office, have a change of pace and get to renew old acquaintances,” he noted.

In addition to serving at Falls Creek, Horton also spends a week as a doctor at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp, takes care of athletes at Lawton High School, and has been on medical missions to Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico and China.

Falls Creek, which has always garnered a special place in Horton’s heart, has seen numerous changes over the years he’s been there.

The first “clinic,” as it was known then, was old and primitive, Horton said. “It was fun, but a little scary.”

He said one of his most vivid memories was in the 1970s when John Bisagno, then pastor of Houston, First, was preaching and became ill during the week.

“We had an old dental chair, and he came in every day, sat in that chair, and we gave him B12 shots,” recalled Horton. “I don’t know how much they helped him, but he made it through the week.”

He said they treat a lot of things doctors don’t always see because medical attention is free, and normally, those things would be taken care of at home.

“But I understand the sponsors feel a responsibility to the campers and don’t want to take any chances,” he said. He added the most common illnesses are bug bites, ankle sprains, stomach aches, allergies and lacerations.

“Sometimes, there’s a lot of drama, especially with the girls, who may have met a boy, had Icee dates and have broken up, and there’s a perceived physical illness with them,” he laughed.

One of the weirdest occurrences, Horton remembered, was when a pastor thought the camp should be shut down because there were, in his words, pin worms or parasites everywhere. When the doctors investigated, they found earth worms in his cabin’s bathroom, which had appeared following a heavy rain.

Like most people in Horton’s generation, he has fond memories of his years at the Creek.

“There are good memories of the old open-air tabernacle, and I really miss the choir and orchestra,” he said. “I remember Gene Bartlett and Bill Green leading the music, and especially enjoyed Green directing the hymn ‘Saved, Saved.’”

But there are many advantages to the new enclosed, air-conditioned tabernacle, he admitted.

“In the ‘old’ days, we treated a lot of heat exhaustion during the worship services,” he related. “We’d take them to B.B. McKinney chapel (which was located next to the old tabernacle and was air-conditioned), lay them out on the stage, turn fans on them and occasionally administer IVs. That doesn’t happen today.”

When Horton first started going to Falls Creek, there was a hospital administrator, a pharmacist and two doctors at the camp every week. Now some weeks, there is no doctor on campus, although Rick Schmidt from Purcell, Falls Creek medical director, goes down every week.

“There are a lot of Baptist doctors, but maybe they aren’t aware of the need,” assessed Horton. “I understand they are busy, have families, and perhaps don’t want to take the time, but I think if pastors would encourage doctors in their congregations to serve here, it would help. If God has given a doctor talent, ability and training, it needs to be used in service to the Lord. The Lord has blessed us with the ability to treat, and we need to use that serving Him.”

Swain said as the camp has grown, a generation of doctors has retired, and others have not stepped up. He said some use malpractice as an excuse, but Horton said there has never been a suit against a physician at Falls Creek.

“A lot of doctors are going on overseas mission trips, and I applaud that,” said Swain. “But perhaps, they could consider a week at Falls Creek as a mission trip. It’s an opportunity to see hundreds come to Christ.”

Horton emphasized what touches him most about Falls Creek is seeing 7,000 seats full of kids, and knowing the Lord is at work.

“There are essentially two reasons I come back each year,” Horton divulged. “Renewing acquaintances with the medical staff and being part of someone coming to know Jesus. That’s the bottom line.”

Doctors who would like to know more about serving at Falls Creek for a week or any part of a week, may contact Swain at 6714 Hwy. 77D, Davis 73030, phone 580/369-2101.

Dana Williamson

Author: Dana Williamson

View more articles by Dana Williamson.

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