Sights, sounds and spiritual impact at the largest youth camp in the world

DAVIS—Falls Creek is a special place, and has been for 96 years. Every summer, thousands of young people come to the camp grounds in the Arbuckle Mountains where many life-changing decisions have been made.

Though the surroundings have changed dramatically, from tent grounds to open-air tabernacle to enclosed tabernacle, the summer youth weeks at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center continue to have students come connect with God and then leave to have an impact on the world.

Many church groups have multiple stories to share. Here is a glimpse of the “Falls Creek Experience” from Week 4 (June 24-28).

Lexington, First brought 78 campers, and the church group stayed in Marlow, First’s cabin. Three of the students were willing to share their week’s experience at Falls Creek. They were interviewed near the beginning of the week and at the end.

///Three students share

Destini Ramseywill be a junior in high school this fall. This was her third summer to come to Falls Creek.

From left, Lucas Rodriguez, Destini Ramsey and Kodie Todd share their experiences during a week at Falls Creek. (Photo: Chris Doyle)

She said Doug Moore, youth minister at Lexington, First, encouraged her to go her first year, and said she rededicated her life to Christ that summer.

Destini’s family has “always gone to church,” and she mentioned her grandfather was a pastor. In her early-week interview, she said she wants to be a nurse or a doctor, but she wants to emphasize a “more encouraging approach to patients.” She intends to share her faith with those under her care and be compassionate with her patients’ families, who struggle with what the patients are experiencing.

Kodie Todd experienced Falls Creek for the first time this summer. He also will be a junior this fall and started his week at Falls Creek excited to see what this church camp had to offer.

Ed Newton, the camp speaker for the week, made a big impression on Kodie during the Tuesday Evening Tabernacle Experience. Newton shared an illustration about legendary pastor Adrian Rodgers going to a store to make a purchase and receiving too much change. When Rodgers came back to return the extra money, the salesperson told the famous preacher she intentionally gave him too much cash to see if he would show integrity by coming back to the store.

Kodie said this story spoke to him, how impressed he was by Rodgers being honest in handling the situation. After high school, Kodie plans to go to a Vo-tech to be a welder and wants to work in the oil field.

Lucas Rodriguez is going to be a high school senior in the fall and is considered a leader of Lexington, First’s youth group. He said he has been going to Lexington, First all his life and to Falls Creek every summer since seventh grade. He enjoys going to Falls Creek because “it has opened my eyes to many ministry possibilities and helped me see how I can get plugged in to different ministry opportunities.”

///Evening Cabin Time

Every night ends with a cabin devotional time. Moore leads his students with group mixer games and shares announcements that apply to the following day. On Tuesday night, he shares with them about a communication system to each camper. On a wall in the cabin are envelopes designated for each camper. Moore explains that in the envelopes are messages from people of the church who prayed specifically for them.

“Even though they didn’t know you, even before you signed up to go to Falls Creek, there were people who were praying for you,” Moore said. He also challenged the students, sharing they need to break down personal barriers and pursue God, not continue to succumb to peer pressure. “You are not called to be common,” he said. “You are called to stand out.”

///Daily Schedule Summarized 

As the week continues, campers are involved in Morning Tabernacle Experiences, led by Falls Creek program leaders Andy Harrison and Todd Sanders, and designated Quiet Times. They also experience In-Cabin Bible Studies each day, before lunch.

The afternoons provide an array of recreational options. Swimming, hiking, multiple climbing and swinging challenges, horseshoes, basketball, disc golf, skating, softball, giant chess and checker boards do not exhaust the list of choices—although they can exhaust anyone willing to try all of them.

The most popular activity each week is volleyball with five different team divisions, including guys, girls, middle school co-ed, sponsors and four-on-four “high competition.” Lucas shared the Lexington, First guys’ team always has been competitive each summer. This year, they made it to the “Final Four,” he said.

///Evenings at Falls Creek

Ed Newton was the speaker at Falls Creek for weeks 3 and 4. (Photo: Chris Doyle)

After dinner, all church groups meet for the Evening Tabernacle Experience. Because of the large number of campers each week, a formal process is used to decide where everybody sits in the tabernacle, which is communicated through the sponsors in charge of making seating arrangements. Every church group is expected to sit together, and a rotation is followed to allow each group the opportunity to experience favorable seating during the week.

The whole week allows for God to move among the campers, but the Tabernacle Experiences are direct opportunities for campers to respond and make decisions to God working in their lives.

On Tuesday evening, June 25, more than 100 professions of faith were made. The week totals almost reached 300 professions of faith, and 751 total decisions were recorded, including assurance of salvation, restoration, special needs and called to ministry.

///Three students revisited

As the week concluded, Destini, Kodie and Lucas shared Friday night that their lives were impacted by what they experienced.

Kodie said he surrendered his life to Christ Wednesday night. “I went down and got saved,” he said. “I feel totally different. I was struggling with different things, little things. I feel I got 100 pounds lifted off my shoulders.”

He said he was looking forward to getting baptized at his church that Sunday. His first week ever at Falls Creek will always be one he will remember.

Destini said she came away realizing she needed to be a stronger Christian leader. Newton challenged her to be more open about her Christian faith and to be more available to encourage her friends who may be struggling. She had an opportunity to pray with a young man during one of the evening services who was having a hard time dealing with the death of a family member.

“At the beginning of the week, I said I wanted to be a nurse or go into the medical field. I’m still thinking about that, but now I’m wondering if that’s really what God wants me to do,” she said.

Lucas shared how he grew more in his understanding of Scripture. He said Newton helped him realize more of how Old Testament teachings point toward Christ’s coming. He also was encouraged seeing many of his friends make life decisions for Christ and appreciated the leadership of his church and their willingness to serve students.

“Doug (Moore) has been here 13 years and has been very faithful,” Lucas said. “He has had a huge impact on this group and is committed to developing a godly generation. The younger leaders also have had an impact. My older brother is the worship leader for the youth group. We are a tight community, even with those who have gone on, and are committed and try to stay tight with the students to encourage them.”

Of the many recreational activities Falls Creek offers, volleyball is one of the most popular and competitive each week. (Photo: Chris Doyle)

As he begins his senior year, Lucas knows he has many important life decisions still to make, but one thing he said he took from this week at Falls Creek was to be content in God.

“I’ve been in a hurry lately about figuring out what I want to do after high school, and putting a lot of stress on myself. Do I stay where I am and be a part of the church I’ve been at my whole life or go somewhere else?” he said. “I am open to whatever God wants me to do, but I need to be content with where I am and worship Him where I am. If I’m not content with where I am, then there’s no promise I will be content somewhere else.”

Young people everywhere deal with similar situations Destini, Kodie and Lucas are experiencing. Thankfully, just like many generations before them, they have at least one week during the summer that allows them to specifically focus on God and what He can do in their lives.

This is why Falls Creek continues to be special.