DAVIS—Todd Sanders had a lot to share when recapping what happened during the eight weeks of summer youth camp at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center.
As the camp’s program director, Sanders shared in an email to Oklahoma Baptists team members a simple yet powerful statement. “I hope this never grows old for us,” he wrote.
The statement was made after Sanders was reflecting on some monumental moments he has had through his years at Falls Creek. He wrote about what happened 36 years ago when he made a profession of faith in Christ at Davis, First, near Falls Creek, and God has used him for the past 30 years “to encourage believers and equip the church, giving me opportunity upon opportunity, and that I would get to do this work I’m given the privilege of doing.”
Sanders went on to praise God for what happened at Falls Creek this summer. God moved through 2,498 campers who made professions of faith in Christ. He moved through 516 campers who surrendered to a call to ministry, and overall, there were 4,975 spiritual decisions made among Falls Creek campers.
“Last year we had 2,645 (professions of faith in Christ), which was an all-time record at Falls Creek,” Sanders said. “This is another great summer of decisions. I’m blown away that God will let us continue as Oklahoma Baptists family to see Him move in that way.”
Falls Creek will continue to make evangelism a priority. Sanders said it is important to “proclaim the Gospel and invite people to respond to the Gospel.” Falls Creek also makes an emphasis on discipleship. Sanders said more than 13,000 campers attended breakout sessions that happened throughout a week, covering various topics of spiritual development.
“(Campers) are asking questions and learning,” Sanders said. “They are walking away with really good Christian development and Christian life principles.”
A total of 16 different breakouts happened each week at Falls Creek, and 128 leaders led the breakouts, Sanders said. The topics included “Evangelism for Everyday Life;” “A Look at Biblical Sexuality;” “Grasping God’s Word through Bible Study;” “Preparing to Lead Worship;” “Offering Hope to Those in Despair;” “Social Media with Gospel Eyes;” “Living Life with Discernment;” “A Strong Beginning for New Believers;” and “Pursuing a Call to Ministry.”
There were also breakouts for church leaders, which has been happening at Falls Creek for nearly 15 years. Called Adult Leadership Investment (ALI), more than 1,600 church leaders who serve in student ministry attended this year’s sessions.
“We talked about the ‘must-haves’ for a successful small group, focusing on our small group leaders and giving them an opportunity to have training along those lines,” Sanders said, describing this year’s ALI topic. “It has always been well received. We try to help people in such a way that they not only get ready for camp but beyond camp and overall ministry.”
Though the emphasis is on students who attend Falls Creek as campers, Falls Creek provides a great environment for whoever may come during the summer weeks. Even lead pastors came for a fellowship that met every Tuesday afternoon and was led by Todd Fisher, executive director-treasurer for Oklahoma Baptists.
“Falls Creek is a place where so many of our people come together,” Sanders said. “So many of our churches participate and are a part of Falls Creek youth camp weeks. It’s a great gathering place. I think if you have not been familiar in a while with what happens here, it is like a small city that assembles every week, and we have a major aspect of a community, as we orchestrate a week of life together.
“There are so many ways you can engage from the smallest aspects of your church group to the largest corporate aspects. I think there is something for everyone at Falls Creek, whether that’s a rec activity or a spiritual growth opportunity, a fellowship opportunity, a training opportunity or a worship opportunity.”
Jeremy Freeman agrees with Sanders. Serving as pastor of Newcastle, First, Freeman was one of the camp speakers this summer. He shared what it was like as a speaker and also what it meant for his church to participate at Falls Creek.
“It’s an experience like none other,” Freeman said. “To get to see every single night the power of prayer and the way God works and moves at Falls Creek is unbelievable.”
Freeman also had his son Caleb give his testimony while speaking at the camp. Caleb’s story continues to encourage and inspire people, as they hear how he miraculously recovered from a 2017 near-fatal auto accident. Caleb now gives God glory for his recovery and unashamedly tells people about Jesus.
“We went to 30 different cabins while we were there,” Freeman said about him and Caleb talking with different church groups at Falls Creek. “We got the big picture in the tabernacle and then the small picture in the cabin, and it reminds you that we have some really great churches in our state and really great churches that come to Falls Creek. Our experience was just phenomenal all the way around, seeing God working.”
Freeman also gave his perspective as a pastor and being involved with his church attending Falls Creek.
“From the pastor side of the things, I don’t know another place in the country that is like Falls Creek,” he said. “It’s like a camp within a camp. We have our own church stuff that we do, that is important, and then you are a part of a much bigger thing. (Campers) are hearing about the Cooperative Program. They are hearing about Oklahoma Baptist University. They are hearing about International Mission Board and GoStudents. You get to reveal to them to the bigger part of Kingdom work that we are a part of, and it’s fun to see.
“Falls Creek is a safe place; it’s a spiritual place,” Freeman continued. “It’s a strong place for your student ministry and for God to do incredible work. Falls Creek does more for the next generation than any other program or organization that is happening right now. It is calling kids to salvation, number one; it is calling and equipping kids for full-time ministry, which is another incredible thing. Falls Creek is helping churches raise up leaders who want to be a part of what God is doing, and I don’t know another program or place that has been more effective in doing just that.”
Sanders also spoke on the relationship churches have with Falls Creek and how both work together to impact students.
“Falls Creek makes a difference because we give churches an opportunity to forge that ground with students,” Sanders said. “Hopefully, we are setting churches up for their job, resourcing them and connecting them with ways to do that. We give them an opportunity to deal honestly with spiritual matters, gain understanding in spiritual growth and, most importantly, (helping students) come to a faith in Christ by being clear with the Gospel and giving them a chance to respond.
“What happens on Falls Creek grounds is just a fraction of what God is doing, acknowledging that the real work is in the churches and will continue in connecting with students on a regular basis. It’s not all about what happens in these services. The lasting fruit is in the local churches. We saw it every week.”
And as Sanders powerfully stated, may this work that God is doing through Oklahoma Baptists advancing the Gospel together never grow old