As a camp for the entire family, Indian Falls Creek (IFC) continues to strengthen as a family. Each summer, churches and individuals from across North America plan around the week, anticipating the fun, fellowship and encouragement they receive from the recreation, classes and services.

Visiting with friends and spending time with their local church families is a bonding experience. Many campers have grown up attending IFC from birth, experiencing the week as a child alongside siblings and cousins and now as aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents.

The generations of families attending camp together is part of the special experience of IFC. The 2020 virtual experience was no exception.

The Indian Falls Creek Board of Directors took up the call for spiritual awakening last fall as plans for the camp began. Our prayer was to increase the reach of IFC across North America, which includes Native Americans and First Nations peoples in Canada. When the pandemic spread to the U.S., the Board began to plan, seeing the possibility of reaching more people in Indian Country, via a virtual IFC camp.

A long-time prayer of the Board has been to expand IFC beyond one week of camp. With more than 50 volunteer board members representing churches and ministries from across Oklahoma and neighboring states, IFC has a broad reach and strong organizational platform from which to develop its ministry.

When the official word that on-ground Falls Creek camps were cancelled, the IFC Board went into overdrive to enact plans for a virtual camp for the entire family. An IFC app centralized access to classes for children, youth, young adults and adults, as well as children’s church and the evening service.

In addition to expanding its reach throughout Indian Country and beyond, the vision includes adding content throughout the year that will encourage discipleship and leadership. The content will include Bible study and address the Native context, which could be helpful beyond Indian Country.

The largest number of Native congregations are in Oklahoma, many of which do not have pastoral leadership. Emerson Falls, Native American ministry partner for Oklahoma Baptists, reported an average of 35 percent of Native American churches are without a pastor. Thus, the further hope is that additional content will assist churches that lack strong leadership and individuals without mentorship.

A month before camp, and with plans well underway, the IFC Board received news that annual support from Oklahoma Baptists would be 30 percent of the original amount. IFC was grateful for the funds, knowing many other ministries also faced this reduction. Prayers continued, and a campaign was immediately launched to raise additional funds, with generous donations coming from individuals and churches part of the IFC family, in addition to associations and organizations.

Camp Pastor Mike Keahbone delivered six evening messages that challenged Indian Country to spiritual awakening. Keahbone’s messages addressed Christian awakening and presented the Gospel. Readers are invited to view and share these messages and the classes.

Across its programming platforms, IFC had a daily average of 8,000 views. Individuals, groups of friends, families and small groups from churches watched classes and services together, so this number does not measure an exact number of views. IFC social media was filled with pictures and messages that showed families and friends enjoying the services and participating in the virtual events together.

The sting of COVID-19 was felt late in the week. IFC Recreation Director Victor Bear and his sister Loretta both went to be with the Lord, keenly reminding us of our eternal hope.

The pandemic did not limit IFC ministry but, rather, adjusted and grew it. This opportunity for change and for learning to trust in the Lord more fully strengthened our Board as brothers and sisters serving alongside one another and encouraged our desire to reach further into Indian Country.

IFC issued a brief survey to estimate the impact of virtual IFC on our Native churches, which includes questions regarding decisions made on the local level and expanding content. We encouraged a leader from each congregation to complete it.

The IFC Board calls on Oklahoma Indian congregations to pray for the financial provisions of Oklahoma Baptists, for we are all in this together, and that our virtual ministry will continue to reach people here and across North America.

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