Youth Falls Creek 2008 is now complete. For 91 years, young people have made their way to the Arbuckle Mountains to have a divine encounter with the living Savior. Over these years, millions have come and been deeply touched and forever changed by spending a week at the Creek.
Reflecting on this summer, various images flood my mind. I remember the early stages of thinking about a new tabernacle when the size issue was discussed. My own thought was to build a 5,000-seat tabernacle. It wasn’t long until we agreed the new building should seat at least 6,000. When all was said and done, a tabernacle that accommodates 7,200 including a 350-seat choir loft was constructed. My first mental picture from summer 2008 is the building filled to the farthest corners. What a sight!
Every week, I sit in different spots in the tabernacle, but I often migrate to the sound booth to get the best view of the service. Several things grip me from that perspective. One is the excitement and energy that surges into that building when the teens arrive. Worship for them moves! They stand, sing, lift hands, shout and applaud. Their enthusiastic response in worship differs from that in a football game, where they cheer a good play-this is serious spiritual business. They express joy and satisfaction when they praise the Lord, and exuberance fills the room as they watch their friends flood the altar.
One image forever burned into my mind is of the adults who accompany the young people. Every week, I see pastors who, although they are senior adults, do not hesitate to spend a week with their kids at camp. Many of their churches do not have youth ministers. These pastors are my heroes. I know the music is not to their liking, and the nights are sleepless. Yet every day, they pour themselves into the youth of their churches, and each week, they walk away with great joy after seeing lives changed.
It is hard to imagine the number of hours given by staff and volunteers. Churches bring cooks and counselors who wear themselves out during their week. Our convention staff works tirelessly day and night to accommodate a city of 6,000-7,000 teens. It is amazing how smoothly things run, but it is due to the enormous effort of these incredible people. I see them slaving in kitchens, sitting for a chat with a needy teen and telling of the great mission opportunities. What a picture! A caring adult and a teen engaged in meaningful interchange.
By far my most indelible image of Falls Creek is the invitation. I never cease to be amazed by the moving of the Spirit of God. Powerful music and messages, cabin afterglows, quiet times and plenty of interaction with sponsors and staff prepare for the most important moments at the Creek-the invitation. I watch each night as hundreds flood the aisles to meet the Savior. Among those making decisions are young people who commit their lives to vocational missions and ministry. Just as they have done for 91 years-in the arbor, in the small wooden tabernacle, in the old open-air tabernacle and now in the new cool, high tech facility-young people respond. But the response is not to a preacher or a building. It is to the Spirit of the living God.
I will carry to my grave the images of more than 100 weeks at the Creek. I am a blessed man to experience a part of this every summer. Thank you, Oklahoma Baptists, for all you do to make Falls Creek the largest and greatest youth camp in America and perhaps the world.