In 1999, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma met at the Myriad (Cox) Convention Center to present the plan to build a new tabernacle at Falls Creek. What an amazing night with approximately 8,000 people in attendance! The music was glorious, and John Bisagno spoke. Bisagno, an Okie and former pastor of Del City, First Southern, and Houston, Texas, First, had been saved and called to ministry the same night in 1950 at Falls Creek. His testimony and challenge that night in 1999 ignited an excitement with a flame that has not died.
The next day, as the convention met to conduct business, a motion was presented to approve the building of a new tabernacle at Falls Creek and permission to raise the money to accomplish such a great vision. The vote was not unanimous, but the motion was overwhelmingly positive.
A building committee was formed, chaired by Frank McPherson, former CEO of Kerr-McGee Oil Company. In addition, Steve Thomas was chosen as the chief development consultant to lead in the fundraising. Thus began a long, but remarkable, journey to the Falls Creek of today. The original vision has expanded and grown, and the incredible story of Falls Creek continues.
Soon after the launch of the campaign to fund the new tabernacle at Falls Creek, America was struck a devastating blow when planes hit the Twin Towers in New York. Uncertainty and the economic impact was great. People were fearful regarding the future. That moment in history was not the right time to raise money for anything—or was it?
At the outset of the For the Sake of the Call Campaign, God impressed upon me a phrase as the marker of the campaign to build the tabernacle: “God did it through us!” God impressed upon me that the economically unstable times were simply an opportunity for God’s people to trust Him for provision of the resources to build the tabernacle. It was clear that if Oklahoma Baptists could raise the money needed, this new facility could be accomplished because God chose to provide the resources through His children.
God did provide through us! The board voted to move forward with the building of the tabernacle, even though we had not fully raised all the money necessary. By faith, we would step forward. The tabernacle was built, and thousands more people have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, to begin new relationships with Christ, to renew their Christian walk, while thousands more have heard the call to missions and ministry.
But debt remained on the tabernacle. In addition, the growth of Falls Creek that occurred with the opening of the tabernacle placed new challenges in providing for the ministries of Falls Creek and the crowds who came. A fresh vision for the future that demanded more resources was placed in the hearts of our leaders by the Holy Spirit.
Once again, God did it through us! A new amphitheater, missions center, new water and sewer facilities, and recreational venues were provided. This week, we celebrated the opening of the Welcome Center, the Thompson Family Lodge, the Mathena Family Event Center, and Downing Way. This new construction was all completed debt free! Previously, we celebrated the remodeled Kannady Lodge and the Thompson Sports Pavilion, which are part of the Phase II Centennial Campaign that has not even started yet. God did it through us!
In all, we have completed approximately $55 million in revitalization of older facilities, infrastructure and new buildings. Read that number slowly—$55 million. Remarkable! Amazing! But wait, we still had lingering debt on the tabernacle.
On Tues., Feb. 2, 2016, 16 years after we began this journey, I had the privilege of announcing that with the pledges and cash in hand, we have oversubscribed the Centennial Campaign and the debt on the tabernacle has been paid in full! God did it through us! And this has been accomplished a full year before we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Falls Creek.
To God be the Glory! Stand in awe of what our Great God has accomplished through us! God has provided, from His hand through the hands of His obedient and generous people, every dollar needed! Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His mighty deeds!