When we think of Falls Creek, the images in our minds are of young people. In fact, for most of us, the pictures in our minds are of a swarm of youth at Icee stands, swimming in the lake, at volleyball games or taking the challenge of the ropes course. Most importantly, we think of a tabernacle filled with youth worshipping and responding to the clear teaching of God’s Word in a Billy Graham Crusade-type invitation. The reality of Falls Creek is portrayed through these wonderful mental “photos.”
There is a remarkable event at the end of each summer—a gathering of native peoples from across Oklahoma and the United States. With between 2,000 and 2,500 in attendance, it may well be the largest gathering of Native American Christians in America. This year will mark the 65th time our native brothers and sisters have come to the Creek for camp. We call this week Indian Falls Creek.
Oklahoma has nearly 200 Indian churches. The first missionaries who came to Oklahoma focused on reaching Indians. The Trail of Tears marked a movement, not just of Indian people from the east, but Christianity as well. Churches were formed upon arrival in the Indian Territory. The history of Oklahoma Baptists is intertwined with the history of our native people.
Falls Creek has become a special place for our Indian people to gather. One of the distinctive features of Indian Falls Creek is its family orientation. Rather than a gathering of just youth, Indians come as families and people of all ages. Without question, there is a large number of youth and, particularly in recent years, there has been great emphasis on reaching, teaching and discipling youth. Each year, many youth come to faith in Christ and respond to the call to ministry.
While morning worship is more youth oriented, the evening worship is for all ages. One of the traditions of Indian Falls Creek is a segment of worship during which hymns are sung by different tribes in their native languages. It is one of my favorite experiences during that week.
Invitation time is unique at this camp. Pastors come to the front at the beginning of the invitation, and people are able to talk with their own pastor about their decisions. Personal counseling is done beyond the altar experience, but each person has the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with their pastor.
As you might imagine, another one of my favorite things at Indian Falls Creek is the food—Indian fry bread is a staple. Because it is a family camp, meal times are multigenerational, and it is a pleasure to watch the interaction of ages.
Falls Creek is a special place to our native people. They love to come to the Arbuckle Mountains retreat to worship, fellowship and train for effective service. Indian Falls Creek is one of the great events each summer, and is one of the most effective tools in reaching Indian people with the Gospel. Without question, the training and development of leaders during this week is significant and bears fruit throughout the year.
I give thanks to God for our Indian people. They are a vital part of the BGCO family, and Indian Falls Creek is a vital part of who they are as Oklahoma Baptists.