It seems surreal that in just a little over one month, we will celebrate the completion of the Falls Creek tabernacle. On May 26, Oklahoma Baptists from across the state will gather on these hallowed grounds to dedicate a tabernacle for new generations of children, youth and adults. What a wonderful way to inaugurate our 90th year of ministry in the Arbuckle Mountains.
The dream for the new tabernacle and a renewed Falls Creek began more than 10 years ago. Scott Neighbors chaired a task force that re-dreamed the dream of Falls Creek founders J. B. Rounds and W. D. Moorer. The new dream did not fall far from the tree of the original one. It is larger in size and more expansive in operation, and it takes Falls Creek from a summer camp to a year-round, full-service conference center with the summer youth encampments continuing at the heart of the ministry.
Scott and his committee certainly did their homework. They did not plan the facilities first but started by asking hard questions about what kinds of ministries Oklahoma Baptists needed to perform through Falls Creek. They then considered the kind of facilities required. Messengers to the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma approved the Falls Creek Master Plan, including the process to raise the dollars necessary to implement the plan.
Since no Cooperative Program dollars were to be used (and they have not), we began the fundraising and asked Oklahoma Baptists to provide the resources. Two families quickly stepped forward and made the effort “believable.” R. A. Young committed $5 million to launch the campaign. As a college student in the early 1920s, Young hitchhiked from Stillwater to run the Falls Creek grocery store during the summer. (He would later turn that first retail experience into a nationwide store chain named T.G. & Y.)
John and Donna Massey of Durant heard God speak to them, challenged Oklahoma Baptists to join them and gave $2.4 million to the campaign. Without these early significant gifts, the effort might not have been believable.
To date more than 6,000 individuals and families have given sacrificially and generously to make the new tabernacle a reality. Every gift, whether large or small, has been precious in the sight of God. Every gift has been needed to accomplish such a great work.
While the dollars were being raised, Frank McPherson led the building committee to do the myriad of things necessary to design and build such a magnificent structure. Building committee members from all over the state have volunteered much time and effort to lead us to the finished product.
May 26 will be a glorious day. We will celebrate the accomplishment of the dream God placed in our hearts many years ago. We will celebrate the provision God has given through His people. We will declare, “God did it through us!”
We still face challenges. We have not finished the task of raising the dollars. Pledges are still being paid. The full dream of a place for people from all over our state and nation to gather for glorious worship, training and personal retreat is not yet complete. A revitalized Falls Creek that will serve thousands year-round has many elements left to be addressed.
But we will stop on May 26 and have a Baptist party! We will pause to declare our thanksgiving to God for His awesome provision through His people. We will enter this beautiful building and fill it with praise, prayer and the word of God. Don’t miss it!