“It was like a revival meeting!” declared several members of the BGCO Board of Directors as the February meeting concluded. Indeed, it was. Incredible reports were heard from Oklahoma Baptist University, The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and Baptist Village Communities. God is doing great things among us!
Without question, the most exciting moment was the opportunity to reveal the grace of God at work through His people in making provision for Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. As our Lord has done again and again, He raised up godly people whom He has blessed to become blessings to His Falls Creek.
While I would like to take time to tell the back story to each of the gifts announced, I will let the other articles in this edition of the Baptist Messenger do so. I want to focus on the $2.3 million matching gift given by Gene and Jo Downing in order that we all understand how it will work.
The Downings have promised to match every dollar given to Phase I of the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign up to $2.3 million. The goal of Phase I is to complete the new projects (Mathena Event Center, Thompson Family Lodge, and the Jordan Welcome Center) and to fully retire the debt on the R. A. Young Tabernacle. The remaining funding for Phase I is $2.24 million for new projects and $2.52 million for tabernacle debt retirement for a total of $4.76 million.
How does a matching gift work? It is simple. If you give one dollar, it becomes two! For example, if you sponsor a seat in the tabernacle for $500, your gift becomes $1,000 because the Downings’ gift matches your gift dollar for dollar. Or, if you desire to furnish a room in the Thompson Lodge for $10,000, your gift becomes $20,000!
This remarkable matching gift means our gifts can make a big difference quickly. What we may see as a small gift instantly becomes a larger gift.
It is important to remember that our gifts are not primarily about buildings, but about people. We have all seen the incredible difference the tabernacle has made in the ability to communicate the Gospel. Since the tabernacle has been built, the number of attendees at Falls Creek has reached the 52,000-55,000 range each summer. The number of professions of faith has increased to historic levels. In addition, attendance at the men’s and women’s retreats has increased.
Was it worth the sacrifice by more than 8,000 donors to see this magnificent tabernacle in place? I think we would all shout a resounding “Yes!” This facility has provided undistracted worship, allowing students to give their full attention without the misery of the heat and other distractions many of us experienced from the old days. The Gospel can do its work, and it does!
The new buildings will enhance the summer season by providing better dining facilities for staff, meeting space for discipleship, and significantly improved housing for guests who come to Falls Creek. But the real impact will be seen the rest of the year. While Falls Creek is a year-round conference center already, the doors of the new facilities will be open to many more events, and will house and feed greater numbers of adults. Large retreats, marriage seminars, senior adult events, and many other events can be accommodated.
The centerpiece of Falls Creek will always be the youth weeks. However, it is exciting to dream of the day when more and more people can come to these sacred grounds to have an encounter with our Savior or have their spiritual lives refreshed. With these new facilities, the Falls Creek experience will be extended throughout the entire year—that is worth our investment.
Together, because of the generosity of this sweet couple, you and I have the opportunity to double our gifts to the future of Falls Creek and to the elimination of the debt on the tabernacle, which has become so important to our ministry at Falls Creek. What will your family do?