The year was 1918. Two men, J. B. Rounds and W. D. Moorer, had purchased 160 acres to build a youth camp. That year, a hardy group of 273 met for the first encampment at the new Baptist Young People’s Union camp—the campers stayed in tents. They called the place Falls Creek after the little stream that ran through the campgrounds. Rounds and Moorer, along with a few family and friends, had cleared a road into the property.
I am quite sure these men of vision and faith could not have dreamed of the transformation that has taken place at what is now called Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. Even the most ardent visionary would be overwhelmed at the thought that from the first gathering of 273 under a tent, a conference center would emerge where 54,000 teens and sponsors would gather over eight weeks in a state-of-the-art, air-conditioned tabernacle. The result of their seminal dream is nothing short of a God-sized accomplishment.
Rounds and Moorer could not have imagined that the camp where Rosalee Mills Appleby committed her life to missions would become the single most prominent place where people have heard the voice of God’s calling them to missions and ministry.
This week begins the 93rd summer that children, youth and their sponsors will meet in the hot and dusty Arbuckle Mountains for camp. I have often tried to describe what happens during those weeks. People who have not experienced Falls Creek cannot comprehend a place that becomes one of the larger towns in Oklahoma by the time campers gather for worship on Monday evening. Even more remarkably, 90 percent or more of the people in that city are teenagers!
Many things have changed through the 93 years as people have made the drive from all over Oklahoma to these hallowed grounds. Air conditioning, indoor toilets, real buildings to sleep in and a phenomenal place to worship have emerged from tents, a path out back and an unbearably hot outdoor tabernacle.
At the same time, some things have not and must not change. Falls Creek is a place to encounter the living God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Word of God is proclaimed and taught through multiple venues. Worship, convictional preaching and a public invitation are central to every week at Falls Creek. Missions and a challenge to change the world through the power of the Gospel are high priority.
The genius of Falls Creek is the prayer support from the churches across Oklahoma. The reason God chooses to show-up and show-out each summer is because faithful Oklahoma Baptists take seriously the responsibility to pray for teens, sponsors and worship leaders. I would venture to say that no place on Earth experiences the prayer focus as does Falls Creek. It is the key to the unleashing of the transforming power of God in the lives of all who work and attend a week at the Creek.
I am calling Oklahoma Baptists to join me in making Falls Creek a priority over the next two months. Pray for the Spirit to fall fresh upon Falls Creek. Gather the names of students who are attending from your church and pray for them by name. Cry out to God that He might let the fire of Heaven fall upon them.
I also encourage you to visit Falls Creek during the week your youth attend. You are welcome to come enjoy a night at the Creek. Or if you cannot physically attend, join us for a worship service via the Web. Every service is live streamed for your enjoyment. Invite friends over to watch it together or see if you can set it up at the church and have Falls Creek fellowship.
I am confident that this summer will once again be filled with eternity changing experiences for those who come to Falls Creek.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.