Dedicated & Debt Free!

Centennial Campaign pledges, gifts fund new Falls Creek facilities, retire Tabernacle debt DAVIS—Celebration, appreciation and thankfulness to God were the theme of the day Feb. 2 as Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) Board members, staff, donors and friends gathered at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center to celebrate “God Did It Through Us” in providing $55 million in improvements at the encampment. As the Board gathered for its regular February meeting, the festivities included dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies for the 50-room Thompson Family Lodge, Mathena Family Event Center and “Downing Way,” a landscaped walkway which ties the camp’s campus together. The largest building addition, the Mathena Family Event Center which was entirely underwritten by the Mathena family, is a multi-use facility that features multiple, customizable meeting spaces, a large hall with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, and a commercial-style kitchen that can accommodate formal dining for thousands of guests. The unique, monolithic architecture also boasts a major benefit to the Conference Center and its guests. The four-story Thompson Family Lodge which was entirely underwritten by the Thompson family, which rivals any upscale accommodations, links the event center to the Jordan Welcome Center, which now serves as the “front door” to the conference center, and opens the door to Falls Creek operating as a year-round conference center serving groups of all sizes and all ages. Downing Way is a lighted, landscaped concourse with three walkways providing access from the Raymond A. Young Tabernacle to the event center, the Wynn Center for World Missions and other areas of the campground. Members of the Mathena, Thompson and Downing families were present to participate in the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies for their particular structure or area. The Downing family’s $2.3 million matching gift enhanced giving opportunities related to the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign. During lunch, Jordan thanked God for His provision through Oklahoma Baptists in providing $55 million since 1999 to pay for the improvements at Falls Creek. He also announced that with gifts in hand and when pledges have been paid, the debt on the Tabernacle has been eliminated. “I do not know how to express to our God how awesome, how amazing, how incredible He is,” he said. “And, I don’t know why our God chose to place His grace and mercy and faith in the old Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma in a little dusty place called Falls Creek. During the plenary session in the afternoon, the Board approved three significant items of business, including a $25.5 million Cooperative Program objective for 2017; a 2017 Edna McMillan State Missions Offering and Allocations Goal of $1.1 million and a three-year partnership with the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada beginning immediately (See related story on page 5). In other business the Board: • Approved a recommendation by the Executive Committee that Norma Lee, a member of McAlester, First Indian be elected to complete the two-year unexpired term of LeRoy Sealy on the BGCO Board of Directors. • Approved a recommendation by the Executive Committee for the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, Baptist Village Communities (BVC) and Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children governing documents to include a statement of faith declaring the Bible as the foundation for their faith and practice, and affirming as their confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, as revised and adopted in 2000 by the Southern Baptist Convention, be affirmed. (Oklahoma Baptist University has placed this statement in their faculty and employee handbooks). • That the BVC president be authorized to explore and implement management agreements with other not-for-profit senior living organizations in Oklahoma. • Approved a recommendation...

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MKs prepare for college during re-entry retreat at Falls Creek

DAVIS—Some 75 members of an unusual “family” gathered for a reunion of sorts Aug. 6-9 at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, although most of them had never met one another. Missionary kids (MKs) returning to the United States to attend college gathered at this camp in the Arbuckle Mountains—most of them wide-eyed and nervous at first; a few anxious to renew acquaintances with old friends—to attend the MK Re-Entry Retreat. The annual event is organized by the International Mission Board (IMB) and hosted on a rotating basis by state Baptist conventions and their Woman’s Missionary Unions (WMU). It was funded this year by a $5,000 grant from the national WMU organization and $10,000 from the Edna McMillan Oklahoma State Missions Offering. Linda Whitworth, associate director of stateside training at the IMB Learning Center in Richmond, Va., has coordinated the retreats for the past 13 years. “We try to prepare the MKs for reverse culture shock for American life, and how customs are different here than what they have grown up with,” Whitworth said. “We also try to re-emphasize God’s faithfulness and His love for them and how He is going to provide for them. Many of them are going to be separated from their families and it’s much like a normal college transition, but (it’s) combined with families very far away and them coming from a different world view and culture.” While the MKs will be almost indistinguishable from other college students, they are a breed apart, Whitworth explained. “Here, they look the part; they look like normal American kids, and, yet, they’re so different,” she said. “So, we bring them to a safe place where they can interact with older MKs who have successfully done it, are strong in their faith and are active in their church and ministry and they are able to ask them questions and interact with them. Then, after this is over,  our small group leaders serve as a support system for them during their college year. They can call them at any time for assistance.” One student familiar with the program is “Nate,” who came to Falls Creek as a team leader after going through the retreat a year ago. He led a group of 10 MKs. “It’s  a way for them to bond and get to know each other. We have time during the few days we have here together to just talk and learn together,” he said. Also, activities help the MKs, who mostly came from Asia, Africa, Europe the Middle East and South America, form bonds. Included were a scavenger hunt called the Amazing Race, which led the eight teams all over the Falls Creek campus, a dodgeball tournament, a boat building competition and an Oklahoma-style party complete with barbecue and mechanical bull rides, courtesy of Ardmore, Rawhide Cowboy Church. “There’s a phrase we use—third culture kids,” Nate said. “What it means is your parents are from one culture and you grew up in another culture, so a lot of these kids develop a third culture within themselves, which is a combination of that. “It’s a culture nobody else has because it’s unique to you. So, this (retreat) is one of the few places where you fit in with other people who have that third culture, too. That’s a big deal for an MK, because on the outside, they seem to really fit in well. On the outside, most of them look to be American, but on the inside, they don’t really fit in here. “There are some kids born over there, and some who moved there when they were...

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The Master’s plan: $2.5M gift to Falls Creek will build new lodge

The former site of the Falls Creek maintenance barn is projected to be the future home of the new 50-room lodge/welcome center/events center complex. DAVIS—When the Master Plan for improvements at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center was drawn up several years ago, it included the construction of a multi-room hotel or lodge. Now, years later, the Master’s Plan has provided the impetus for that man-made dream to become a reality, thanks to the generosity of a faithful Oklahoma Baptist family, who have given $2.5 million to build a 50-room lodge at Falls Creek. “In our long range master plan we, from the very beginning, had a lodge on the plan,” said Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “We have known all along that you have to have a lodge and dining facility to accommodate the activities you have outside of the 12 weeks of youth camps in the summer. “And while our non-summer events have grown significantly, we have always had the issue of adults not wanting to stay in dormitories.” The recent $7 million gift by another donor family for what BGCO officials are calling an “events center,” provided the impetus for the most recent gift, Jordan said. “The events center is a dining hall/multi-purpose structure of around 30,000 square feet which will allow us to stage events accommodating almost 2,000 people,” Jordan explained. “The family which made this $2.5 million commitment recognized the need for a lodge to support our non-summer month ministry. Continue Reading...

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From gangs to God

Steve (Not his real name) is a budding rapper who found himself ensnared by the chains of the gang lifestyle, feeding off of the euphoria created by the “respect” he felt he earned by stealing cars, breaking into homes and selling drugs—basically doing whatever it took to please the older members of his gang “family.” Those delusional chains gripped him tighter and tighter until he finally was arrested after running away from home, lying to the police and facing a number of criminal charges—all at the age of 15. After spending six weeks in the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center, also known as the Berry House, Steve now is awaiting a probation hearing. But, a couple of weeks ago, this soft-spoken resident of the area known as The Flats in Oklahoma City got a reprieve from a source he never once had considered; and it came while he joined with thousands of other teens in singing a song in the R.A. Young Tabernacle at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. Steve’s journey to a transformed life actually began about 10 years ago. Ernie Tullis, pastor of Oklahoma City, Tri-Church, recalled when he and his sons would drag two basketball goals out in the street, “and the whole block, including Steve, would come out and play ball. “Later, I lost track of him for a couple of years. He just wasn’t around. Then,  three weeks ago, I saw him mowing my neighbor’s yard. I walked over to him, greeted him and we started talking. “I said, I haven’t seen you in a while and his head dropped and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve kinda fallen into some things.’ “He began to tell me about gang-banging and selling drugs, being shot at, shooting back and that sort of stuff. He told me, ‘I’ve got to stop doing the wrong things.’ I told him trying to stop doing the wrong things is like putting  Band-Aids on a decapitation; it’s exhausting and it doesn’t work. What we have to do instead is put the good inside you, and the good will replace the bad.” Tullis told Steve he needed to meet Jesus, and invited him to attend camp with the group of 16 other youth his church was taking. “It was the third night of camp when he walked over to me at the end of the worship set and said, ‘Something’s going on, this last song we’re singing, I’m not singing it, I’m just moved to tears from the inside out. I don’t ever cry, I’m strong, I’m tough,’” Tullis recounted.  “I said, let’s take a walk.” The two of them sat outside the tabernacle and Tullis asked Steve what was going on. “He said, ‘I don’t know, I just know something’s happening on the inside.’ “I said that’s God’s Holy Spirit within you and this is your chance; this is your chance to put the good in you that will displace the bad, because God is saying, ‘Steve, I love you so much that, if there was only Steve in this whole wide world, no matter what you had done, I still would have sent My Son, My one and only amazing Son, for you, just you.’” Steve pondered the immense significance of that reality, then asked Tullis, “Well, what do I need to do?” “You need to pray and receive the gift of God’s Son,” Tullis answered. “He said, ‘I don’t know how.’ So, I said, that’s cool, we’ll do it together. So, we leaned in,  grabbed each other’s hands and just began to pray.” Steve’s prayer that day went like...

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