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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Perspective: God at work

I love to watch God at work. His thoughts are beyond our thoughts, and His ways beyond our ways. We think He is silent, but silence on our end often means He is speaking on the other end. Across the years, I can assure you that God has used no place on Earth to speak to me as He has at Falls Creek. He called me to ministry there, and time and again, I have had the fresh wind of the Spirit breathe life into me. He has done it again. Two weeks ago, our Leadership Team decided to hold our meeting at Falls Creek so we could tour the new buildings that are in the final stages of completion. I admit that as we walked through these beautiful and remarkably functional facilities, I found myself overwhelmed by the goodness and provision of God. I stood there amazed that God would be so good to Oklahoma Baptists. Always on my mind, and the desire of my heart, is the completion of the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign that includes the buildings under construction and the removal of the debt on the R.A. Young Tabernacle. As we were finishing our business and getting ready to head back to Oklahoma City, I received a call from Marty Harkey, Chief Development Officer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. As I stood in the middle of the street in front of the new buildings, I heard Marty tell me a most remarkable story. He was opening the afternoon mail when he discovered a check for $500,000 payable to the Centennial Campaign to help eliminate the debt at Falls Creek. A wonderful couple, who desire to remain anonymous at this point, provided the gift. While they have had family attend Falls Creek, the gentleman said he had not been privileged to attend himself. This couple had been reading about Falls Creek in the Baptist Messenger and felt led to give so Falls Creek could be debt free. To God Be the Glory! Great things He has done! With this gift, and present cash and pledges made, we are now only $307,000 from reaching our Falls Creek Centennial Campaign goal of $4,762,142. All the buildings, including the R.A. Young Tabernacle, will be paid in full! Amazing! I have no doubt God is at work speaking to someone or several others who can give year-end gifts so we can celebrate the completion of the Centennial Campaign. There even may be someone God is calling to write a check for the full amount of the remaining debt. Many years ago, when we started on this incredible journey of faith to revitalize and renew Falls Creek for new generations of children, youth and adults, this statement was made, “Our great desire is that when people see what has transpired they will say, ‘The LORD, He is God! May all glory and honor be to Him alone.’” Every gift, large and small, has been and will be from His hand. Thank you to this sweet couple for their generosity! Thank you to all who have given gifts large and small! And most importantly, thank you,...

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Still Developing: The local church and Falls Creek

From the beginning of Falls Creek, the relationship between the local church and the camp has been based on a mutually beneficial bond. From a summer encampment for the Baptist Young People’s Union (BYPU) in 1917, Falls Creek has grown to become a year-round conference center addressing children, church musicians, single adults, college students, men’s and women’s ministries, church volunteers—the  list of groups and the call that Moorer and Rounds sensed from God grows with each new year. In 1917, after that first affirming summer, Baptist leaders predicted that Falls Creek would form the foundation of “…a great denominational university of methods…” representing “…every line of denominational interest…” With each year, Falls Creek stretches and adapts to fulfill that vision, and in return, Falls Creek has been a blessing for the local church since 1917. “Hot Dog” Lee, the first President of the Indian Territory BYPU in 1901, stated later in 1954, “The most outstanding thing I remember about Falls Creek in the 30 years I attended was the outstanding spirit of cooperation that prevailed.” This same spirit of cooperation has prevailed inside Falls Creek and between the churches of what has become the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The vote of the BYPU convention approved the location of the camp that had been discovered by W.D. Moorer and J.B. Rounds. Record years of attendance show a correlation between Falls Creek and local church baptisms, attributed in no small part to churches bringing youth to Falls Creek. Church leaders have said more than once that the largest opportunity for our churches to reach their youth has been during the summer at Falls Creek. Considering the need to reach young people early and to develop a strong discipleship pattern in their lives before they enter college where their belief system will be challenged as never before, Falls Creek has been a great blessing for many young people. The faithful proclamation of the Gospel at Falls Creek, where attendees will hear the best preachers who will speak the truth of God for their lives and draw the net for their salvation, has kept God’s hand of blessing on this special place. As we approach the end of 2015, we stand a little more than a year away from 2017 and the 100th anniversary of Falls Creek. There is an opportunity again to confirm the strong relationship between Falls Creek and the Southern Baptist churches of Oklahoma. Church members, staff, deacons, musicians and missionaries have been called to the ministry at Falls Creek. For many of these individuals, the first time they clearly heard the call of God on their lives was at Falls Creek. The Southern Baptist churches of Oklahoma, through the ministry of Falls Creek, have blessed countless other states and countries by the godly people who have ministered to them. Share the wonderful story of what Falls Creek has accomplished in the spiritual formation of more than 2.3 million people who have passed through the gates of Falls Creek since 1917. Let your congregation know that through your church’s Cooperative Program dollars , they had a part in reaching 63,982 people for salvation, 34,569 calls to ministry and a quarter of a million (250,000) decisions. Remind your church that the current tabernacle and the buildings under construction are being paid for through individual donations, and then ask them to consider giving a gift for Falls Creek. We have many choices in which to invest our income. After the biblical support of your local church, there is no other entity that will better proclaim the Gospel, prepare disciples, and provide...

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Still developing: Our tools

“Our tools were three star drills, a sledge, two shovels, two picks, one grubbing hoe and a wheelbarrow. … Under dad’s supervision we learned the art of drilling then blasting—our main trouble?—only three star drills and no money to buy more. It fell to me to hike in to Dougherty, a town on the Santa Fe about six or seven miles away, to have the drills resharpened about every other day as we could find no blacksmith any closer…We must have drilled over 250 holes and blasted through the limestone ledges to make these three cuts and fills. After three months of back-breaking labor, we finally had the rough part done, needing only to clear the right of way of small brush, debris, and a few large trees.” (Sights and Sounds of Falls Creek by J.M. Gaskin) In the previous paragraph, J.B. Rounds, Jr. was explaining the struggle of building the road into Falls Creek. The task was long and laborious, but the final result allowed for the camp to begin in 1917. Current improvements to Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center are no less labor intensive. One hundred workers are finishing the Jordan Welcome Center, Thompson Family Lodge and Mathena Family Event Center with much-improved tools than the ones J.B. Rounds, Jr. used. The construction changes to the campus because of the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign (FCCC) are not being undertaken by us individually. Still, we do have the opportunity to participate personally in the process. Our tools: You have tools to help. The tools you possess can make an immediate difference now and for the future. Let me suggest some tools you have at your disposal. Your financial gift: Making a donation to the FCCC will help complete the project in a timely fashion, and a bonus to your gift is that the Downing Matching Fund will equal what you give to the campaign, dollar for dollar, up to the Downing’s $2.3 million pledge. Your influence: Your influence and encouragement to a friend, family member or church will go a long way in assisting the FCCC. Sharing your influence to inspire financial gifts from others is needed as we approach the 100th anniversary of Falls Creek and seek to do so debt free. Your time: Take some time and bring someone to Falls Creek for an event. That person’s life could be changed for eternity. Use the environment of the camp itself. You have the privilege to be a part of a premier Christian camp. When people come to Falls Creek, they are blown away that a Christian camp of this size and beauty exists. Your Falls Creek story: You, a family member or your church all have a Falls Creek story. Share the story with someone—the amazing story of two men listening to God and sharing with others their passion for souls to come to know Jesus. Peak someone’s interest and even if they can’t go to Falls Creek, they will be blessed by what has happened there in your life. Your prayers: Prayer is a powerful tool. Since Rounds and Moorer prayed for the first time at Falls Creek under a strand of trees and asked God to reveal His will for the camp, prayer has been the foundation of Falls Creek. Please decide today to use the tools you have to complete the FCCC journey so that many more souls will be saved because you used all your tools to build a road to bring someone to Jesus. Contact Marty Harkey for more information about your gift for the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign at 405/516-4868,...

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Still Developing: The electric button

The “Bitter Enders” club was organized originally for a serious purpose. However, in due time, the club became more a form of recreation than a program of constructive work. The idea originated with W.D. Moorer. Fred McCaulley says, “Moorer was a man who believed in staying with a thing until he saw it through to a finish. He started the ‘Bitter Enders’ to enlist people in a program of study which would carry them right on through until the end of the encampment.” (Sights & Sounds of Falls Creek by J.M. Gaskin) McCaulley remembers when Jim H. Fisher, a Shawnee banker, was engaged in what was purported to be a fundraising program for improvement on the assembly grounds. Benches on which the “Bitter Enders” were seated had been previously wired and connected to a heavy-duty battery. At the proper moment, to bring the gag to a climax, Fisher said, “I will give $1,000—how many of you will join me?” Then the button was pushed and everyone stood up! (Sights & Sounds of Falls Creek by J.M. Gaskin) This year, the construction phase of the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign is coming to an end. Each month, we get closer to our goal of $4.7 million. The campaign thermometer now is over the $3.18 million mark. Now is the important push to see Phase I of the campaign completed. The Jordan Welcome Center, Thompson Family Lodge and Mathena Family Event Center buildings are almost completed, but the buildings need to be furnished before they are ready for use next year. By 2017, it is very possible to have the remaining debt eliminated for the R.A. Young Tabernacle and all these new buildings paid for completely. Your help is needed now more than ever. I want to ask, like the Shawnee banker, “How many of you will join me?” There isn’t an electric button, though, to motivate such immediate agreement the same way the banker did, but there are certainly great motivations and opportunities to give to the campaign. If you sponsor one of the unsponsored remaining seats in the R.A. Young Tabernacle at $500, the Downing matching fund will match your gift dollar for dollar.  With all the remaining seats sold, the goal would be near. There are also 50 sponsorship opportunities in the Thompson Family Lodge for furnishing rooms at $10,000 a room. Again, with the Downing matching money, your gift’s effectiveness doubles. Making payments over a few years is an option, as well. Your investment in the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign will reap eternal benefits for the new Christians who are saved in a seat you sponsor. This summer, there were 4,651 total decisions; 1,938 were professions of faith. Currently, 80,000 people attend Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center all year. With the completion of the new buildings, the new attendance norm is projected to be more than 120,000 a year. The result of your gift will be more missionaries in the field, and more ministers in the pulpit. That should push anyone’s button to give! Contact me for more information about your gift for the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign at 405/516-4868, mharkey@bgco.org, or toll free at...

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Still Developing: They blazed the way

“I’ll never forget that first assembly, for we blazed the way. We went on the train to what was called Rayford Switch, south of Davis. We crossed the river (Washita) in a boat, then took a wagon drawn by two mules to the grounds. There were about six or eight passengers. One was E.E. ‘Hot Dog’ Lee. The wagon stalled on one high hill. We all got out and Mr. Jones and ‘Hot Dog’ put their shoulders to the wheel to help get the wagon up the hill. We ate under a tent and met under brush arbors. We slept on canvass cots under a tarpaulin stretched between two trees. It was very primitive but lots of fun.” (From Sights & Sounds of Falls Creek by J.M. Gaskin) No roads, a handful of attendees, wagons, mules and sleeping under the stars have given way to the premier Christian encampment that we now call Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center. Each summer, more than 55,000 campers arrive in cars, church vans or chartered buses (not wagons drawn by mules). New roads lead into the camp (where there were none in 1917) where campers attend worship services in a state-of-the-art, 7,000-seat tabernacle (rather than a brush arbor). Laundry isn’t done in a 14-inch wash pan either with water from the creek. A new water tower, emblazoned with the logo of Falls Creek, provides 650,000 gallons of water at the twist of a handle. While Falls Creek is no longer primitive, the summer fun has not changed, just the way it is experienced. A 5K run, zip lines, canoeing, swimming, hiking, multiple climbing challenges, horseshoes, basketball, disc golf, skating and softball are a few of the choices. However, Falls Creek is more than eight weeks in the summer! It is a year-round conference center. Nearly as many people participate in conferences and retreats at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center at other times during the year as attend the youth encampments in the summer. What has never changed is Falls Creek’s spiritual foundation and motivation to see lost young people come to know Christ. That first year, J.B. Rounds and W.D. Moorer prayed for just one decision to show that God’s favor was on the camp. They saw twice what they prayed for—two decisions! This year, 4,651 decisions were made during the summer; 1,938 professions of faith and 507 calls to ministry. Since the opening of the R.A. Young Tabernacle in 2007, almost 56,000 young people have heard God’s call and made a decision for Christ; 19,000 were for salvation and almost 9,000 young people have answered the call to ministry. This summer, I had the privilege to share with campers and sponsors in the new Jordan Welcome Center how the new buildings will be used and some of the history of Falls Creek. It’s always exciting to hear a young person say, “this is my first year to come,” or hear sponsors tell how many decades they have appreciated coming to Falls Creek. As the 100th anniversary approaches, now would be a perfect time to show your appreciation for all of those who have blazed the way for us at Falls Creek by making a gift or multi-year pledge. Oh, that future generations will look back and say of us that we blazed the way for them to meet the Lord at Falls Creek. Contact me about your gift for the Falls Creek Centennial Campaign at 405/516-4868, mharkey@bgco.org, or toll free at...

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