Standing in the rustic wilderness of the Arbuckle Mountains in 1917, it would have been hard to imagine that the rocky trails, dense tree stands and thorny undergrowth would ever produce much more than a significant challenge for hikers. But the call of faith is the call to see what cannot be readily seen; to look beyond the realm of what man thinks can be done, to the realm of what God ordains must be done. It was such a call that caused J.B. Rounds and W.D. Moorer to see the desire God had for the trails and trees and to pursue that call to fruition.
Rounds and Moorer first viewed the Falls Creek property in a photograph on a barber shop wall in Davis, Oklahoma. They were immediately attracted to the 160 acre parcel and agreed it was the place for the annual Summer meetings of the Baptist Young People’s Union. The state convention had expressed its desire for such a permanent encampment, and now, fueled by faith, these two men began pursuing that desire. Their faith in the vision was evident from the beginning. Investing their own money to secure the purchase of the property, they then put their hands to the plow…literally. Rounds and his sons built a half-mile road from Price Falls to what would become the center of the assembly grounds.
Historians indicate that in July of 1917 rumblings of opposition arose from those who had not yet grasped the vision. Parents questioned the wisdom of sending their children to such a desolate area. While never doubting that they had received “the call” from God, Rounds and Moorer did begin to question their own ability to accurately interpret that call. They needed affirmation.
Historical writers recount the dynamic moment as Moorer visited with Rounds about the camp in late July of 1917.
They walked together up Buzzard Hill, the place where they had first decided was the ideal place for an encampment. All the way up, they discussed the multitude of things which were wrong with the location.
On the top of the hill they turned the place over to God. Moorer prayed that they would know God’s will in the matter, and be willing to abide by it. Rounds felt as if he had to know something definite. So he worded his prayer carefully out of a burdened heart:
“Father, we’ve worked hard for this assembly, and we both love it too much. We might not be able to see your will. If you would have Oklahoma Baptists go on with an assembly at Falls Creek, show us, Father, so that we will know. Let us have at least one conversion.”
One early report indicates that 273 persons registered for the first assembly. On the last Sunday, Rounds baptized Pearl and Bonnie Bruebaker, who lived on a farm nearby; not one conversion, as he had prayed, but two.
The affirmation of the call has continued. The summer of 2006 witnessed 44,002 campers at Falls Creek with 5,243 making public decisions for Christ. Since 1917 over 1.8 million people have walked these grounds resulting in over 200,000 conversions and life-changing decisions for Christ during the summer encampments alone. More missionaries have experienced their call to a lifetime of service at Falls Creek than at any other place on the face of the earth.
The vision of a youth encampment in the Arbuckle Mountains was a means to an end. “The call” was not simply to build a camp, as challenging as that may have been. No, the call was the same as it was to the apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration – “Go and make disciples.” The Great Commission is the foundational call of God upon which every endeavor of Christendom must be built.
That vision…that original call…has been the driving force behind Falls Creek since 1917. Programming, facilities, philosophies and personnel have regularly expanded and refocused to meet the ever changing needs of the Baptist family and those to whom they minister.
From a Summer encampment for the B.Y.P.U. 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 and the call grows with each new year. In 1917, after that first affirming Summer, Baptist leaders prophesied 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.