This is a special weekend. Thousands are expected to make the trek to Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, near Davis, Okla., to celebrate 100 years of this special place.
Falls Creek is my happy place. So many memories, the rich tradition and heritage and the impact this place has made on so many in their spiritual journeys make the lengthy list of reasons that make this such an incredible setting where God has moved among a multitude of people since 1917.
In honor of Falls Creek’s Centennial Celebration, this week’s Doyle’s Half Dozen features six reasons why I love Falls Creek.
- Personal memories
My first experience of Falls Creek happened when I was in the 3rd grade. Young Musicians’ Camp was the occasion. I remember staying at McAlester, First’s cabin, which is still in the same location at Falls Creek and has a similar structure.
I went every summer after that, until my sophomore year in college, which means from 1978-1988. I also worked at Falls Creek for three summers. I was an umpire on the rec crew for my first summer job (’85), and then the last two years I worked on the sound crew, working the spotlights in the former open-air Tabernacle, up in the “crow’s nest.” I’ll share more about this experience, but when I look back on my impressionable stage of life, Falls Creek was a major part of those wonder years.
Let me stop here and offer a shameless plug. If you haven’t purchased 100 Years of Falls Creek: A Legacy of Faith, this is a great keepsake for anybody who values Oklahoma history, Southern Baptist history or, like me, has fond memories of the place.
On page 69 of 100 Years of Falls Creek, author Dana Williamson shares “…Film crews were at the camp as part of a CBS telecast about Southern Baptists. When producer Judy Crichton was asked why the crew came to Falls Creek, she explained she did about eight weeks of homework on Southern Baptists, and when she asked where the best Southern Baptist music could be found, Falls Creek got four stars.”
Many great songs were first sung at Falls Creek. Legendary hymns have Falls Creek connections. Victory in Jesus was written by E.M. Bartlett, the father of Gene Bartlett, longtime Falls Creek music leader. Glorious is Thy Name and Wherever He Leads I’ll Go were two of many hymns written by B.B. McKinney, another legendary song leader at Falls Creek.
Many who went to Falls Creek in the late ‘60s to the early ‘80s should recall singing Here is My Life, People to People, Pass It On, He’s Everything to Me, Holy Ground, People Need the Lord and other great hymns and praise songs.
And it’s not just the great songs of faith, but also the great singing that could be heard in the Tabernacle. When I worked the spotlights above the 5,000 people who filled the evening services every night, listening to that many voices sing praises to God was a powerful and unique experience I will always cherish.
- Legendary personalities
There are many great leaders who came to Falls Creek. Governors, Southern Baptist national leaders, well-known preachers – there are so many to mention, but either they were impacted when they were younger by time spent at Falls Creek, or they impacted many lives while at Falls Creek.
One of my favorite Falls Creek speakers is John Bisagno, former pastor of Del City, First Southern as well as Houston, Texas, First. His testimony includes making a profession of faith AND surrendering to ministry the same week he first went to Falls Creek. He made multiple appearances, and every time he spoke, God used him to challenge and stir the hearts of many young people.
- Fun and funny experiences
I could share quite a few funny Falls Creek stories. I remember running into a pack of skunks during one week at Falls Creek with my former sound crew boss, Joe Bill Johnson. Fortunately, they didn’t make themselves known to us, but I assure you, we weren’t there long enough to give them the opportunity.
One memorable experience my church youth group would do is fill a cup full of water and place it in the middle of a major walking strip outside our cabin. I know this may not sound all that exciting, but it was actually was a thrill to see how long it would take for the cup to spill in the middle of a multitude of evening strollers.
- Spiritual growth
I did not make a profession of faith or any major spiritual decision at Falls Creek, but I had the opportunity to council many who did. And God did use Falls Creek as a great retreat in my life and to do much spiritual renewal.
It also has been considered that more people have been called to serve in ministry and in mission work at Falls Creek than any other single location in the world. I have no difficulty believing that.
- Growing impact
Falls Creek has made an impact on thousands upon thousands of people in the last 100 years, but it doesn’t stop with this century. With all the changes, additions, modifications and lasting appeal to this place in the Arbuckle Mountains, Falls Creek continues to see more lives changes for Christ.
And I’m just thrilled to see how God uses this special place. My happy place.