Falls Creek centennial: Oklahoma Baptists share camp memories
DAVIS -- Oklahoma Baptists -- both the young and young at heart -- sang the praises of Falls Creek at the Homecoming Service held on Sunday, Sept. 3, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the conference center nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains.
"It's a place where God meets people," said Connie Crew, a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church..
Crew was part of a group from the south Oklahoma City church who stopped at the fried pies shop at the base of the mountains on the way to Falls Creek.
Her comments were echoed by others in many ways as more than 5,000 people came together to mark the centennial of the encampment founded in 1917.
Anna Colburn, 16, said she first visited Falls Creek several years ago. She said she was new to Oklahoma and had just finished her first year of high school.
Colburn said she visited the conference center with First Baptist Church of East Lawton and became connected to her faith.
"Falls Creek has a vibe that nowhere else has. It has a godly vibe," Colburn said. "Falls Creek is why I got closer to God and I got baptized."
Her friend, Brandi Nielsen, also 16, from First Baptist-East Lawton, said she last visited the encampment in 2014 and enjoyed being surrounded by the Christian atmosphere.
Janese Maness, 65, of First Baptist Felt, said she hadn't visited the conference center for eight years and she was pleasantly surprised at the improvements and expansion that had occurred since then. Maness said she often came as a cook for her church's youth group.
"It's almost mind-boggling," she said.
Prior to the Homecoming Service, she searched for a memorial brick that was dedicated in memory of her son Kyle. Maness said her son, who was 19 when he died in 2000, "loved coming here."
Bethany resident Delane Jordan, 60, said she, too, visited Falls Creek as a cook for youth groups from Lakeview Baptist Church in Guthrie.
She said she remembered attending evening worship services in the old open-air tabernacle and making sure to bring a pillow to place on the wooden pews for sitting. Jordan laughed as she recalled "shooing off the bees and wasps" that sometimes found their way to the old tabernacle.
Kenny Jones of Moore said he remembered coming to the camp in 1973 and staying in an old clapboard cabin with screened-in porches that belonged to his church Virginia Avenue Baptist in Bartlesville.
"It was a really unique experience. You get to tune the whole world out and you are surrounded by a Christian environment," he said.
Jones said he is currently the mail room manager for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which owns and operates Falls Creek.
He said he has noticed that youth camp enrollment packets come from all across the state and beyond -- from places like Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Tennessee. The conference center's popularity continues to grow, he added.
"Falls Creek has attracted kind of a following. There's no other place like it"