The strains of “To God be the Glory, Great Things He has Done,” reverberated through the Jenny V. Massey Chapel in the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center Tabernacle, as Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma board members rose and spontaneously sang the praise hymn after being presented a $2 million check by Hobby Lobby, Inc. Sept. 25.
The check, accepted by BGCO Executive Director Anthony L. Jordan, will be used for the purchase of the Newburn Conference Center, a youth camp located just south of the approximately 450-acre Falls Creek grounds.
In presenting the check, Lauren McAfee, daughter of Hobby Lobby’s president, Steve Green, and granddaughter of CEO David Green, said “So many great things happen at camp that we are delighted to give this gift.” Lauren’s husband, Michael, who was also present, is young adult pastor at Bethany, Council Road.
“This gift from Hobby Lobby and the Green family is an answer to prayer,” said Jordan. “We have sought the Lord’s leading as to how we can further expand our impact and reach in the Falls Creek area, and we are grateful beyond words for their generosity, which makes it possible.
Of the major gift, Steve Green, a Southern Baptist, said, “Throughout the years, we have been privileged to invest in the work of the BGCO through Falls Creek. The opportunity to help the Falls Creek ministry through this gift brings us great joy. We see this as a win-win for everyone.”
With this gift, Hobby Lobby becomes the leading donor in the history of the BGCO. The Green family and Hobby Lobby previously donated to the BGCO’s capital campaign for construction at Falls Creek in excess of $3 million.
“We have been in consultation with Hobby Lobby and the Green family for a number of months regarding this incredible gift,” said Jordan. “The nature of this gift and its timing couldn’t have been better, and the camp property will mesh perfectly into the long-range development plans for our Conference Centers as a whole.”
The Newburn Center, near Turner Falls, was used as a summer camp by the Assemblies of God. It’s a 28-acre wooded site with Honey Creek from Turner Falls running through the property.
During the board meeting, members voted to relocate CrossTimbers Children’s Missions Camp, which now operates in McAlester, to the new location and to sell the current CrossTimbers property.
“The new property, has the potential to more than double the capacity for students, (dorms will accommodate approximately 500 campers) and because the new camp is well-maintained and in very good condition, CrossTimbers is able to shift to the new location for summer 2013,” said Jordan. “One of the great advantages is the proximity to Falls Creek. Co-locating the camps enables Conference Center staff to serve both facilities with an economy of scale.”
Board members toured the new property, including the cafeteria, which will seat 400, an office/meeting area with additional kitchen facilities and dorms downstairs, an outdoor tabernacle seating about 500-600 and a canteen/concessions area which will house a camp store and concessions.
There is plenty of room for recreation, with plans to build a swimming pool larger than the one at CrossTimbers, and to create a place for water sports in Honey Creek.
Jordan said the tabernacle can become an enclosed, climate-controlled structure, making the property a medium-sized camp that can be used all year.
“This is a historic day for us,” Jordan told board members. “When I walk on these Falls Creek grounds, I am overwhelmed with the goodness and grace of God. We had the greatest summer in the history of Falls Creek with almost 2,500 coming to faith in Christ. I’m continually amazed driving into this camp and realizing God continues to have His hand on Falls Creek.”
Jordan also noted the extraordinary summer at CrossTimbers with a record 622 decisions, including 326 professions of faith.
“Today, because of the generosity of one of Oklahoma’s great families, we will open a new place and see children walk on those grounds and be impacted in that place,” he said. “It’s not so much the grounds we walk on, but that throughout history, God has chosen to come to this place year after year and sit down among us and do a great work.”
Jordan reminded that Falls Creek will celebrate 100 years of camp in 2017.
“When the history of camp and Heaven’s records are read, we will see that Oklahoma Baptists loved us and provided a place where thousands have come to know Christ,” he declared. “When children and adults find one sane place where the world doesn’t crowd in on them, and they hear that God loves them and can use them, He does a deep work that can’t be explained in human terms.
“We are grateful that we, of all people, who are not the greatest or biggest, are the most blessed, and we give thanks to God for it.”