Falls Creek was established in 1917 and is now the largest Christian youth camp in the world. I cannot express how much this place means to me. Located in the Arbuckle Mountains right next to the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, you’ll find about 5,000 kids here each week for the entire summer. Not just 5,000 total. 5,000 every single week. This place is huge. It’s like a town inside of a town. And chances are, if you have lived in Oklahoma for any significant amount of time, you know what Falls Creek is. If you go to a Baptist church, chances are even higher that you even went there yourself growing up.
Before I went to Falls Creek myself as a student, i heard about it. My mom and dad went when they were in high school. My cousins and aunts and uncles went. Even my grandparents went to Falls Creek when they were my age. And when it was finally my turn, I was so excited to see what the all fuss was about. I wasn’t disappointed. Nestled in the “mountains”, there are hundreds of individual cabins, a huge tabernacle, a creek to swim in (hence the name), ropes courses, rec fields, a prayer garden, etc. There’s even a coffee shop, but i’ll get to that later. Falls Creek operates differently than most church camps. Each church has their own individual cabin. You eat your meals there, and do your quiet times there, and any other actives specific to your own church. But every morning and evening, all the churches come together in a giant tabernacle to worship with an amazing band and hear an awesome speaker talk about Jesus. And during the day there are plenty of things to keep you entertained, and there is something for everyone. Volleyball tournaments, swimming, skating (in an actual skate park), a bake-off for the adults, a 5K for the runners, and if you’re not an outdoorsy person, there’s a (hopefully) air-conditioned coffee shop you can hang out in. There’s even pin trading (a very addicting hobby, I might add). Also, they sell icees that are the bomb.
There have been recent renovations to the camp, and currently, there is even a hotel (mainly for conference season), and an event center. It is by no means a small camp. There can definitely be drawbacks because of that, but this place is special to me. This place is different. The atmosphere is different. I went there 3 summers as a camper, and it had a huge impact on me every time. I have learned so many things about God and grown so much spiritually because of this place, and that was before i ended up working there.
As a camper, I never dreamed I would actually work at Falls Creek, although the thought did briefly cross my mind. My freshman year of college, I knew I needed a job, and Falls Creek kept popping up in my mind. It was definitely what you would call a “God thing.” I had no idea if I would get the job, but I knew I had to apply. And i am forever grateful that I did. I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t worked there. I remember driving there by myself, being absolutely terrified. I knew almost no one, I had no idea what to expect, but despite my anxiety, I was happy. Because I knew I was doing what God wanted me to do. Working at Falls Creek has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
When I worked at Falls Creek my first year, I was still struggling with the loss of my father earlier in the year. But despite that year being one of the hardest years of my life, I had one of the best summers of my life, and I owe it all to Falls Creek. I knew it would be good for me to get away from everything for a few months, and get a change of scenery. I worked at West End, the coffee shop on grounds, and although it was a pretty tiring job, I loved it. With that being said, working at a summer camp isn’t always the funnest job ever. It’s hot. It’s extremely exhausting. You rarely get time alone (which is difficult for an introvert like me). You don’t have much free time. You’re pretty much living dorm-room style with lots of people. You start to miss your own bed pretty quickly. You have to get used to living in a constant state of tiredness. There are days where you won’t want to work, but you have to anyway, because you don’t get days off during the week. You may even have to live with mice, or get chased by a skunk late at night walking up to the staff house (yikes). But the trade-off is so worth it. I’ve worked at Falls Creek for 2 summers and although neither summer was perfect, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I’ve met some pretty incredible people, and i’m truly thankful for every single one of them. I seriously don’t know what my life would be like without these people in it.
Working at Falls creek that first summer brought me out of the depression that I had been feeling, and gave me more happy memories in those short 2 months than i had had that entire year. Working there for a second summer was somehow even better. I’ve always struggled with God’s will. I always doubt my decisions, and i always wonder if what i’m doing in life is on path with what God wants me to do with my life. Working at Falls Creek was one of the first times that I knew without a doubt in my mind that I was where God wanted me to be, and I felt so much peace in that. God is definitely present at Falls Creek, and every summer has allowed me to rest in Him. The experience of Falls Creek is definitely just as much for the staff as it is for the students. I’ll never forget the people i have met, the staff house, the cold showers, the Sunday night sonic runs, dying my hair pink & blue, the weekend Ardmore trips, all the trips to Six Flags, Hastings visits, late night conversations that lasted way past curfew, all the card games during lunch and dinner, playing ping pong, star-gazing, running the 5k, helping clean up after the flood, (#floodsurvivor2015), making thousands (literally, thousands) of cups of coffee, the view of 5,000+ people all worshiping, getting to hear tons of great speakers, and being able to have a small part in this giant mission field.
When I first applied, I always assumed that my first summer would be my only summer working there. I didn’t anticipate the attachment I would form with this place. It’s truly one of my favorite places in the world. Seriously, if you ever have the opportunity to work at a camp, any camp, DO IT. I worked at Falls Creek for 2 summers in a row, and for some reason, I just can’t seem to get it out of my mind. Every time i think of it, I feel a tug on my heart that won’t go away. I have a feeling God isn’t finished with me there yet. Whether that is working there for the summer of 2017, or something else, I can’t wait to find out.