Oklahoma Baptists celebrate disaster relief volunteers, unveil Falls Creek project

Oklahoma's Southern Baptists, meeting at the 107th annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the convention's disaster relief program and officially unveiled a $12 million Falls Creek expansion project.
BY BILL SHERMAN Published: November 16, 2013

A sea of yellow shirts filled First Baptist Church as Oklahoma Baptists celebrated the 40th anniversary of their disaster relief program.

The celebration Monday was part of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's 107th annual meeting, which ended late Tuesday afternoon. The theme was “Serve.”

Sam Porter, who has headed the convention's disaster relief program since 1998, said it has been a busy year for the ministry.

He said the last Oklahoma volunteers helping to clean up homes after devastating floods in Colorado got back Nov. 7. Rotating teams of volunteers put in 10,097 man-hours to gut 520 flooded homes, he said.

Before that, they were helping Colorado fire victims, tornado victims in the Oklahoma City area and Hurricane Sandy victims on the East Coast.

About 450 volunteers, wearing signature yellow shirts, attended the celebration and banquet.

Laddie Adams, 82, founder of the ministry, was recognized, along with Gene Jones, of Anadarko, the only original volunteer who is still active in the ministry.

Falls Creek plan rises

James Swain, director of conference centers for the convention, announced a major building project that will be completed before the 100th anniversary of the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in 2017.

Swain said three major buildings will be added to the popular camp near Davis, expanding its ability to offer year-round retreats and conferences.

A large multipurpose conference center, the Mathena Family Event Center, will seat 2,000; a lodge and hotel called the Thompson Family Lodge will add 50 rooms; and a new Jordan Welcome Center will serve as the main office and check-in facility, the “front door to Falls Creek,” he said.

Some $10.5 million of the $12 million project already has been donated, he said.

Swain said Falls Creek is the largest youth camp program in the world, based on numbers of campers. More than 50,000 young people attend each summer. He also oversees the nearby Cross Timbers Children's Mission Adventure Camp, recently purchased by the convention from the Assemblies of God.

The Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the 1,800-church convention, said the monolithic dome planned for the new event center may be a bit of a surprise to some. He said the dome will be a good fit for Falls Creek for a variety of reasons, including cost-effectiveness and storm safety.

Marty Harkey, the convention's chief development officer, said monolithic domes are the most energy-efficient and safest buildings. He said one-foot-thick concrete insulation means the building will require smaller heating and cooling systems. He said this will help reduce the building's initial construction cost and result in significant operational savings.

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