Anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 students attend a camp at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Oklahoma each summer. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic made large, overnight gatherings impossible. Since students couldn’t come to Falls Creek, camp organizers took Falls Creek to them. Fourteen Falls Creek Road Shows made stops around the state.
“I thought the whole Road Show experience was really positive on a number of levels,” said Todd Sanders, Falls Creek program director. “All of us coming together as Oklahoma Baptists made a well-rounded event a success.”
Sanders reported 426 total decisions were recorded from all 14 Road Shows. These included 120 professions of faith in Christ, 107 calls to ministry and 199 other spiritual decisions. Total attendance for all 14 Road Shows was 3,240 students, church leaders and Oklahoma Baptists ministry partners.
Sanders credited associational leaders and church leaders who worked with the many Oklahoma Baptist partners, including Baptist Collegiate Ministries and Oklahoma Baptist University, for the great results from the Road Shows.
“From my seat, I couldn’t be more pleased with people’s investment and involvement,” Sanders said. “Everyone was willing to make something like this happen.
“We wanted to platform the gospel and offer an invitation. We also wanted to offer students an opportunity to connect with missions and ministry.”
Sanders said what helped students answer the call to ministry was hearing Caleb Freeman’s testimony. The 19-year-old, along with his father Jeremy Freeman, pastor of First Baptist in Newcastle, Okla., shared how he miraculously recovered from a severe car accident in December 2017.
The Road Shows also shared a video featuring two Oklahoma Baptists who are now serving in international missions. Brian Baldwin, student evangelism and missions partner for Oklahoma Baptists, gave a missions mobilization emphasis at each Road Show.
“Through all of these (presentations), we have seen many students express that they feel called to some kind of ministry,” Sanders said.
While COVID-19 restrictions meant that the Road Shows could not include a conventional invitation time, like what would be done during a Falls Creek camp week, church leaders counseled students with their church groups, and then turned in decision cards to student ministry partners.
“The important work happens after the event as our churches help these students sort through these decisions and help them grow through them,” Sanders said. “It’s encouraging to see that, because when we proclaim the gospel, we offer an invitation, and students respond. It’s just a powerful reminder that no matter what happens, the gospel doesn’t stop. We can’t do camp the normal way, but we can still proclaim the gospel, and when you do that and offer an invitation, people will respond.”
Falls Creek Road Shows were a result of contingency planning. In March, when the pandemic was beginning to affect the whole country, Sanders and other group leaders, as well as Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer for Oklahoma Baptists, and other leaders began planning what to do if the Falls Creek summer weeks could not happen.
“Dr. Dilbeck presented the idea of the Road Show, and that is what stuck,” Sanders said. “I don’t think we referred to it necessarily as ‘Road Show’ at the time or even knew what that meant.”
On May 18, Oklahoma Baptists made the call they didn’t want to make: canceling the summer activities at Falls Creek. Leadership started planning how to do a Road Show, as well as offer Virtual Falls Creek for interested church groups. Virtual Falls Creek, Sanders said, includes group Bible studies, sermon and worship set videos, breakout video content and other resources to help churches have a student camp event. Resources are still available to do Virtual Falls Creek at oklahomabaptists.org/fallscreek2020.
“Within a week, we had a lot of details laid down with locations, production, staging and personalities,” Sanders said. “Again, this is a testimony of the fact that people were willing to jump in no matter what and say, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”
Through the middle of June, leadership worked on finalizing the Road Show, making sure churches and associations were ready to host. Sanders also made sure each event was responding properly to COVID-19 and reopening protocols.
One special segment that happened at each Road Show featured a video with messages to graduating high school seniors from well-known Oklahoma Baptists and Falls Creek personalities.
U.S. Senator James Lankford, former Miss America Lauren Nelson-Faram, North American Mission Board leader Shane Pruitt, as well as state pastors and Falls Creek worship leaders and speakers gave encouraging messages for the Class of 2020.
“I wanted to find ways to make the Road Show more meaningful for graduates,” Sanders said. Such recognition is a regular feature of a typical Falls Creek student week, helping to prepare graduates for their next step in life.
Through the 14 Road Shows, participants gave $6,662.76 to a missions offering, which supports Baptist Global Relief efforts with Venezuelan refugees. The offering also will support GoStudents mission projects in 2021.
“The Road Show was amazing,” said Joshua Henderson, associate pastor of First Baptist of Westville, Okla. “It meant so much to me and my students. We had several students who want to rededicate their lives to Christ, get baptized and even one profession of faith.”
Joey Zodrow, student pastor at First Baptist Collinsville, Okla., said the Road Show was “exactly what our group needed to lift us out of the doldrums of the pandemic. Thank you so much for making these tour stops happen.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is the managing editor for the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)