It’s been four years.
1,462 days have passed since the last time I was there. In that time I’ve almost wrecked a marriage, fixed it, worked at three jobs, left a church, found a new church, gone back to college, and adopted two kids.
I’ve ended a ministry, and started a new one. The former, teenagers. The latter, senior adults.
The last time I was there, Flour on the Roof happened.
The last time I went, we left early on a Monday morning. This time, I’ll be arriving on a Wednesday night. Last time, I was excited. This time…
The place I’m talking about is Falls Creek, Oklahoma.
For those that don’t know, Falls Creek is a youth church camp that is based near Davis, Oklahoma. For those that do know, there’s nothing more to be added. It is a wonderful camp, full of wonderful kids that spend the week battling heat and hormones, and trying to build a closer relationship with God.
In short, this place is amazing.
So why have I waited four years to go back?
Well, the answer to that is a bit complicated. The way I figured it, the Youth Minister that took my place at Okay was a nice enough guy to let me go back with them if I wanted to. Especially after I sorted my personal issues out. However, I couldn’t justify in mind tagging along with him while he was trying to rebuild some of the trusts that I’d broken. To me, it is the equivalent of a pastor ceasing his ministry at a church, then continuing to go to church there. I just didn’t think it was right, and so I didn’t ask.
“Okay, but Travis, aren’t you going back with that same church tonight?”
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the YM that took my place has left, and the family that replaced him I have known literally my entire life, and also, 99% of the kids that were there when I was there have passed through by now. So I’m taking our newly saved and baptized daughter down for some “precious memories,” as my mother-in-law so contemptuously corrected me a few nights ago.
And when I took Akeeli up to the church the other night to get everything registered, one of the ladies doing the paperwork looked at me and said, “Did you have to do all of this when you were running things?” As she said it, she had a look in her eye that was something akin to a wildebeest cornered by several large and not-yet-vegan African lions.
I looked at her and smiled and said yes, fondly recalling how much I love it. All of the planning, the waiting until the last second on registrations, that one kid that would come running up on Monday morning ten minutes before we left and wanting to go. I. Loved. It.
So why am I nervous?
Falls Creek is almost like a living thing. It’s an entity, it experiences growth and change almost exponentially. And so I’m half afraid that it’s grown out of me. But another real reason is that I’m afraid I’ll get down there and realize that I’ve grown out of it.
I would love to one day return to the Youth Ministry field. That’s a long way away, but I know that if I return to it, I’ll more than likely be taking kids to Falls Creek. I have a heart for teenagers, and I know that FC is the best place for them when it comes to high intensity spiritual conditioning.
But what if I’m over it? What if I get down there, look around, and say, “Wow. This is so different. I can’t stand this.”
It seems silly and trivial, I know. But it is a genuine concern of mine, and the main reason for my nervousness. I’m sure I’ll get down there, take a deep breath, turn my phone off, and realize that FC is still the best place in Oklahoma. And I can’t wait to see my daughter’s face as she experiences the sounds, the sights, the smells, and…her very first icee date, which will be with me.
So I’ll leave work tonight, pick up our daughter, go home and grab our bags, and head out to Falls Creek, where I’ll make…
…The Return. Pray for me.
I am spinning a yarn today that is woven from the fine thread of revenge. Sit back, have a mug of coffee or cocoa, and read on, Edgar Allen style.
I was once a youth minister at Okay First Baptist Church. I lost that job because I was an idiot. I’ve changed a bit in the last few years, kind of wandered a bit, but just because I use a few bad words here and there doesn’t make me any more of a sinner than the next guy.
One of my responsibilities was to take the teenagers to church camp every year. The camp we went to is called Falls Creek. You may have heard of it, you may not. It’s a blast. If I had to pick the one thing that I miss the most of being a YM, the time with the kids there would be it.
Pranks are a big deal at church camp. If I had to pick a priority order, they’d come in just under God Himself.
Some pranks are funny, some are tolerable, and some are just downright stupid. As the YM, and having been in a prank when I was a kid in the camp that involved me running balls naked from the shower and tackling another kid, I had to set some ground rules about acceptable pranking.
Also water guns were allowed at the camp, and no water balloons because another church in Muskogee, I won’t say whom, blasted the camp director in the face with a water balloon one year. Yeah… He wasn’t a happy camper (chuckle).
Anyhow, no shower pranks, no nude pranks, no messing up others bedding, and no shaving cream pranks were allowed. This left options limited…unless you’re a girl.
You see, girls have certain…ahem…items that they should always take to church camps, just in case. Being girls, these…items don’t bother them because they use them in the natural order of life, womanhood, and all that jazz.
However, the items in question are often not used in the natural order of things, and are instead used to do other things, mainly torture boys with.
|Talkin’ bout tampons, y’all.
One night the girls decided that they were going to play a prank on us. It consisted of them sitting outside our door with an air horn and blowing it until one of the kids got fed up enough to go outside and do something about it.
To be fair, I warned the kid not to. Being a veteran, I knew what was waiting. I knew there were about fifteen girls out there armed to the teeth, and that somehow tampons would be present in that armory.
I told him to calm down. I told him there’d be tampons. In the end, he just couldn’t take the stress anymore. He made a decision.
He went out with his head held high, and he paid dearly for it. Yelling his head off, he walked straight into some saran wrap laced with shaving cream, then took 25 tampons to the face. It was humiliating. He came back in the bunk a changed man.
I couldn’t let that go.
I was going to punish them because they used shaving cream, but The Missus would have none of it. She believed tampons were fair in love and war, and so I just decided to let it ride, and we plotted our revenge.
I’ll give you the way it went down, from the girl’s perspective.
Editor’s note, April 2013: There is absolutely no way I’d allow this to be done again. Looking back and remembering, it was the dumbest thing I ever let the kids do, and one time I let them in hotel rooms with stocked mini bars, so that tells you something. If something had happened, woo. But the only thing that happened was pure awesomeness.
We had a new guy with us that year, Harlan Johnson, who happened to be the guy that took my place when I left the church. He was the “bait.”
The girls were having a nice, quiet awards ceremony that The Missus had dreamed up for edifying purposes.
Harlan came running full-tilt from the dorm through the commons area and out the front door with a few of us guys in tow. I ran out chasing him in my socks, slipped, and slid across a polished floor into some tables.
That was not planned, but it wound up being effective in luring the girls outside. And bruising me.
We chased him outside where we caught him, and started tying him to a basketball pole. This also caused all the girls to come outside to see what was going on.
And then, from the middle of the fracas, the code word was yelled!
Suddenly, boys appeared from everywhere. It was like that scene from The Rock where the people doing the rescuing are down in the pit and the bad guys are on top and Ed Harris is all like “WE HAVE THE HIGH GROUND JUST SURRENDER!” and no one surrenders and then there’s a massacre only we didn’t give them a chance to surrender, no, not after the Great Tamponing of 2008.
|“NOW YOU’RE BEING GIVEN YOUR LAST CHANCE BY A MAN WITH A GUN.”
Part of the young men were on water duty. They came out of a trailer we used to haul stuff in and covered the girls head to toe with water. Soaked them up real well…and then…
FLOUR ON THE ROOF.
We had agents stationed on the roof with tons of leftover flour from the kitchen. As it rained down on the soaked young ladies, I was reminded of snow…and of winter.
|Obviously an update. Still appropriate.
The flour covered the girls, and unfortunately most of the awards they were given, turning everyone and everything into a sticky sort of glue. The girls, being ever brilliant, quickly decided to start hugging the guys, and since teenage boys LIVE for hugs from girls, their dichotomous natures betrayed them and they ended up floury as well.
A group was outside their cabin having devotion when all of this happened. In retrospect, I feel really bad for that YM. You really can’t bring your kids back to Jesus after they’ve just witnessed Falls Creek history.
They loved it though, and were really excited about it. One of them even claimed to have gotten the whole thing on video and agreed to send it to us. We never got it. I like to think though that somewhere out there is a church who has a Flour on the Roof Sunday, where they put the tape in and watch it, laughing hysterically.
We spent the rest of the evening and into the wee hours cleaning flour from our patio, the cabin next door, the van, and everywhere but our minds. The flour on our minds will live in infamy.
Immediately after, The Missus and I had an enormous fight about ruining her awards ceremony (which I still feel kind of bad about), and the fact that I violated almost every rule at the camp in one fell swoop.
1. No running in the cabins
2. No yelling in the cabins
3. No tying people to things
4. No water throwing unless in designated areas
5. No wasting of precious food commodities
6. NO KIDS ON THE ROOF
and the list really just goes on.
The rest of the week, all that was talked about, aside from God, was Flour on the Roof, and its other name, The Battle at Finkery Hill. To my knowledge, it has never been topped, nay attempted, ever. I don’t think it ever will be.Unless some poor sap lets me take kids to Falls Creek again.
|It was like Scarface sneezed on our cabin.