EDMOND—“So what do you think?” the minister asked when his son paused while reading the manuscript. “Well, that definitely will get you fired,” his son responded.” It was July 1989, and the young 19-year-old was on a Y.E.S. camping trip with his father at Robbers Cave in southeastern Oklahoma during the summer break. But this turned out to be more than your everyday summer camping excursion. It became a pivotal moment in the history of God’s Church and marked Robbers Cave State Park as an important historical location for the Philadelphia Church of God.
“My dad picked me up at the airport and we drove directly to Robbers Cave in southeastern Oklahoma,” Evangelist Stephen Flurry wrote in Raising the Ruins. “For four months, my dad had been working on his paper, telling no one about it. When he picked me up on July 14, he had a rough draft of Malachi’s Message tucked away in his briefcase, in the trunk of the car. During the drive, he told me about a number of other things going on in the Church—again, things I was totally unaware of. He later said he wanted me to read something he had written that explained all of this.”
Stephen Flurry put off reading the paper until Sunday morning, a few hours before they left the campsite. “After getting a synopsis of its contents from my father, I was nervous and a little scared about reading it. That’s why I put it off,” Mr. Flurry said. He sat down to read inside their cabin, the one next to where he and his family now stay when they visit Robbers Cave every year along with the rest of Herbert W. Armstrong College.
“As I read, I could tell my dad was anxiously awaiting any kind of feedback. He was very fidgety—constantly in and out of the cabin, trying to ‘keep busy’ while I took the time to read” (ibid). Before it was time to leave, Mr. Stephen Flurry read through about half of the manuscript.
Right there, in that cabin at Robbers Cave Campsite Number One, the revelation in Malachi’s Message was being shared for the first time. After the death of Mr. Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God was being torn apart; yet off in remote rural Oklahoma, the first person besides Mr. Gerald Flurry was learning God’s revelation about what was really happening.
“I think I still have the first manuscript I received after we printed the first 1,000 [copies of Malachi’s Message ],” Mr. Stephen Flurry said. “But as for that stack of typewritten papers he handed me that weekend at Robbers Cave, I’m not sure where those ended up.”
“Its content certainly rang true,” he wrote in Raising the Ruins, “it was inspiring in fact—but I couldn’t yet commit to accepting the material without first digging into Mr. Armstrong’s foundational teachings. [My dad] agreed the content would undoubtedly get him fired. But believing it was from God, he fully intended to deliver the message to church leaders in Pasadena.”
The manuscript indeed got then-Preaching Elder Gerald Flurry fired on Dec. 7, 1989. The Philadelphia Church of God was raised up less than five months after Malachi’s Message was first delivered to his son at that wooded campsite. Because of this history-shaping event, Robbers Cave has become a significant landmark for the pcg. Herbert W. Armstrong College has retreated to the campsite almost every year since 2002, and Mr. Stephen Flurry has never missed a campout.
Every year, he returns to the campsite with his family and dozens of others whose lives were also changed by that book he was the first to read nearly 25 years ago: Malachi’s Message.
“Every time I go back to Robber’s Cave, I can’t help but think about all that has happened since that initial reading,” he said. “What a work God has raised up!”