Mathena Hall honors gospel legacy of pastors, evangelists and missionaries

FORT WORTH Even before entering the newest building on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the sidewalk tells the stories of 25 Southern Baptist missionaries who died for their faith. Displayed along the Martyrs’ Walk are the images and testimonies of each person, conveying the serious commitment expected of those who follow a call to ministry.

Home to the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, the L. R. Scarborough College and the Richard D. Land Center for Cultural Engagement, Mathena Hall features flexible smart classrooms, faculty offices, and conference rooms decorated with stories and mementoes to represent the priorities of pastors, evangelists and missionaries who first served in the context of local church ministry.

Harold Mathena and his wife, Patricia, members of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, gave the $12 million lead gift to launch the project. Mathena was relatively poor in his early years, working as a roughneck in the oil industry and later serving in the pastorate. The oil industry manufacturing company he began to support his evangelistic ministry was sold in 2012 for $200 million which he tithed to his local church, consistent with stewardship principles he practiced all his life.

“It’s an amazing thing…that a cotton-picker from East Texas would be able to participate in such an endeavor as this; to join so many of you in accomplishing so much,” Mathena told a chapel audience Oct. 18. “It is nothing short of miraculous.”

Those funding partners were rallied by Southwestern Seminary First Lady Dorothy Patterson, whose efforts provided significant contributions to offer homages to the legacies of past and current ministers of the gospel. As current students train for future ministry, they are being challenged to learn from the examples of men and women who came before them, and go into the world to join the legacy of spreading the message of Christ.

As the ribbon-cutting crowd began touring the building, the reconstructed home of missionary Lottie Moon from Pingtu, China, took center stage on the first floor. A familiar name to Southern Baptists who annually have given to an international missions offering in her name since 1918, Moon won the respect of the Chinese people in the 1800s when she served much of her 40-year tenure alone in a patriarchal society that failed to value women. 

The tile shingles from her house, some of Moon’s furniture, letters she wrote appealing for more workers and even a tea cookie recipe left visitors like June Richards of Keller, practically speechless. Short on words, she took to Twitter to show the scene.

“Amazing—tears are in my eyes. Thank you @swbts! I will be back!” she wrote, telling the TEXAN she intends to take all of her grandchildren through every inch of the house. 

Hearing a video of medical missionary Rebekah Naylor impersonating the missionary to China, Richards said, “I thank the Lord for allowing them to get this together so that we could look back on the legacy just as they used to put stones out to remember someone.” 

Southwestern Seminary trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert of Georgetown prayed that many would come to Christ because of the call of the Lord on the lives of “men and women preparing to preach the Word and go into the world with the gospel.” 

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