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Midwestern receives $7M gift toward student center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — In what President Jason Allen called an answer to prayer for one of the “most significant institutional needs” since Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s inception in 1957, the school has received a $7 million pledge from an Oklahoma family for a new student center.

Allen said he could not adequately express gratitude to God for His providence in uniting the seminary with Harold and Patricia Mathena of Oklahoma City who have pledged $7 million to Midwestern Seminary as a lead gift toward an approximately $14 million student center.

“This is one of the largest gifts in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and in the history of theological education in North America as a whole,” Allen said in announcing the Methenas’ gift Aug. 25.

“This gift is an answer to over two years of prayer on my part and, in a very real way, to Southern Baptists’ prayers since 1957 when, in our seminary’s founding documents, the Board of Trustees expressed their desire to build a facility for student and family life as soon as possible,” Allen said.

“It is clear to me in the way God has worked throughout this process that His special favor is upon Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “And through the singular generosity of the Mathenas in committing to this $7 million lead gift, we are able to pursue a student center here at this strategic juncture in Midwestern Seminary’s life.

“This new building is an urgency given our record enrollment growth the past two years,” he said.

Allen said that after nearly a year of master planning for the campus, it became apparent that in addition to the need for faculty relocation to the heart of campus and more single-student housing, the most pressing need for Midwestern Seminary is a student center. However, without a lead gift to kick-start the effort, it would be impossible.

This is where God had already begun to move for a solution. Through a series of events and common friendships, Allen was introduced to the Mathenas. This past year, preaching opportunities at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and at other Oklahoma and Missouri venues enabled Allen to get to know the Mathenas more personally.

“This is a remarkable story of God’s providence, wherein He kept allowing our paths to cross,” Allen said.

Harold Mathena — who founded Mathena, Inc., an oilfield mud-gas pressure control solutions company and who has been a bivocational pastor/evangelist — noted that it took quite some time for him and Allen to meet in person. All along, however, conversations with his wife, family, pastor, godly advisers and friends were planting seeds that would eventually confirm the decision to make the gift.

Speaking of the interactions he had with others before meeting Allen, Mathena said, “I mentioned these conversations to say that I have observed in Scripture, and in my everyday experiences, that God blesses a man, whether in ministry or in business. God’s good hand rests upon a man. I have observed that struggling churches, ministries and businesses can be salvaged and turned around by a man whose heart is stayed on God.”

In February, Mathena met and sat down with Allen and his wife Karen for the first time during a meal in Oklahoma City.

“I had the opportunity to hear what God was doing and what Dr. Allen believed that God was going to do with this great institution in equipping and preparing young men and women for ministry in the local church,” Mathena said. “God began speaking to my heart about how we could help and be a part of Jason’s vision.”

Mathena continued, “Weeks and months passed and one day in July, Jason and Charles Smith [Midwestern Seminary’s vice president of institutional relations] came to our house and shared with us the need for a student center at Midwestern. God impressed upon us that this was something we would enjoy being a part of, and so now we are pleased to pledge a gift of $7 million toward the total cost of building the student center at Midwestern Seminary.”

The proposed student center of approximately 40,000 square feet will hold a gymnasium, recreation and fitness areas, cafeteria, bookstore, student commons area and space for additional staff or faculty offices.

In discussing a timeframe that a student center could be operational on campus, Allen said, “There is still much, much work to do, including raising the additional funds needed. As we plan to accomplish this project debt-free, we are praying God will raise up men and women across the SBC and beyond to partner with us.”

For more information about Midwestern Seminary and the proposed student center, contact Charles Smith in the office of institutional relations at [email protected].

The Mathenas’ $7 million gift is among a number of key junctures at Midwestern in recent months, including:

— The distinction of being one of 12 schools cited by the Association of Theological Schools as experiencing enrollment growth of 50 percent or more during the past five years.

“The closer one evaluates this ATS report, the better the news gets for Midwestern Seminary,” Allen told the seminary’s trustees in mid-April. “Among seminaries with enrollments totaling 500 or more students, Midwestern Seminary is recognized as the fastest-growing institution in North America.”

Admissions office statistics showed Midwestern’s headcount and course hours sold for Spring 2015 as growing by nearly 20 percent over the previous year.

— The completion of nearly $3 million in construction projects this summer, including renovation of Midwestern’s administrative wing which will house the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching (http://spurgeoncenter.com) and the 19th-century British preacher’s library of more than 6,000 books as well as hundreds of artifacts, letters and assorted materials. The Spurgeon Center’s dedication will be Oct. 20.

— A Sept. 28-29 symposium titled “The SBC and the 21st Century” with an array of featured speakers, including Ronnie Floyd, Frank S. Page, Paige Patterson, Thom Rainer, R. Albert Mohler Jr., David S. Dockery, John Yeats, Anthony Jordan, Jim Richards, Paul Chitwood and Tim Lubinus.

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  • T. Patrick Hudson