News Articles

Prof takes citizenship oath after 19 years in America

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Although Margaret “Mops” Lawson hasn’t been traveling lately, faculty and staff members from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of educational ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, gathered Nov. 14 to celebrate her homecoming.

Lawson, a native of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), recently took the oath of American citizenship after residing in the United States for 19 years.

“You’ve been a part of our hearts for a long time and we’re glad you are now officially a part of our country,” said Daryl Eldridge, dean of the educational ministries school. “This has been some journey. This process has taken many years and we are delighted that it has come to this conclusion.”

Eldridge presented Lawson with a book of Norman Rockwell’s paintings and a star-spangled hat.

“I don’t think the reality of what’s going on has set in yet,” Lawson said, joking, “I’m not used to giving a speech wearing a hat, for one.

“But I appreciate all of you so much. Thank you.”

Budd Smith, professor of foundations of education, said, “We would have liked to have all been present at the citizenship ceremony in Dallas, but we found out that there would be no room for an audience so we decided to have something special here.”

Lawson’s road from Africa to the Texas seminary has been long. She taught high school English and biology before responding to God’s call to educational ministry.

“I committed to missions and ministry, though I didn’t quite know what that meant, in 1967 when Dr. Bud Fray was preaching a revival at our church,” she said. Fray was a career missionary with two degrees from Southwestern. “God continued to put people in my life who directed me to ministry.”

She entered the ministry and had served in educational ministry for several years when she left her position as coordinator of Christian education with the Baptist Union of South Africa to study at Southwestern in 1983.

“Many of the missionaries who came [to Rhodesia] were teaching principles I didn’t know and they all told me they got their education at Southwestern,” she said. “Dr. Fray was the area director for eastern and southern Africa and he encouraged me to go to seminary and get more education.”

Fray later served as professor of missions at Southwestern.

“When Mops first came to us as a student, several of us realized that God had given us a unique gift in her,” Smith said, “in that she had knowledge and abilities rarely seen that could eventually benefit our school and denomination. We encouraged her into the doctoral program realizing that God was going to do something very special with her life.”

Lawson earned a master of arts in religious education in 1986 and a doctor of philosophy in religious education from Southwestern in 1994. She has taught classes at Southwestern since 1990, served as minister of education at five churches and devoted many hours to volunteer ministries.

Lawson now teaches various courses in foundations of education, focusing on purpose-driven curriculum. She hopes to compile a textbook on designing church curriculum in the near future.

“Curriculum is dynamic. Before you get a book published on how to structure it, it changes,” she said. “But there are principles that can apply more broadly.”

Ironically, Lawson hopes to celebrate her citizenship by traveling.

“Zimbabwe would not renew my passport, so until I got my U.S. citizenship I couldn’t go out of the country,” she said. “I hope to take some academic trips, such as a summer study in Oxford or maybe even a mission trip back to South Africa.”

“We knew there were some hurdles to be crossed and barriers to get past before she would be able to do all that God has in store for her,” Smith said, “and we knew that only God could break those down.

“We have now crossed one of the very last barriers — citizenship,” he continued. “This will give her a flexibility to travel and teach in arenas where she has been prevented before. Thanks be to God!”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NEW FLAG-WAVER.

    About the Author

  • Samuel Smith