In 1950, the Korean War sparked an anti-American propaganda campaign in China, and missionaries were no longer welcome there. At that time, a gun was planted under the mattress of missionary Bill Wallace and then “discovered” by police. He was subsequently arrested as a spy. Less than two months later, on Feb. 10, 1951, Wallace, whose time in prison was characterized by ridicule and torture, died a martyr.

Wallace is one of 25 Southern Baptist martyrs memorialized in Southwestern Seminary’s “Martyrs’ Walk” outside its newest building, Mathena Hall. The walkway contains plaques identifying these martyrs along with the circumstances of their deaths, reminding passersby what sharing their faith may require of them.

“The word [martyr] has usually been translated from Greek as ‘witnesses,’ but over time, the word has come to refer to people who died because of their testimony,” explains Mike Morris, associate professor of missions at Southwestern who compiled much of the research on the 25 represented in the walkway. “These Baptist martyrs should be remembered for giving their lives in the service of Jesus Christ.”

Southwestern President Paige Patterson said the Martyrs' Walk was established because there is no other place “where all the Southern Baptist missionaries who have paid the ultimate cost on this earth and given their lives for Christ” were recognized in a single location. The information for the walkway was compiled with assistance from the International Mission Board (IMB) and the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).

During the walkway’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Oct. 18, Patterson said to attendees, “At some time or another, I hope you will walk down [the Martyrs’ Walk] and see whom you recognize from those who have gone on to be with the Lord and paid the price in world missions. We are particularly appreciative of the International Mission Board and the WMU for helping us so much to put together this display. As far as I know, there has never been one like it anywhere.”

Gordon Fort of the IMB and Shirley McDonald of the WMU participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with Patterson and Robin Brooks, an administrative assistant for Southwestern’s Institutional Advancement who aided the research efforts. The Martyrs’ Walk is dedicated in honor of Southwestern ministry partners Myrna and John Hendrick and the Hendrick family.

Among the martyrs named in the walkway are five Southwestern alumni, whose plaques are marked with the Southwestern logo. There is also a plaque to the “unknown” martyr, which features a quote from Tertullian—“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This plaque, which sits at the end of the walkway, concludes, “Thank you for giving your life for Christ and His church.”

To read more about Mathena Hall, see here