Matt. 25 project members Gary Bender, David Petty, Sid Strebeck and Tammy Willard look at the old Memorial Hospital building Thursday afternoon. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
By Gary Mitchell
Builder David Petty shook his head at the massiveness of the project.
Petty has been involved in the building of large churches, a school gym and massive remodeling projects, but this was something else.
“I didn’t want to do this,” he said. “It’s way too big for any one group or even one church. We’re going to have to let everyone do his or her part. We want to help ministries that need to happen here in this area, but I really don’t know how it will happen.”
But God knows, Petty is quick to respond. In fact, that’s how the Matt. 25 project came about in the first place.
Matt. 25 beginnings
Matt. 25 is the formation of a non-profit corporation whose “sole purpose is to acquire and remodel the old Memorial Hospital building,” said Gary Bender, a Clovis businessman involved in the project. “Our plan is to turn it into a ministry resource center. We hope to have a number of Christian ministries there.”
The Memorial Hospital is located at 12th and Thornton on Clovis’ west side. Petty said it has been closed since 1978. Petty said the building has about 60,000 square feet of floor space.
The concept for Matt. 25 (which stands for the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew) initiated with the coming of evangelist Tony Evans from Dallas two years ago as part of the Communities for Christ Crusade held in the Clovis-Portales area, Bender said.
Clovis businessman Sid Strebeck described how it happened.
“When we took Tony Evans to the high school to speak, we drove by the old Memorial Hospital,” he said. “When he asked what that building was, we told him, and he said, ‘You should be using it as a Christian resource center for this community.’ Then he issued the challenge to us to do it.”
That wasn’t the end of it, Strebeck said.
“Sometime later, (former 9th Judicial District Judge) Bob Brack had a dream,” he said. “He saw people of all different backgrounds walking in and out of that building, and the sign on it read, ‘Matt. 25.’ He got out his Bible and looked up the scripture. It was about ministering to people in need, and the Lord Jesus saying, ‘as you do to one of the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me.’ That was our beginning inspiration.”
Parable of the Talents
About the same time, another Communities for Christ Crusade steering committee member, Tammy Willard, met with the author of a new book, “Kingdom Assignment,” and was touched by the story of it.
“The pastor preached on the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25, and then he gave $100 to 100 people — $10,000 in all,” she said. “He told them to take the $100, mix it with the talents God had given them and make a difference in someone’s life for the kingdom.”
That parable and that message spoke to Willard and the other project members.
“When we realized that parable was in the same chapter, Matthew 25, we felt it was connected to what we were doing with the Matt. 25 project,” she said.
The committee members shared those thoughts with Evans, who will be coming to the Clovis area next week for a mini-crusade with the theme, “It’s Your City — Take It Back II.” The crusade meetings will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Oct. 10 in Marshall Auditorium.
“We told him the story of ‘Kingdom Assignment,’ and he said, ‘Rather than use the shotgun approach from the book, give people a focus, which would be the Matt. 25 project, which is the renovation of the old hospital,” Willard said. “Over $10,000 has already been given away in this community — and everyone given that $100 was encouraged to mix that with their talents that God gave them and direct it toward the Matt. 25 project.”
Working with city officials
Phil Teakell, a co-chairman with Petty for the Matt. 25 project, said he envisions great things for the community.
“The project is to transform the old hospital into a human needs clearinghouse,” he said. “It will provide food, clothing, education, housing — whatever people need. Too much of the time, we’re playing church and not really meeting human need. We’ve all felt that we as Christians need to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth. That’s right out of Matthew 25.”
Bender agreed. “We talked with a group in the area that has a drug rehabilitation ministry but don’t have a place to do it. Educators are looking into it as a place that could possibly provide training and workshops. We hope to have a food bank here and a clothing bank. It would be an area-wide resource center, serving people in Clovis, Portales and the surrounding area. Suppose a homeless person shows up at a church in Grady or Elida or Friona or Melrose or Fort Sumner. Maybe they have a drug problem. They can be directed to Matt. 25 here in Clovis, and then be directed to wherever they can receive help. We see it as a resource center to meet needs within a 50-mile or more radius.”
Matt. 25 Corp. officials have met with Clovis city officials about the possibility of purchasing or acquiring the old hospital facility.
“The city’s excited about it,” Petty said. “We talked to them in February about it, and they began looking at what steps they needed to take to sell it to us. We told them we didn’t want to see anything come out of city taxes for it. We don’t want to add to the tax burden. We want to help the city with what is now a liability.”
“We have visited with city officials,” Strebeck said. “They were all very positive. U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce expressed a willingness to help, especially with the asbestos problem in the building, and with all the facets of it.”
After the two-night Tony Evans crusade, The Master’s Center will conduct a “City Celebration” event from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 11, Willard said.
“The City Celebration is an outcome of all of it,” she said. “It will be an opportunity for Christians to come together to celebrate what God has done and is doing in the Clovis-Portales area. In the last three years, a minimum of three people a day have been fasting and praying for this area, and we’re seeing the results of that prayer. So the 11th is the day for us to lay down our differences, lift up the name of Jesus and celebrate.”