Alumnus honors wife’s legacy with missions scholarship, furthering the Great Commission

For more than two decades, Rick Butterworth – class of 1987 – received letters from Southeastern urging him to invest in the work of equipping the next generation of students for ministry. “For years, I nearly always threw them away,” he said. “Like most pastors, my salary was very low in the early days of my ministry, and Debra and I worked hard to afford seminary just like today’s students.”

Over time, however, factors converged which gave Rick a new perspective on the requests for help from alumni. Although Rick and his wife Debra were unable to serve overseas, she had a deep passion for international missions. As Southeastern began to train more students for international church planting, Debra took note.

When Debra was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago, Rick had just accepted a new pastorate. As questions flooded their minds as to how the church would respond, the church embraced them. 

Through the good and the not-so-good times, Rick and Debra began discussing their time together at Southeastern – the friendships and the tremendous, life-long value of formal training for ministry. 

Opening letters from Southeastern, Rick and Debra began talking about helping students in training to reach the unreached peoples of the world. Rick realized the Cooperative Program was not providing the support that it did when he was a student. So he began rethinking and praying about what they could do.

Last year, Debra’s battle against breast cancer ended. However, her legacy and passion for the nations will endure until Christ returns. Earlier this year, Rick opened a Southeastern letter and then wrote a check to start an endowment in honor and memory of Debra H. Butterworth – mom to three sons, provider for the family during seminary, and champion for the cause of missions in their local church.

This fall, a particular student enrolled in Southeastern’s 2+2 or 2+3 international missions program will receive a scholarship from the Debra H. Butterworth Missions Aid Fund. Because of Debra’s desire for international missions, this specific student – once graduated – will arrive on the mission field, fully trained, equipped, and going in Christ’s name; and such a future missionary will be there, in part, because an alumnus read his “junk mail.” 

To make a gift in memory of Debra H. Butterworth, please contact Daniel Palmer, director of financial development, at [email protected] or (919) 761-2352.

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