North Carolina church donates to Persian Leadership Initiative

In a generous effort to advance Great Commission work across the world, First Baptist Church Cherryville donated $45,000 to the Persian Leadership Initiative, an extension of the Global Theological Initiative (GTI) at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).

GTI seeks to employ the resources of SEBTS to benefit theological education through strategic partnerships around the world. 

“There’s really no way to overstate what a blessing First Baptist Church Cherryville has been in stepping in and helping us,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. 

First Baptist Cherryville, located in Cherryville, North Carolina, is pastored by Vince Hefner, a two-time graduate of SEBTS with his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees. Hefner’s church had received a monetary gift, and he believed it was God-honoring to give a portion of it away. Hefner sought out a former professor and dear friend, George Braswell, to provide wisdom on where his church could make a significant contribution for the Great Commission. 

Braswell, emeritus professor of missions and world religions at SEBTS, served with his wife, Joan, overseas from 1967-1974. Together, Hefner and Braswell met with Kambiz Saghaey, the director of the Persian Leadership Initiative (PLI), in the fall of 2018. 

The Persian Leadership Initiative seeks to train Farsi-speaking leaders throughout the world. SEBTS has started its first cohort for the Bachelor of Science degree in Farsi. SEBTS is currently training leaders in master’s degree and Doctor of Education program with hopes that these students will be faculty members in this new B.S. program. Through initiative like the PLI, GTI provides theological education for students from at least 13 nations on six continents. 

“First Baptist Cherryville caught the vision [of GTI] and I’m grateful to [the Hefners],” said Dr. Braswell. 

This gift and others like them will enable Southeastern to continue to advance theological education around globe. 

“My hope is that others will see the example of First Baptist Cherryville and will seek to help Southeastern train the global church through supporting the global theological initiative,” said Jonathan Six, director of financial and alumni development. 

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