Alumni and Friends Luncheon highlights Great Commission stories

A time of worship, celebration and prayer marked Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 2019 Alumni and Friends Luncheon.

The luncheon featured compelling Great Commission stories from four students and alumni as well as a time of prayer and commissioning for Jamie Dew as he transitions to his new role as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Kambiz Saghaey, a current Doctor of Education student at Southeastern, was the first to share his story of radical conversion and persecution while living in the Middle East. 

“People call that persecution, but I call that the closest relationship with God,” said Saghaey. 

After experiencing persecution for his faith, Saghaey has an appreciation for the freedom he has to worship Christ in the States and a desire to see Persian peoples trained to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard. He is doing this through his role as director of the Persian Leadership Development office at Southeastern, providing the world’s only fully-accredited, theologically driven bachelor’s degree program delivered in Farsi.

The second Great Commission story came from Daniel Richie, an evangelist from Charlotte, North Carolina and a graduate from The College at Southeastern. From birth, he was nearly dead and born without both arms, causing the doctor to encourage his parents to go ahead and let him die at the hospital. While that “cast a big shadow” on his life, as he recalled, he explained that at age 15, he began to learn what the Bible said about his worth. 

“God in his grace was pursuing me even when I wanted nothing to do with him and for me to trust him and rest in Jesus as my everything changed the course of my life,” said Ritchie, who was called to preach at age 16. 

Betsy Gomez, a student pursuing her Master of Arts in Ministry to Women, also shared her story of how Jesus radically transformed her identity. While she grew up in the church, it was not until later that a friend clearly communicated with her how the gospel shapes one’s identity. Before this, Gomez recalled that success was her idol. However, now she sees how the gospel is beautifully displayed both in the home and the workplace. 

“In that moment, I was so free. I understood that the gospel was not just a door; it was everything,” said Gomez, who now works with Revive Our Hearts, a ministry led by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, where she equips women to thrive in their identity in Christ through teaching in Latin America and managing the media team and blog for Hispanic women. 

Lastly, Jeff Struecker recounted how his time serving on the task force in Mogadishu, Somalia radically transformed his view of gospel urgency. During his time of service, he saw a friend and fellow soldier shot and killed instantly while riding in the backseat of Streucker’s Humvee. The gravity of his friend’s eternity loomed large in Struecker’s mind as a result of that experience. 

“That was the moment that God attached for me this gospel urgency that I think should go with every Christian who understands the Great Commission,” he said. 

Struecker served for more than 22 years in the military, 10 years of which were served as private and platoon sergeant in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Struecker surrendered his life to the Lord in ministry and decided to become a chaplain in the Airborne and Ranger units, which he served for the last 10 years of his military service. Struecker, who received his Ph.D. from Southeastern in 2015, is the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia and an assistant professor of Christian leadership at Southeastern, teaching graduate and doctoral intensives. 

After hearing stories from graduates and current students, Akin took time to pray for Jamie Dew as and his family move to NOBTS, where he will serve as its newly-elected president. 

“It becomes so much more personal when the people that the Lord chooses to send are very close and dear to you,” said Akin of Dew. Cabinet members and their wives gathered around Dew and his family while the audience extended their hands toward the stage to commission them through prayer. 

As Akin closed the luncheon, he shared briefly that he was “wonderfully encouraged” by how the convention took action in view of complementarianism, racial reconciliation and addressing the abuse crisis. He noted that Southeastern is seeking to play a key role in each of those areas.

“I would argue that all three of those things are embedded in what it means to be a Great Commission seminary,” said Akin.

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