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God’s Nudge: A Japanese Student Looks at Map

How does international student ministry start? For one leader, it started with a Japanese student holding a map.

International Student Ministry (ISM) leader Beau Barrera said when he was a student at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith (UAFS), he noticed an Asian student holding a map.  Beau said the student asked him if he knew how to get to the bank. “I showed him on his map,” Beau said. “As I was walking away, God was telling me to take him to the bank. I ran back and told him I would drive him to the bank. The next day, I went to my university’s ESL (English as a Second Language) program and asked how I could get involved. I told them, ‘Sign me up for everything!’”

About a year later, Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith started an international outreach to locals and students. Beau got involved there too. “I volunteered and have not looked back since,” he added.

For eight years, Beau and his wife LaTasha have been involved in ISM, including serving as leaders in IReach, Grand Avenue Baptist’s college ministry. They focus on a Gospel-centered approach both with the church and alongside the UAFS BCM led by campus minister Lee Woodmansee. The rewards of ISM include meeting the different students, inviting them into their home, and showing them the joy of Christ’s love, said Lee. The struggles have been hard work with little fruit as the laborers are few and “especially trying to get college students involved.”

“We are called by God to share the Gospel and make disciples of all nations,” Beau said, adding that God is bringing 1 million young and bright college students and professional international students to the US. “The best thing we can do is share the Gospel and (then) they go back home as missionaries to their own people,” he said. 

What began as a nudge from God to a UAFS college student helping someone read a map has expanded to a new place of service. “(The Barreras) have recently stepped down from the international ministry to prepare for transitioning to the mission across the globe,” said Teresa ‘Bit’ Stephens, International Student Ministry Consultant for the College + Young Leaders Team. “Richard Gunselman is taking Beau’s position as the new director of international student ministry for IReach ministry out of Grand Avenue Baptist.”

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