TRENTON – During school hours, while students and faculty bustle between buildings at North Central Missouri College (NCMC), it’s not uncommon to see someone enthusiastically wave and shout, “Mama D! Hey, Mama D!”
“I’ve encouraged them to greet each other with brotherly love and they’ve just ran with it,” said “Mama D,” a.k.a. Diann Barnes, Baptist Student Union (BSU) advisor at NCMC.
Barnes, a pastor’s wife since she was 19, has served the Lord in ministry for more than 40 years. Her husband, E.J., is the director of missions for Grand River Baptist Association, the association that helps support NCMC’s campus ministry. February marks Barnes’ seventh year as the BSU advisor.
“I realize I’m not your typical campus minister,” she said. “However, after much quiet time talking to the Lord about how I could serve Him better, I could feel God directing me and opening doors.”
In fact, she said God had been preparing her for this ministry her whole life.
For example, many students are seeking degrees from the top-notch agriculture department NCMC provides; Barnes was raised on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. Also, while many students are studying to become teachers, Barnes majored in music education in college and was an assistant teacher in Kansas City for six years. Lastly, many students are pursuing degrees in technology at NCMC; Barnes earned her master’s degree in computer science and spent many years as a computer-networking administrator.
“I am a computer geek in my core,” Barnes said. “I believe God is using my multi-varied background as a platform by which I can communicate with just about anybody. He did all kinds of neat things to make me the kind of person who has never met a stranger.”
And the students have certainly taken action in response to her relationship-building efforts. In the last four years Barnes has encouraged outreach on campus, has helped organize mission projects in Jefferson City, and has taken students on mission trips to El Salvador, Canada, and is considering leading a trip to Iowa this summer.
And all this she did while undergoing surgeries and radiation treatments for breast cancer. Though, she doesn’t encourage much sympathy.
“On June 13 I went to my normal annual physical and they found a tumor,” she said. “God considered me worthy enough to walk that path, which would not have been possible without Christina Boatwright, a NAMB (North American Mission Board) missionary who joined us last May. Her arrival has been like an explosion in our mission here.”
Barnes said that God has a reason behind everything He’s doing and if people would just start watching and listening with the “ears of their hearts,” they would see God at work. She advises other campus ministers and all other believers to do just that.
“Honestly, you have got to make time to stay on your face before the Lord and seek His plan,” she said. “Because all else will fail. I know I don’t want to set foot out on this mission field without Him walking with me.”