My name is Mark Taylor, I am the Chapter Director at Washington University (WU) in St. Louis. Last May, we decided to start a Ratio Christi chapter. WU is the premier “intellectual” university in the area, and draws students from all over the country and from around the world. Initially, I had a difficult time finding students interested in helping until a student from my church connected me with Kiran Boone. Kiran was a sincere evangelical believer who had interest in apologetics and said she would pray about becoming involved. A few days later, Kiran decided the Lord was directing her to tackle the Ratio Christi chapter startup.

I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly the club got going. I’m confident that the Lord had things preplanned, and that He had chosen Kiran as the primary student leader. She is energetic, friendly, and very organized, and she was able to get the chapter approved in time for the Freshman Activity Fair. But more importantly, with a strong faith in the Lord, she strives to live close to Him, trusting the Scriptures, understanding the value of prayer, with a strong desire for evangelism. I was amazed at how quickly she understood the purpose and value of the club, and how well she articulated the vision.

In addition to starting the club and serving as president, she was the leader of the club throughout its initial year. She established weekly meetings, decided on topics, coordinated guest speakers, and facilitated meetings. She also prepared and presented talks. In addition, Kiran set a goal of forming a strong core group of Christian students, and was extremely successful in doing so. In fact, several students grew in apologetics knowledge and in personal confidence in their faith. Two of these students will be joining Kiran on the leadership team for the upcoming year and they are in the process of developing a vision for the next school year, with an emphasis on outreach to unbelievers.

Below is Kiran’s article describing her experience starting and participating in the WU chapter.

Testimony matters. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 15 years of knowing Christ, it’s that testimony is an essential part, and natural outpouring, of Christian faith, hope, and love. How can anyone come to believe, if they don’t first hear the gospel? We have faith in the good news of Jesus because someone first testified of His salvation to us. How can anyone have hope, if they don’t first see a reason to trust in something? We gain hope in His promises by affirming His goodness in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

How can anyone truly love those around them, if they don’t share the key to eternal life and redemption? We have the opportunity to show the greatest love by leading others to Christ. At the end of His time on Earth, Jesus told his followers to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). How do we make disciples? By testifying to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the impact it has made on our own lives.

Clearly, testimony has real power. But for a lot of young people like myself, it can be a difficult practice to adopt. It sounds great in theory to tell other people about your source of hope, but when it comes to actually having those conversations, any number of barriers can stand in the way. Some of those barriers are relational – “Do I know this person well enough to bring up a difficult topic? Am I making things uncomfortable? Will they view me differently or trust me less after this conversation?”.

Others are grounded in culture and history – “Will they think I’m disrespecting their beliefs and background? Does it seem like I’m trying to convert them or force my beliefs on them?”. And still others are personal – “Will this impact me professionally? Will I be able to say any of this convincingly, or make sense at all? We think we have to be preachers or motivational speakers, closest friends or most trusted confidantes, in order to tell someone about our faith. But that’s not what Jesus required. He gave His imperative to the fishermen, the tax collector, and the zealot. The practice of testimony was meant to be something that all of his followers could engage in with people of all nations.

So, how do we practice our testimony, so it’s more natural and accessible, both for ourselves and for other believers? This is the question that first got me interested in apologetics. I loved the idea of recognizing the reasons for my faith, learning how to articulate those to others, and strengthening my own faith in the process. God has been so incredibly generous to humanity by offering us so much evidence by which to see and believe Him, be it historical, philosophical, scientific, experiential, or through revelation.

You can never know too much about how God has revealed himself in the world. When it comes to strengthening our own faith, each piece of evidence gives us another opportunity to glorify Him. When it comes to articulating our faith to others, we never know what kind of evidence could strike a chord with their perspective or experience. To me, apologetics is about finding the ways that God has revealed Himself to us and honing the skill of evangelism and empathy, that we might overflow with reasons to believe and be prepared to share those with others.

When Ratio Christi advisor and local pastor Mark Taylor reached out to me last summer about starting a new Ratio Christi chapter at Washing ton University, I was definitely excited. As much as I had seen the value of apologetics throughout my life, I hadn’t sought opportunities to become involved as a regular practice, and this seemed like a great time to start. But I was also uncertain about what that mission would look like on campus.

From my personal experience, I knew that most students were not religious. I also knew that many would be wary of a Christian group on campus hoping to spread the gospel, which I can understand. I knew that if we were to start a chapter, we would need to make it clear that we were welcoming to students of all backgrounds and perspectives. Our goal was to learn more about the Christian faith and what its beliefs were founded on, and that we share, because we believe in the truth as a message of hope for all.

Two aspects of the WU climate, though, actually gave me hope for the potential success of an apologetics club. First, the idea of testimony is not as foreign to WU as one might think. One of the main values that WU professes, as is repeated numerous times in every freshman orientation, is to know each other “by name and story.” Students and faculty alike are encouraged to not just be in contact with one another, but to really listen to one another, to understand how each person has been shaped by and has grown through past experiences, and to support one another by appreciating the identities and stories each of us holds.

To me, this perspective is beautifully reminiscent of how Jesus saw those around Him during His time on Earth – how Jesus sought to see people as they were, to sit in community with them, to understand them and to offer them hope in ways that met their true aspirations and needs. In some ways, then, I saw how WU could be the perfect place for a club like Ratio Christi, which could create a loving space on campus for people to share their own experiences with faith and reason, while learning how to empathize with others. We could help normalize having conversations about purpose, morality, and destiny, all of which would support WU’s mission of truly getting to know and love our classmates.

Another reason I felt like WU was ready for a group like Ratio Christi, simply stated, WU kids are nerds. Or geeks – whichever word you prefer for people who could spend hours discussing the finer points of Russian literature or debating the practical applications of recent discoveries in neurobiology. WU students love to jump into serious discussions, to talk about what amazes and excites us, and to hear about what amazes and excites others. What better place could there be to introduce a whole new world of learning material – historical documents, philosophical theory, scientific evidence, personal testimonies – that could get students talking about, mulling over, and believing in the gospel?

These realizations, along with some prayer and advice-seeking, gave me the confidence to trust God in the midst of uncertainty, accept Mark’s proposal, and send it, as the kids say (or go for it, as the adults say). As soon as that decision was made, God’s support for our goals immediately became clear. Despite having just a few weeks to pull together a leadership team, mission statement, advertising materials, and new group application, we were able to get the new Ratio Christi chapter ready and approved in time for fall semester.

Despite the fact that we had to attract new members without any in-person events and no prior on-campus presence, God blessed us from the first week with a diverse group of students from every class year, including freshmen, and from a variety of identities and backgrounds, allowing us to have rich and meaningful discussions. Despite the difficulty of recruiting speakers during a time of national crisis and exhaustion, God amazed us with how many leaders and teachers around the country and from around the world were thrilled to talk to our group. And perhaps, most amazing to me; despite the fact that students were already attending a dozen virtual meetings every week for classes, clubs, and other responsibilities, our new members actually looked forward to getting on Zoom with us for an hour every Saturday.

At this time in history, when so many doors had closed for all of us, it was humbling to see how many doors opened for our group, that could have only been moved by the hand of God. I also believe that God was opening unseen doors in the hearts and minds of our members, most of whom grew up as Christians, but came seeking a deeper understanding of the role of God and faith in science, history, philosophy, and culture. Many of us came in with a real heart for Christ and a deep passion for knowledge, but little experience with seeing the two intersect.

Most had been left disheartened by the anti-intellectual movement spurred on by some members of the American church, and had also been discouraged by the anti-faith orientation found in many of our classrooms. As I’m sure many other Ratio Christi chapters have done across the nation, our group offered students a space to revel in the wonder of God, to ask difficult questions, and seek complex answers – to grapple with meaning and destiny, to face doubts together in a supportive community, and to flourish in a celebration of truly knowing our faith.

By the end of the year, multiple members had expressed how much Ratio Christi had helped reinvigorate their faith by making them excited to continue learning, spurring them on to have more of these conversations with their friends, and affirming their trust in Jesus. Looking back on the past year, I’m overjoyed by all we were able to learn and experience together, and confident that Ratio Christi belongs at WU.

Of course, there are a few things about this year that I would like to leave behind. I’m eagerly anticipating this fall when, God willing, I can finally uninstall Zoom, leave my makeshift home office, and go back to campus to see our group members in person, many for the first time. I’m looking forward to the fun activities we can do in person that were just a little too awkward over Zoom – things like practicing one-on-one conversations about difficult topics, bonding over rock-paper-scissors tournaments, and speed friending.

Even more importantly, we’ll have opportunities to get involved with the wider WU community. Our leadership team has some exciting ideas in the about hosting campus-wide Q&As and speakers while coordinating with interfaith organizations and other Christian groups on campus, reaching out to students of more spiritual and cultural backgrounds, and finding ways to love and support the WU community as a whole. To me, the post-pandemic future looks bright.

There are, however, some things about this year that I pray we could hold on to. I pray that our posture would remain humble, as it was this year when every circumstance was uncertain and only God could be depended upon to lead our steps. I pray that our community would remain lovingly inclusive, as it was this year, when each and every member was welcomed, heard, and valued. I pray that our mission would remain focused, as it was this year when we felt the freedom to run toward our goals, undistracted by attendance numbers or gaining popularity. I pray that our hearts would remain hungry for new ways to learn from and love each other, as they were this year when we viewed every opportunity as possibilities. I pray that our faith would remain bold, as it was this year when we started with little and ended up with much.

Whatever the future holds, I will always be thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Ratio Christi at WU. I feel confident that if we’re prayerful and oriented toward making our campus look more like God’s kingdom, God will lead us to where He wants us to be. And that will provide yet another testimony to His goodness for the world to see.