Rick Schenker, the first president of Ratio Christi (RC), recently passed away after seeming to win a battle against leukemia. His passion for evangelism and his giftedness to start grass-roots movements and organizations fueled the engines for RC to become a national (and now worldwide) phenomenon. Rick had an infectious smile and the heart of Barnabas, the ‘son of encouragement.’ Rick was loved by many, and each of us who knew Rick can tell of his influence in our lives. I would like to explain how important Rick Schenker was to me.
In 2011, I was just starting out with RC, and after about two years of doing it at my own expense, Rick traveled all the way from Erie, PA to Hickory, NC to help me raise financial support by hosting a dinner. I knew nothing about how to do this, and Rick helped me with every step. It wasn’t just me, however. He was traveling all over the USA doing the same with the other chapter directors. His mere presence beckoned me to persevere by ‘keeping at it.’ Of course, I was not (and still am not) a big-time scholar or apologist or famous writer or debater or conference speaker. Like many of us in RC, I’m just a normal guy who loves to instill the truth of the gospel in the hearts and minds of people and who loves apologetics. Yet, Rick knew the mission of RC – a whole host of normal folks sent to serve people by instilling a confident faith in Christ through apologetics.
Not all was peaches and cream with me, however. Prior to his visit, Rick also knew I had some deep brokenness. When my sin broke loose shortly after starting with RC, I wrote to Rick and another RC staff member about how unworthy I was to be in ministry and how I was going to quit. Both encouraged me to pursue my calling, though. I wasn’t alone in my brokenness and sin, I was told. Instead of condemnation, they suggested I take a temporary leave of absence while I sought some much-needed healing and restoration. Rick and RC staff showed grace, mercy, and love to me when I needed it the most.
Now, after the healing and restoration began its process, Rick came to visit me in my home. He and I hosted a lovely table d’hote at the local country club with a help of a friend. Invitees were mostly people from my church who knew me and supported the need for apologetics on the college campus: salesmen, doctors, business men and women, counselors, stay-at-home moms. While the group rested from their entrees, Rick showed a video presentation, revealing the secular assault on the Christian faith in the West. Introduced to the shocked crowd were the confident assertions of the New Atheists, college professors, media, and the like that Christianity is not only false, but—as the New Atheists have said—positively evil. The fridge is full of mold—time to get some bleach and clean house. Here is where RC comes in.
With a big, Rick Schenker smile, he says, “And now is the time for you to grab your checkbook. Chris needs your help. Go ahead and grab your checkbook!” I was embarrassed, because—I don’t like raising funds! (Who does? About as many people enjoy raising funds as enjoy going to the dentist.) Yet, because of Rick’s enthusiasm and boldness, I received almost half of the support I needed. I was humbled and amazed by his love, encouragement, and yes—his boldness.
It is not merely the finances though. No. It’s that he showed me grace and mercy when I needed it most, and the fact that Rick drove all the way from Erie PA to a mid-sized town in the South to meet with a fragmented soul and greenhorn like me who was trying to do apologetics at a little, tiny, liberal arts college in the Bible Belt. Rick didn’t pass me off because I wasn’t at ‘one of those big, scary, secular universities on the east or west coast.’ And he didn’t pass me off because I was a flawed man. Rick was interested helping no matter where the help was needed. I know that I stand in a long line of people who remember Rick well, for his love, service, and kindness. Rest in peace, Rick Schenker. Until the Resurrection. Prayers to Rick's family.
Rick's hometown newspaper published a wonderful tribute to Rick for his public service to Erie County, PA. as well as Ratio Christi.
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