By Taylor Straatmann

A Dinner in Chinatown — Taylor’s Story Finding Faith

I stood on the quad at Northeastern University with the skyscrapers of downtown Boston in the distance. Every so often I could hear the rumbling of the subway from the station nearby, something I’d never experienced in my small town back in Missouri.

Students were spread across the quad, playing frisbee and soccer, hanging out in hammocks, and catching up with friends who had just moved back for the fall semester. As each new student came near me, I awkwardly attempted eye contact and a small smile, hoping that they’d somehow catch on if they were the people I was supposed to be meeting.

A few days ago, I had met some InterVarsity students at an activities fair, and they’d stopped by my dorm with snacks and a list of welcome week events. Tonight, they were meeting on the quad and getting dinner in Chinatown. I was alone in Boston for the first time, wanted new friends, and seriously doubted I’d be able to navigate the subway on my own. So I decided to go.

Beyond their friendliness and willingness to show me around the city, I was also intrigued by where these new potential friendships might go. The InterVarsity students had told me they were Christian and asked me a few questions about my own background. In high school, I had gone to church and started faith conversations with some friends. But I had mostly just listened in, too nervous about being open about my questions and doubts in case it changed how my friends saw me.

But I came into college feeling a pressing need to make a decision about Christianity for myself. I had burning questions: Was the gospel really true, or was being Christian just a cultural expectation I had from where I grew up? Could following Jesus actually be good for me? Maybe moving to Boston was a chance to start over with new people and finally get some answers.

I was still looking around the quad for the InterVarsity students when Edwin walked up and introduced himself. He’d just moved to Boston from Hong Kong for college and shared that he’d reached out to InterVarsity before school started, looking for Christian community in the U.S.

Soon after, we found the InterVarsity student leaders who had organized the outing and went to a Dim Sum restaurant. Being a White girl from Missouri, I was very much out of my comfort zone. When servers came around with carts piled with buns and meats and dumplings, the other students excitedly pointed out their favorites and debated about what to order while I just tried to keep up.

But the night was filled with warmth and hospitality. Edwin walked me through the entire meal, offering up both helpful tips and gentle teasing: “This dumpling is shrimp. Do you like shrimp?” and “You have to try chicken feet just so I can see how you react.”

His patience and enthusiasm made what could have been embarrassing into something exciting as I started discovering my own new favorite dishes. And we all laughed at my enthusiastic but clumsy attempts with chopsticks. As we ate, student leaders asked thoughtful questions about everyone’s family background and traditions. I felt a new energy and curiosity.

Discovering a Bigger Picture

I started attending InterVarsity meetings on campus after that. Much like the night out at dinner, I felt a little uncomfortable as I learned to engage with conversations and styles of worship that were different from back home. At the same time, I felt welcome to explore, and my excitement and questions continued to grow. I was fascinated learning about my new friends’ cultures and experiences and loved sharing my own. And through looking at Scripture together, I got to see the ways that Jesus had uniquely met my friends.

Through InterVarsity, I began to see God as a good King who cared about both my specific story and the entire world. I began to see Jesus’ desire for redemption and justice in all the things I saw as broken: from Edwin’s pain in the strained relationship between students from Hong Kong and mainland China, to the ways Black students were pushing for more conversations about justice in our fellowship, to brokenness in my own background and family story.

In learning about faith through the lens of others, I saw the ways that following Jesus could be both incredibly costly but also incomparably joyful — and so different from the idea of Christianity as just a convenient cultural pastime that I had wrestled with in high school. I began gaining a fuller picture of Christianity that felt so worth being a part of.

Today, as a campus minister with InterVarsity, I get to help students gain a fuller picture of Christianity and help to plant new ministries on new campuses in Boston. I love seeing students who are used to being comfortable in their own cultural settings reach out to others in new and sacrificial ways. I love seeing our international students lead the way in hospitality and invitation. And we continue to meet students like I was, who are unsure about Jesus but compelled to learn more by experiencing a welcoming, multinational community that both challenges and embraces them. As we reach out and engage with each other’s stories, we all gain a bigger picture of God’s love for all people and the beauty of following him.

Want to hear more of my story? Check out this video!

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Taylor Straatmann is an InterVarsity Campus Minister currently serving at commuter and community colleges in the Boston area. You can support her ministry at

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