Growing up as a third culture kid, Ram Sridharan lived most of his life in Tanzania, Kenya, and South India. He completed his college education in the United States, earning multiple degrees in the fields of microbiology, folklore and human resources.
With a heart for college students, Ram volunteered with InterVarsity for years before officially joining staff. He is now the area director in Central Ohio for InterVarsity, working most closely with The Ohio State University where he has been a driving force in launching a Black and an Asian-American chapter on campus.
Ram answers some of our questions about what he is looking forward to about Urbana 12:
Why are you excited to speak at Urbana 12?
God works at Urbana and changes people. I came to my first Urbana and experienced God's great heart for the nations and received some deep personal healing. It was momentous. I also love that this generation of students is enchanted with the whole gospel of Jesus. It will be a joy to witness the Holy Spirit call people to take the gospel across the globe.
You’re an evangelist. Tell us a favorite story about sharing your faith?
The story that has most impacted my life in recent years is about a student, who I met on the side of the road at the university. At the time, he was very drunk and I offered to make sure he got home safely. We became good friends. We have had stretching conversations about faith, as he is a very strong agnostic. He helps me think through difficult God-questions, which I haven't thought through. He also challenges stereotypes I have. It moves me to think how rich I am to have this friend in my life even though he isn't a Christian.
How do you hope students at Urbana will become world changers on their campuses back home?
I have been thinking recently of St. Peter Claver—a Jesuit missionary priest in the 1600s in Cartegna (an important slave port). Ten thousand slaves were trafficked to this port every year and nearly one-third lost their lives in the transit. Peter Claver would often try to be the first one that would go to the hold: he would calm the slaves, offer them food, clean them, and attend to their medicinal needs. Often times these slaves were terrified out of their mind and Peter Claver was the first to befriend them.
He would use pictures and interpreters to share the gospel. He would beg around rich parts of town for resources and alms, so that he could provide care for these slaves. He would travel the countryside extensively, meeting the needs of the slaves that had been transported, often refusing accommodations in rich homes and instead staying in slave quarters. Several rich members left his congregation because they refused to be in the same space as slaves. By the time of his death, St. Peter Claver had reportedly baptized 300,000 people. That is a world-changer!
How powerful it is to bring good news in the context of great evil and suffering! How beautiful is a life wasted for Christ! I long for students to have hearts that are moved by Christ's compassion, whose mouths proclaim the whole gospel, whose hands and feet care physically for the precious students whom Jesus died for, and who are willing to take the gospel to the darkest campuses niches at great personal cost.
What encouragement or challenge would you give InterVarsity students before they graduate?
The grace of God which saves you gives you the resources and power to become people of character. Be virtuous! I am talking about the stuff that we struggle with on a daily basis: loving our enemies, forgiving people, practicing meekness, sharing our resources. Our character is not an afterthought to God’s calling on our lives—it is the very center.
Amy Hauptman is writer on InterVarsity's communications team. She spent six fantastic years as a campus staff worker at both campuses: UC Davis and the University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College. The three driving forces in her life, besides her love for coffee, are to see, learn and enjoy as much as possible. She also blogs at amyhauptman.blogspot.com.