CCO: Transforming College Students to Transform the World

International Students Find Christ Through CCO

May 24, 2021

PITTSBURGH In recognition of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, theCoalition for Christian Outreach (CCO, highlights its work with Asian and other International Students in the United States.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “In 2018, the college enrollment rate was higher for 18- to 24-year-olds who were Asian (59 percent) than for 18- to 24-year-olds who were White (42 percent).”

“International students are a hidden, unreached group on most university campuses in the USA,” says Sue Johnston, CCO Campus Ministry Staff, whose ministry focuses on the thousands of international students and scholars at Penn State University Park

CCO, whichforesaw the need for campus ministers to work with international college students in the United States, is responding to the growing need for its ministry in colleges across the country. CCO’s focus on recognizing on-campus diversity, and the need for their ministry to reach all people in their current context enables their staff members to meet the students right where they are.

Sue Johnston, along with her husband, Walt, embraces CCO’s mission to help students grow deeper in their faith in Christ, and to serve Him in their vocations, churches, families, and communities. The couple served in the Philippines for 23 years in missionary work, and now for 11 years at Penn State University.

“Previously, we experienced being the foreigners and wanting local Filipino friends; now we are the locals and are befriending the foreigners studying here. We seek to create a family and a community for these students, a place they can call home,” says Johnston.

The couple hosts a Saturday night Bible discussion and dinner in their home, with up to 40 students joining them each week.

And with the growing numbers of International students, the need becomes greater. According to the Migration Policy Institute

“The United States has long been the top receiving country for international students, who historically have been drawn by the high quality of U.S. higher education, its value on the international labor market, and access to job opportunities in the United States after graduation.

“Beginning with just 26,000 international students in the 1949-50 school year, the number of enrolled international students neared 1.1 million in 2019-20. International students also increased as a share of all students enrolled in U.S. higher education: from 1 percent in 1949–50 to nearly 6 percent in 2019-20.”

According to a report by The American Council on Education (ACE), Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, “As the undergraduate student body has become more diverse over time, the share of White students as a proportion of total undergraduate enrollment has declined. In 2015–16, approximately 45 percent of all undergraduate students identified as being a race or ethnicity other than White, compared with 29.6 percent in 1995–96. This number is likely higher now.”

“Since 2010, hundreds of students have been in our home, and many have come to know the Lord. At least 28 have become baptized believers and two have entered full time Christian work with international students on other campuses,” says Johnston.

“We believe that the unfolding of God’s Word brings light, according to Psalm 119:130, and so we seek to help unwrap the Word of God for these students, many of whom have been taught all their lives that there is no God.”

Johnston continues, “We recognize that these students represent the best from their countries; nearly 300 present and former world leaders studied in the United States. So we see the need to equip these students to return to their home countries and impact their sphere of influence with the Gospel.”  

CCO’s passion to reach the world for Christ ensures that college students, especially International students attending college in the United States for the first time will have a team of enthusiastic CCO campus staff ready to help meet their needs as they adjust to life in a new country, with CCO’s programs offering a welcoming embrace.

For 50 years,CCO staff have reached out to college students by entering into their world. They are on the college campus daily—at athletic practices, in cafeterias, student centers, coffee shops, residence halls, and sometimes even classrooms. CCO staff meets students where they are.

The college and university campus are the most strategic mission fields in the world, with only 2% of students being reached with the Gospel. CCO partners with local church congregations to help students feel a sense of belonging. A community is formed between the CCO staff and students, who are invited into the lives of local congregations. Through this community of fellowship, CCO is able to minister to the students in a life-changing way.


To interview CCO President, Dan Dupee, or for more information about the Coalition for Christian Outreach, contact, Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.