International Students Find Hope in CCO as They Navigate Collegiate Life—and the Pandemic—in the States—with God’s Help
May 10, 2021
PITTSBURGH —In its recent On Campus Magazine, theCoalition for Christian Outreach (CCO, ccojubilee.org) highlighted international students’ adjustment to college life in the United States.
Rebekah grew up in South Africa, where Christianity was widely accepted and discussed. Living out her Christian faith was a part of everyday public life, so she was not prepared for the difficulty of living in a society where Christians are seen as “prosecutors,” supposedly always on the offensive.
Rebekah knew that the adjustment international students face when studying far from home is challenging even in non-pandemic times. So, when she moved from the Western Cape of South Africa to Kenyon College in central Ohio, she expected the same normal adjustments most students experience: food, location, and language. But what she wasn’t expecting was a religious worldview diametrically opposed to her own.
“Here, I felt like a minority when I used to be a sort of majority,” Rebekah said. “It was definitely a wake-up call, realizing, okay, there’s work to be done. I need to try and navigate this new space.”
“Like many Christian students entering secular college environments that clash with Christian values, Rebekah felt cut off from her moorings, adrift in an ocean of unfamiliar customs—until she found the CCO ministry on campus—a virtual lifesaver,” said Dan Dupee, former chairman of the board for CCO.
At CCO, Rebekah connected with other students—both Americans and internationals—who met regularly for worship, Bible study, and prayer, restoring a sense of normalcy and familiarity, and providing the Christian fellowship she hungered for. The group was growing, and the beginning of 2020 brought hope to Rebekah.
But in March when COVID hit, things changed tremendously. Kenyon students left for spring break and did not return to campus; the International students who remained were put in single rooms to avoid exposure. Due to lockdown restrictions, interaction came to a standstill, leaving the students isolated.
Although CCO staff member at Kenyon, Brandie Daniels-Anderson, wasn’t permitted on campus, she found creative ways to maintain contact and interact with students—such as leaving treats on their doorsteps to let them know someone cared. The group found a way to meet via Zoom, and, as students returned to campus in the fall, meeting attendance grew as word spread. Brandie saw God’s handiwork at play. “During COVID, our group grew in both size and diversity,” she marveled. “How could anyone but God do that?”
Kiro, a Kenyon CCO group member from Egypt, said, “I’m always glad when other people share; our group is like the Bible: there are so many people who wrote it in so many writing styles, and each one has their own culture. I think that coming to the Scriptures with all our different perspectives is helpful. It’s like a beautiful piece of art.”
“Christ is building His Body, in the midst of COVID, on Kenyon’s campus,” said Dupee. “And—thanks be to our infinitely creative God—it is beautiful to behold. His work through CCO has meant neither Rebekah, Kiro, nor any of the other students, has had to navigate this new space—or the Pandemic—alone.”
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 Dan Dupee or for more information about the Coalition for Christian Outreach, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Marjorie Pratt, 610.584.1096, ext. 107, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.