Gary Travis became a Christian one week after the CCO was born.
It was late March 1971, and Gary was a senior in high school. On the 23rd of that month, the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) had been incorporated, in large part to minister to college students who had become Christians in high school—like Gary, who would soon be going off to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Gary knew what was at stake. His older brother had attended IUP five years earlier and had lost his faith during college. Gary didn’t want the same thing to happen to him.
It didn't. In fact, the opposite occurred. This was the CCO's first fall on campus, and Dave Diehl was one of the first staff people. Dave was there when Gary arrived on campus at IUP, and in Dave, Gary found a friend and mentor and was introduced to a group of like-minded students. They were connected to one another by a living faith in Jesus, who was changing lives all around them.
Gary didn’t know it then, but 50 years later, he would still find accountability and friendship within this group of believers.
At a recent (virtual) reunion of early IUP CCO students and staff, hosted by current campus staff Madison List and Kenny Campbell, Gary said this:
All of us who were freshmen that year and still maintain friendships, we've been sifted like wheat. There have been up and down times through the years… but we have a real strong commitment to staying in touch with one another. We’re making sure that the saving faith that we experienced in the 70s is still part of our lives. We continue to persevere.
Gary, now retired after teaching music for 38 years in the Philadelphia Public Schools, volunteers as a CCO Associate alongside Peter Ndaita, the CCO staff person who reaches out to students at Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the local branch of the Community College of Philadelphia.
Why? Because 50 years down the road, Gary hasn’t forgotten what it meant to have Christian fellowship and mentors during his formative years. He knows that this is something that we do together.
Gary is a part of the Coalition for the next generation.