Dordt College News

Mission-minded runners

December 2, 2013

Two members of Dordt's women's cross country team kept busy with more than training last summer.

Juniors Lauren Opp and Renee Buikema left their home states of Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively, and worked for non-profits, Opp doing mission work in Uganda and Buikema working with Habitat for Humanity in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Opp, an exercise science major with a biomedical sciences minor, took a six-week trip with Africa Inland Mission to the poor rural areas of Uganda.“

[We saw] people just barely surviving, barely having enough to eat or drink or maybe having one set of clothes,” said Opp. “In one village, the people lived on sorghum and sunflower seeds, and that was their entire diet.”

During the visit, Opp’s team helped in a clinic for disabled children, developed Bible studies and worship events for the community, and played games with the local children. For her, the most important—and challenging—aspect was building relationships with people living in such extreme poverty.

“It was tough not to feel really hopeless, like, ‘Why are we here? What can we really do for these people?’” said Opp.

“One thing I took away from the trip was that no matter what someone’s suffering is, we always have something to offer them—Jesus’ love.”

Buikema spent nearly 300 hours over the summer working at Habitat for Humanity.

“I have a really big passion for nonprofits, and this experience added to that passion when I saw what they’re doing,” Buikema said.

Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization that revitalizes neighborhoods by building homes and buying out their mortgages. In this way, the organization can provide mortgages with zero percent interest to families who need homes.
Buikema worked with volunteers at building sites.

"Being a part of a nonprofit is just really amazing,” said Buikema. “It helps you to see how God is using the resources that he’s given so many people.”

A business administration/human resources major, Buikema had expected to be in a human resources role for Habitat. As it turned out, being in the center of the building activities was what she enjoyed most.

“It’s cool how God takes your expectations and totally changes them,” Buikema said.

Opp and Buikema both found time to keep running throughout their busy summers. Opp, especially, didn’t know if she would be able to train when she left for Uganda, but she met a friend on the trip who she ran with every morning.

“I was actually able to run almost every day, so that was a major blessing,” said Opp.

Opp, the conference’s third-place finisher in 2012, was Dordt’s top runner in this year’s first five meets. Buikema also placed in the squad’s top five in three of the five races.

“It’s been a successful season in so many ways,” said Buikema. “Not just in how we’re running, but in how we’re really becoming a team and encouraging and loving one another.”

With Opp and Buikema as leaders, it’s no surprise that the team—conference champions last season—has built its success on selflessness.

“Lauren and Renee are the type of people that like to give back,” said Van Dyke. “They both feel that God has given them the passion to help others, wherever that may be.”


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