Dordt College News

Mission Minded Runners

December 2, 2013

By: Sam Ekstrom, Dordt College Sports Information Student Assistant

Originally printed in the Fall/Winter Dordt College Voice

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

Juniors Lauren Opp and Renee Buikema both left their home states of Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively, and spent time working for non-profits – Opp doing mission work in Uganda and Buikema working with Habitat for Humanity in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Cross country coach Greg Van Dyke was pleased to see two of his top runners expanding their horizons in the offseason.

“As a cross country team, we talk about using our gifts and talents to glorify God,” said Van Dyke. “It’s great to see the athletes use and cultivate their talents during their running career here at Dordt College.”

Opp took a six-week trip with Africa Inland Mission to the poorer rural areas of Uganda. It was her first mission trip overseas.

“[We saw] people just barely surviving, barely having enough to eat or drink or maybe having one pair of clothes,” said Opp. “We went to a village where they lived off of 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. However, the most important – yet challenging – aspect, according to Opp, was building relationships with the poverty-stricken people.

“It was tough having to struggle through suffering and feel really hopeless, like, ‘Why are we here? What can we really do for these people?’” said Opp.

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

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

“I have a really big passion for non-profits, and this really added to that passion because I actually 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. This allows the organization to provide mortgages with zero percent interest to less fortunate families who need homes.

Buikema’s job was to show up at building sites and assist the volunteer workers.

“Getting a chance to be a part of a non-profit is just really amazing,” said Buikema. “It really helps you to see what God’s actually doing in the world and how he’s using the resources that he’s given so many people.”

Going into the summer, Buikema had expected to be in a human resources role for Habitat. As it turned out, her job at the center of the building activities was a more rewarding experience.

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

Neither Opp nor Buikema have lost a step in the cross country realm either. 

Opp earned NAIA All-American honors at the NAIA National Championship Meet in Lawrence, Kansas in late November and was Dordt’s top runner the entire season.  Buikema was the third Defender across the line at the National Meet and helped the Defenders to a program best sixth place finish at the event.

“It’s been a successful season in so many ways,” said Buikema. “Not just how we’re running, but 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 two seasons – has built its success on selflessness.

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

For Opp and Buikema, that helpful spirit has been exhibited in places far beyond the cross country course.   

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