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Running for rats: Dordt students help agricultural mission in Africa

September 17, 2009

Running For Rats

Most college students would run from a 15-pound rat. Twenty-two Dordt College students are running for them.

They are the Dea Lieu Marathon Support Group, and they’ve committed to running a marathon to raise funds for a Dordt alumnus who is doing agricultural mission work in Africa.

This year’s contribution will be used to purchase grasscutters, also known as cane rats. Encyclopedia Brittanica describes these animals as large, stocky African rodents, weighing up to 15 pounds and measuring about 24 inches long (not including the scantily-haired tail).

CongoCookbook.com says grasscutters are a delicacy and valued as a food source in Western Africa because of their tasty high-protein meat. For that reason, farmers are beginning to raise them as micro-livestock enterprises. By helping farmers begin their own farm enterprise, Dea is giving them the ability to feed their families and eventually entire villages.

Dordt students are now seeking sponsors for their run in the seventh annual Siouxland Lewis and Clark Marathon, which takes place in Sioux City on Saturday, Oct. 17. Some of the participants will run the entire 26.2 miles, while others will do a half-marathon or run the course as a relay team.

The group will also volunteer at Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center during two tip nights being held on Sept. 28 and Oct. 26 from 5-7 p.m. Ten percent of the evenings’ revenue and all tips and donations will go to Dea Lieu’s mission and agricultural organization, The Association for the Fight Against Poverty.

Dea graduated from Dordt College in 2007 with a degree in agricultural missions. His home is West Africa’s Ivory Coast, where in 2003 he fled from his home with a wife and five children during a bloody invasion by rebel troops. They spent four months in the jungle, after which his wife and children returned to the city of Danane. Lieu could not return to his job at a church at that point, so he decided to seek additional training in agriculture and theology to prepare for his future return.

After making some contacts, Dea received free tuition at a junior college in Tennessee. While there, he began searching for a place to finish a four-year-degree.

“Dordt College was the only college I found that offered both an agriculture program and theology,” recalls Dea. After earning his degree, he returned to the Ivory Coast, eager to do agricultural ministry.

Dea has been introducing new farming methods while ministering to spiritual needs. When farmers complete his training program, they receive livestock and a loan to begin their own farm operation. Details of his efforts are posted regularly on Dea’s blog.

Spearheading the fund-raising on Dordt’s campus is Jay Holmes, a health, physical education and recreation major from Phoenix, AZ. Holmes says, “We don’t have an abundance of money, but we have our bodies and our health,” and adds, “As Christians we are called to help others.” Holmes also ran the marathon last year, together with roommates Justin Carruthers and Daniel Davis, who are doing the half-marathon this year.

To support the team effort donors can make per mile donations or attend the Pizza Ranch tip nights. Donations should be made to “Partners Worldwide” and mailed to Dordt College, 423 Fourth Ave. NE Apt. 12, Sioux Center, IA 51250. For more information contact Jay Holmes at 602-316-6986.

Area churches that also support Dea’s ministry include First Christian Reformed, Central Reformed, and Christ Community Church, Sioux Center; Calvary Christian Reformed and Dover Avenue Alliance Church, Orange City; and First Presbyterian Church, Hospers.

Dordt students making up this year’s Dea Lieu Marathon Support team are Lisa Goedhart, Sioux Center; Susan Le Mahieu, Frankfort, IL; Amanda Haan, Waupun, WI; Adria Stamm, Washington, KS; Daniel Davis, Glendale, AZ; Jonathan Sims, Phoenix, AZ; Justin Carruthers, Grand Prairie, AB; Jay Holmes, Phoenix, AZ; Joel Vander Leek, Vernon, BC; Nathan Gross, Gilbert, AZ; Joel Veldkamp, Cumming, IA; Gabe Licht, Humboldt, IA; Alex Nykamp, Edgerton, MN; Tim Boonstra, Frankford, ON; Shonna De Jager, Doon, IA; Johnathan Gallagher, Hornick, IA Jesse Groenewold, Parksville, BC; James McCall, Hastings, MN; Ben Nydam, Chatham, ON; Jared Rayes, Phoenix, AZ; Bjorn Vaagensmith, Forest City, IA; and Monica Vander Lugt, Ripon, CA.

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