I was born in Pierre, SD, on August 28, 1956, to Lauretta and Norman Opp. Along with that fact, I mention my favorite verse, Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Throughout my lifetime, I see many occasions of God’s providence for good.
As for my parents, they both grew up close to Eureka, SD. Although there are numerous Opp families at Eureka, my father was of the ‘West Opps,’ and did not grow up in the Reformed Church. My mother, from Mound City, SD, was raised in the Baptist Church in Herreid. They were married in 1955 while my father was in the U.S. Marine Corps. Dad took his bride to California for his last months in the military, after he had served in the Korean Conflict.
They returned to reside in Pierre soon before my birth, which was the first of their four children. I was raised in the local American Baptist Church, and graduated from high school in 1974. That summer the church had a seminary student intern, who spoke to me of being more serious for the Lord. I knew he was right, though I had not thought college would be such a time. In any case, my positive response to his words seemed to him as a point of conversion, and I was baptized that summer.
However, I believe my regeneration came several years earlier. The evangelistic effort of the Lowell Lundstrom ministry was the occasion. My mother wanted to go to the first night at the high school gymnasium. I did not want to go, but agreed to her request. The next night, I wanted to go! I remember a message dealing with the book of Revelation and the warning that many think they are Christians, but are not actually saved. In any case, I was convicted of my sin, my need for acceptance with God, and my need to follow Christ! When the typical ‘altar call’ came, I felt compelled to go forward. As a rather introverted person, I was literally ‘sweating it out’ to have to go forward in front of several thousand people. Individual counsel and prayer followed in the lunch room. I was expecting that I would be contacted by our pastor at the time. Sadly, that never occurred. Worst of all, I continued to work at a local restaurant every Sunday morning and did not become diligent in God’s Word.
However, in my senior year in high school I worked elsewhere. I met a Christian who gave me a New Testament and encouraged me. I read it through and began to have a more serious prayer life. College was the next challenge, being at the University of South Dakota. The first weeks I was tempted to drink too much with college buddies, so I thought of transferring to the Baptist college in Sioux Falls. However, an older student from my home church was diligent to invite me to church in Vermillion. I finally went and then began to grow spiritually in greater measure. Then, through Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, I found great help in my Christian walk. By my senior year I was a leader in the chapter. I attended camps in Colorado and then an Urbana Conference (in Illinois) on missions, along with 17,000 other students.
Two great provisions of the Lord introduced me to the Reformed faith. At USD, I took a course taught by the local CRC pastor. Studying the creeds and confessions of the church, for the first time, I learned of Calvinism. I thoroughly considered the verses the pastor gave us, and in 3 weeks I was convinced this was biblical theology! Then, our student choir was invited to sing at an evening service of that congregation. Though it was unplanned by him, the message for that service fell to HC #74, “Are infants also to be baptized?” It was rather convincing to me that first time I heard it! (By the way, years later the CRC gave that building to the RCUS, which is home to our congregation at Vermillion)
Well, I had majored in psychology and history, and came to think the Lord was leading me to some kind of ‘full-time Christian ministry,’ perhaps in counseling. I moved to St. Louis, MO, and attended a Reformed Presbyterian Church along with many neighbors. After working for the city of St. Louis for several years, I began to study at Covenant Theological Seminary, which later became a PCA institution. I finished with a M.Div. in 1985.
I was still unsure of serving as a pastor. Yet, the Lord provided again. After working construction for a time, I desired to visit medical missionary friends in Tanzania. So began a great adventure for me. I went there for 2 months. I then traveled in Egypt, Israel, and in Europe. Through the 5 months abroad, I saw God’s continual provisions because I traveled without planning beforehand, beyond the first 2 months. As He provided there, I was encouraged He would provide in the ministry.
Anyway, I returned to Pierre, and for the first time attended our RCUS congregation that summer of 1987, as well as the RCUS Family Convention at Dordt College. There I met many people, including Rev. Herman Van Stedum. He soon gave my name to our congregation at Hastings, Nebraska, which was seeking a pastor. I visited, and had a preliminary interview/examination at the South Central Classis fall meeting. I then supplied at Hastings, and was licensed and ordained in 1988.
Four days after my ordination, a most wonderful provision of God came to me! I was invited by Rev. Dorman Savage to Thanksgiving dinner at their home in rural Colorado. There I met Carol Bentz, who had moved to Colorado Springs after her upbringing in the RCUS at Artas, SD. The invitation had been given for us to meet. The following June, we were married at Karval, CO. Then, after we had been at Hastings for 6 months, I received a call from the Karval congregation. We moved and lived for 6 years in the house where we had first met. We were greatly blessed with 3 children. Mark is our oldest, and he graduated from Dordt College and is married to Bethany Bowen (daughter of Rev. Hank Bowen). Their son, Jonathan, is a joy as our first grandchild. Our second child is Lauren, a senior at Dordt. Our third child, Nathan, is also at Dordt in his junior year.
After serving at Karval, I was called to Peace RCUS in Napoleon, OH. Our children grew up there, during that 11½ years. Carol homeschooled them during most of that time. In 2007, I was called to another Peace RCUS, at Garner, IA.
As for particular denominational duties, I have also served as Stated Clerk in South Central Classis and then in Covenant East Classis. I was blessed to visit Africa again, with Rev. Robert Grossmann, to help establish a Reformed denomination in Kenya. I was the missions chairman of Covenant East Classis for over 10 years and also the Synod Home Missions Chairman for 9 years.
This past summer, Carol and I moved to Ireton, IA, close to our children who remain at college. We both work for Hope Haven at homes in Sioux Center, and for the first time are home owners. Through the years, our gracious Lord has so led and provided for my family. We are thankful for the multitude of His blessings, and to have been used for service in the church! To God be all the praise!