Dennis Carlson, associate pastor of Faith Covenant Church in Farmington, MI, and his brother, Rod Carlson, participated in the 420-mile RAGBRAI XLIV, The (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, to raise support for the Congo Clinic Initiative. Some 10,000 cyclists participated in the race, and in keeping with tradition, the race begins with bikers having their rear wheel in the Missouri river at Glenwood, Iowa, and ends with riders dipping their front tires in the Mississippi River at Muscatine.
“My brother, Rod, from my hometown of San Jose, CA traded in his $25 garage sale mountain bike for a more up-to-date model at the beginning of this year when he jumped at my invitation to join me in riding RAGBRAI XLIV,” says Dennis. “I had only done the entire ride one other time in 1987—the summer before I met my wife, Mary Lynn, while a single, solo pastor in Kansas City, MO. We decided to put the FUN back into FUNdraising by doing the ride for a cause! Though neither of us are medical professionals, we both know something about health care. For me, both of our kids were born at our mission hospital at Karawa, Congo, so we are well aware of both the great needs and opportunities for assisting with health care in the heart of Africa. Rod is diabetic, so along the ride–as every day of his life–he had to stop periodically to check his blood sugar, eat something, or take an insulin shot as needed. Our four ‘Brothers Biking for Congo’ shirts of varying styles and colors, also read, ‘The Congo Clinic Initiative – Developing Clinics, Empowering Change, Saving Lives,’ and became conversation starters for folks out on the road and in-town.”
The duo slept one night on patio cushions on the basement floor of the Evangelical Church of Centerville, Iowa, and also met up with members from First Covenant Church of Red Oak, Iowa on the first day and Faith Covenant Church in Essex, Iowa on the second day, when the congregation was serving cyclists in various ways. “We rode an average of 60 miles/day, anywhere from 49.7 to 75.2 official miles each day, probably a bit farther once we found our way around the overnight towns to where we were sleeping. One of the great myths is that Iowa is flat! In fact, over the course of seven days, we climbed 18,488 feet in elevation—3,994 of them in a single day,” said Dennis.
Dennis and Rod finished the ride and raised over $10,000 for the Congo Clinic Initiative! But Dennis emphasized that much still needs to be done. “Since I only get to see Rod about once a year now, it was particularly gratifying to do it together. It was an amazing experience and indeed put the FUN back into FUNdraising! And best of all, people that God loves dearly will be able to access health care nearby, rather than walking 20 or 30 miles to the nearest hospital. There are still three more years to go on the project to provide solar panels, clean water, medical supplies, and a small refrigerator—like what most college students have in their dorm rooms—to provide for basic medicines. Merci mingi mpenza! Biso tolongi! In Lingala, the language of the people of NW Congo, ‘Thanks so very much! We did it!’”
Thank you, Dennis and Rod, and all of your generous family, friends, and supporters who prayed, donated, encouraged, and followed you on your RAGBRAI journey! From all of us at Paul Carlson Partnership, and our partners in Congo, merci mingi! Thank you!