Team BBC – Mission Accomplished!

Merci mingi mpenza! Biso tolongi!  In Lingala, the language of the people of NW Congo – “Thanks so very much! We did it!”

Whether you prayed, supported financially, followed on Facebook or gave us more than a passing thought when you heard about the concept, THANKS SO MUCH for your encouragement of Team BBC / Brothers Biking for Congo! We rode in support of the Paul Carlson Partnership’s Congo Clinic Initiative, helping the poorest of the poor in NW D.R. Congo where our Evangelical Covenant Church’s sister church oversees 108 rural health care clinics. Our local Faith Covenant Church is taking the lead in supporting one of those clinics—at Kwada—over the course of 5 years. This is Year 2 and our goal was to raise $10,000 for one year’s full support.  And we did it! YOU did it with us through your prayers and generous financial support! Just this week we surpassed the $10,000 mark! But 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!

IMG_20160725_080412069My brother, Rod Carlson from my hometown of San Jose, CA traded in his $25 garage sale mountain bike for a more up-to-date model only at the beginning of this year when he jumped at my invitation to join me in riding RAGBRAI XLIV—The (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, July 24-30. I had only done the entire ride one other time in 1987—the summer before I met Mary Lynn, while a single, solo pastor in Kansas City, MO.  While traversing 420 miles of roads in Southern Iowa, 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, Dennis, both of our kids were born at our mission hospital at Karawa, in then Zaire. So we are well aware of both the great needs and opportunities for assisting with health care in the heart of Africa. Rod for his part is diabetic, so along the ride– as every day of his life–he had to stop quite periodically to check his blood sugar, eat something or take an insulin shot as needed.

It is really hard to describe what it is like for 10,000 bikes to be rolling down the road every day for seven days!  The RAGBRAI website might help a little… . 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! (So yes, there was a corresponding downhill on nearly every climb—but IOWA IS NOT FLAT!)  While the vast majority of participants camped out in tents, through friends in Des Moines (and friends of friends of friends…) Six of the seven nights we were able to stay in homes, whether on the living room floor or sofa or even an occasional bed. Thanks to the good folks at the Evangelical Church of Centerville, IA, we spent the one other night on comfy patio cushions on the basement floor of the church!  In SW IA we also met up with folks  from First Covenant Church of Red Oak, IA on Day 1 and Faith Covenant Church in Essex, IA on Day 2 serving cyclists along the way.

Churches, schools and civic organizations all along the 420 mile route came out to sell food, bottled water and Gatorade. Some did so for a simple donation, others completely for free!  Other vendors set up each day selling, hot cakes, grilled pork chops and homemade ice cream.  We bought lemonade from kids on the street in Shenandoah, IA. Outside Humeston, IA beef cattle farmer Bob was celebrating his 50th birthday so was giving out bottled water.  Near Hedrick, IA an eight year old girl was celebrating her eight birthday by giving out the most delicious brownies and other baked goods for a donation.  While most rode conventional bikes, others road recumbents, tandems (parent-child, husband-wife, two gals who appeared to be twins among the pairings…), tandem recumbents, bicycles-built-for-THREEs, with a number of adaptive bikes for the ‘differently challenged’, pedaling the whole route with their arms! There were also a few skateboards, roller bladers and those on elyptical bikes!  The first few days I rode near a girl who I heard say she was 10 years old pedaling right in the middle of the pack!  Another day I approached a man who had a small sign on the back of his bike that read, “Doing fine, at 10 X 9”.  The sign obviously begged a conversation. As I pulled up alongside him, I learned that he had done his first RAGBRAI four years ago at age 87 and was indeed 90 years old! Moreover, the day before he had even done the optional Century Loop (To ride 100 miles in single day adds a star to any cyclists crown!)!!

IMG_20160725_124630745Many riders came as a group or on a team. There was Team Spam, “The Other Pink Meat”, on their sleeves, “No, I am not from Austin, MN”.  Team IOWANNA each had different ‘complete the phrase”  lines on their backs—“IOWANNA know whose idea this was,” And, “IOWANNA real vacation”.  Being a listener of public radio, I liked the NPR logo that said, “No Pie Refused”!  You probably don’t have to guess where the team C.U.B.S was from. “Chicago Urban Bicycle Society”! Another jersey had the tag line- “It’s just a hill. Get over it!”  For our part, Rod and I had been supplied with four editions of Team BBC, “Brother Biking for Congo” shirts of varying styles and colors. So for four days of the ride, our shirts additionally reading, “The Congo Clinic Initiative – Developing clinics, Empowering change, Saving Live” were added conversation starters for folks out on the road and in-town!

IMG_20160730_141043Traditionally, the ride begins with your rear wheel in the Missouri River and ends with dipping your front tire in the Mississippi River.  From Glenwood, IA  just south of Omaha, NE 420 miles to Muscatine, IA on the Mighty Mississippi, with a little disciplined training in the spring and early summer and by God’s grace, we made the whole ride without significant bodily or mechanical failure! Since I only get to see my brother in CA about once a year now, it was particularly gratifying to do it together! It was an amazing experience and for us, 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!

Nzambe akumisama!  God be praised!

Dennis ( & Rod) Carlson, Team BBC / Brothers Biking for Congo


How You Can Donate

Support Team BBC in raising funds for rural health care in Congo!
– 10 cents/ mile = $42
– 25 cents/ mile=$105
– 50 cents/ mile=$210
– 1 dollar/mile = $420
–  $_____________
Donate Online

1. Click HERE to donate online. Choose “Other” in the dropdown box and type “Congo Clinic” in the comment box.
2. By check: please make your check payable to “Faith Covenant Church” and write “Congo Clinic” on the memo line.
Mail to:
…..Faith Covenant Church
…..35415 W. 14 Mile Rd.
…..Farmington Hills, MI 48331


For questions for more information:
– email Dennis Carlson
– email Rod Carlson