Cyclist Takes a Long Ride for Missions

Post a Comment » Written on March 25th, 2006     
Filed under: News
BEMIDJI, MN (March 25, 2006) – Bicyclist Paul Bengston, of the Evangelical Covenant Church, is going to great lengths to bring attention and dollars to Covenant mission work in Thailand. Paul Bengston

On Saturday, he leaves Carlsbad, California, to embark on a 43-day, 2,600 mile, cross-country journey to benefit the work of Covenant missionaries Randy and Cheryl Bevis. The trip is scheduled to conclude May 3 at St. Simons Island, Georgia, near Brunswick.

This is the third long distance cycling trip for Bengston, who attended North Park University (College) from 1965-1968. The 58-year-old dentist traveled from Stillwater, Minnesota, to Memphis, Tennessee, last September. In 2004, he biked from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, to Tijuana, Mexico. “This is the mother of all trips,” he says of his latest journey.

This trip is a first in several ways for Bengston. His previous trips were solo adventures. This time he is riding with 16 other cyclists on a Wandering Wheels trip, and using the excursion as a fundraiser to bring awareness to the mission work in Thailand.

Last August, unusually hard rains led to the flooding of tilapia fish hatcheries that support Thai villagers and continuing mission outreach. The water reached as high as 10 meters above flood stage and destroyed dikes. “No one in the village has ever seen water come so high,” Bevis said at the time.

“We’ve made improvements to the ponds, and the dikes have been rebuilt and are higher than they were before,” Bevis says. Sales of the fish fry (young fish) have nearly reached previous levels, he adds.

Bevis says he now hopes to proceed with expansion that had been planned before the flooding because of the high demand for the fry. Thai fish pond

“We currently have 15 acres and sell around 2 million fish fry per month to fish farmers across northern Thailand,” Bevis says. “This expansion of another 10 acres will allow us to sell approximately 4 million fry per month and help many more Thai families who grow fish.”

Farmers purchase the fry to stock in their own ponds. They grow them to about three-quarters of a pound and then sell them at the market.

Bengston has served on the mission committee at Bemidji church and says he was inspired by the stories Bevis shared during a recent speaking engagement to the congregation. The cyclist hopes to raise $75,000 by having people contribute to the Thailand project. So far $8,000 has been pledged.

“It’s really exciting what he’s doing,” says Bevis, who made a special fish cycling helmet for Bengston.

Bengston took up long-distance cycling three years ago after having to give up mountain climbing when he tore his ACL, a knee ligament.

Riders will travel through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. “We’re going to average about 80 miles a day,” says Bengston.

The group will sleep at churches and schools that have provided rest stops each year, including a church that had shower stalls installed especially for the cyclists. A support team will carry supplies.

Bengston says his wife, Julie, gave him permission to make the ride. “She said she’d let me go if she didn’t have to hear about it every day before I left,” he says with a laugh.

Training for the trip has included cross-country skiing and riding his bike set up on an indoor trainer for 45 minutes when snow is not on the ground.

For more information, contact the Evangelical Covenant Church, 5405 Hart Lane NW, Bemidji, MN 56601, (218) 751-3699 or on the web at

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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