On a Caribbean island like this one where the sun shines every day and all day it makes sense to consider using the sun as a source of energy. Sunshine is free, it is clean, it is renewable, and it is abundant. But sometimes when a gift of God is all around us it is easy to take for granted or even overlook. That is about to change.
Last year as we were visiting churches in the US we had a ‘chance’ encounter with Rick and Lorna Jost in South Dakota. Rick has been developing and distributing solar ovens in Haiti for the last 15 years. He and Lorna showed us one of their solar oven factories, a large garage located on their farm. My eyes were opened as it became apparent how their ministry has made an impact in a poor country. Haiti is in environmental trouble due to the cutting of trees to provide wood for cooking. Solar ovens are a direct solution to a serious problem. They allow a people to turn away from destructive sources of fuel, wood and charcoal, to another source, the sun, which is environmentally friendly to people and to trees.
Rick and his team have been looking to share solar oven technology in a wider sphere and it made sense to consider the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor to the east. We decided to give solar ovens a try here to determine if there was truly a need and to see if Dominicans would be interested.
Rick and Lorna brought a team of experienced solar oven volunteers to do demonstrations in three areas of the Dominican Republic where Ardell and I have been working alongside our partner churches. What we discovered is that there is an enthusiastic interest and a definite need for solar ovens. So many Dominicans are living in poverty or just on the edge that the possibility of using a free source of energy can be a life changer. And distributing solar ovens through the church, in the name of Christ, is a concrete example of God’s love reaching out in response to the cries of the poor. It is Good News plain and simple.
Distributing solar ovens is not a handout and it is not easy. Once an area of need is determined, interested persons are invited to attend a workshop to both assemble the ovens and learn to cook with them. This is hands on, shoulder to shoulder working together and then sharing a healthy feast of vegetable and meat dishes, breads and cakes. New relationships are begun built on a common task with knowing smiles, laughter, and the satisfaction of accomplishment. The crowning moment is when each person who wishes can take home a solar oven that they helped to assemble and that they know is proven to work for their greater good.
The solar oven is not free. Many people have given of their time and resources to make this blessing possible. And those who receive a solar oven must pay about $15 USD, a small portion of the actual cost. The price is affordable to many and a sacrifice for many others. To all it is an investment in the well being of their families. When someone takes time to assemble these ovens, learns to cook with the sun, realizes the benefit, and then pays a meaningful sum of money, there is pride of ownership and the excitement of new hope.
The train is ready to leave the station and we are on board. It is not a vacation trip but an opportunity to go to places and meet people we have never really known. The solar oven is a blessing in and of itself but deeper still it offers an opportunity to get to know and love our neighbors. They are waiting for us and we cannot wait to meet them.