One of God’s greatest gifts to all human beings is the sun. The energy from the sun is what sustains our lives through photosynthesis, green plants ability to convert sunlight into energy for food. In addition, sunlight can also be used to cook food.
Over the last two years we have begun to work with solar ovens as a new ministry for us in the Dominican Republic. The solar oven allows people to cook food using only sunshine as the energy source. The solar oven is a simple technology that gathers and concentrates sunlight into an insulated box making it possible to cook food and bake bread.
The solar oven has external reflectors to direct the sunlight into the box. The special double plastic box cover keeps all the heat inside the oven. The kettles must be black to maximize the absorption of heat. In other words the oven is especially designed to receive the sunlight and trap the heat energy so that food can be cooked.
The energy of the sun is free, a gift available to all people. Natural gas, electricity, charcoal, and even firewood can all be owned and sold in the marketplace. The energy from the sun has no owners, it is free to be received by all.
The sun’s energy could be compared to the love of God. God’s love is available to all who will choose to receive it. You cannot buy God’s love because it is not for sale, it is freely given like sunshine. God’s love shines on all people but not all people recognize God, the source of love or they have never seen the Good News demonstrated in a way they can understand or appreciate.
Why do we need the solar oven? Why can’t we just put raw food in a pot and set it in the sun to cook, no oven necessary. If the sun were that hot then we would all be in trouble and unable to survive outdoors. The solar oven is a way to gather a wider swath of sunlight and concentrate it’s energy in a small space. It magnifies the heat of the sun.
God’s love is gathered and magnified in the community of faith, the Church. God’s love is the focal point and in that gathering we come to understand the ways that God has chosen to be revealed, through worship, prayer, Bible study/contemplation, and mission. If the community of faith is well focused and well practiced, the love of God becomes an energy that can transform us.
The solar oven is not a magic box. Solar cooking is a skill to be learned and that is best done with other people. We may help one another and encourage one another. If there is no community of solar cooking then the ovens may end up in some corner to gather dust. And the knowledge and ability to cook with the sun can be forgotten and lost.
Cooking with solar energy is a skill to be shared with others. Solar oven cooking is best done in a community setting so that learning and knowledge can be shared. When the cooks gather to share ideas, recipes, and methods then the beauty of solar cooking spreads and can become a greater and greater blessing.