by Rick Fulton
Two of our project days I had the joy to lead the stove building team. As other groups built a home or did home visits, Saul from Bethel would drive us to install the solar panel and LED lights. I would lead in removing the old and building the new stove. Each of the days we had new team members with us.
Stove Day One.
Joining Saul and I was Ingrid and Abbi. We loaded up our O’Neil stoves and headed out in the truck. We headed up the main highway about 15 miles then turned off onto a secondary gravel road. This road turned in to an even less traveled rock/dirt road (pause for dramatic effect). We drove deep into the mountains surrounding Salama. We estimated we drove another 15 miles until we parked the truck. At this point we were met by some members of the family we were to help, along with some community members. Ultimately, we were extremely thankful for their assistance.
The 12 cement blocks used in building the stove had already been carried to our destinations ahead of us, but we had to carry in the primary cast cement stove components. The big piece weighs around 90 – 100 pounds. Very awkward to carry on places pictured above. There were also many smaller parts, plus our small solar components.
At first, our trek was down a flat (ish) dirt road. Then we careened through the brush on a trail. This continued on in an ever increasing incline. We would climb up smaller hills, then down. We crossed many rolling streams and saw many small waterfalls. It was beautiful. As we looked to our right we viewed an amazing vista of the mountain valley below us.
Our path leveled for a bit. Our local friends were zipping up that hill with their cargo, the gap ahead of us ever increasing. I saw a gap in the dense forest of banana and other trees, wondering (and hoping) if this was our destination. It was not. I looked ahead and saw our friends had ascended way above us on a rocky trail, it was rocky, steep and a long way to the top, yet. We hiked on. Ingrid was glad she did her daily aerobics at 4 am to prepare her for this! I was thankful for my recent months of steady bike riding!
We reached the top of that rocky climb, to find we were not yet to our destination.
We kept climbing and climbing.
Ultimately, we found our family tucked in the trees. Their meager home was but a couple of tin-roofed sheds with slab wood sides.
We greeted our new friends and assessed the situation and went to work, Saul and Abbi on the solar, Ingrid and I on the stove. Our family was eager to help in any way possible. Interspersed with work we would “talk” with the family and interact with the kids.
When we were done, we talked and prayed with the family. We then set out for our next build. This time on a path more across the mountain, than up it. We went down and up through small valleys, through many rocky creeks, finally reaching house number two. Thankfully, the family and neighbors had delivered the stove components ahead of us.
We did our install and spent more time with this family, talking and praying.
The mayor’s office had representatives with us all week. They actually packed our lunch up the mountain to us! Wow! When they laid our lunch before us, Abbi said: “I’m not sure I can eat this, those kids look so hungry!” We all agreed then proceeded to give our lunch to the family. Power bars and granola bars were fine for us!!!
After giving the kiddos soccer balls and jump ropes and a little fun with them, we headed down the mountain.
I wish we had phone app running to calculate our distance and elevation that day! We discussed it and are confident in a conservative estimate of over five miles hiked, with our elevation to the top around 1000 feet from the bottom!
Our third was a “walk in the park” compared to the first two.
Stove/solar Day Two had Dawn and Levi and Danny Macario joining Saul and me. Good news: all the stove components were already on site! Again we drove deep, deep into the mountains up near where were previously. Another blessing was that all three homes were less than 100 yards from the truck! We had a great day of building, fellowship, and prayer with the families.
Because of most of our Grace team not was speaking Spanish, we relied on our broken Spanish, and the aid of our interpreters, but mostly on our charades skills. We relied on God’s light shifting through us in our actions, our hugs, our smiles, our work.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
I, personally love doing the stove installs because many families are reached, and the work is fun and very much a blessing for the families to receive the solar power that provides light through the LED lights installed. The stoves will bless them through the ventilated design, and the high efficiency of heating.
Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful. Share with God’s people who are in need. ~ Romans 12: 11-13