Tomato Soup?

by Rick Futon

Yesterday, Chuck, Ema, Megan, Ingrid, Darlene, Seth and I were on the afternoon stove team. This week our goal is to install 8 of these stoves in homes. Plus one in each of the homes we will install a total of 10.

We build these efficient Onil stoves. They are amazing!   They are a cement prefabricated, vented wood stove.   Most of the people we work with have a “stove” that is generally 3 rocks with a metal plate on top. Many times that cooktop is the top off of a metal barrel.   They burn whatever they can find. Wood, Plastic…..   The smoke billows into the room of the home (often the ONLY room in the home).   This is so bad for their lungs, and eyes.   The ceiling and walls are generally covered in DEEP layers of soot!   Not a good situation.

By replacing their existing stove with the Onil, the smoke is vented, thus helping the health of the family.   It also is extremely efficient! It has a small firebox where only a few sticks of wood can burn at a time.     A few sticks can cook an entire meal.   One new upgrade to the ONIL design is in the top cement portion, there is a large firebrick piece that replaces the pumice that is noted in the diagram below.   This guides the heat and smoke along the cook surface and out to the vent pipe.   The beauty of this firebrick piece is that it retains the heat for many hours. It is generally warm the next day….thus greatly increasing the efficiency of the stove!

Personally, I LOVE doing the stoves!   It provides a team the opportunity to meet with 2 or 3 families in a day. There are both a work component and a relational component. We have the blessing to be able to pour into the lives of multiple families!

After we build the stove, we spend time with the family.   Discussing their life, trying to uncover needs. We also offer backpacks and toys for the kids, school supplies.   We also have suitcases with shoes and possibly clothes to give the family.   All much needed!   We also will provide a bag of food to the family. Bethel assembles these big bags of food that have LIFE SUSTAINING things!   Rice, beans, Dehydrated food packets (that groups package up in the states and Mission: Mobility and On His Path ship down on containers), oil, dehydrated milk, vitamins, coffee, hygiene supplies, and a BIBLE!     All things that will SUSTAIN life!     We have experienced reactions to the Bible in the bag that blew us away!   They are almost more excited for their own bible, than the food that will fill their stomachs for a few weeks to come!   That is priceless to experience!

Yesterday we went to Maria’s home.   It was tucked way back down a narrow “road”.

Chuck and I went right to work on the install, while the rest of the team spent time with the family! Playing with the kiddos and getting them other needed items.   We had bottles of kids bubbles.   That was a HUGE hit with the little ones!   Bright eyes and smiles and giggles!   What a pure JOY!


Maria was a strong woman with a bright smile!   A widow. She would work from 6 am to 4 pm in the fields picking cucumbers.   She actually made more money than many of the ladies I have experienced. For that day of picking she could make $6.50/day….that is, if the bosses didn’t dock her for whatever reason they wanted.   She said she generally works with a crew that is 20 people and they must pick 500 gunny sacks of cucumbers each day!   The two boys, 13, and 15, had quit school and been working in the fields since they were 10.   They worked similar hours working in the tomato fields.   They could make $8.50/ day.

After we finished building, we demonstrated how to start the stove and discussed how to operate it.   We now give them the long grill lighters.   Those are just short of magical in the eyes of someone who has never seen one before. They LOVE them!

Standing around after the build, God prompted me to ask what the family would eat today. I had noticed some masa (ground corn paste) on the table in two small bowls.   I had also notice she immediately put a very small pot on the stove right after it heated up!

Saul translated that today Maria, her 2 teen sons, 2 grown daughters and 4 little grandkids who all live in this house would eat ONLY tortillas that she will make from the masa.   And in the pot, she had water, 3 small tomatoes, and 3 eggs that she would boil with the tomatoes.

So on most days this was the ENTIRE MENU.   FOR THE WHOLE DAY! FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!   6 pounds of tortillas, 3 tomatoes and 3 hard boiled eggs!  We were so happy to be able to help them as we did.   We also made sure they got one of the bags of the food. It will feed them all for a couple of weeks!

As poor as this family was, like most we encounter, they aren’t moping around!   They oddly have a bright disposition and a sincere JOY!   It is so humbling to us.   They have nothing, yet they have their faith in the LORD. He gets them to the next day. HE provides.



We drove HIGH into the mountains today to install stoves!   We were expecting a grueling hike, once up the mountains a ways.   But we were blessed with just a hair raising mountain road ride….then a drive down a ROAD?   No,  cowpath was more like it!      But the good news was it took us right with in 100 yards of our 3 installation families!

All went smoothly on the installations.  They knew we were coming and had removed the existing stoves.   So we knocked out the stoves in short order and had time to spend with the families.

The one family had a daughter who was 30 and severely disabled.  She was confined in her bed.   We “talked” to Claudia as we installed their new stove!

One twist to the installs today, was that two of the roofs were tile.   I have not yet seen a tile roof on one of the homes we encounter.    This posed an interesting challenge.    We normally drill the vent pipe through the tin roof….often times the tin is even thin from years of rust.    We were unable to cut through the tile with our holesaw.  So we drilled the diameter of the hole needed with a small drill bit…then knocked out the hole and smoothed down with a knife.     Worked like a charm!  ( on the one…we were required to angle the vent pipe  in order to be able to exit the roof.   So,  YES, I KNOW the vent pipe is on an angle.   Juanito, my master stove installation teacher would always stress a very level and straight vent pipe!   Ya gotta do what works, sometimes.

I look forward to tomorrow to install 3 more stoves for families.   Again, as today, tomorrow the team will break into 3 groups.  Home build team, Home visit team and Stove Team.

Dios te Bendiga!

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