The Rocket Stove Ministry
April, 2014

Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Matt. 25:40

Published by the Society of the Good Shepherd, P. O. Box 122, Amberson, PA 17210. (717) 349-7033

Honduras microloan Last September, we introduced our readers to a simple invention called the rocket stove. Although I refer to it as “simple,” actually a considerable amount of engineering science has gone into the rocket stove. It was designed in 1984 by Dr. Larry Winiarski as a way to help impoverished people in developing countries. The stoves dramatically increase fuel efficiency while greatly reducing smoke and harmful emissions. They use anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3rds less fuel than conventional clay stoves, and thereby save far more money in fuel than they ever cost. Rotary International set up a small workshop in the town of Copan in Honduras to make these stoves. The shop sells them for only $50 each. Through the generosity of our readers, we’ve been able to purchase these stoves and give them to the poor.

When Deborah and I were in Honduras this past January, we visited the workshop in Copan where the rocket stoves are made. The shop itself is very simple, and the stoves are largely made by hand. The outer layer of the stoves is made of steel-reinforced concrete, and the inner layer is made of volcanic ash, which serves as an insulator. This prevents heat loss that would otherwise be absorbed by the concrete. A truckload of these stoves—paid for by our readers—had already been delivered to Siguatepeque, and we ordered another truckload while we were in Copan.

Honduras microloan Once we returned to Siguatepeque, we delivered a few stoves from the previous truckload, and we visited some of the people who had received stoves this past fall. We were also able to learn more about how the rocket stove ministry is being administered. Luis Vega and a pastor friend of his, Brother Lenin, oversee the ministry and select the recipients. First consideration is given to faithful brothers and sisters in need. After that, the stoves are given to anybody, based on their circumstances.

Luis and Brother Lenin have found that it’s not as simple as just handing out free stoves. First, they have to demonstrate to the people how the stoves work and describe the benefits. They also explain to them that there is a short break-in and seasoning period for the stove. So the first few times they use the stove, the recipients will find that it doesn’t cook as well as their former clay stoves. If people don’t understand this, they give up on the stove right away.

Honduras microloan We charge the people a nominal amount for the stove—$5 or so—which they can pay out over many months. This small fee doesn’t even cover the gas for the return visits Luis or Lenin make. But we’ve found that people value something more highly if they have to pay something for it. Also, Luis and Brother Lenin explain to the people that when they drop by to pick up a payment, if they discover that the people are no longer using the stove, they will simply pick it up and take it to someone else.

Given the benefits of the rocket stove, you would think the latter would never happen. However, the rural poor in Honduras are very much creatures of habit. They prepare food and cook very much the same way their ancestors did centuries ago. Often they don’t fully appreciate the dangers of inhaling so much smoke from their old-fashioned clay stoves. Also, the fact that the rocket stoves help to protect the environment—since these stoves require less wood—is of little concern to them. So this is not a once and done program. It requires a number of follow-up visits. Happily, most of the recipients soon appreciate the benefits of the rocket stove and use it regularly in place of their old clay stove.

The primary motivation for the rocket stove ministry is to help the poor in a tangible way that saves them money and protects their health. Regardless of who the stoves go to, in reality they are going to Jesus. “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me” (Mt. 25:35-36).

Honduras microloan Nevertheless, in addition, the stoves open a window to share the gospel with unbelievers. There are no spiritual strings attached to receiving the stoves and no pressure tactics. We have no interest in making “rice Christians.” However, both Luis and Brother Lenin share the gospel with the stove recipients, if they are not already believers. They let the recipients know that it’s Christians who are donating these stoves, simply because they love them. As a result, we’ve been able to share with the poor something far more valuable than just the rocket stoves—we’ve been able to help some of them enter into eternal life.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our various readers who have made this rocket stove ministry possible. God bless! David

The Society of the Good Shepherd, P. O. Box 122, Amberson, PA 17210 • (717) 349-7033

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