Even though wood-burning cook stoves may seem primitive to us living in 21st century America, such stoves create a major change to Guatemalans living in small tin-roofed shacks cooking on an open fire.

That was the experience of the Rev. Rusty Allanson, lead pastor of The Promise Church in Fishers, Ind., and volunteers-in-mission from the suburban Indianapolis church. Mission Guatemala has been high on the church’s mission giving list. This past year The Promise bought and installed 63 wood-burning cook stoves in Guatemalan houses.

The concrete stoves cost $120 but come as kits needing to be assembled on the spot. According to the Rev. Tom Heaton, executive director of Mission Guatemala, the company that manufactures the stoves in Guatemala will deliver the stoves by the roadside, but many times volunteers need to lug the heavy kitchen appliances through fields by narrow paths to reach their destination.

The stoves create a major transformation to Guatemalan women who up to this time have prepared all the family’s cooked food on a campfire inside a very small house, filled with smoke with a heavy deposit of soot on the ceiling. The stove also uses less wood to cook than an inefficient open fire.

In a letter to his congregation, Allanson described one experience saying, “When the assembly and installation were finally complete, the grandmother begins to cry and blessing us all-saying how she could not believe what we had done for them--changing their lives forever. The mother insists we stay and disappears only to appear a few minutes later with small glasses of orange drink and a plate of pieces of sweet bread. Through her tears, she ‘required’ us to partake. I sat stunned because she offered us what would likely be all they had to eat for that day. Fighting back MY tears with the rest of my team, we had what we thought of as the finest Holy Communion ever.”

According to Heaton, the Zionsville United Methodist Church also shares in this cook-stove mission and has donated $12,000 to buy 100 such stoves which will transform the lives living in 100 homes.

For more information about Mission Guatemala, an Advance Special of both the Indiana Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries, visit www.missionguatemala.org.

This past year, Mission Guatemala hosted 14 teams from the United States comprised of 193 volunteers.

See a video story here.

Photo courtesy of Mission Guatemala

Two Guatemalan women take a first look at a new wood burning cook stove that will transform the way they prepare food for their family. The stoves were given by Hoosier United Methodists through Mission Guatemala.

“…we had what we thought of as the finest Holy Communion ever.”

– Rusty Allanson