Determined women use solar powerWhen I was growing up, my father was fond of saying “You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.” He knew something about that; he was raised on a farm. My daughter makes meals while the sun shines. Sometimes when I get home from work, I’m greeted with roasts, potatoes and brownies she’s cooked — baked in her solar oven.
When I was growing up, my father was fond of saying “You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.” He knew something about that; he was raised on a farm.
My daughter makes meals while the sun shines. Sometimes when I get home from work, I’m greeted with roasts, potatoes and brownies she’s cooked — baked in her solar oven.
Rebecca graduated from Northland College last year with a major in environmental science and received the solar oven as a graduation gift from her father. Both she and my mother have previously traveled to Haiti to teach its residents how to cook with solar ovens.
By the time you read this, Rebecca should have arrived in Fond des Blancs, Haiti, as part of the Haitian Solar Oven Partners of the Dakotas Conference of United Methodist Church.
“Religious people,” she says, “kind of annoy me.”
So why is she hanging with a group of church people?
“Because I believe in the mission.”
The trip is for anyone interested in helping the Haitian people. It teaches people how to cook food and sanitize water with solar ovens. In Haiti, most people use wood or coal fires to cook. This takes up a good portion of the family income and leads to upper respiratory and eye problems. Countless trees have been chopped.
My mom, who is now 81, was the first in our family to join the mission, traveling there when she was 74. She and I first learned about the Haitian Solar Oven Partners when we served on a church committee in Grand Forks, N.D. in 2003.
My mother told me that she would pay for me to go. It didn’t look like a place I wanted to visit, but she really urged me to. I still said “No.”
I remembered the newscasts of Haiti’s turbulent 1980s. I didn’t think it was a place I wanted to travel to because I figured I was too outspoken and would get myself in trouble. And Haiti is frequently listed as risky on a CIA website that issues warning to U.S. citizens traveling aboard.
Before I knew it, my mother had signed up, despite my worries about her safety. She replied, “I’ve lived my life.”
Because we all have the same sounding voices and mannerisms, my husband calls my mother, daughter and me, “Three peas in a pod.” I like to think of us as “The determined Yaeger-Bischoff women.”
Rebecca first went to Haiti in July 2008. I was worried about her, too.
The State Department still has a warning about U.S. citizens going to Haiti and “strongly urges avoiding all but essential travel,” its website states. “This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated December 9, 2010 to reflect the critical crime level, cholera outbreak, frequent and violent disturbances in Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, lack of adequate medical facilities, and limited police protection.”
I read that to my daughter on Wednesday morning, adding another part about kidnappings and how the earthquake has significantly damaged the infrastructure. But she was determined.
“This is a way I can put my beliefs into action,” she replied.
So what are the Haitian people like? “Really friendly and excited to have us as guests,” Rebecca says, adding that her Haitian hosts seemed more interested in the churchy part of her mission than she was.
Rebecca said most of the others on her 2008 Solar Oven Partners mission were retired. An only child who tends to be introverted, she told me during her first days back that she missed her day-to-day interactions with her travel mates.
“I got along with them really well, and we became good friends,” she recalled last week. “They made me feel like we were part of a family. They were interested in my commitment to environmental work. They listened to what I had to say.”
I wonder, “Why should anyone be surprised that an older person would listen to a young person who wants to save the environment?”
On Tuesday night I attended the CHUM fall assembly, which featured Shane Claiborne, an enviro-evangelist, you could say. He said that Christians needed to read the Bible with one hand and the newspaper with the other.
Courage may have skipped a generation in the Yaeger-Bischoff women. But I’ll do my part by cheering both the older and younger generation on.
Naomi Yaeger is editor of the Budgeteer.