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Stone Ovens and How to Build Them

Resourceful missionaries with New Tribes Mission know a thing or two about stone ovens, if you're interested in building one yourself.

| May/June 1973

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    Cross section and detailed views of a stone oven and its parts, including the firebox, nested drum cylinders, and chimney.
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    A finished version of the missionary stone oven design.

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There are those who argue—sometimes with good reason—that the whole concept of running off to distant lands to "convert the heathen" has created far more suffering than joy in the world. Maybe so, maybe not. But no matter what you, personally, may think about the message carried by missionaries . . . it might pay you to take a closer look at some of the low-cost living and survival methods pioneered and employed by various members of the breed.

If you wanted someone to teach you homesteading skills, would you think of asking a missionary? Probably not . . . yet if he'd ever served in a remote part of the world, such an evangelist might be a very good instructor. After all, long before the back-to-the-land movement got started, many dedicated men and women of various faiths were already old hands at setting up housekeeping with scanty supplies, local resources, and their own ingenuity.

Though some ministers abroad now enjoy modern facilities and equipment, the "do it yourself" tradition is still—necessarily—very much alive at New Tribes Mission . . . a nondenominational, evangelical Protestant foundation. The 900 NTM field workers specialize in carrying the Gospel to the most primitive peoples in the wilds of New Guinea, South America, Africa, and the Philippines. Their work, in fact, is so demanding that New Tribes' five "boot camps" (in Pennsylvania, Florida, Canada and Wisconsin) teach the apprentice missionary basic skills, not only of ministry, but of survival.

An essential part of this training—"jungle camp"—takes place every spring when each NTM student goes out into the woods near the school and begins to build the house in which he and his family will live for a period of one to two months.

During the several weeks it usually takes to clear a site and erect a shelter, the missionary trainee tries as much as possible to simulate jungle conditions and to do as he will have to do when he finds himself actually living with a native tribe far from "civilization". Since it's very difficult to send building supplies to the interior areas where the new evangelist will be working, he knows that he'll probably have to make do with what's available. This means, for one thing, that if the missionary and his family want to cook and bake on something more advanced than an open fire, they must learn during the training period to build what they can with what they have: earth and stone and what grows.

Here, then, is the type of stove that New Tribes trainees have found most practical . . . a design that's well suited to homesteading in the boondocks because it can be built quite readily from materials at hand wherever you are.

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