Fall Update 2020
Dear Friends & Family,
The above photo was a flower bouquet given to Inez from Byron. The beauty and freshness of these beauties remind us of the wonderous way the Lord lifts us up with encouraging words found in scriptures. And we sure have been in need of God's comfort and reassurance lately.
Since our last update, we’ve experienced both the loss of friends and have learned of friends recovering from COVID-19. We’ve met people whose homes were spared by Tropical Storm Cristobal and others who weren’t so fortunate. People who lost their jobs and others who are still employed.
To be honest, at times it felt almost cruel: To pray for comfort for the families suffering losses and then thanking Jesus for having blessed others with health, safety and finances.
We think of friends, after suffering from COVID, who are now in the presence of our Lord and their loved ones stricken with great loss. We count for joy each time friends advise us they've recovered from the illness or hear that they've been released from the hospital. We think of Azrael and Letty whose palapa home was damaged from the floods of Cristobal which caused a mudslide aimed at their property sending water, boulders and debris right into their home. And then family like ours who don't need to contend with a broken wall or a demolished home.
How could our sovereign God place both sorrow and joy hand in hand through the same event? In the same community? In the same church?
About the time we were asking ourselves these questions, we listened to a pastor-friend’s sermon based on the book of Ezra as he spoke about viewing the same situation with different perspectives.
You see, the Israelites had just laid the foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians earlier. On one hand, there were the elders weeping. They had seen the Temple in its glory days and so from their view was the reality of a great loss. On the other, were the many others who were rejoicing because the foundation of the temple was completed, and so from their view was anticipation and a renewed restoration with God.
Two different perspectives. One of grief and one of joy. A situation we find ourselves in dealing with the effects of disasters.
Still, the essence of the message was this: God is greater than both perspectives. Neither the weeping nor the jubilant during the time of Ezra could see that the future messiah, Jesus Christ, would walk and teach in the very halls of the Temple they had begun to build and proclaim good news of salvation of eternal life and freedom from sin. We were so encouraged with this message, we included it in our letters with the food supplies we distributed to the families in the fishing village of Chuburná Puerto.
So, no matter what perspective we have from our experiences during this difficult period, whether sorrow or joy, let’s have faith that God is up to something great even though we can’t see it. Because, yes, He will make everything beautiful in His time. And may we be like those who wept and those who shouted for joy, and share the same song: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Aloha & Blessings,
Important Reminder: We have changed our 501c3 funding agency FROM Son Raise Missionary Services TO Mission Dispatch (MD). To make your online tax-deductible donation, go to MissionDispatch.org, and either go to our missionary page or click on the “Giving” tab and yellow “Donate” tab. Or mail your check payable only to “Mission Dispatch” to the address below. Be sure to reference “Byron Ahina” on the bottom of the check:
Mission Dispatch PO Box 641 Edmonds, WA 98020
You can also set up an automatic bill payment through your bank account.
Thank you for your ongoing support and love!
A Special Thank You: We are especially grateful for each of you who have sent us donations toward food supplies. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to travel to the pueblos and see firsthand what people have been going through. The families and pastors have responded to us with much gratitude for your love and sacrifice of giving during these trying times.
In This Update Issue:
Update on COVID-19 in Yucatan
Food Gifts delivered to families hit hard by Tropical Storm Cristobal & COVID-19
Tidbits on life in Merida
Update on COVID-19 in Yucatan
The last couple of months have been especially challenging and a strong call to prayer. First came the news of our dear friends who both came down with COVID-19 at the same time and had to be rushed to the hospital. Then their son who was caring for them and his pregnant wife caught it as well.
Soon, others we know reported having the virus or faced stress in trying to navigate care for elderly parents who contracted the virus.
Our close friend of ours frantically looked for a hospital to care for her diabetic father who was showing severe signs of the virus. But there was no space. The situation at the hospitals was chaotic. They ended up isolated as she cared for her dad alone receiving instructions on the phone from a doctor relative in Mexico City.
A friend who was released from the hospital said there were no available beds. She watched in horror people dying around her.
Another friend asked for prayers because her mother-in-law was having trouble breathing. The ambulance finally came only to leave without a clear explanation but thankfully came back the next day.
Our firefighter friend had been resting at home since he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms only to be called back to work sooner than the 14-day quarantine ended.
We recently received news from a pastor that his pueblo was left without a doctor because the only physician there had contracted the virus and was hospitalized.
Thankfully, many of our friends and acquaintances have beat the virus, some with light symptoms, others fighting for their lives. But it appears that for now Yucatan is coming around with a decline of reported deaths and new cases. Although Mexico has been reported of having the highest mortality among health care workers, that number has also decreased. And despite that the numbers reported in Mexico may fall way below actual cases (which is due to the high cost and lack of widespread testing), we are watching the trajectory of cases.
So, we are grateful to the Lord for the reduced numbers and pray that people will continue to take necessary precautions to avoid any potential of a second wave, especially as we enter the flu season.
Through it all, we have been inspired by how people here have come together united in prayer, checking on one another and supporting each other through difficult times. We have been moved by receiving phone calls and messages from people asking how we’re doing, even from friends we’ve not been in contact for a while. God is good!
Food gifts delivered to families hit hard by Tropical Storm Cristobal & COVID
The effects of COVID-19 coupled with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Cristobal in June have continued to create hardship for families we visited in our last round of delivering food supplies to the villages.
Several people in different villages have told us that government food packages that had come early in the pandemic have now stopped.
So, thanks to those who have been able to respond to our request for donations, we were able to continue delivering 2-week package food supplies to families that have been affected by Tropical Storm Cristobal, especially to those whose livelihood depend on work in the fields where crops were destroyed.
One afternoon as we were headed to our next destination to deliver packages, there was a hiccup in transportation for our guide who was going to lead us to Xkacala, a remote neighborhood of seven families in the hills of southern part of the state. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do since we were trying to practice safe protocol and travel in separate vehicles from our guide. Suddenly, a Christian brother, Huygens, who we’ve worked with in ministry, came to greet us and asked us what we were doing. We explained the situation, and without hesitation, he immediately offered to be our guide since he had a motorcycle. He also offered to lead us to our following destination, the pueblo of Yaxhachen, where we had never traveled to before. And that meant a 3-hour drive for him.
Talk about a God-send in the precise moment we needed it.
And boy, were we grateful. With each turn we made up the hills of the jungle, we kept asking each other how on earth would we ever had done it ourselves without GPS and phone coverage. When we entered the neighborhood, curious families came to greet us. All without masks.
Inez, who was battling a fear of contact with people than most days, stayed in the car with her door open while Byron and Kawika began offloading the supplies. As she spoke words of encouragement through her face mask, she wondered if these Mayan families could understand her muffled Spanish, especially from a distance. Did they even speak Spanish at all? And knowing she’s not gifted with a booming voice, she wondered if they could hear her at all. But as the humble greeters smiled, nodded and laughed at her jokes, she began to relax. Then she asked the families to pray with her. She began by giving thanks to the Lord for his love shown through the compassion of others who made it possible for us to deliver the food supplies. That they were not alone. She wasn’t sure how they would respond to hearing about the love of Jesus and his gift of eternal life. But when she finished praying and looked up, she saw many of them wiping tears from their faces. It was a moment she will carry in her heart into eternity.
After leaving Xkacala, our guide continued to lead us – this time to the pueblo of Yaxhachen where we were sent by one of our pastors in Merida. Earlier in the day, we had downloaded the location on our phone through google maps and told Huygens it would be alright if he left us after Xkacala. We had thought that the closer we got to the pueblo, our phone data and signal would return. Wrong. Again, we thanked God for sending us Huygens who insisted he would continue the journey with us.
When we arrived at the church where we were to meet the church elder, no one was there. And there was no phone signal to call him. We thought of all the prepared boxes of food sitting in our van. Quickly Huygens told us to wait and off he left. He had gone to the pueblo’s center asking where the brother Nehemias lived and found him under 10 minutes. God was making this seamless for us. Be still and know that I am God.
We spent time with Nehemias listening to what the flooding had done to areas of his pueblo and went to visit a young couple whose palapa hut was damaged by the flood. They explained to us that due to Cristobal’s unrelenting rains, a mudslide occurred sending water and large boulders right into their property. They ended up fleeing through their back door when a large boulder came crashing into their hut, causing structural damage to their home. Azrael and Letty lost most of their possessions, clothing and money in the flood. The crops planted behind their home were also destroyed. While Azrael has done touch up repairs to their palapa, the structure is damaged and needs major repair. In fact, the couple is afraid that even with a new palapa hut, they may not be as fortunate as they were this time. We are trying to help raise funds for a new cement home for them with the understanding that Azrael will contribute to the labor.
At the end of our time there, Nehemias prayed and thanked us deeply for the food supplies donated to the families of his congregation. Because of the pueblo’s remote location and COVID measures, the economic situation had already been difficult before the flooding. And although he was also was thankful for other donations that came before ours, including a truckload of clothing, those gifts came by delivery only. He said he was grateful to see us because we were the first to bring donations personally to them and listen to their stories.
Chuburna Puerto, Yucatán
Even though other pueblos in the state were not struck as hard by Cristobal, rural families are still suffering from the pandemic’s effect on the economy. We made a food supply trip out north to the coastal village of Chuburná Puerto, a fishing town dependent on tourism and fishing. It had been too long since we actually saw a sign of a beach town, we got excited and took a photo of it. It was strange to enter the pueblo, which under normal circumstances during the summer would be teeming with tourists, fishing trips and people lined up ordering fresh fried fish. But because of the COVID-19 contingencies, the majority of families have been affected with unemployment and are facing increasing difficulty with putting food on the table.
According to the brothers at the local Presbyterian church where we distributed supplies, Chuburná Puerto had no positive cases of the virus until recent weeks. To pay for medical expenses, including expensive testing, will only add to that stress. The other week, the only physician in the pueblo was diagnosed with COVID-19, leaving the pueblo without a doctor. This unfortunately complicated the situation and resulted with the death of a brother from the church last week. Another brother was released from the hospital, but his condition is still very weak. And he now faces medical debt.
While in Chuburná, we got to hear first-hand of the plights that people are struggling through. It was another opportunity for us to listen and give encouraging words of blessings. As Kawika carried an elderly lady’s food supply to her home from the church, she explained that COVID has made it harder for her to care for her 50 year-old handicapped daughter. Family members are not helping out, and no one comes to visit them anymore, putting a strain on her because she says her daughter has become depressed. He told her he would pray that things would get easier and that her family members would start visiting again soon.
The church brothers shared that the majority of them are fishermen and while there had been some help from the government, we were told by Pastor Gonzalo that aid has since been cut. Before COVID-19, their main clients they sold fish to were foreign companies, including ones from the U.S., who purchased large quantities of fish and squid from them. But the pandemic has put that to a halt, and with repeated closing of the marinas and prohibition of fishing, these restrictions have forced them to find work wherever possible, including cleaning jobs. But those positions are limited so many are left without work.
Still as dire as life is, the Yucatecans are a resilient people and can see God in all of this.
As Inez explained to one woman that we were distributing food supply that would last for only 2 weeks, the lady tearfully responded: “This gift is BIG for me. The love of the people who gave this to me is BIG for me. God’s love is BIG for me."
Click on the following link below to see a short video of us and church leaders distributing food to families. We appreciated the care of the leaders who organized families to pick up their supplies at assigned times in order to avoid crowding. Pastor Gonzalo's church sent this video to us in gratitude to those of you who have contributed. Thank you friends and to God be the glory!
Tidbits on life in Mérida
Mexico celebrated its independence Day on September 16. Having a native Yucatecan son has made us come to love and cherish this holiday. Since he was little, he looked forward to the “Grito,” when all the heroes who led the fight for independence are named out loud and the people respond by shouting “VIVA!” “VIVA MEXICO!” (Long live Mexico!)
As expected, this years’ festivities were erased with COVID-19. Our neighborhood seemed like a ghost town, without the usual movement of activities that we normally see: families preparing for parties, bringing out tables and chairs for the invitees, seeing people dressed up in green, red and white, cars passing with the Mexican flag waving on their windows. Most of all, we missed the usual fiesta gatherings at our friends’ homes after church service would end at 12 a.m. (At which time, the pastor would shout: VIVA! VIVA JESUCRISTO! (Long live Jesus Christ!)
But we made the best out of it by ordering our favorite pork tacos and watched the President lead the “Grito” from the balcony of the national palace to an empty main square usually filled with crowds of people (to give you an idea, last year’s Grito reported 80,000 attendees). In the absence of people laid luminous lights showcasing the shape of the Mexican Republic and a flame representing hope. A reminder of how bright light can be in darkness.
Friends, please join us in prayer for:
-Kawika as he has started high school at School House in Merida, based on an American education system. Please pray for this transition as he's learning new methods and concepts in math and science.
-Our car which is currently in the shop for a 3-week repair.
-Continued protection over our health and safety.
-The Lord to equip us further in his word so that we honor him during this difficult season.
-Our Yucatecan friends suffering from COVID -19 and those who have lost loved ones. Especially pray for the Cristo El Salvador church in Chuburná who lost a member to COVID-19 last week.
-The Lord to give strength and financial resources to the pastors and church leaders in Yucatan as they shepherd many who are suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19 and the virus itself.
-For our dear friends Florecita and Darwin and the healthy birth of their baby son Sebastian. Darwin is a front-line health worker so please pray for his safety and God’s protection over this family.
-The Lord to open new opportunities for funding projects as we seek the Lord’s guidance. We are grateful for the opportunity, thanks to our Calvin friends, of doing a rotary presentation of our ministry today.
-Our kitchen project in Maxcanú. Labor had to be suspended because the brother leading the project came down with COVID. We are happy that he has since recovered, and the church men have begun working on the kitchen again.
-For families suffering from hunger. Recent headlines point to a worsening of hunger and malnutrition in Mexico.
Thank you for reading! Vaya con Dios! (Go with God)