Spring 2021 Update
Yellow means yield but, oh how we want to press that gas pedal and go. Still, like they say, to lose patience is to lose the battle. So, we wait out the pandemic a little longer.
Yucatán's "traffic light" monitoring system, which measures the level of COVID-19 risks, last month moved from “orange” to “yellow”. The change comes as a nice surprise as we were uncertain of how the infection rate would turn out after the two-week Easter break in March.
The state government also began its vaccination rollout of the AstraZeneca shots for people 50 and over. It's been encouraging to hear many of friends receiving their shots, like Ivette and Manolo pictured below.
Basically, moving on to “yellow” means less restrictions on curfew and extended hours and capacity for businesses. Hopefully these loosening of restrictions will be earned with people continuing to follow protocols. From what we see, most Yucatecans are.
But despite the good news about the easing of restrictions in Yucatán, medical researchers, as you may have read in the news, estimate that "Covid-19 deaths are significantly underreported in almost every country." The study reported that Mexico’s COVID death toll is estimated at 600,000, approximately three times higher than officially reported. So, we remain on alert yet optimistic.
After so much time, the Divino Salvador church in Merida, where we attend, has just restarted meeting in person in groups of 50 following safe protocols. We are incredibly thrilled at the thought of worshipping together soon once the three of us are fully vaccinated during our upcoming trip to Washington State.
We are so excited to see Malia and her family in June. As you may recall, the trip was originally planned for the holidays last year, but due to the rise in COVID cases back then, we postponed. With our two precious grandchildren growing so quickly, we can’t wait to be with them. Recently, Byron's sister Leona was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer so, God willing, Byron and Inez will travel to Maui in July to be with her for a couple of weeks.
Muchas gracias, amigos y familia, for your prayers and giving, making it possible for us to serve in Yucatán. We give thanks to God who is active and continues to guide his church to make known his grace and power, who keeps calling us to be his light and who moves his church forward.
Aloha & Blessings,
Byron, Inez & Kawika
In this issue:
-Food Relief to the Pueblos of Libre Union and Chapab
-Going Forward & How You Can Help
-A Special Request: Help Cristino Build a Home
-Pandemic Anxiety Taking A Toll
-Update on Inez's knee injury recovery
-Kawika Reconnecting with Old Friends
Being Remembered: Food Relief to the Pueblos of Libre Union and Chapab
With tears in her eyes, Sarita presented Inez a gift: a beautifully embroidered face mask. She was grateful for the aid relief donated by Calvin Presbyterian church, and she was moved emotionally because, she said, “Calvin remembered us.”
As we look back at the past year, we can see the hand of Christ moving in His church to meet the needs of people both physically and spiritually during the pandemic. Reminding communities here that they aren't forgotten and that God's steadfast love never changes. Because of giving hearts like yours, we were able to provide 500 families in 8 communities with food relief.
You gave me life and showed me kindness,
and in your providence watched over my spirit.
In February, we were able to help serve the Principe de Paz Church in Libre Union, where our home church, Calvin Presbyterian had served. And in March, we brought food packages to Chapab, the village that the Lord used to change our lives back in 2001 when we chaperoned a youth mission team from Calvin. (That trip was the catalyst that prompted us to begin our ministry here.)
Both churches helped us by providing transportation for the food supplies, driving early to our home to load up their trucks. Upon our arrival to the pueblos, church members greeted us and helped put the food packages together. While we followed safe protocols, it was a blessing to know that both of these villages had no reports of COVID cases at the time. It was still strange for us to “fist and elbow bump” friends who we really would have preferred to hug after so much time. But what joyous hours of worshipping and working together in ministry.
Words of Gratitude from a Pastor for Food Relief
During a Zoom meeting last month with our Action Team from Calvin Pres, we had the privilege of Pastor Santiago from Libre Union join us to share his gratitude to Calvin for food donations. He quoted Second Corinthians 8:3, which says: For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
We believe what he conveyed is appropriate for everyone who has contributed to our food relief effort.
He went on to say:
Today, as in Paul's time, we are living in the midst of a great need, created by the coronavirus pandemic, but in the same way that God used the lives of the believers in Macedonia to help the believers in Jerusalem, this time God has used the church of Calvin to help the believers who are living in labor and economic need, God through you has ratified that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
So, we thank you friends for your sacrifice of giving. We have had the blessing of witnessing God’s love as a tangible reality. We’ve seen clearly that the pandemic does not stop God from using his church to make known his power and grace in the midst of suffering. We are humbled at the donations received from churches and individuals across the States.
How You Can Help: On the average, $30 buys a two-week food package for a family in need. If you would like to donate toward this relief, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We sense a renewal among churches even in the pueblos to forge ahead with pre-pandemic plans. The Emanuel church in Sahcabchen (Campeche) invited us to take a look at the property (left photo) where they hope to construct a building for a small community the church has been ministering to. As well, the Emanuel church in Maxcanu is beginning to continue work again on the kitchen project there after months of suspension (photos center & right).
How You Can Help: Please keep these churches in your prayers as they take steps of faith in their planning. And as churches and families come to us for help, pray that the Lord gives us wisdom and guidance as we enter the next phase of our ministry as restrictions are lifted.
Also, the Filadelfia church in Akil has begun plans to build a new sanctuary due to the existing faulty roof structure. We are asking for churches to prayerfully consider how they can help with Filadelfia’s sanctuary project, whether by donations or by tentatively planning a mission team in 2022. Again, any amount would be appreciated, the total needed is approximately $5800 usd.
(Left photo): 5 years ago, Byron speaking at the Filadelfia church. (Center): Excavation where Filadelfia will extend the temple. (Right): Pastor Emanuel prays over the site during service.
A Special Request: Help Cristino Build a Home
Those who have served here with us may remember Cristino and his brother Charlie who both have led construction projects with us since 2007. Cristino’s family needs help with the completion of a small home he's building on his property for his daughter Paty (and toddler granddaughter). Paty is facing personal hardship due to abandonment and had to move in with Cristino and his wife (left photo above) during the pandemic. She helps by cooking and selling food, but the earnings are not consistent. With the death of his father last year, now caring for the needs of his mother, and reduction in work hours at a pork company, Cristino struggles to make ends meet. He has humbly asked us to help raise funds to help his family with materials. Any amount would be appreciated; Estimated need: $800 usd
Pandemic Anxiety Taking A Toll
Another aspect that the pandemic has brought into focus is mental health. Pastors here have told us that they are dealing with people who are going through emotional crises, and we have heard of the rise of drug addiction among adolescents in the rural areas.
Many of the poor families where we serve do not have access to the internet, and students fear they will fail the school year. A young lady we know in our city has been out of work throughout the pandemic due to the closures of theatre and concerts and suffers from anxiety and depression. A friend informed us that the husband of a family-owned neighborhood hardware store recently passed away. Apparently, his wife was so distraught she opened and drank from a bottle of insect poison that was sold in the store and died. People are just not well.
While we are mindful of the physical need for food, these stories bring to mind that Jesus declared that He is the bread of life and that the prophet Jeremiah, a prophet in the old testament who faced severe trial and persecution, clung onto the words of God for spiritual nourishment:
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16)
A Plea for Help Outside Our Home
We’ve learned that the pandemic does not stop God from calling us to be His light even in the most unexpected moments. The stress brought on by the pandemic also manifested just outside our home (above photo) in the city of Merida one late night a month ago.
A young stranger, Flor, came to us for help. She had called the police outside of our home after her boyfriend, who lives next door, had hurt her. She explained that when the pandemic started her boyfriend began drinking and that’s when the fighting began. It turned out that because her bruises were not “evident” enough, the police told her they couldn't help her.
We tried driving her to a hotel she arranged to stay at, but because of the 11:30 pm curfew back then, we were told by police to turn back home or face a large fine. Inez ended up sleeping in the living room with her, and was able to listen to her story, share about Christ and pray with her. She left for Cancun the next day and we have been praying for her safety and state of mind since.
Would you take a moment now to pray for Flor and for anyone you may know suffering from mental illness and involved in abuse? May Christ's spirit draw them near to Him for strength, protection and peace. For he does for us what he first did in Galilee when he began his ministry in fulfillment of scripture, announcing:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." Luke 4:18
Prayer Requests For:
-Byron’s sister Leona who is battling pancreatic cancer and his niece Liane who continues to fight brain cancer.
- Us as parents teaching Kawika, in both words and actions, to love God with all of his heart and place his self-identity as God's prized possession. We understand that he's struggling during this pandemic period, like most teenagers.
-Byron’s health as he had some bouts with elevated blood pressure, severe back strain, and intense arthritis in both thumbs.
-Inez’s knee/meniscus recovery.
-The Lord’s guidance on our ministry plans as we prepare to enter the new phase of post-Covid.
-Our health and safety during our trip back to WA State next month. We are concerned about the ongoing violence against American Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. (As well, our travels each furlough take us through the areas of the States that are experiencing those attacks. Please pray for our protection. Our next furlough is planned for April through July of 2022.)
Update on Inez's Knee Recovery
Inez is continuing to do well with her knee injury recovery. Her physical therapist, Erika, has advanced her to the bicycle, treadmill and exercises on a mini-trampoline (the latter two certainly need more work). The great news is that Inez is beginning to walk in public places without the use of her walker and walking stick. Bendito Dios! This is a far cry from her learning to balance and take "baby steps" as pictured on the left.
A shout out in gratitude to our friends in Mérida. Valetina is lending Inez her elliptical bike, and Jean Legters has kindly allowed Inez to do exercises in her therapy pool. We are thankful to them and the Lord for enabling her to progress further.
Kawika: Reconnecting With Old friends
It dawned on us recently just how fast our years in Yucatan are whizzing by. We were invited to a quinceañera for Keren, who used to chase Kawika around when they both were toddlers. By the way, the celebration was "scaled down" due to protocols, much to the dismay of Keren (above photo, far right) and many other girls turning 15 during the pandemic.
At the event, we saw a family who we didn’t recognize at first. It turned out to be a former teacher and classmate from Kawika's early years. In no time, we were chatting and reminiscing about the “old days” from Yaldud, the school Kawika attended from preschool to the 6th grade. Amazing enough, Maestra (teacher) Yula and her husband showed us a picture they had on their phone of Kawika and their daughter Pamela. See the above first two photos from the left ("then and now"). It was a great reunion and opportunity to catch up after all this time.
Tidbits on Life in Yucatan
Scorpion Venom, anyone?
Friends will do anything to help you. That’s what Inez thought when our friend Pedro offered scorpion venom in alcohol for her knee pain. Turns out, it’s a Mayan custom to apply this as a medicinal topic for pain. As strange as it may seem, there are recent studies out there from American researchers and universities that suggest the venom could offer answers to chronic pain.
Living It Up Virtually
We've sure come a long way from learning how to navigate video calls a year ago, especially on Zoom, when we seemed to always have to turn to Kawika to help us out (still do, come to think of it). Who'd ever known at that time, we'd still be doing it now. But we are thankful that we have been blessed to connect with churches in the U.S. and in other meaningful ways.
From left: Inez, “Lita,” receiving birthday wishes from our ohana. Byron and Inez in a fun school project, with foreigners like us having to guess the meaning of slang words. (You can see Kawika was amused.)
From left: Us sharing about our ministry – and a little of our Hawaiian culture -- to Sunday school children via YouTube. Kawika and Inez participating in a Mother’s Day event for El Divino Salvador's church's youth group.
¡Te Amo Mucho!
Byron aka "Bruno" custom made this cap a while back. For you gringos, it means "I love you thiiis much." Para ustedes, los mexicanos, esto significa: "Te amo tanto". Expect Byron to sneak this cap in future updates! ¡Espera que Bruno cuele esta gorra en futuras actualizaciones!
Friends, thank you for reading. It's been a joy to share with you! Dios los bendiga & aloha!
Friendly Reminder: We have changed our 501c3 funding agency FROM Son Raise Missionary Services TO Mission Dispatch (MD). If you wish to make a donation, and have it deductible for your tax purposes, or you plan to use a credit card, you need to go to MissionDispatch.org, and either go to our missionary page or click on the “Giving” tab and yellow “Donate” tab. Otherwise, if you plan to use a check, please make it payable only to “Mission Dispatch” (not to Yucatan Helping Hands or the Ahinas) and mail to the address below. Be sure to reference “Byron Ahina” on the bottom of the check. You can also set up an automatic bill payment through your bank account.
PO Box 641
Edmonds WA 98020