Yucatan Helping Hands
Spring Update 2022
Updated: Apr 9, 2022
Dear Friends & Family,
As reflected in the U.S. and other parts of the world, things are looking up: COVID-19 cases are plunging in Yucatán.
While some of our friends remain skeptical of the numbers reported, one thing is revealing: we’ve stopped receiving alarming COVID prayer requests. A far cry from January & February when Omicron was rampant and causing fear among many.
Thanks to your financial support, we were able to help with food packages and monetary aid to pastors, other church members and people who approached us at our gate during these months.
The decline of cases here and abroad makes for a hopeful year to start receiving U.S. work teams and coming alongside rural churches once again. In this update, we'll cover more about this and the projects that churches are requesting help with.
We’ll also share about new developments in our ministry including learning Maya and preparing to teach English as an outreach program to communities.
As we get ready for our upcoming furlough (May through the end of August), we look forward to seeing many of you and are mindful of the sacrifices you have made to allow us to serve in Yucatán.
We send you our heartfelt gratitude for your continued support and interest of our ministry in Yucatan.
Blessings & Aloha,
Byron, Inez & Kawika
In this Issue:
Ministry: Upcoming Furlough, Getting back to Work Teams & Teaching English
Learning Maya and Being Put to the Test in Maní
Widespread Omicron Causes Fear and Exposes Hardship at Our Gate
How You Can Help: Special Request for Food Donations for San Pablo Theological Seminary
Tidbits & Humor
Ministry: Upcoming Furlough, Getting back to Work Teams & Teaching English
Upcoming Trip to the States
As we mentioned in our last post, we are gearing up for our next furlough, which is just around the corner.
Our Itinerary in a Nutshell
Our dates have changed slightly. We leave Mexico on May 3rd and return on August 24th.
We’ll still start from Orlando and make our way to Alabama, Iowa and California visiting churches and supporters. So far, Byron has been invited to preach in Reinbeck, Iowa and in San Diego. And then as planned, we fly off to Hawaii for Byron’s family and 50th high school reunions in June & July and travel to the Pacific NW before we return to Mexico.
Visiting Colleges and Universities for Kawika
During our furlough, we’re planning to visit colleges now that Kawika is the 11th grade. Oh boy …. how did we get to this so quickly? So far, five universities on the West Coast are on the list.
College Letters of Recommendation Welcomed!
Kawika is soliciting letters of recommendation to submit with college applications and much needed scholarships. Many of you have experienced his service over the years, whether it's been his translating for your teams or his leadership during VBS. Please let us know if you'd be willing to write one.
Getting Back to Work Teams
Church groups have expressed interest in returning to Yucatán next year, and so we're in the process of putting together new cost packages. We hope to finish where we left off in 2020 with plans to build a recreation room at a presbytery retreat center on the coast. As well, to partner with Living Waters for a potential new water plant building possibly this fall or next spring. Interestingly, if all works out for everyone, the new plant may be constructed in the pueblo of Muna, where we have served before building homes. Of course, all of this is contingent on God's will and the continued decline of COVID cases.
In addition, churches, like the Filadelfia church in Akil and the Divino Maestro church in Campeche, have asked us to partner with them by recruiting work teams and raising donations. Both churches have begun working but need help completing their projects.
Filadelfia Church in Akil: New church building needed due to weakened structure
Due to problems with their existing structure, Filadelfia church members are planning to demolish the antique rock walls and faulty roof and then extend a new roof to the new walls they've been building. (See photos below). Carolina, who has served with us in various pueblos, is a faithful member of the church and her husband, Basilio, serves as an elder there. Pastor Emmanuel who we have covered in previous posts leads the congregation.
The Divino Maestro church in Campeche: Expanding Church Building to Help with Overflow
The Divino Maestro church in Campeche is looking to build a new sanctuary to help with its growing congregation. Josue, a translator who we know through Living Waters, is a member here and is helping with the project. So far, the church has been able to complete the new foundation and columns and is now working on supports for the roof beams.
To give you an idea of how the church has been accommodating its members, click on the video below and keep in mind that this was recorded during the pandemic:
We'll keep you updated on these projects. Meanwhile, we ask for prayers that the Lord would faithfully raise teams and sufficient funds for these churches. If you are interested in bringing a team to help or would like to donate to these projects, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Development in our Ministry: Teaching English
When we recently asked Pastor Jose Antonio, one of our local advisors, how we can further serve the church in a meaningful way, his response was unwavering: Teach English. You can use your language, he said, to help the churches connect and be a resource to their communities. Pastors Ricardo Santana and Jan Van Ee, our other advisors, agree also.
Helping to Bridge the Gap While Engaging the Church
Many students who become proficient in English have more employment and higher education opportunities. Yet, there is a gap between students who can afford additional private English classes and those who can’t.
Providing English classes as an outreach would help prepare kids for the global market while churches open their facilities and develop further relationships within their community as Christ ambassadors. This would also provide opportunities for our partnering churches in the U.S. to serve by volunteering online to read, converse, teach and donate for needed materials and books.
Correlating to our Ministry Objective
We believe this would be in line with what the Lord has allowed us to do in ministry here. While it would be different from organizing home and water plant construction projects, the goal would be the same: partnering with local and U.S. churches to bring transformational and sustainable change to communities with a gospel focus.
Teaching English: Not Entirely New For Us
Back in the beginning of our ministry here, we taught English classes for five years for church members in Merida. At the request of hotel management, Inez also taught basic English to a hotel staff in downtown Merida (photo). She volunteered her time to show our appreciation for the hotel's wonderful service to our visiting teams.
She has also tutored several university students in preparing for their TOEFL and IELTS exams and who have obtained higher degrees and studied abroad in Europe.
One of those students, Elizabeth, holds a doctorate in chemical engineering and just published a research paper in English for a well respected international science journal. We rejoice in the Lord for her significant accomplishment.
That being said, in brushing up on our English teaching skills, we're investigating new curriculum and teaching methods, as well as meeting with Stephanie (our former team translator) who is an ESL professor at a leading University here. Our plan is to start teaching classes in the fall at El Verbo church in Mérida where Pastor Jose Antonio serves. That's the first step in this endeavor.
Our heart's desire is to show the love of Christ to students by teaching them English skills that hopefully, as in Elizabeth's case, will steer them toward opportunities in training, education and employment.
We welcome your prayers and any advice from you educators to help put us on path to excellence in teaching!
Learning Maya and Being Put to the Test in Maní
Ma'alob K'iin! (Good day) -- a phrase worth learning before coming to Yucatán.
While Spanish is the national language here, Maya is the ancestral tongue of the Yucatan peninsula and is still spoken by many of our friends in rural communities. Reportedly, approximately 700,000 inhabitants speak it. Most people who know Maya also speak Spanish.
For so long, we've loved listening to native speakers who, depending on the pueblo they're from, vary on how they speak. The complexity of different accents and explosive sounds of consonants meeting together fascinates us. And for too long, it has intimidated us.
So, we’ve taken the plunge and decided that it’s about time we know more than Bixabeel (how are you?) and Ko’ox Janal (Let’s eat).
Our friend Selmi, from the pueblo of Maní, meets with us weekly via Zoom teaching us Maya. She is patient, making us repeat phrases with l’s and k’s, stopping our airflow in our vocal tracts, helping us with double vowel accents and sing-song intonations that are completely foreign to our ears and vocal chords. Quite the difference from saying Hola or Aloha.
Last week, we visited Maní learning grammar with Selmi and her husband, Marcos – a lovely couple we wish everyone in the world could meet. They are truly servants at heart and genuinely love the Lord. We had the privilege to meet them as our hosts when we first brought teams to their village. And that friendship has stuck over the decade.
We had the opportunity to practice speaking Maya as we strolled around Maní, which is known for its rich culture, architecture, tradition and history. We enjoyed our time, even stopping for ice cream at “Kiki Baá” (meaning so delicious).
Witnessing Our Faith With a Little Maya
The big "test" came when we accompanied Selmi and her daughter, Amy, on an outreach visit to Deisy, who speaks Maya, and her 14-year-old daughter, Dana, who has suffered joint pain since she was little.
Both Deisy and Dana were delightful and most welcoming as we exchanged greetings and practiced other phrases to them in Maya. Although a bit nervous as "novices", we realized that our extremely limited Maya made it comfortable for all of us to easily develop a rapport.
They kindly offered us steamed sweet potatoes and refreshing cold tea as we exchanged questions and information about our families and lives. Inez, noticing Dana's Bible in their hammock, shared a testimony of how God's word has worked in her life, and she encouraged Dana to keep reading it.
We then asked how we could pray for them. That's when we saw the strain in their faces. Turns out, although Dana has consulted with various physicians, they all point to different diagnoses of the illness she has -- without providing any real remedy. Deisy says they’ve been told they just have to learn to live with it. So, they asked us to pray for peace and tranquility in dealing with the unknowns of Dana's painful condition.
After praying and Selmi leading us in reading Psalms 23, Deisy invited us to return for a future visit for tamales.
Please pray with us for God's healing upon Dana, and that He would provide a clear diagnosis and a pathway for her treatment. (We hope to help them by talking to physicians we know in Merida and in the U.S.) But above all, that she and Deisy would respond to the invitation of Jesus Christ.
We're indebted to Selmi and Marcos who have been generous with their time and embrace sharing their language with us -- they even presented us a Maya-Spanish dictionary and a translated Bible (new testament). We're grateful for the opportunity they gave us to share about God and speak a little Maya, even if it’s just basic phrases for the time being.
Now back in Merida, as we continue with our lessons, we are mindful of Nelson Mandela’s quote: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Widespread Omicron Causes Fear and Exposes Hardship at Our Gate
Despite that we can now breathe a little better with COVID-19 cases at a low, we will never forget the desperation that Omicron brought to those who subsist on what they earn each day. As work-seekers knocked on our gate, we provided food boxes and listened to what they were going through.
One mother, Carmen, couldn’t find any work in her pueblo so she traveled to Merida to clean houses. Because Omicron was so widespread, she told us no one wanted her to enter their homes. Without any money for transportation to return home, she slept out on the streets overnight.
Jorge (photo above), who we've been praying and sharing the gospel with, comes to clean our garden once a month. He echoed the same thing. For three weeks, he couldn’t find work because, like Carmen, people turned him away afraid of contracting the variant.
The reality of what day laborers face is a reminder of what God seeks from us:
To be aware of their plight:
In the book of Ruth, we read how Boaz was obedient to God's law, allowing Ruth, a foreigner, to gather bundles of barley behind his harvesters. But on top of that, he inquired about her. He could have ignored her, but instead he approached her, giving instructions for safety and providing her water and bread.
To share what we've been given
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
To honor God through generosity
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” Proverbs 14:31
Again, thank you for your support allowing us to help with food packages for people in need.
Special Request: Food Donations for San Pablo Theological Seminary
Like many entities affected by the pandemic, the San Pablo Theological Seminary in Merida is working to get back on track and needs help. We recently received a letter from the Yucatan Peninsula Synod requesting donations for food packages for the school.
The majority of pastors we know have received their training from this institution, including two of our local advisors. We've personally been blessed by their servant hearts and spiritual leadership. Our ministry would not be possible without these dedicated pastors who have worked alongside us.
Would you please partner with us to help the seminary equip the next generation of pastors and grow God’s kingdom? Many of the students come from outside of the city and need to lodge at the school during the week. Because of restrictions ensued from the pandemic, the number of students doesn’t cover the cost for maintaining the dining service at the school.
How You Can Help: Please prayerfully consider donating $35 toward non-perishable food supplies
To Donate, please read the “Donation Note” found at the end of this Update.
Tidbits on our life in Yucatan
Double the Pleasure (and candle flame):
The Legter's family was so kind to host our traditional celebration of Byron’s and, visiting seminary teacher, Pastor Will Ackles’ birthday (both Feb 5th).
Kawika’s friends organized a surprise party for him at our home, and the noise was deafening despite the small gathering. But then again, we’ve forgotten how loud teenagers can be since we haven’t had a group of his friends over since 2020.
20 Year Reunion: Us with Pastor Will, who led our very first mission trip to Yucatán in 2001; his daughter Emily, who was our translator for that trip; and our dear friend Valetina, whose parents were our local hosts during that same mission. Two decades later, here we were under the same roof sharing a meal together. Solo Dios (Only God).
An exciting moment witnessing the opening of the new sanctuary at the Divino Redentor church in Kimbila. Doña Jean, who played during the service, and Pastor Will joined us. They reconnected with old friends and Jean's former music students. How great to see the fruit of her labor!
Reuniting later with friends from Kimbila having lunch together in our home. Around the table are Jose Alonso, Perla and her father Benjamin – together with Jean and Pastor Will.
Amazing how each of our pasts link one another together. Coincidences? Again we say: Solo Dios.
Last month, we joined friends on a tour of an amazing childhood dream turned into reality: A “tree house,” recently constructed around the big Ramon (breadnut) tree the owner would always climb back in the day. A vision she had saved for throughout her long career as an educator. As we took turns swinging under the tree, we felt like children all over again.
We Love to Laugh
Lately, Byron's been hurting for some good jokes and says we can all use some humor. He sent out an email request and here's what he got:
The first one is from Ted. But first some background info. He says it was a joke his mom heard while listening to Adrian Rogers years and years ago—and longer than that.
It all began when a motorist pulled into a gas station somewhere in the heart of New England. It was a time when gas station owners actually filled the gas.
So along came the owner, an older and wisened man by all accounts. He was about to say, 'What’ll it be, sonny?’ But the driver popped his head out and exclaimed, in good fashion for a tourist bedazzled by the fall colors never seen elsewhere and certainly not in Nevada, “What a day! Isn’t it great to be alive?”
The fine gentleman at the pump paused a moment to consider, then replied, “Ah-yuh. Can’t say I’ve tried any other option.”
Here's another joke, again from Ted:
Teenager with bandaged ears visits the neighbor. The neighbor asks how the kid’s ears had been hurt.
“I was ironing.”
“The phone rang, I got distracted and answered with the iron.”
“Then why is the other ear bandaged?”
“They called back.”
And this one's from Jim. A good one from Mary Poppins, which just happens to be Byron's favorite movie.
Joe: "I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith."
Moe: "What's the name of his other leg?"
Thanks for submitting guys!
Please Pray for:
Our friend Griselda from Chapab whose health is failing again from liver disease. (She is Don Humberto's wife sitting next to him on his right in photo above.)
Our friend Carolina from Akil whose father passed away this week.
God's continued guidance and wisdom in our ministry.
God to raise up work teams as we enter a new stage of the pandemic.
Our upcoming furlough - that the Lord would bless us with spiritual growth, encouragement, safety, health, energy and rest as we travel.
Kawika as he finishes his school year while traveling through different time zones and visits colleges during our furlough.
Malia who injured her knee and is going through physical therapy. Her orthopedist will determine whether the therapy is effective enough to keep her from requiring a knee replacement at such a young age. So far, she is doing well.
Inez who is on thyroid medication to diminish her lumps. Praise God, the doctors believe her lumps are malign and therefore say a biopsy is not needed but will re-evaluate in August.
Muchas Gracias for Reading Amigos!
Thank you for your support in prayer and financial giving
For contributions toward our ministry & personal expenses:
If you wish to make a 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” (not to Yucatan Helping Hands or the Ahinas) 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.
If you wish to make a non-tax-deductible donation, please send a check to our US address:
Payable to: Byron Ahina / 1918 214th CT SE / Sammamish, WA 98075
For contributions toward food relief packages or construction projects:
If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation for relief packages or projects:
go to MissionDispatch.org (see above instructions). All gifts we receive from Mission Dispatch are considered as income to us. Therefore, we will set aside a portion of that gift to cover for IRS taxes.
If you wish to make a non-tax-deductible donation for relief packages or projects, maximum up to $15,000, please send a check to our U.S. address above and include a brief description note for the purpose of the donation. Example: "These funds are to reimburse Byron and Inez Ahina for __________. The Ahinas did not have any financial gain from this gift."
If you have any questions, please contact us at email@example.com, call us directly at +52 999 129 6227 or leave us a WhatsApp message at the same number. You can also leave us your number as we have unlimited calls to the U.S. Thank you.