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  • Writer's pictureYucatan Helping Hands

Summer 2019 Update

Mexican Summer Bliss: July sunset at Porvenir Camp - photo by Kawika Ahina

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope you are enjoying your summer and keeping safe from the heat and weather hazards across the U.S. and other parts of the world that we've been reading about. Just last week at a shopping mall, we saw people with their cell phones taking photos of what we thought was rain. We couldn't believe it, but it turned out to be hail!

As we share this update, Galatians 6:6 comes to mind. A lot of what we will cover centers around Pastors: Building a pastoral house in Akil; being led to a Pastor in a neighboring state for a water plant project; and spending a wonderful time with a retired pastor from our home church.

“Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” Galatians 6:6 NIV

We are grateful for our pastors for imparting the word of God upon us, laboring alongside us in ministry and encouraging us along in our journey. That’s why we’re pleased to be able to share the good things the Lord has provided with them. We hope you enjoy reading more about this in our update.

At the end, please review our prayer requests and praises. Also, Inez has included in our separate Reflections-post her farewell to her father who recently passed away. We hope that this may encourage others who are going through bereavement as well.

Besides reading about our ministry, you can take a glimpse into our life in Mérida in our Tidbit section of this update.

Blessings & Aloha,

Byron & Inez & Kawika

Ministry Updates

A House For A Pastor And His Family in Akíl, Yucatán

Thanks to efforts between the Bethel church in Akil, Yucatan and FPC Lebanon, Oregon, Pastor Armando and his family will finally have a new pastoral house to live in

Pastor Armando has served Bethel faithfully for the last consecutive 16 years and is in his 4th calling as pastor for another 4 years. 

It’s no wonder. He’s humble and leads with a gentle, yet humorous spirit. In fact, a church leader describes him as “kind, a collaborator of much prayer, one who is always attentive of his parishioners and makes visits to them, strengthening the church spiritually.”

In September, we will be hosting a team from First Presbyterian Church (FPC) Lebanon, Oregon who will be helping the Bethel church, in Akil, Yucatan, construct a pastoral house. 

Since Pastor Armando became pastor in 2003, the church has provided him and his family a place to live on its property by converting several classrooms into living spaces for them. Building a pastoral home has been on Bethel’s pending list, but, due to more pressing issues, the church wasn’t been able to start the project until now. 

But, come this fall, he and his family will finally have a home to walk to after church services. 

Pastor Armando has been instrumental in our ministry not only as a friend and mentor, but helping us with providing homes to the needy in Akil. Since 2010, together with his church and Rolling Bay Presbyterian church, YHH has coordinated the building of 6 homes as well as other church projects. He helped guide us to the families in need and consistently worked alongside the masons in construction.

He has served as an example of laboring in Christ’s love; and this time, he and his family will receive the blessing of being able to live in a house themselves.

His commute home won’t be as short but not long at all either. For this project, one of Bethel’s members donated a plot of land to the church just around the block. Byron helped the church leaders with the design of the home and since then, the brothers have already begun building the foundation, columns and walls.

How You Can Help

Our team from FPC Lebanon needs more people to come on board to help with roofing, painting, doors, and windows. If you are interested in joining the team, there’s still time. The team will be here in mid-September, right on time to experience the festivities and traditions of Mexico’s Independence Day. Please contact us if you are interested.

Pastor Armando, center, with church leaders Hyugens (l) and Didier (r).

Water Plant in Tikinmul, Campeche

One of the most productive Living Waters for the World (LWW) water plants in the Yucatan peninsula is in Tikinmul, Campeche. And it badly needs an overhaul.

That’s why Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church (RBPC) is sending a team this November to help the church of Principe de Paz construct a new building to house a new operating system through Living Waters for the World (LWW).

Byron is currently working on plans for the new building using a prototype recommended by LWW, and we will soon get started with the first phase of construction.

But we didn’t arrive at this moment overnight. Since January, we were considering other possible sites in the Yucatan peninsula to partner with RBPC, and in February we were invited to attend the LWW conference in Maní, Yucatán.

It was during this conference that Pastor Ricardo Camaal Chi shared with us his church’s need for a new plant. He explained that their existing plant was built 13 years ago, way before the current health department codes were set in place, and when the church had converted its small church office into the water plant.

On top of this, the current system had become antiquated and had been on the LWW priority list for a complete redo. The church decided to purchase land to build a bigger plant to accommodate the needs of the community.

However, despite fundraising efforts, the church still found itself lacking necessary funds for construction. So, after further discussions with LWW, Pastor Ricardo, RBPC and our first site visit to Tikinmul in April, we are now underway with planning for the November mission.

But even during our trip to Tikinmul, the Lord kept putting things in place. After our overnight stay in the pueblo, we traveled to the colonial city of Campeche (well-known for its fortresses and outer walls to protect against pirate attacks in the 17th and 18th centuries) and met up with friends from Mérida. (Our former translator Stephanie and her husband Israel invited us to spend a couple of days there with them and their three precious daughters. We learned a lot about this beautiful colonial city. )

It just happened that during two consecutive nights in the city’s square, we ran into Doug Depies from Living Waters and two visitors from a U.S. church who were scouting churches in the peninsula to install a new plant, one of them being in Tikinmul!

One of the visitors commented as we said our farewells, “I’m starting to believe that this was not a coincidence.” And since then, that church has decided to install the plant in Tikinmul after the completion of the water plant building.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We give Christ the praise and glory! 

Byron and Inez with Pastor Ricardo, church elders and deacons of the Principe de Paz church in Tikinmul, Campeche

Old city walls, forts and pirates oh my! Below are photos of our side trip in Campeche City (with friends Stephanie and Israel and their daughters) after we traveled to Tikinmul:

Always good to get back to Maní, Yucatán

Our friends from the pueblo of Maní always tell us: Once you drink from the well from Maní, you belong here. Although we’ve never drank from the well per se, we find ourselves returning to this quaint place. We feel like we belong every time we set our feet there. As you may recall, we have worked with the Divino Pastor church here for many years in our ministry. Everett First Presbyterian church has served alongside us here building homes and co-leading VBS with the local church.

In February, we were invited to attend the Living Water for the World Conference in Yucatan, which El Divino Pastor hosted this year. It was a wonderful time, and we heard testimonies from various plants around the region and how God is moving through this ministry. We were able to reunite with our friends from Cantamayec, where we constructed a water plant building last year and had the honor of watching our dear and trusted friend Carolina from Akil participate in the event. (Photos below)

In March, we had the wonderful opportunity to introduce our friends, missionary Jean Legters and Pastor Will Ackles and his wife Nancy, to our Maní friends, Marcos and Selmi, who have been invaluable to our ministry in this pueblo.

Maní, known for its historical significance, is also known for its Mayan cuisine and beautiful embroidery work. It was here that the “Maní Inquisition” was carried out by a Catholic friar, Diego de Landa, back in 1562. Valuable mayan codes, books and artifacts were burned and a wealth of history was erased. Marcos and Selmi arranged a tour of the convent by the town’s historian, Juan de la Cruz Castillo Argüello, who is respected and very knowledgeable and passionate about the historical events and legends of his ancestors.

We finished our day at the popular restaurant El Principe Tutul Xiu where tourists flock for its delicious house specialty Poc Chuc (grilled pork over charcoal).

Weeks later, El Divino Pastor church invited Pastor Will and Jean Legters to participate in an outdoor evangelical service. Each month, the church chooses a neighborhood to visit and then invites them to worship by setting up “church” where possible, in this case the neighborhood sports court.

So back we went.

Pastor Will preached while Doña Jean played the keyboard. It was a blessing to see Pastor Will, who brought us to Yucatan for the first time back in 2001, share the gospel 18 years later to a pueblo we love. He was also reunited with past graduates from San Pablo Seminary in Merida where he still teaches. By the way, looks like Pastor Will got a little help from God to help him emphasize his points during his sermon (see photo below).

And as a double blessing, we were able to witness Doña Jean, who, by the grace of God, has overcome incredible obstacles from her car accident injuries, play with joy and fill the evening’s air with her heavenly music. We could have listened to her play all night long. God is good all the time.

Finally, we returned to Maní again at the end of June as Kawika was invited by his good friend Amy (Marcos’ and Selmi’s daughter) as her escort for her 6th grade graduation ceremony. It was a huge privilege to watch Amy receive her certificate and deliver her valedictorian speech. We have watched her grow from a little child to a lovely adolescent who continues to love the Lord. And to top it off, we got to see Kawika sweat it out by dancing the waltz with her during the event!

Other updates:

-Kawika’s enjoying his summer vacation free from homework and project stress. Besides hanging out with his school amigos, he attended a Christian youth camp at Porvenir beach and made a lot of friends -- even those in college. Before heading out to camp he was able to help out with preparing for church VBS by painting a jungle prop with his good pal Danyre at El Divino Salvador church where we worship in Mérida. We thank the Lord for friendships!

-This week Inez and Kawika are translating for a medical service team of approximately 40 people from New Haven, CT. So please pray for God’s hand and protection over us as we go out to the pueblos to provide medical services and do VBS.

-In November, we start our 3-month furlough beginning in the Pacific NW. We look forward to seeing many of you as well as our family in Washington State. Can't wait to see our daughter Malia, son-in-law Adam and those little munchkins again, our grandkids Ethan and Sophia. After the New Year, we plan to visit churches and supporters in the mid-west and east coast before heading back to Yucatan at the end of February.

-Camping retreat center Project 2020:

We are still in the planning stages for this project with the Peninsular Presbytery here and Everett First Presbyterian Church. We will be building a recreational room on the second floor of the Camp Retreat building.

Prayer Requests For:

Preparations for upcoming teams as we travel to Akil and Campeche over the next upcoming weeks. Pray for our safety and travel no car malfunctions please.

Our dear friend DoGriselda in Chapab, who has cirrhosis of the liver, has been diagnosed with a liver tumor and is waiting to have a biopsy which has a long waiting time. She has served with us as a ministry cook. Please pray for the Lord's healing and peace over her and her family.

(Griselda, left, in photo on right)

Byron: His eczema condition, normally under control thanks to the humidity and sun rays in Mexico, has worsened greatly over the last few months with rashes and open sores from head to toe. In fact for about a month he was bed-ridden due to being able to sleep for only 1 – 2 hrs each night. It turned out that it took a concoction of boiled, then chilled, shredded leaves from a plant called Neem that Byron used to bathe himself with each evening, then applying some natural oils and creams. The eczema calmed down immediately.

Inez and her family due to the recent passing of her father. Inez took it hard as his death was sudden and unexpected. She has been able to share the word and encourage her oldest sister who traveled to bring their father’s remains back from Nevada where he lived to Hawaii. The burial was on July 30th. Via FaceTime, Inez delivered the eulogy and led everyone in prayer.

Praise Reports on Kawika:

Praise to the Lord, Kawika received recent recognition at school for high academic performance during his 8th grade year. We are grateful for the guidance of his teachers, director and school staff at Blas Pascal. Pray that Christ will continue to teach him to use his skills for His kingdom purpose.

Kawika also completed his first year in ukulele and performed his solo beautifully at his music recital (hymn: Grace Greater than Our Sin). Pray that the Lord would give him a joy of worship in his heart as he develops his skills.

Grateful for Teachers!

At the end of each school year, to show the Lord our gratitude for his provision over Kawika, we host teacher appreciation luncheons in our home. We give thanks to the Lord for providing us brothers and sisters in Christ who have helped and are helping to educate and shape Kawika's future. Good ol' Mr. Rogers would say, "look for the helpers." But we have been blessed, because the Lord has sent us the helpers. We pray that Kawika will never forget the investments his maestros have put into him and our supporters who make his education possible.

Kawika's former preschool and elementary school's teachers from Yaldud celebrate birthdays during a luncheon in our home
Teachers from Yaldud, where Kawika attended preschool and elementary school, take a moment to celebrate birthdays during an appreciation luncheon in our home.

Middle school teachers and school administrators try out some of our local Hawaiian cuisine during our luncheon for them. Teriyaki chicken, mac salad, and spam musubi!

TIDBITS: Life in Merida

Mixed Messages

Can you find the irony in the photo below?

Road design and construction have come a long way since we first visited Mérida 18 years ago as church youth chaperones. For the most part, improvements have brought the city on par to most modern cities in the U.S. But occasionally, we come across "strange" situations like having 4 lanes of traffic on one side of the intersection that end up squeezing down to 2 lanes on the other side. Or stops signs when entering the freeways. Speaking of stop signs, let’s go back to the photo. What would you do when approaching the intersection with both a green light and an "Alto" stop sign? :)

For those of you who’ve never watched Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, you may have learned the Hawaiian word for family: Ohana. When we think of our Ohana, many of our memories are centered around hanging out with family and EATING. The fusion of diverse flavors from a variety of cultures makes the Hawaiian cuisine a specialty.

So, when a business suddenly popped up in our neighborhood with a sign “OHANA,” we immediately thought poke (raw fish with seaweed), laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaves) and poi. Too good to be true. It turned out to be a clothing store. And nothing Hawaiian about it.

When we asked the young owner why she named her store "Ohana," she said it was a family business. Still, we are thrilled to see anything Hawaiian here. Like the Hawaiian Paradise shaved ice store here in Mérida. There are also a few restaurants now selling poke (the more modern stuff served with edamame beans and veggies), and during a recent church service, one of the worship team members played the ukulele. A hotel bellboy calls Byron "Cinco-Zero" in reference to Hawaii 5-0. The youth here take photos doing the shaka sign, although they have no idea what it is.

But one of our favorites is the flower shop at our local market. The owner there has Hawaii's beloved music-artist Iz Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on his playlist. (The original song is from the movie The Wizard of Oz.) He blares it over large speakers so everyone at the nearby cafe and park can enjoy it too. We've never been furthest from our native Hawaii, but it seems sometimes if we "click our heels three times," we're there. Well, almost.

Aloha & Blessings in Christ Jesus! -- The Ahinas

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