Summer 2021 Update
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
During our lovely scenic drive overlooking Lake Union, Seattle WA.
Dear Family & Friends,
In June and July, we spent 6 weeks in Washington state where most COVID-19 restrictions were being dropped, including the mask mandate. Returning to Mexico, we entered a different pandemic world than what we'd adjusted to in the Pacific NW. We immediately felt the difference as we disembarked the plane, hurrying through baggage claim and customs to get home before the 11:30 pm city curfew in Mérida.
While we were away, Yucatán experienced a high rise in COVID cases and deaths and therefore returned to stricter health contingencies. And now the Delta variant spreads, affecting our worlds on both sides of the border and beyond.
Yet, we remember that it is Christ who says, “It is I, do not be afraid.” “Do not be alarmed.” And so, we adapt again and continue to set our minds on Christ who transforms us by His grace. May you be settled by His words as well.
We thank you for partnering with us in prayer and support of our ministry here.
Aloha and God’s blessing on each of you,
Byron, Inez & Kawika Ahina
In this issue:
Saying Goodbye to Byron's Sisters
COVID-19 Update in Yucatán & How You Can Help
Fundraising Update for Cristino’s Home
Connections: Helping a Young Mechanic Start Up a Business
Honoring Teachers with Breakfast
Kawika: Surviving 10th Grade during the Pandemic
Trip to Washington State: Looking Back with Gratitude
Saying Goodbye to Byron's Sisters
Leona & Mapuana: Your smiles shall remain in our hearts
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. During our trip, Byron's sisters, Leona and Mapuana, died just weeks apart. As we still process this great loss, we ask for the Lord's covering of peace over their children who are preparing memorial services in Hawaii for them this month.
Leona, ("Nona"), died of pancreatic cancer in Las Vegas in June. With her system rejecting chemotherapy and surgery deemed too risky, her children moved her from Hawaii to Vegas to be with them under hospice care. This happened just before we left for Seattle.
When we found out about Nona's quickly deteriorating condition, we made a video call to the family to speak with her. We were told she hadn't been responding for a while. In the middle of our call, Byron started singing a Hawaiian hymn that he and Nona would sing together through the years. To the family's surprise, and ours, she reached out to the phone, and began to move her mouth to the lyrics. The moment was both heart wrenching and uplifting. We prayed that she could hold on until we got there.
The Lord graciously allowed us to make it to Vegas to be with her the entire day before she passed. Reminiscing our favorite memories of her with family members around her bed, we were thankful that God gave us the opportunity to say our goodbyes in time. Nona’s granddaughters and Byron sang the doxology in Hawaiian and the Hawaiian song Aloha 'Oe (Farewell to Thee). We rejoice for these precious moments that were intertwined with both happiness and sadness.
We will miss you Nona for your unrelenting heart to show us kindness and to others who crossed your path.
We give our gratitude to our nephew Joe and cousin Lois and her son Trey for hosting us while in Vegas. To Joe & Vanessa, Tommy, Brandy and Cathy: You vividly expressed your aloha not only by the kindness you showed us during our visit but also by the testimony of love and quality care you gave to your momma. It was a privilege to be at her side with you during her last moments with us before she entered eternity.
We also convey our appreciation to Grace Presbyterian church in Las Vegas who kindly responded to our request and offered us lodging before we finalized our plans. Your words greatly encouraged us during a difficult time.
Mapuana (Pana) passed away shortly after Nona in Colorado. Unfortunately, we did not find out ahead of time of her grave condition. Byron will always remember Pana as his second mother and is grateful that he had her to help care for him in a busy household of six other siblings at the time. We're so thankful that we were able to chat with her earlier on the phone this year and for the memories of visiting with her in Colorado and Seattle in recent years.
Pana, we will always remember your humor, feistiness and your gentle spirit.
Thank you to all of you who offered us your heart felt condolences.
Relief Efforts: As we proceed through this pandemic period, we are just starting to pick up where we left off helping the less fortunate with basic necessities. In our Spring Update, we mentioned that through your generosity, we've been able to deliver food relief to 8 pueblos, totaling approximately 500 families. We are currently keeping tabs with a few pueblos that YHH has yet to help and that had projects in the past with our U.S. teams: Yobain, Xbec, Mani and Maxcanu. As well, we received reports that there's still more need for food in some of the pueblos where we provided relief to in the southern zone most affected by last year's flooding.
Future Construction Projects
As is evident, projects are being set aside until, hopefully, the pandemic subsides to allow our projects to begin. We have two U.S. churches that have asked us to research potential water purification plant construction in conjunction with Living Waters for the World. As well, we are in communication with some church leaders who know of families in need of home construction. Also, as we noted in our Spring 2021 Update there are two churches that are seeking help for construction projects.
COVID Update in Yucatán
As the pandemic keeps the world adjusting, Yucatan’s COVID-19 monitoring risk system has shifted in the last 2 months from yellow light to orange and now back to yellow once again. It’s a precarious balancing act of reactivation and risk.
Friends here tell us of continuing contagious cases in their pueblos, attributing the surge mainly to the political campaigns and election earlier in June. They also observe there’s still much need for food in the rural areas. News report that for the 6th consecutive month, food prices are on the rise coupled with inflation. Added to this, the Delta variant is reportedly spreading quickly in our neighboring state of Quintana Roo, where many tourists have flocked to this summer and where many Yucatecans find work.
So please continue to pray for the Yucatan Peninsula and our friends in the pueblos.
How You Can Help
-Pray for more vaccine shipments to Mexico. Roughly 20-25% of the population have been vaccinated.
-Prayerfully consider donating toward food for families in need. Due to rising prices, it now costs approximately $35 toward a 2-week food package for a family.
-Pray for God to continue strengthening churches as they face COVID cases and deaths. Pastor Emanuel of the Filadelfia church in Akil has a throat infection and cough and therefore has chosen to self-isolate while church leaders help with sermons. (COVID testing is not widespread in Mexico and isn’t free).
Fundraising Update for Cristino's Home
Wonderful news. In our last update, we made a special fundraising request to help our dear friend, Cristino, who has served with us as our building mason. Thanks to the generosity of friends, we were able to surpass our fundraising goal for him to complete a house he’s been building for his daughter and grandchild. We praise God for the great response of love of many of you. Because of your gifts, Cristino’s able to proceed with his house project despite the recent increase of construction material prices. He, his wife Ana and his daughter Patty are incredibly grateful. We share his heartfelt words with you:
"Thank you to our God and His mercy and the kindness of my American brothers and sisters. I send my hugs and greetings to you, my friends. I will always remember you. May my almighty God care for you. I miss you always." --Cristino
Connections: Helping a Young Mechanic Start Up a Business
Jose displays the tools he received thanks to the generosity of
North Creek Presbyterian and Serving His Hearts Foundation.
While in the Seattle area, we were invited to dinner with friends from North Creek Presbyterian Church and the Serving His Servants Foundation. But the story behind this all began in Yucatán.
It’s a story of God connecting dots and allowing us to be a part of his plan. For us, it began four years ago in the pueblo of Maní when our van stopped working. A pastor sent for a young, trusted mechanic, Jose, who traveled in the rain from another town. We had been in a middle of a mission project with a team and recall how grateful we were to Jose and his mechanic partner for repairing our van by the end of the day. In the pouring rain. They were God sent.
Now, forward to last year. Jose, unknown to us, had a friendship with a mutual friend, Pamela, in Washington state for many years. During the pandemic, he reached out to her for help as he and his wife had been praying for the opportunity to start up his own car shop.
Feeling the Holy Spirit tug at her heart to do something, she asked us to meet with Jose and find out more about his plans. When we did, Jose recognized Byron. Neither he nor Jose ever thought they would be reunited at the request of a friend from the States.
God has allowed us to be helpers on the ground assisting Pamela, her church and the Serving His Servants Foundation to provide basic tools for Jose to start his own workshop. In working with him during this year, we have found Jose to be a servant at heart. Concerned about a wheel bearing problem we had last spring, he offered to accompany us to the pueblo of Chapab and drove our van to a workshop in a nearby town to fix it while we worked distributing food packages with the local church.
He also fixed other needed repairs during our time in the U.S. But it’s also the other little big things he does that speak of his heart, including sharing scriptures each morning on WhatsApp.
We marvel at how the Lord orchestrates his believers to further his kingdom even in the most practical ways. To find a trusted mechanic for an overseas missionary is truly a gift from God. We believe that the Lord will continue to use Jose in the lives of his community, pastors and other people in ministry. We look forward to the inauguration of his new business. He and his wife Perla are planning to hold a special church service in gratitude to the Lord.
A special thank you to Pamela, NCPC and Serving His Servants Foundation for being a part of God’s response to Jose and making a dream become a reality, even during a pandemic.
Honoring Teachers with Breakfast
As summer whizzed by, we were reminded that the new school year was just around the corner. Before leaving to the U.S., we were able to express our gratitude to Kawika's teachers & school staff, both past and present, by hosting "appreciation" get togethers for them.
We are fully blessed to know teachers here who have inspired a love for learning in Kawika and doing his best for the Lord.
First, we visited our wonderful friends at the Christian Montessori school, Yaldud, where Kawika attended preschool and elementary. We normally invited the teachers each year to share a meal in our home, but COVID-19 halted that in 2020. So, this year we brought breakfast to them, served in the school's outdoor sports court. It was moving for us parents to watch Kawika being in the serving role to these teachers whose influence still remains with him today.
Then & Now: Kawika, the little pilgrim (left), and Kawika (right)
in the same spot during the teacher appreciation breakfast at Yaldud.
It was also an honor for us to prepare another outdoor breakfast for Kawika's current school, School House, at the home of our lovely friends, Doña Jean, and her daughter, Debbie, the school director. We are amazed at how much these teachers have poured themselves into their work during a difficult year. It was a sweet gathering as some of the teachers had not met in person during the pandemic. May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen them as they prepare for the next school year.
(Enjoying breakfast with School House teachers before summer break. Gracias maestros!)
Kawika: Surviving 10th Grade During the Pandemic
He'll tell you right off the bat that virtual classes have been easier for him. But like many teenagers, before the school year ended, Kawika would describe his bedroom this way: I wake up in school, I log into school, I do homework in my school and I fall asleep in my school. And I wake up and do it all over again.
He's grateful for what he has that some of his friends do not: His laptop, phone and access to the internet. But with these privileges come responsibility and no excuse not to get his homework done. For Kawika, who's always been a solid student, this was definitely a struggle for him during the pandemic. The lack of motivation, the challenge of being in a new school -- an American school for the first time in his life in Mexico. But thanks to the Lord and to his very supportive and hands-on teacher, Debbie Legters, he persevered by working hard and pulled through difficulty. His final grade average for the year: A- (3.67). We are so proud of this young man and pray that the Lord will use the lessons of this past year as a guide to his future.
His advice (some better than others) to other students and parents?
1. Keep the fridge stocked. Trust me adults, we eat when we're stressed too.
2. To help you from falling asleep, drink a soda or eat chocolate. A friend wrote to me to eat popsicles. "They are proof that God loves us." I sincerely think that about Mexican Coke.
3. REMEMBER, this will end.... eventually. Go day by day without overthinking about your work, or questioning the purpose of life (yeah, I've done it too... a lot). Just take pride in what you got done, and just keep going. When vacation arrives, it'll all be worth it. But it won't be if you give up. You'll regret it.
4. If you begin to panic, just breathe like my mom says.
5 (for parents): Your kid is stressed. They might show it, or they might hide it. They might throw a tantrum (not unlike my 3 year-old niece when she doesn't get what she wants), or they might lock themselves into their room (also like my niece when she needs space). Just remember, we're teenagers. We're going through enormous amounts of stress, doing school work in a way that no other generation has before. And our brains aren't even complete yet. Please be patient with us. You don't have to make a big speech or talk. Just do small things. Make us a snack, ask us how school's going, hear us vent and complain about school without lecturing us. And please, please pray for us. We need it.
Trip to Washington State: Looking Back with Gratitude
We're so grateful for the blessings we experienced during our trip back to Washington state. Although we couldn't visit everyone we wanted to, we hope to do so next year on our furlough. Because this was not our ordinary 4-month furlough trip, we squeezed as much as we could in 6 weeks and appreciate all the care and love we received.
We have much to rejoice in what the Lord enabled us to do:
Get fully vaccinated. Thank you, Adam & Malia, for making all the necessary arrangements!
Visit and attend church! Thank you to Everett First Presbyterian church, Rolling Bay Presbyterian church and Calvin Presbyterian for receiving us and taking time to be with us. After a year of virtual services, we were blessed to worship with you in person. To close our eyes while singing hymns and declare God's glory in unison with you was truly a sweet gift from the Lord. We thoroughly enjoyed sharing with you, gathering and catching up with everyone.
Muchas Gracias to Darcie Cooper and the EFPC gang for the fun lunch at the dock; Dennis & Kaye Ostgard for hosting the splendid seafood grill with our Calvin Action Team; Laura & Brian Alonso for the awesome BBQ potluck with our RBPC mission friends on Bainbridge Island; Dan & Sunny Coppin for the scrumptious poke dinner and Stu Childers for the great lunch in Woodinville. It was also great to spend time with the Keysers and Byron's sisters Michele & Sharon. Sharon, thanks for all the wonderful cooking! And mahalo to Grandma Viola and Vanessa for the awesome care packages from Hawaii.
Celebrate July 4th in the USA with not one, not two, but three BBQs! Thank you, Laura & Brian Alonso, Rolling Bay Presbyterian, and to the Opitzs (Adam’s family) for hosting these beautiful meals -- we even participated in a boat parade! It was a privilege to celebrate our nation’s independence with you and reflect on those who bravely sacrificed for our country's freedom.
Grandson Ethan waving U.S. flag during July 4th boat parade on Lake Alice, WA
Spend time doing summer activities we normally don't do in Yucatan. Thanks to Malia & Adam, we camped, went boat riding and were treated to our first Mariner's baseball game in 11 years! We keep rediscovering and admiring what a fantastic couple they are: quick to serve and show kindness -- and just fun to be with all around. We'll miss watching them piggy back our crazy grandkids up the stairs, say prayers and take deep breaths with the kids at night.
And of course, hanging out with the grandkids. Ethan & Sophia are truly our crowns (Proverbs 17:6), and we love our honored titles as their Grandpa & Lita and Uncle!
Additional Prayer Requests For:
-Byron’s recovery from lingering effects of heat stroke. The Pacific NW went through a record heat wave about a month ago (it reached 110 degrees). Byron had a wonderful time being chased for an hour and a half, in the backyard by our grandkids, tossing water balloons back and forth. The consequence was he suffered a heat stroke later that night. He still experiences bouts with dizziness from time to time.
-Inez’s need for a biopsy due to a thyroid lump discovered while in the U.S.
By the way, her knee condition has greatly improved, and she has returned to most of her normal activities. Praise God!
-For the kitchen project in Maxcanu. The men from the Emanuel church continue to work on it and are currently installing the plumbing. Progress is slow partly due to fear of COVID-19 and the recent reinstatement of restrictions by the government.
-The Lord's continued guidance on our ministry during this pandemic.
-For God to lead Kawika in his junior year of high school and his college preparation.
Muchas gracias for reading & abundant blessings!
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.
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, 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.