Yucatan Helping Hands
Summer Update 2022
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
Dear Friends and Family,
Aloha kākou from Hawai'i nei! After being away for five years, the cool island breeze against our skin is like a mother’s calming touch. It’s good to be back in our native land.
Since May 4th, we’ve been traveling through the U.S. visiting supporters and churches. We are now taking a break in Hawaii, where we celebrated Byron’s 50th high school reunion and will be participating in his upcoming family reunion.
Coming back as “kupuna” in our older years, we find ourselves changed from the days when we would run bare foot in the sun and drink directly from the water hose. Yet, the beauty of Hawaii remains, calling us to remember our past and appreciate the simplicity of life.
On Father’s day, we shared a meal at Cromwell beach where Byron, in his youth, would dive and wait for his unsuspecting nephews to be thrown in the water by his brothers. The youngsters were forced to learn to swim the “Hawaiian way” as Byron treaded in the water, not touching them as they struggled, but navigating them with his voice and being ready to save them from drowning.
As we think about our journey in life after leaving the islands – Byron going to college in Oregon, Inez in Massachusetts, getting married and moving to Seattle, then becoming missionaries in Mexico – we realize that life is like being thrown into the water. We are so thankful that the Lord has been with us, guiding us with his word and ready to deliver us from "sinking".
Psalm 107 speaks of God’s faithfulness when we cry out to him:
"Lord, help!" they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them for their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
and stilled the waves.
What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Speaking of journeys, Inez returned and visited the church where she accepted Christ when she was in the 6th grade. We'll cover more on that later in this update. As well, we'll be sharing our friend Ema’s Exodus story from Covid to Cancer to Recovery with you. The scripture above reminds us of her testimony, which has been a great blessing to us. She shares her story because, like the psalmist, she desires to proclaim God’s faithfulness after crying out to Him in her distress. We trust that it will inspire you as well in whatever journey you're on.
We thank each of you who have hosted us so far during our furlough from Florida to Alabama to Tennessee to Iowa and to San Diego. After our trip to Hawaii, we will travel to the Pacific NW for another six weeks.
A shout out to Jim & Martha Darden from AVPC for connecting us to Dr. Scott Pennington who treated Kawika's infected toe, Aleta Sheetz from AVPC for lending us her car for our overnight trip to Tennessee, Mel & Janet Schildroth for picking us up at the airport and driving two hours each way (and at 2:30 am in the morning!) and Malia Opitz and the Keyser family for providing us a car and their condo during our stay in Hawaii. We are blessed beyond measure!
Blessings & Aloha Pumehana, (with warm regards),
Byron, Inez & Kawika
In This Issue:
First Leg of Our Furlough Trip
Special Thank You to Our Hosts
Our Time in Hawaii & Where we Head to Next
•Celebrating Byron's 50th High School Reunion
•Returning to the Church Where Inez Accepted Jesus 45 yrs ago
Prayer Requests on Potential Projects & Other Needs
A Reflection: Ema's Exodus from COVID to Cancer to Recovery
Farewell to Griselda
First Leg of Our Furlough Trip
We've made it half way through our nearly four month trip. After two years of the pandemic, we’ve been deeply blessed to see churches, supporters and friends face to face who we haven't seen since 2019. What a joy to be renewed by warm smiles, arms reaching out to us and people's genuine interest in the current affairs of our lives.
Besides us preparing for church presentations, Byron delivered sermons at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) Reinbeck and at Christ United Presbyterian; as well, Inez & Kawika were the liturgists leading the service at FPC Reinbeck. It’s been a time to share with supporters about our ministry during the last two years as well as our goals for the future. It’s also been a time of great encouragement and being prayed over.
We’re thankful to God for opening doors to allow us to travel and visit our friends, family and supporters. Thank you to our long-time amigos at UPC in Florida for hosting us; our dear brethren at Altadena Valley Presbyterian in Birmingham for your faithful support; the church community at FPC Reinbeck for showering us with love; and our friends at Christ United Presbyterian for allowing us to share in your beautiful worship commemorating Memorial’s Day.
Special Thank You to our Hosts
Due to the high cost of car rentals, which has more than quadrupled since our last furlough 2 years ago, traveling has definitely been different for us this time ‘round. Instead of long car rides across the states and visiting friends in between, our furlough trip has involved waiting in lines and zipping through security checks at airports. According to Google, we visited 10 airports in May. The good news: None of our flights were canceled.
So, you can imagine, how wonderful it felt to be welcomed by our hosts and loved on! We can’t thank each of our hosts enough for their labor of love in providing us a comfortable place to stay and inviting us to share at their tables. We want you to know your ministry of hospitality has blessed us in numerous ways. So, we thank you for the big and little things you do such as:
1. Thinking of details to make us feel welcomed in your homes. That includes candies in our room, gift baskets, cards and even bath scrunchies (loofahs). Not necessary, of course, but deeply appreciated!
2. Giving us quiet place to rest & reflect; a space to work on ministry and schoolwork; a place to catch up with correspondence, pay bills and do laundry.
3. Allowing us to be a part of what you do.
4. Sharing your favorite spots with us. We are amazed at God's beauty wherever we are.
5. Putting so much effort into providing us delicious meals, whether at home or dining out.
6. Picking us up and taking us to the airport, even at the wee hours of the morning. You have been so generous with your time.
Our Time in Hawaii & Where We Head To Next
From Byron's 50th high school reunion, to visiting family and beautiful beaches and parks (and eating our favorite island foods in between), our time here has been unforgettable. The beauty of the lush, green Ko'olau mountain range, the variation of blue and green hues in the ocean and the fauna here are stunning. Even Kawika, who doesn't like to fill his cell phone with photos, can't resist taking pictures everywhere.
We are so grateful to being able to hang out with family, even before our family reunion begins. We've enjoyed catching up on life, hearing everyone's stories, the rich company and ono food along the way.
Celebrating Byron's 50th High School Reunion:
The alumni gatherings at Byron's high school, Kamehameha, are like no other. Under the beautiful fragrance of flower leis, mouth-watering food, harmonious singing & music and friendly jest, exists a strong culture of shared collaboration of service, unity and love. And holding all of this together is a rich legacy of its founder, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop whose faith and Christian values resonates today.
As the princess' desire was to provide educational opportunities for children of Hawaiian ancestry, the school was established by her estate in 1887. Byron's 1972 class has remained close knitted throughout the years which is a testament to the school. The aloha we feel during these gatherings, even for Inez & Kawika who aren't alumni, makes us feel whole, accepted and nurtured. Byron was called, impromptu, to dance the hula to The Boy from Lapahoehoe for his class night event. If you ever served on one of our teams, you know what this is about. Kawika, very timely, was nowhere in sight for his Dad to pull him in. Congratulations to the class of 1972 for your 50th year reunion!
Returning to the Church Where Inez accepted Jesus 45 years ago
We had the blessing of attending a Hawaiian church service in the town where Inez grew up. At 12 years of age, she asked Jesus to be her savior and Lord at the Pearl City Community church. On so many levels, Inez felt Jesus embracing her back to the very place where he began working in her heart. The welcoming and warmth of the people, the memories of young leaders who led her to Christ and the Hawaiian hymns and songs sung during service immediately brought her back to her childhood. When the congregants held hands and sang Hawai'i Aloha, which her own family would sing at gatherings, she felt an overwhelming gratitude to God for his faithfulness throughout her life. Going back to her roots gave her a new appreciation for where her journey began with the Lord and where she is today because of Him. It was a precious moment and place to share with Byron and Kawika.
"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land." Genesis 28:15
Worship Service at Pearl City Community church where Inez accepted Christ at age twelve.
Next Stop: The Pacific Northwest
After our family reunion in Hawaii, we head to the Pacific NW in mid-July for more visits and presentations. We look forward to visiting our home church, Calvin Presbyterian, First Presbyterian in Everett, Rolling Bay Presbyterian church, First Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, friends from Mill Creek Presbyterian church and, Ted Pampeyan, our director from Mission Dispatch. And in between all of this, we’re excited to visit friends and family, including spending time with our daughter Malia, son-in-law Adam and our grandkids Ethan & Sophia.
Prayer Requests for Potential Projects & Other Needs
•First Presbyterian Church of Everett is renewing its commitment to the Presbytery retreat project on the coast that had to be put aside due to COVID-19. (The group was scheduled in July 2020). While not knowing what protocols will be in place, the church is exploring the possibility of sending a team in the summer of 2023. We will be visiting FPC in Everett next month. Please pray for God’s leading and a favorable recruitment response for a team.
•The Living Waters for the World Yucatan coordinator made a trip to Yucatan this month to inquire and speak to the local leaders about a potential new water plant project for us. Please pray for God’s direction.
•We once again ask for your prayers for our niece, Liane, who lives life to the fullest and has been courageously battling a rare brain cancer for over the last two years. She's experiencing excruciating pain and has difficulty sleeping at night. Please pray that the Lord would help her with managing pain and for His mercy and peace to fill her ailing body.
•God’s leading as we tour colleges with Kawika in the Pacific NW in July & August; that the Lord would open opportunities for scholarships.
•Healing on Kawika’s left big toe. He’s had to deal with pain and infection during our travels. He saw a doctor for the 2nd time during this trip and is currently on antibiotics again.
•A favorable response to our fundraising for food packages & English classes and recruitment of teams. We will be providing more information on this in the weeks to come.
•Our health and safety during the rest of our travels.
Ema’s Exodus Journey: From COVID to Cancer to Recovery
We’ve known Ema for a very a long time. She was assigned as our Spanish teacher when we first arrived in Yucatan 18 years ago. So, when she messaged us that she was sick with COVID last year, we immediately began to pray and left a food package outside of her home.
She had been suffering from bronchitis and a host of severe stomach and digestive problems. On top of that, she couldn’t sleep. Yet, she began to sense God working in her heart, bringing to light the things that kept her apart from Him. She was grateful for His mercy with every new day.
A Steep Turn Downhill
But then, as she started to think she was on her way to recovery, she began experiencing setbacks, including series of additional ailments. She felt faint, had trouble breathing, and her heart seemed to stop working properly. Her hands would become numb.
Meanwhile, her husband, who also contracted COVID, had lost his cooking job due to his absence from work. Again, she asked for prayers for her health and the Lord’s guidance as they considered opening a takeout business of their own.
She was initially diagnosed with infections in her blood and intestines due to a tick bite. But later, another internist disagreed with the other doctor’s conclusion. He took her off antibiotics saying they were excessive and had been the cause of her rapid heartbeat. And off she went for more medical tests.
While test results revealed she had salmonella, explaining her bout with bacteria, the doctor still hadn’t determined why she was experiencing tremors, fatigue and excessive sweating.
Then the Diagnosis
It turned out Ema had breast cancer.
Surprisingly, where she once was thrown into despair at the news of having COVID-19, she felt at peace when she got the cancer diagnosis. God had been preparing her for that precise moment in the oncologist’s office. Through it all, he’d been developing courage and peace in her.
"I realized that my love for my Lord was very fragile"
She recalls, “After the first two weeks of COVID when I was bedridden, fears arose in my heart. I was afraid my faith would wane and that I would deny God in my life. And as the days passed, which seemed like an eternity, I realized that my love for my Lord was very fragile. I began to doubt, questioning how God could love me if he sends me rare diseases.
“But then I began to realize that the Lord allowed all these diseases to afflict me and teach me that it didn’t depend on what I could do, but rather that He was faithful and sufficient to sustain me. He took away my health insurance, my husband's job, and my health. He left me almost alone from my family and friends physically. All of this taught me that I had to lean on Him during a critical time.”
Parallel to the Journey in Exodus
In reading Exodus 13, we were reminded of Ema’s journey. God led his people through a longer route instead of the most direct way to the promised land. In verse 17, we read why God decided against the shorter way through Philistine territory: “If the people are faced with battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Verse 18 continues: “So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.”
Further in Exodus, we see that the people had trust issues. They complained of not having food and water instead of remembering how God delivered them out of bondage from their Egyptian oppressors. They lacked faith in the faithfulness of God. So, they complained to Moses: “Why did you bring us out here to die?” “If only the Lord killed us in Egypt….” “Are you trying to kill us?”
Certainly, with that mindset they wouldn’t have been ready to engage in battle with the Philistines had they been led through the shorter trek.
Fearing Death yet Drawing Close to God
Likewise, Ema shared with us that she was terribly afraid of dying from COVID and yet knew the Lord was working to draw her closer to him. She told us she wouldn’t have been ready to receive her cancer diagnosis had she been given it from the get-go. Instead, because of her walk through one illness to another and from one test and diagnosis to another, she learned that the Lord was with her every step of the way providing for her every need. She learned to trust him deeper than ever -- so that when the cancer diagnosis came, she was ready.
After the news, Ema says, the Lord amazingly opened the doors for her to receive surgery quickly instead of being in the back of a long waiting period. Everything went well and, today, Ema is better with the cancer in remission. On top of that, she and her husband have since opened their takeout business.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. -Phillipians 4:13
“God is always faithful and good all the time," she reflects. "Even though at some point I had wanted to oppose him, not wanting the pain, the Lord helped me believe that in Christ, I could go through anything because He would be with me.” She recalls Pastor David Legters constantly telling her to remember Philipians 4:13 and says that only in Christ’s strength she is standing today.
Grateful for Affliction
“How thankful I am that the Lord has afflicted me and that everything has been for my good. God is faithful and I know that nothing can separate me from his love. I can never avoid getting sick because this world is earthly. Jesus was the man of sorrows being just and holy, and I know that He intercedes for me. I have the hope that there is a place where I will go one day where there will be no more death and pain and, best of all, I will meet Jesus my Savior.”
Sometimes we can’t understand what the Lord is up to. But sometimes the long and winding road is for the better.
Farewell to Our Dear Friend Doña Griselda
Our sweet friend, Griselda, who we have included in our past updates, passed away May 1, just before we left on our furlough. She was one of very first friends in Yucatan from back in 2001. She served as one of our ministry cooks, cared for Kawika when he was an infant, taught us things to look out for in ministry, and was a great encouragement to our family. As a tribute to her, we are reposting our FB memorial to her below:
Griselda from Chapab, our beautiful friend, sister and “abue” to our son Kawika, is now with the Lord. We thank Christ that she no longer suffers. Our hearts are broken, but we know that she has reached her ultimate victory with God’s grace and right hand leading her into his presence. Her absence leaves a huge void in this world. She was an amazing witness to Christ for us by the way she lived, by how she loved God no matter what difficulties she faced and showed it by loving her family and people completely without reservation. Her genuine sweetness, smile and laughter have made us all the richer. Here on earth, she was a true gem, and, in heaven, she is the same but only brighter. We will miss you our dear Griselda but not forever. Until we meet again and dine with the Lord together. Aloha ‘oe, aloha ‘oe.
We are amazed at how international this world has become. You'll never guess where we came across the following items during our travels:
Yucatan Candles in the most lovely pharmacy ever...but not in México... in Hoover, Alabama!
A Hawaiian souvenir sign found in Waikiki? Nope, in downtown Grundy, Iowa. (Ohana means family in Hawaiian).
Take a look at the green sign. Chile Rellenos, a regional dish from Puebla, México, are sold in Kaneohe, Hawaii for $20 bucks per chile. Hmm, we'll wait 'til we get back to Yucatán and pay $3 for each one. :)
Mahalo Nui Loa for Reading Friends!
ALOHA KE AKUA
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, please 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 “Inez 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: Inez 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.