Yucatan Helping Hands
Winter 2021 Update
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
Aloha Familias y Amigos,
Feliz Año Nuevo! A blessed 2022 to all of you! We hope you had a joyous holiday season, stretching all the way from Thanksgiving and through Christmas week. This has been such a wonderful difference from 2020 as many of our friends here and from the pueblos have been able to come to visit us during the holiday vacation.
As 2021 came to a close last night, our family ate our grapes sharing our hopes for 2022. The grapes are a New Year Eve tradition here in Mexico. But we also looked back and saw a common thread woven throughout the past year: Liberation.
Perhaps liberation came in different phases and in little steps, but reasons to rejoice every step of the way. First, came the easing of pandemic restrictions in the Spring; then Inez’s last physical therapy session for her knee injury; traveling on an airplane again; Kawika’s final SAT prep classes on early Saturday mornings; returning to school in person twice a week; attending our first church service last month in Merida; Inez getting through COVID this month (explained later in the Update), and being able to have friends over for meals again. We also attended a wedding service this week in Akil, the first since February 2020!
Thanking Each of You
While sharing meals with our visitors, we recalled with our friends the joy of doing ministry together while thinking of all of you who helped make it all happen. Whether you have come to serve alongside us in Yucatan, have stood in the gap to pray for us, or have supported us in giving, hospitality and encouragement, we are so thankful to the Lord. Thank you for your kindness and love in friendship and support throughout the years. May Christ Jesus, our Emmanuel, grant you health, peace and love as you turn to Him. Above all, may His Spirit fill you with comfort that He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1).
As the COVID pandemic takes new twists and turns, we realize that we need to balance our lives with sensible precautions while we trust in the Lord. We may go forward only to take steps backwards and forward again. But as Byron’s High School slogan goes, “IMUA!” – A Hawaiian word which means to move forward with strength toward a goal. Mind you, Byron wouldn’t hesitate to mention that the goal is often the goal-line during football games while IMUA is shouted from the stands. But HERE, this reminds us of Hebrews 12:1-2:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
As we go forward, we pray that each of you find hope and peace in God's grace in 2022 and beyond. IMUA!
Aloha & Blessings,
Byron, Inez & Kawika
In This Update:
Getting Through COVID During Thanksgiving
Christmastime in Merida
Yalud School 25th Anniversary
New Beginnings: A Wedding Celebration in Akil
Update: Kitchen Project in Maxcanu
Tentative Furlough & Family Reunion Plans for 2022
Cristino: Getting to the Other Side of the Lake
Getting Through COVID-19 During Thanksgiving
While cases reportedly decreased significantly in Yucatan during most of December, the numbers are rising quickly once again. Yesterday, the number of reported infections more than doubled from just 3 days ago. And last night, the health secretary of Yucatan reminded citizens not to let their guards down as 13 Omicron cases have been detected here. If there’s one thing we learned about this virus, it’s ever changing, and it's something we have to continually adapt to.
In mid-November, we delivered food supplies and a donation gift from a church in Washington State to a pastor in Merida who had recovered from COVID, along with his wife and two young children. Pastor Pedro and his wife, Laura, learned from their illness that every breath they took was a miracle. Pedro explained to us that his doctor advised him about the importance of resting and the effect that has on recovering well. Laura recalled her nervousness each time she measured their oxygen levels. Up until our visit, we never thought of purchasing an oximeter. They shared how Laura's mother experienced memory loss at the shock of learning her grandson, Pedrito, had COVID. He was the first to test positive. But most of all, how grateful they are to the Lord for navigating and delivering them through COVID.
COVID Interrupts Our Thanksgiving Plans
And even when numbers began to decline, our Thanksgiving plans with friends were halted by Inez’s positive COVID-test result. But thankfully, she experienced light symptoms, and her oxygen level remained good. She recalled Pastor Pedro’s and Laura's words each time she read her oximeter reading and was sure to stay rested even though she was tempted to do things. She realized how beneficial our visit with them helped her get through COVID.
Byron ended up cooking Thanksgiving all by himself, which is a meal we always enjoy cooking together. So if we knew that we would be cooking for just the 3 of us we probably would have bought the smallest turkey, but noooo, with all the guests we were anticipated we ended up with a 20 lb bird. Good news was that Inez, with her illness, had a lot of turkey soup to eat, and Byron took food out to an elderly couple and their family around the block. They were astounded and couldn’t believe all the food including all the trimmings. And for us, the fact that the three of us were under one roof was truly a “Thanksgiving” for our family.
Fear of Infecting Friends
Through it all, we were grateful to the Lord that Inez's case wasn’t serious and that Byron's and Kawika's tests were negative. Yet, we worried about three particular friends she had been in contact with. Our dear friend, missionary Jean Legters, accompanied us to church the day before Inez tested positive and had to cancel her family's Thanksgiving plans as well.
In November, El Divino Salvador church had just opened up restrictions for people age 60 and over. Jean has played the piano at Divino every Sunday for decades. To see her take her usual seat at the piano and hear her play encouraged us greatly. We know many others were lifted up as well.
The Lord responded favorably to our prayer for a negative test result for Jean, allowing her to continue building up the believers with her music. Our two other friends that had been with Inez never showed symptoms either. As Inez prayed for Jean, she rested on the following scripture from Ephesians 4:16:
As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (NLT).
Glory to God in the Highest indeed!
Christmastime in Merida
We spent a quiet Christmas Eve together after a busy week of receiving guests. Almost like the good old times except that we kept the gatherings small. We felt renewed catching up with friends and serving them meals. It was fun playing rummy cube with other people for a change and a chopstick race game with pieces of mandarins. Good family fun at a special time of year made us realize how rich God has made us in fraternal love and friendship.
It was great to see Stephy and Elizabeth, both who have translated for our teams over the last decade. We could hardly believe it when Stephy, now a teacher, and her husband Israel, who have 3 young precious daughters, told us they celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary. Elizabeth, who is now a science researcher at a University in Chile, is back home for the holidays. Watching these two ladies grow in their faith, families and professions makes us realize just how much older we're getting! This upcoming year will mark our 18th year in ministry here.
We especially enjoyed having a former ministry cook and dear friend, Doña Griselda, and her daughter's family over from the pueblo of Chapab. Griselda has been battling Cirrhosis for some time now, and her health has been very fragile. So, it was a huge blessing to see her walking, sitting, laughing and chatting away in our home. For that, we will never forget Christmas 2021.
Reminiscent of Christmas Pasts: Letting the Christmas Spirit Ring
Top left: Jean Legters, daughter Debbie, son-in-law Keke & grandson Diego; Top right: Ahinas; Bottom row: Marcos, Selmi & daughters Amy & Gary from Maní (playing chopstick race with mandarins).
Congratulations to Yaldud School!
Ahinas with Yaldud teachers and staff during their 25th school anniversary celebration
Another highlight during this season was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Yaldud, the Christian Montessori school that Kawika attended during his preschool, kindergarten and elementary years. The teachers and staff have meant so much to us over the years because of the wonderful impact they made on Kawika. To hear testimonies from the school's founders, Diana and Marisa, stepping out in faith to build a Christian Montessori school from the ground up moved us. Such sweat, sacrifice and passion for excellence in education. We thank the Lord for the school's vision and success as it has recently expanded to include middle school and high school.
New Beginnings: A Wedding Celebration in Akil
As we mentioned earlier, this past week, we attended a first wedding celebration since the pandemic outbreak. Many of you may remember our dear friend Carolina from Akil who has been a faithful helper to us in ministry and our family over the years. Her daughter, Sarita, married to her fiancé, Fernando. We also had the wonderful pleasure of seeing Pastor Emanuel officiating the wedding. As we shared in our past update, he and his wife Mari had a very difficult, long period battling COVID and had to be separated from their two young daughters since they could not physically care for them. How great to see the girls running around and the family healthy. Thank you for your support and prayers for them.
Top row: Pastor Emanuel officiating and with his family. Bottom row: Inez & Carolina
Update: Kitchen Project in Maxcanu
Wonderful news! On Christmas Eve, the Emanuel church in Maxcanu celebrated the inauguration of their new kitchen. The brothers there have come a long way since project plans began in 2019. Because of the pandemic, all the workers were concerned about being in close quarters with each other so progress trudged along slowly. Since our last update, they were able to complete the last of the plumbing and electrical work as well as install the floor tiles. The refrigerator and stove top should be hooked up next month.
Benjamin (pictured on left), who led the project, reflects how their old kitchen, where the women would cook over the fire on the ground, was not adequate for preparing food. It was basically a hut with a laminate roof. Now the women have a secure place to work since the kitchen has cement walls instead of sticks that expose them to the elements. Doña Hermelinda is thankful for the new kitchen recalling how, in the former one, she once had to scramble to find a way to cover her fried panuchos (stuffed tortillas with black beans) from getting wet from the pouring rain.
One of the church's upcoming events is Children's Day in April. (Quite the big holiday here in Mexico.) Children from outside the church are invited to participate in activities for three days. The new kitchen, Benjamin explains, will help the church prepare the meals they give out during the event. He also adds that the kitchen will be of great use during regional and presbytery meetings, and the pastor and his family will also benefit from being able to use the new kitchen.
We give thanks to the Lord for enabling the church to complete what was started with the help of Ward Presbyterian Church from Michigan just before the pandemic hit. As you can see in the photos below, the sisters and brothers are thrilled as well! We pray that the Lord will use this kitchen to nurture its members, open the doors for community outreach and be used to give God praise in celebrations of the life of the church.
Tentative Furlough & Family Reunion Plans for 2022
It’s that time again: Getting ready for our upcoming furlough trip to the U.S. Of course, we will see how God opens or closes doors for travel with the ongoing pandemic.
If it all works out, we’ll be traveling from late April through mid-August. Our first stop will be in Orlando and then we will travel cross-country ending up in Southern California in June, visiting a different church each Sunday.
We then will fly to Honolulu to attend Byron’s 50th high school reunion and the Ahina/Lavilla Family Reunion. While there, we hope to visit three different churches.
After Hawaii, we plan to return to the Pacific NW in late July to visit churches in the area and spend quality time with Malia & Adam and our precious grandkids. Around mid-August, we plan on flying back to Mérida before Kawika starts his senior year in high school.
This will be our 9th furlough back to the States, and we so enjoy seeing our friends and family along the way. If any of you want to partake in an Ahina visit we would love to hear from you.
Cristino: Getting to the Other Side of the Lake
La Laguna at Aguada Polol Ranch, Yucatan -Photo by Ivan Tolosa
Many of you know Cristino who has served as our ministry mason. We previously reported that he and his family went through hardship during the pandemic. First came the loss of his father, then followed by his own illnesses, diagnosed by his doctor a result of stress and mourning. While economic struggles complicated his situation, his daughter Paty and his granddaughter faced issues that really tore at his heart.
This past summer, we received donations from many of you who responded to our request to help Cristino and his family finish building a home for Paty who had to be separated from her husband at the time.
The other week, we received a call from Cristino.
He had come back home from work exhausted and found himself alone. His wife, Ana, was away in another town for her softball tournament. His daughters and grandchildren, who are frequently at his house, were also away. He was surrounded by a still quietness. A peace overcame him. He called us to chat.
His voice was upbeat and chirpy. He went on to reflect on the challenging season behind him and how satisfied he felt resting in his hammock, knowing that his family was well. He recalled people asking him about his problems earlier, even suggesting who to blame for his hardships. In a small pueblo, news travel fast and people talk. But he said he chose, in fear of the Lord, not to criticize anyone but to trust and hope that God would see him through. Those were tough days for him.
Looking back, he sees how God’s faithfulness was manifested by people who prayed for him and for those of you who gave generously to help him. He sees his family a lot happier. And Paty continues to do well selling food from her food cart. But what brings joy to Cristino is seeing Paty’s relationship restored with his son-in-law, who, Cristino says, is a changed young man.
A year ago, Cristino had no choice but to get his son-in-law into rehab for drug addiction. It worked out for the best. His son-in-law is now employed and working hard as a responsible father. There were days when his granddaughter would cry for her daddy and Cristino would say, “Daddy will be back and bring you milk and cookies,” not sure if he ever would. In retrospect, he realizes that, yes, all things are possible with God. And he wants people to know that.
Cristino extends his deep-felt gratitude to all of you who have helped get through this difficult time and sends his New Years greetings to each of you who know and remember him.
In Luke chapter 8, Jesus sailed with his disciples, saying to them, "Let us go over unto the other side of the lake." But the disciples panicked when a windstorm came, and water filled their boat. Their response: “Master, master, we perish.” Jesus’ reply: “Where is your faith?”
How quickly Cristino could have said to himself, “I perish.” We thank the Lord for giving him the strength to endure his trials while keeping his faith steady on God. Thank you for your prayers and support for him. He can rest a bit now that he’s reached the other side of the lake.
Cristino at work in a large farm company raising pigs.
Tidbits on our life in Merida
On December 16th, we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. Several days later, Kawika emerged from his room with papers in his hand behind his back. Smiling ear to ear, he was so eager to show us one of his childhood drawings he had found. At seven years old, he had drawn a newspaper with an "article" on us. It wasn't too glowing. The headline: "Papa and Mama are Faiting (Fighting). The caption: "They're faiting because they're helping the por (poor) with water batols (bottle jugs) and they both have two ideas." Ouch.
Speaking of Kawika, we were asked by our home church to share a story of a memory of a Christmas song. First we need to explain the setting. It was back in December 2008, in Bellingham, WA. During a visit to Malia &, future son-in-law, at Western WA University we attended a church service.
This is our story:
A Christmas Song Memory
Christmas nearing, the church is full.
Someone lights the advent candle.
The church bell chimes: Ding! Ding! Ding!
Reverberating through the reverent air, announcing:
It’s done! Christ’s peace is here to stay.
But then, an unexpected, melodious reply:
“♬ Jingle Bells!! Jingle Bells!! Jingle All the Way!! ♬”
Three-year-old Kawika singing at the top of his lungs.
Mama’s sudden hands over his mouth.
Papa chuckling with others around us.
Malia and Adam sinking in the pew.
Prayerfully consider donating toward food and/or health expenses for families in need. The economic crisis in Yucatan continues with the ongoing pandemic. Just last week, a newspaper reported on growing number of families, out of desperation, taking over plots of land south of Merida. These are families who have been unemployed due to the pandemic, have nowhere to go and live in extreme poverty.
For our family to grow in spiritual maturity, keeping our eyes on Jesus in our roles as parents, spouses and son.
For the Lord’s guidance and direction on our ministry, filled with the assurance of hope and understanding in the midst of uncertainty.
For our health and safety as we navigate through COVID variants such as Omicron.
For Kawika’s transition back to school full time in the future. For now, his school has decided to continue with online learning due to the hike in COVID cases.
For Kawika as he has struggled for 8 months with an injury to his big toe on his left foot that still hasn’t healed completely despite receiving treatment in the U.S and in Yucatan.
For Inez’s thyroid biopsy. Thanks to extra donations in December, she will be able to make arrangements to get it done hopefully in January.
For God's direction as we make our furlough plans for 2022.
Muchas Gracias For Reading Amigos!
Dios Los Bendiga!
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, 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.