Yucatan Helping Hands
Winter 2022 - 2023 Update
Dear Friends and Family,
We hope you are having a great start to 2023 and have managed to keep safe from the weather storms in the U.S. In Yucatán, the previous weeks were chilly. A great time to take advantage of the weather and enjoy some Mexican hot chocolate with our favorite pastry. Speaking of which, the other week, Mexico celebrated Epiphany, commemorating the visitation of the magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. It’s a big celebration here. Most bakeshops during this time sell only rosca de reyes (the sweet bread pictured above, called King’s bread in English) due to the high demand. Poor Byron, he was a hapless soul searching for his usual pastries without any success.
With the holidays behind us, we're thankful for God’s provisions and faithfulness in our lives. When we look back from a year ago when we were dealing with Covid restrictions and variants like Omicron, we realize how far we've come -- thanks to God’s sustaining grace.
We said goodbye to 2022 with friends celebrating a quiet New Year's Eve playing games after dinner. We each also ate our 12 grapes, a Latin America tradition, reflecting on things we desire and aspects we want to get better at -- much like making New Year's resolutions. Only, a bit more intense and juicy as people chomp on the twelve grapes during the last 12 seconds of the year. What blessed joy to begin the year with gratitude to the Lord for giving us hope, health and friendship.
Speaking of hope: So far, Kawika has received three college acceptance letters and is awaiting word from two other universities. Thank you for your prayers! This is such a reward after busy intense months of essays, applications, and dealing with frustrating computer issues. He has also solicited funding from various scholarship foundations and hopes to hear back from them in March.
A special thank you to those who have written recommendation letters and to Debbie Legters, his high school director, who continues to guide us with great expertise through the college application process. Also, to those who have responded to our request for financial support for Kawika's college expenses, we express our deep gratitude.
Good news on our health: Inez’s thyroid specialist ruled out the need for surgery as her medication has been effective in reducing the sizes of her cysts. Byron, who we feared might have hearing loss, was tested in the normal hearing range. (No excuses now!)
And on friendship: We have been blessed in abundance. After a steady stream of visitors and overnight guests during this season, we see God's love and care for us in each of them. We will share some of these moments with you later in this update as well as a highlight on one of our dear friends, Jose Antonio Reyes May, who we've watched grow in his spiritual stature over the last two decades.
As we begin the year, we are mindful that God calls us to draw near to him and find spiritual rest from a chaotic world of expectations, packed schedules, and deadlines. During the holidays, we had to stop our hurry and reflect on Jesus' invitation to come to him, especially when we have a lot on our shoulders. We talked about God’s peace that comes through treating one another with gentleness and self-control. We confess, there were moments when we found ourselves nitpicking at each other. Quite counteractive to preparing for Christmas which should bring us joy and glad tidings.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Matthew 11:28-29
In our failings, we find comfort from the book of Hebrews which points out that Jesus understands our weaknesses because he faced them himself (and yet did not sin) and therefore calls us to approach him in our prayers that we may receive his mercy and grace to help us when we need it the most.
May the start of 2023 be a period of rest and renewal for each of you. May God bless you with health and a deeper conviction to search and walk with him. From our hearts, we deeply thank you for your interest in our life & ministry, faithful support in prayer and giving throughout the years.
Blessings & Aloha,
Byron, Inez & Kawika Ahina
In This Issue:
Scenes From A Season Celebrated with Joy
Jose Antonio Reyes: From a Seminary Graduate to Synod Leader
Tidbits in Yucatán
How to Contribute
English Classes as an Outreach Service
In our previous posts, we talked about teaching English classes as an outreach project. We had initially planned to start in November, but due to Christmas preparations, our advisors suggested we begin after the New Year. So, we're gearing up to begin classes next week at the Verbo de Dios Presbyterian church in Merida. The response has been great. We have 40 people signed up for the class and others on a waiting list. Because of the number of registered students, we'll be dividing them into two groups of 20 students with Kawika as our assistant. We're excited!
It'll be a dynamic mixture of people. A church member has invited and will accompany her neighbor to the class; grandparents have signed up to learn together with their grandchildren; a church family will invite their young son's classmates to attend the class with them; a father, who relocated to Merida from Argentina, is looking forward to learning with us. Even our electrician, who we've been using for the last 12 years, will attend. He just happened to be fixing our air conditioning and asked us if we'd ever consider teaching English. Inez showed him our digital invitation for the class registration. He couldn't believe it, especially since he lives in the same neighborhood where the Verbo de Dios church is located.
Please pray for God to draw hearts to him as we begin this outreach project with the members of the local church. Pray that he'll equip us to be ambassadors, encouragers, and instillers of love for language so that these students may use their skills enthusiastically to foster relations and build connections.
Teaching English to Home School Students in Merida
Speaking of teaching, we were recently invited to teach an English class by a Christian couple who organizes a home school program in Mérida. The students had been reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. In a nutshell, the book is about a character named “Ordinary” who decides to pursue his dream by leaving the “Land of Familiar” and faces obstacles and giants along the way before thriving in his new land. We summarized the book by relating the points in the story with our own journey as missionaries, asking students to see if they could find the similarities as well. It was a blessing for us to share our story because it served as a reminder for us how ordinary we are led by an extraordinary God.
Mechanic's Workshop Nearly Complete
As you may recall, we’ve been working with North Creek Presbyterian church's Mission Strategy Team (MST) in helping Jose Alonso, a local mechanic, start up his auto shop business in the pueblo of Kimbila. After months of preparation with him, it’s so exciting to see the construction for his auto workshop come together especially after facing material shortages in Merida. Now that the metal roofing is finished, lighting is currently being installed and the mason will complete the flooring sometime this month. Jose Alonso and his wife, Perla, are planning to celebrate by having a church service of gratitude once the project is completed. Looking forward to rejoicing with them!
Ministry Construction Projects
In our last update, we shared about a potential water plant project in Chalmuch for next year. Unfortunately, this has been put on hold as Living Waters for the World hasn't been able to find a certified installation partner to install the system. However, there may be an opportunity for one of our work teams to receive training and install the system. Please pray for God’s guidance and provision in this endeavor.
As well, our plans to receive a work team from EFPC to help build another room for the Presbytery retreat project have been put on pause. For the past several months, our dear friend and team leader Darcie has been caring for her aging parents, especially her Dad who faced emergency medical issues and is back home in recovery. Please join us in prayer for Darcie and the health of her parents.
As we face these setbacks, we know God is the designer of timelines and plans. So we put our trust in Him knowing that his timing is perfect and that nothing is impossible nor too hard for him. Please pray for God's will and guidance.
Home Building Construction Projects
As some of you may remember, the late Presbyterian Pastor David Legters asked us to create a home building ministry for the poor in Yucatán. Many had lost their homes or experienced damage due to Hurricane Isidoro. We took up the challenge in 2004 and began our ministry.
We teamed up with churches across the states who not only funded the projects but flew into Yucatán to help construct new homes, repair damaged ones and build water purification plants to provide water for the needy. As well, we worked with medical, dental, and vision teams to provide health care throughout dozens of pueblos. But all that activity came to a screeching halt when the Covid pandemic hit.
How You Can Help: If any of you out there think you may want to join a church team on one of our construction projects, please let us know. Also, we were asked recently if an individual, or a small team, might be able to join in on a larger team. The answer is yes -- we can make that work and have done this in the past.
Additionally, the Filadelfia church in Akil is still looking for help with their new roof construction, and a church in Campeche continues to seek funding assistance and a work team for its nearby church plant.
Scenes From A Season Celebrated with Gratitude
Our festive season began prior to Thanksgiving with our annual teacher appreciation luncheons. Because we were on furlough this past year, we were unable to host these events in July when we normally do. It was quite sentimental for us as a family knowing that this is Kawika's senior year. His teachers in Mexico have been a blessing to us, treating us as family and loving Kawika as their own son. This gives us tremendous gratitude to the Lord for watching over Kawika throughout the years. We recall when he was an infant wondering to ourselves how we would prepare him academically in a foreign country. God quieted our qualms with wonderful, Christian teachers who have directed him with good counsel and inspired a love of learning in him 'til this day. (Watch a video clip of him later in our Tidbit section at the end of this update.)
A funny side note that demonstrates that what children learn in their primary years will stick with them. Kawika was taking a physics exam at School House, the high school he attends, and couldn't remember the right formula. So, he resorted to what he learned in Yaldud, his Montessori Elementary school here. He solved the problem by drawing a diagram -- which drew the following comment from his physics teacher: "I never imagined that someone would prefer to resolve the problem through a graphic. But with the right scale and good vision, you get the same results!" So grateful for teachers!
Volunteering During the Holidays
Speaking of Kawika, he recently joined the Youth Crew Team of the Yucatan Giving Outreach (YGO) program made up of many expats and their families. Last month he served at the largest orphanage in Merida, decorating Christmas trees in the rooms with some of his American friends and hanging out with the orphans. He really enjoyed the time there and looks forward to the next volunteer event.
Gathering with Friends
Throughout Thanksgiving and Christmas, we reconnected with friends who we haven't seen during the pandemic, gathered the brethren in our home and took overnight visitors from the pueblos into the colonial city of Merida where we live. We enjoyed taking a “panoramic view” of our guests who, in one way or another, contributed to our ministry and life in Yucatán. These included pastors, our landlords, translators, teachers, doctors, and friends, including Sandra, the manager from the hotel El Gobernador who received many of our work teams. With tears in her eyes, she expressed appreciation of our long-standing relationship with her, even recounting the days we worked together while Inez was pregnant with Kawika. We laughed, recalling how little she spoke English and the little bitty Spanish we spoke then, and somehow, by God’s grace, we managed to communicate and get things done. It’s always great to look back at the journey.
At the end of December, we also traveled to Akil to celebrate the quinceñeara (15th birthday) of Lea, Pastor Armando's and his wife's Gloria's youngest daughter. Having worked with Pastor Armando and the Bethel church over the years, we can hardly believe his "little one" is now a grown up teenager. We still have vivid memories of her as a toddler playing with Kawika in the construction sites and both of them running around together at the church. It was a wonderful service with a beautiful performance by the church choir and Lea, who sang a solo with her mother at her side.
Back to Our Roots on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day we spent the day in the pueblo of Chapab with our dear friends and family of Griselda, who, as you may recall from our earlier posts, fought the good fight against liver disease and passed away to be with the Lord in May. While we miss her deeply, we felt the joy of her presence with her family as we conversed and ate delicious panuchos and fresh turkey soup. A rejuvenating way to bring in the New Year and a deeply meaningful trip to the pueblo where we first worked in 2001. Griselda and her family were one of the hosts for our youth team. We would later partner with the local church here to build homes. We had no idea at the time how they would become an integral part of our lives and family to us over the decades.
Jose Antonio Reyes: From Seminary Graduate to Synod Leader
Speaking of journeys, we wanted to share how privileged we are to have witnessed God’s work in one of our advisors, Pastor (Jose) Antonio. Many of you may remember him as our translator and his mom, Cheli, the fabulous award-winning cook who has served on our teams.
Our friendship with Antonio goes way back before we began our ministry here. We first met him when we were youth chaperones to Yucatán for our home church, Calvin Presbyterian, 20 years ago. He had just graduated from the San Pablo Seminary in Mérida and was assigned as our interpreter in the pueblo of Chapab. Although his English at the time was limited, God used him to facilitate our mission week there successfully. When we heard our church was going to host him for a year as a ministry trainee in Washington State, we quickly told our pastor that we would be more than happy to have him stay with us in our home. Antonio became a son to us. He even traveled to Hawaii and met our family there. A throwback photo to 2002:
We remember bringing him to the community college for his first day of English classes. For us, it was like sending our child off to school for the first time. Knowing that God was by his side, we were still nervous to release him into the "real world". Quickly, we learned how gifted this young man was and dedicated to mastering English. A year later, when he returned to Yucatán, he informed us of Hurricane Isidoro's devastating hit in Yucatan. This was the pivotal moment that God would use to change our lives and begin our building ministry here.
Fast forward to today. Antonio is now a seasoned Pastor at the Verbo de Dios church, where we will be holding our English classes. He has used his English not only as an interpreter, but also as a church representative to the U.S. Before becoming the current president of the Yucatan synod, he was also the president of the Peninsular Presbytery.
In October, the Divino Salvador (Divine Savior) church where we attend celebrated its 136th anniversary. Divino was the first Presbyterian church in Yucatán and continues to have one of the largest membership of congregants. We were thrilled to discover that Antonio was invited to deliver the sermon to commemorate this special service. Looking back at his days at Calvin as a young trainee, we recall him humbly delivering his first sermon in English there. What a priceless gift from God to have our worlds reversed and be given the blessing of listening to him preach in Spanish at a large celebration and in such a leading role in the Presbyterian church here today. Bendito Dios!
Please pray for:
Kawika's college plans. That the peace of Christ will guide him in his decisions and for God to meet his financial needs.
Our dear friend Doña Magda from Maxcanu who is awaiting surgery of her kidneys which have been attached to each other since birth.
Inez who is recovering from back pain during the holidays. Pray also for favorable test results for her upcoming follow up with her thyroid specialist.
Byron who still has mild bouts with dizziness (since his heat stroke a couple years ago) and arthritis pain in his thumbs.
Byron & Inez who celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary on December 16th. Pray that the Lord will continue to guide us in his truth and love.
For our family: Malia & Adam, grandkids Ethan and Sophia. Ethan turned 7 years old on Jan 17th. Pray that the Lord would continue to nurture his kind and sensitive spirit to others.
Solutions and God's will over our planned construction projects.
For our English class outreach to go well.
Our spiritual walk and growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Tidbits in Yucatan
Punching the Piñata?
At almost every celebration -- birthdays, Christmas and New Years, no matter what age you are, you can expect to be asked to take turns hitting piñatas. Only in Yucatan, people strike the piñata with their fists instead of a stick. When we first learned this, we were taken aback. "Wouldn't it be safer to hit it with a stick?" we cautioned others. Our friends were equally appalled. "A stick??? That would be so dangerous!" When the piñata finally bursts open, it's fair game for everyone to dive in, many with the intention of sharing with the younger ones. We still marvel at how candy brings out the kid in each of us, including grandmas!
Aloha Shirts in Yucatán
As with our previous update posts, we continue with yet another tidbit about the Hawaiian culture in Yucatan. Seemingly, we keep seeing more men out and about donning aloha shirts. It used to be Byron's trademark as hardly anyone wore these shirts when we first moved here. Looks like it's not the case anymore!
Inspiring Ads for Language Immersion
Mérida has some of the most funny billboard ads. This one is by a well known language school in the city. The ad reads: "If you confuse your tuch (Mayan for belly button) with to touch, it's better you come see us." A bit of humor before we begin teaching classes!
As we described earlier in this post, Kawika's been blessed with the best teachers. Congratulations to Yalud Educational Center, the Christian Montessori school where Kawika attended during his preschool and primary years. No surprise to us, it's ranked by website platforms as one of the top schools in the city. We recall the early days when we brought our English speaking toddler to the school and his teachers helped develop him to the Spanish speaker he is today. Watch him*, back then, play the role of Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary in the 1900s. ¡Tierra y Libertad! (Land & Freedom!)
*From 2:42 - 3:45 on the above video
Muchas Gracias For Reading Amigos!!
Happy New Year! 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 “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: 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."
For Personal Gift Contributions
· All personal gifts are non-tax deductible and must be sent to our US address:
1918 214th CT SE
Sammamish, WA 98075
Payable to Byron K. Ahina, Inez T. Ahina or Byron Kawika Ahina
You can also make a Zelle transfer and find us through our email: email@example.com
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.