Winter Update 2020
Dear Friends & Family,
We write this greeting to you on a chilly 68 degree Christmas morning with Christmas carols church chimes heard throughout our neighborhood. As Christmas Day has arrived and 2020 almost behind us, we find ourselves reflecting on the severe changes the pandemic has brought us this past year. In all of the trauma, sadness and desperation, we have watched how people have tried to make the best out of each situation. Car caravan celebrations, virtual birthday parties and graduations, and small civil wedding ceremonies without the big banquet gatherings – but weddings nonetheless.
Eerily quiet, this Christmas is a big contrast from our Christmas pasts. Normally, from the end of the November to the New Year, our house is full of visitors from the pueblos and friends in Merida. We deeply cherish these memories and are longing for the day when we can host them once again.
What is it in our nature that we all gravitate toward celebrations?
Kawika suggested that it’s partly because God made us social creatures. Perhaps. We also believe we do this to highlight the blessings God gives us. To express our gratitude publicly. To lift one another up. And yet, it’s more than this.
Israelites in the Bible were instructed by God to observe festivals. While we can imagine the great bonding of communities celebrating together, the purpose of these festivals was to remember God’s great deliverance and provision in a hurting world. To look back at history and recall God’s faithfulness.
This holiday season, we are keenly aware of how separated we are from our loved ones due to the pandemic and not be able to gather as we’ve done before. In October our daughter Malia and son-in-law Adam offered to fly the three of us back to Seattle to celebrate the holidays with them. But after listening to the news in November about increasing numbers of COVID cases, we all realized what we needed to do: Cancel our plans. At this time of year, we recognize that millions around the world will have missing loved ones at the table, and we know firsthand that people are hungry and without work. But we celebrate because, in this season of hardship, God still continues to show his faithfulness as we will share in this update.
Photo above of Kawika and Byron lighting the advent candle on Christmas morning
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
This prince of peace, Jesus Christ, said: I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should abide in darkness (John 12:46).
We pray that whatever circumstances you may be facing, that this hope will draw you to closer to God who offers us forgiveness, comfort and his infinite love which guides us to persevere as we trust in Him.
And let us be reminded that God himself takes pleasure in celebrating. In fact, he rejoices over us:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
May we be encouraged and abide in Christ’s light. Feliz Navidad y prospero año 2021.
Aloha & Blessings,
Byron, Inez & Kawika
Friendly Reminder: We have changed our 501c3 funding agency FROM Son Raise Missionary Services TO Mission Dispatch (MD). If you wish to make a donation, and have your donation be deductible for your tax purposes, 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.
With Gratitude, We Thank each and every one of you who have been able to contribute financially to help us serve the rural areas in the Yucatan region, especially with our ongoing food relief efforts. As we organize these deliveries, we are mindful of your love for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters --and by reaching out to them, you have also done so to Christ.
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Thank you for your ongoing support and partnering in missions with us!
Also a shout out to John Claus of Calvin Presbyterian for connecting us with the Rotary Club of Seattle NE in November. It was a privilege to present our ministry to your rotary via Zoom.
In This Issue:
Ongoing Food Relief Update
Ongoing Food Relief Efforts
Like many people all around the world, we’ve watched the deliveries of the first vaccines unfold on the news. Little vials that carry such immense hope and an answer to so many prayers. For the hungry, relief may not come through science breakthroughs or in little vials but through kindness.
Thanks to generous donations from many of you, we've been able to continue delivering food packages to nearly 350 families in the pueblos where we've served. This generosity allows us to partner with rural churches who know personally who’s hurting the most. But more than that, it allows these churches to be stewards of care to those communities they minister to. And for us, it is an immense blessing to see Jesus mobilizing individuals and his church to act out his tender mercies.
Thanks to the help of Pastor Antonio Reyes, President of the Peninsular Presbytery, we were able to receive help with the use of the presbytery van along with ours to deliver food packages to the pueblo of Cantamayec. Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church (RBPC), of Washington State, built a water plant here in 2018. Upon arrival, we were met by a team of enthusiastic youth ready to help with the distribution led by Pastor Irving and church leaders who organized families following health protocols.
It was a blessing to reunite with the brothers and sisters there, even if for briefly. We received many words of gratitude and know that through the outpouring of love, many came and left with hearts full of thanksgiving to God for the relief aid. We were blessed to be prayed over by Pastor Irving who had recently recovered from COVID himself. As we drove off, we were able to pass by the water plant which we saw in full operation...and the garden planted by the RBPC team almost 3 years ago still intact and beautiful!
A lot like Christmas in Akil: (L) Pastor Armando & family in front of the new pastoral house FPC Lebanon helped build last year; (R) the Ahinas pose outside in the home's patio.
During the past decade, we've worked with the Bethel church in Akil helping to build homes with RBPC and a pastoral house with First Presbyterian Church of Lebanon. When flooding occurred due to Tropical storm Cristobal, the government used the Bethel church as a sanctuary lodging for displaced families. During this time, the church became acquainted with the needs of their community as they tended to them and served meals. Pastor Armando, his wife Gloria, and other Bethel women delivered the food packages to widows and families hit hardest by the pandemic.
Among those in need was Andamelia who first experienced loss due to the flooding of her home and a second loss of her husband to COVID a little over a month ago. And there’s Lupita, a single mother with progressive rheumatoid arthritis. Before the pandemic, she worked in a school selling breakfast to students and ironed clothes for different families. But with the closing of schools and as her illness quickly worsening, it’s difficult for her to find a job -- let alone have the strength to work.
Above photo: (L) Gloria handing food packages to Andamelia and Lupita on right
On the other side of the pueblo, Carolina from the Filadelfia church, who has worked closely with us in ministry and for the municipal, also knows the needs of people, especially those who have lost work due to the flooding of crops. When she arrived at the door of Sandra and Dionisio, (photo on right), little did she know just how the Lord was moving his church to answer prayers of this humble family of four. Dionisio has been unemployed and one of their children has been sick. But their immediate need was food. They had nothing to eat. The morning of Carolina’s visit, the couple said a prayer to God for help not knowing if He would hear their request. When Carolina showed up with the food package that very day and explained that it was sent by a church in the U.S., Sandra began to tell her story with tears swelling in her eyes. Yes, God heard their prayer and answered. The couple was filled with gratitude and Carolina, emotionally moved to tears as well, was able to share the gospel with them.
Last weekend, we also traveled to the state south of us, Campeche, to deliver packages to the pueblo of Tikinmul where RBPC built another water plant building in 2019. We were invited to speak at a service at the Principe de Paz church which recently restarted its service gatherings, dividing their members into 4 different groups and meeting for worship on different days. While it was just a year ago that we bonded with the thriving church community there, now with the current mask requirement, temperature checks and use of hand gel and members sitting apart spaced out by families, we seemed in a totally different world.
Although we were not able to see all of our friends, it was the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that we participated in a worship service in person. Listening to the word of God preached and hearing the beautiful voices sing in unified harmony struck us with delight and joy. How we have missed gathering with the brethren. But we know we must be patient, especially in the bustling city of Merida where we live.
Before distributing food packages there, Pastor Ricardo gave us the list of people who received them. To run our fingers through each name was moving. To hear the stories of the trials they were facing left us moved of just how much a food package carries: A message of God’s and brotherly love, a reason to hope in times of desperation.
And the blessing is multifold. A privilege not just for our family but for the churches we work with. As Gloria from Akil wrote to us, “It is a pleasure to serve in this way. Each family has a moving story, but I want to tell you that with the delivery of these packages, we have been able to share the gospel, which has been a great blessing for us as well.”
Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers and for your generosity in giving to the people we love and serve in Yucatán.
How You Can Help: On the average, $30 buys a two-week food package for a family in need. If you would like to donate toward this relief, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters of Encouragement
Each food package gave us the opportunity to encourage those facing hardship with a letter sharing the gospel and sending greetings on behalf of donors and an invitation to the recipients to seek spiritual help from the churches we serve with. Please pray that the Lord will move hearts to seek Him in the midst of a trying pandemic.
Here's an excerpt of our letter:
The Bible says that the message of good news is that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ , who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). We pray that this very peace will guard each of you, especially for those who have lost loved ones, are suffering from pain, illness and anguish during these difficult times. We pray that the Lord will strengthen you to live out love, patience and forgiveness in your families and in your community. If you find yourself confused at what is happening because of the effects of COVID-19 and have distanced yourself from God, we pray that you seek him because we truly believe that it is by resting in the Lord's strength that we can receive truth and clarity and persevere as victors.
Prayer Requests For:
Inez’s recovery from a bad fall (thanks to the Lord, no fractures). For the last two months she has been struggling with pain in her left knee and the doctor just temporarily suspended her physical therapy due to the amount of pain she has had this week. Pray that she learns patience and deepens her trust in the Lord through this situation.
Byron carrying the load of being Inez’s nurse and everything else (maid, butler, chef, handyman, Christmas tree decorator, etc). Pray that he receives encouragement and remembers that his serving is not in vain.
Kawika and his studies. We thank the Lord for seeing him through his first quarter of high school and for your prayers for him. He received high marks in each of his subjects but is beginning to lose momentum. Please pray that he leans on the Lord for continued motivation and a desire to bring God glory in all that he does.
Our close friend Griselda from Chapab who has served as a ministry cook for us. She suffers from cirrhosis and her prognostic is not encouraging although her spirits are high.
The health of our pastor friend, Antonio Reyes. Some of you might remember him as he has served as a translator for us in the past. Pray that the Lord will continue to heal him from prostate problems.
The brothers in Maxcanu as the kitchen project there is taking longer to be completed than expected due to COVID contingencies and an overall fear among the brothers to leave their homes. This past week, we met with the lead person of the construction and a few of the other leaders to discuss ways to work safely following protocols.
Tidbits in the life of Yucatán
It’s no secret that Yucatecans, including our son Kawika, have a deep love for that unhealthy, brown sweet blend of excessive sugars, chemicals and carbonated water. Yes, Coca Cola. Everywhere here, you'll see people leaving convenient stores with 2.5 liter bottles of coke to enjoy with their lunch, dinner, and yes ... even breakfast.
With new government label warnings on food products with excessive sugars and calories, we thought habits might change…until we saw this bottle. We asked about the note indicating a reduction in sugar that contradicted the warning labels and were told that it's the original Coca Cola formula, no changes. Of course, Kawika was happy. Go figure!
Laughing Through Adversity
Any parent knows that imitation is an important step in the development of toddlers. But beware, it can happen when you least expect it.
Last month while in Cantamayec, we couldn’t help but be amused when a little boy picked up a stick and began mimicking Inez after she climbed some steps with the aid of her walking stick. Like they say, "Laughter is the best medicine."
The Christmas Coupon
The image on the left is a gift coupon we found in our Christmas stockings from our teenage son for both of us. After we read it, we protested about the 24 hr time restriction to which Kawika playfully responded, "And be sure to read the fine print." He had added in small lettering on the bottom: "Results vary. Company does not take responsibility for injuries."
Boy, are we grateful that God's grace has no limits and that faith in Him does not have varying results but eternal life! Thanks Kawika for your reminder of God's redeeming love for each of us.
A gift for all ages?
Kawika, always a Star Wars fan, introduced us to his favorite show, The Mandalorian. You need to watch it to understand these pictures. After opening our Christmas presents, the three of us were like little kids giggling, playing around with Kawika's gift. Turned out, the next day, we saw adults in Merida carrying baby Yoda around!