Dear Members of Central Plains Mennonite Conference:
It has been a week since Max Villatoro has been deported, and we want to update you on his situation.
Max arrived in Honduras last Friday to a crowd of reporters. His sister met him at the airport and the two were able to avoid the press while leaving the airport. Within two hours, they met with Honduran Mennonite leaders who offered their help. The press was relentless in calling Max’s sister, so Max gave a press conference on Monday.
Gloria has been in regular contact with Max by phone, and both Dave Boshart and Tim Detweiler have also spoken with Max by phone.
On Sunday evening, a prayer service and fundraising dinner were held at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City. The bilingual service, planned by Gloria Villatoro and FMC Pastor Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, was attended by Torre Fuerte members and other local Mennonites. On Wednesday, Gloria, Central Plains conference ministers and Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler met by conference call with Mennonite Central Committee staff, Max’s lawyer, America’s Voice and others to make plans for long-term advocacy for Max. Tim Detweiler is working with Gloria to assemble a small support group for ongoing care and support for Gloria and the children.
Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office updated their action alert about Max yesterday. It gives two concrete actions people can take now to help the Villatoro family.
Please continue to pray for safety and emotional well-being for Max and Gloria and their children. Pray also for Central Plains conference ministers and Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler as they continue to offer support to the Villatoros and Torre Fuerte. Pray for the Torre Fuerte congregation.
Central Plains Conference Ministers David Boshart, Tim Detweiler and Shana Peachey Boshart
Many of you have been asking, "What's next?", "What can we do now to help Max?". Here are some actions that we can do today to support Max, Gloria and many others like them:
a. For Gloria and Max and their children
b. For Igelsia Menonita Torre Fuerte
c. For the 2 million deported immigrants and their families that are in similar situations
d. For ICE and other government officials
2. Donate to the Villatoro Family Fund to help the family with loss of Max's income and legal expenses.
3. Educate yourself:
a. MC USA Churchwide Statement on Immigration: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Immigration_Statement_2014Feb151.pdf
b. MCC Immigration Listening Project https://washingtonmemo.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/mcc-us-listening-project-pdf.pdf
c. “Christians at the Border” by M. Daniel Carroll R. http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/christians-at-the-border-2nd-edition/283513
4. Educate others:
a. Lead a Bible Study in your church using the 6 week Radical Hospitality curriculum http://www.mennoniteusa.org/what-we-do/immigration/radical-hospitality-discussion-guide/radical-hospitality-core-curriculum/
b. “Open you arms” by Saulo Padilla http://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ACP_12_Spring_SauloPadilla.pdf
c. Group study: Sojourners: “Strangers in the Land” http://sojo.net/store/product/strangers-land-print
d. “Dying to Live” video http://dyingtolive.nd.edu/
a. MC USA Churchwide Statement on Immigration: Appendix 1: Actions for 2014-2016 http://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Immigration_Statement_2014Feb151.pdf
b. MCC Washington Office http://mcc.org/get-involved/advocacy/washington and http://mcc.org/learn/what/migration
c. Write letters to government officials encouraging immigration reform
"In the aftermath of the devastation of yet another American family, immigration advocates are left with more questions than answers. Under ICE Director Saldana’s leadership, are we to expect more chaotic, senseless immigration enforcement, with little regard for border security and the safety of American communities? Or will ICE Director Saldaña take a second look at Secretary Jeh Johnson’s enforcement priorities memorandum which, as President Obama promised, targets “felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a Mom [or Dad] who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” Read more
We write to you with a heavy heart. We just learned a few minutes ago that our beloved Pastor Max was deported by ICE today. Max's wife Gloria just received a call from him that he had landed at the airport in San Pedro, Honduras.
Your solidarity and commitment has been so incredible and beautiful. We've seen so many statements and signs of hope and compassion across the country. From Tweets to marches and your letters and prayers, Pastor Max's case is a case that we should have won. We are so grateful for your support as we continue to fight for justice, compassion and unity for all families across our nation.
We know this will be an incredibly difficult time for Pastor Max and his family. The Central Plains Mennonite Conference is launching a fundraising campaign today to raise funds for Max’s legal fees and provide a strong foundation for the family with the separation of their father. We'd be humbled if you were able to make a contribution to the Villatoro Family Fund.
In times like these we are reminded of the words of Dr. King:
The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice...
Which is why we keep fighting.
Tammy and Karla
Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, First Mennonite Church, Iowa City, Iowa
On behalf of the Groundswell Movement Petition.
Without a doubt we are sad because of Max's deportation. But I want to thank each of you for all the hard work you have done on our behalf. Thank you for supporting my family. So many of you, without knowing us, have done everything within your power to avoid Max's deportation.
Thank you for all your efforts-- for the calls, the letters, the signatures, the prayers, the songs, the caring thoughts lifted on our behalf.
Even though they've deported Max, we've come to know a community that is united, that can raise a great voice when we witness injustice. We must keep moving forward and see what God has next for us.
I am so grateful for all of your support.
Trusting in God,
for the children, too- Anthony, Edna, Angela, and Aileen
Central Plains Mennonite Conference is launching a fundraising campaign today to raise funds for Max’s legal fees and to provide a strong financial foundation for this family in the loss of the children’s father and all the ways he was able to support his family. You may donate to this fund in two ways: 1) You can go to our website: www.centralplainsmc.org and click on the “Donate” button on our homepage. You can donate to the Villatoro Family Fund by credit or debit card using the Paypal button. 2) Or you can send contributions in the mail to:
Central Plains Mennonite Conference
PO Box 101
Freeman, SD 57029
May each gift that is given be infused with the love we feel for the Villatoro family. Please share this opportunity to give with anyone in your network of compassion. May God open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing upon this family.
We just received the following message from Max's attorney, David Leopold:
ICE has confirmed Max’s deportation and that he’s landed in Honduras. I just now received the following Email:
“Good afternoon. This is to confirm that's your client Mr. Villatoro was removed to Honduras today. He has landed. Thank you.”
From Roger Farmer, chairman of the Outreach Committee of CPMC:
I called ICE this morning at 7 am Central Time/8 am Eastern time at 888-351-4024. A live person eventually answered but spoke so softly that I could hardly hear her. I asked that Max's deportation be stopped immediately since it was scheduled for today. She asked for my name, and said she would document the call. I emphasized the importance of immediate action and asked if there was anybody else I could call, and she said no.
At 8:22 am, I called the Omaha ICE office at 402-536-4918. A live person immediately answered and I gave the same message, asking for immediate action. She asked my name and I said who I was and also that I was chairman of the Outreach committee of the Mennonite Church in Iowa. She said "thank you" and that was it.
I'm assuming that all of ICE is aware of our concern and is not responding with any information, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to call to express our concern. Let us know on the Facebook page if you get any unusual response.
Keep those calls coming !! (see phone numbers below) Who knows what is going on !
Let's keep Max and the ICE officials in our prayers. Things to pray for:
1. that ICE officials change their hearts and minds and cancel or delay the deportation
2. that Max be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and surrounded by the love of God and care of the church
3. that the door to Max's cell/room be stuck so that they can't get him out (as opposed to the door to the cell of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25-34 which God opened ! )
4. that the paperwork for Max's deportation be lost, misplaced, or destroyed
5. that the vehicle to transport Max to the airport develop mechanical trouble
6. that a tree fall across the road and block the vehicle carrying Max
7. that the plane develop mechanical trouble and be unable to take off
Maybe you can think of other things to pray for !!
Finally, let us remember the financial strain on the family (and the church) that Max's absence and incarceration causes. Perhaps we can help out with that eventually.
Bring Max Back!
Central Plains Pastor Max Villatoro was deported to Honduras on Friday, March 20 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Max and his wife Gloria are the pastors of Iglesia Torre Fuerte in Iowa City. Join us in prayer that Max can be reunited with his family and congregation, and join us in offering financial support to the Villatoro family.