On August 6, 2015, Delta Flight 575 touched down at San Pedro Sula airport in Honduras around 11:40 AM. Anthony, Edna, Angela and Aileen Villatoro and Tim Detweiler were sitting on the very last row of seats on the plane. The long anticipated trip to spend time with their father, Max Villatoro had finally arrived for the Villatoro children. This would be the first time the children would be able to give their dad a hug since the time when he was detained on March 3, 2015 and deported back to Honduras on March 20, 2015. Aileen was eager to give her dad a “very big hug”.
Sitting in the last seats on the plane prolonged the wait, not to mention the long lines going through customs, and then going through baggage security check. Finally the long anticipated wait was over and the four Villatoro children burst through the door to find Max and two other family members waiting with open arms. What a glorious and emotional reunion. Hugs, smiles, tears of joy, words of love and welcome and taking pictures filled this moment. It was glorious to watch.
For the next ten days, Max and his children were able to spend time together as a family. The only thing that would have made this trip sweeter would have been for Gloria to have been able to make this trip with the children so the family unit could have been complete. I went to bed that first evening listening to the sweet noise of Max and his children talking and laughing and enjoying family time together.
We were generously welcomed into his sister’s home where Max is living. The next ten days were filled with lots of conversation and activity. There was the trip to the water park and zoo near Puerto Cortes and a day in San Pedro Sula at the mall and eating pizza. There were the walks through the palm and banana grooves, a tour of the local school and an evening at a high school soccer game. But most of our time was spent just hanging out together where Max is staying. The children met aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. They enjoyed long evenings playing together on the front porch. Max was happy to be with his children once again. He told me how hopeful it makes him feel to have his children come and visit him in Honduras.
In my conversations with Max, he talked a lot about the importance of family. Family is the place where values are taught, values like respect, responsibility, work and play. Family is the place where love and caring for each other is learned and experienced. For someone like Max who values the importance of family, being torn away from his wife and children is very difficult and painful.
August 16 came too soon for Max and the children. Having to say goodbye once again was hard and emotional. There were hugs, words of love and time for taking pictures but with these came tears of sadness and the stark reminder that for now, the Villatoro family would have to remain separated. The trip back to Iowa was bittersweet. The children looked forward to seeing their mom again but there was much sadness in having to say goodbye to their dad in Honduras. May God give them the grace and strength they need to sustain them.
Report and photos by Tim Detweiler
If you would like to contribute to help with the expenses of this trip, you can make a donation to the Villatoro Family Fund http://www.centralplainsmc.org/donate.html. Thank you!
September 20 will mark six months since Pastor Max Villatoro's deportation, so the Friends of Pastor Max group is calling for a special week of prayer for Max and his family. Rachel Schrock of First Mennonite Church has prepared these worship resources for the prayer vigil. These materials can be used by congregations or by individuals. Please join in this special prayer effort for Pastor Max the week of September 20-27, keeping in mind that our hope is in God's intervention on Max's behalf.
Download the Prayer Vigil resources
more prayer resources
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.