Max is from Honduras and came to the USA in the early 90’s in search of a better life. He met Gloria here in the USA and they were married in September of 2000. Early in their marriage, Max became a Christian. He and Gloria became active members and leaders at the Muscatine Mennonite Church. Max and Gloria have four children, Anthony (15) their oldest and a freshman at Iowa Mennonite School, Edna (13), Angela (10) and Aileen (7). Max and Gloria live in Iowa City, IA. They are both credentialed pastors at Iglesia Torre Fuerte which meets in the building of First Mennonite Church in Iowa City. Below is a write up from Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler two years ago on Max and Gloria Villatoro.
“We at First Mennonite Church of Iowa City have been privileged to journey for 2 ½ years with Torre Fuerte Iglesia Menonita, and to befriend pastors Max and Gloria Villatoro. Max and Gloria have a vision for increasing justice and peace in our community and the world as they extend to their immigrant neighbors friendship, spiritual nurture, and support for the many challenges that non-native residents of our community face. In addition to their work with Torre Fuerte, Max and Gloria have contributed time and energy to broader community efforts such as the Sanctuary City Committee of the Consultation of Religious Communities (which advocates for just city policies), the Immigrant Voices Project (a grassroots organizing effort led by immigrants), and the Immigrant Review Committee of the Iowa City Human Rights Commission (which represents immigrant concerns to City Council).
While Max and Gloria have been offering support to struggling immigrant families, they have not been free from struggles themselves. Though they have spent most of their lives in the United States and have contributed immensely to the well-being of their community, they do not yet enjoy the privileges of U.S. citizenship. Max and Gloria have spent many years and many dollars trying to negotiate the United States’ complex immigration system in order to secure permanent legal status in Iowa. Absent legal, political and divine intervention that will cause officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in Max’s case, it is a certainty that he will be deported to Honduras, separated from his wife and four U.S. citizen children, and unable to continue his ministry work here.”
Max preached a sermon at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City on September 28, 2014 entitled, “Increasing Our Faith” in which he shares his story. The link to this sermon is http://www.firstmennoniteiowacity.org/sermons-2014.html.
As you know from our communication with you these last couple of days, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrived unannounced at Max's home at 6:30 AM on Tuesday, March 3 and forced Max to leave with them. Max did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and children. Max was taken to the Linn County jail in Cedar Rapids, where he will be held until he is taken for deportation to Honduras. We expect that he will then be taken to Omaha and flown to Honduras sometime next week, unless there is miraculous intervention.
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.