Friends of Pastor Max is a group of Christians advocating for immigration justice.
Friends of Pastor Max supports the Villatoro family, advocates for Max and others like him, and educates others about immigration issues.
Sign up for the Friends of Pastor Max newsletter here.
Friends of Pastor Max
Let's call the Department of Homeland Security (which oversees ICE) each business day for the next month to call for Max's return. You can call just once, or as often as you like. We have created an online signup procedure to schedule and encourage callers to cover the entire month. You can of course call without signing up, but if you sign up, then it will be easier to know whether we have enough callers. Signing up to call DHS is a simple process, as described below:
1. Click on this link: http://tiny.cc/CallDHSsignup
2. Click the "Sign up" button beside the date/time(s) you would like to call.
3. Click the "Submit and Sign up" button at the bottom of the page (don't forget to do this !! )
4. Enter your name and email address and then click the "Sign Up Now!" button at the bottom of the page. (You do NOT have to create an account to schedule your call.) Your name will appear on the schedule beside the date/time(s) that you choose.
Don't forget to call!! If you miss your date/time, feel free to call later.
Call (202) 282-8203. Our message to DHS is:
1. ICE made a mistake deporting Max since he was not a threat to national security, and we remain concerned about Max. We call upon DHS to correct this mistake, and bring Max back to restore him to his family, church, and community.
2. DHS should review other recent deportation cases for similar violations of procedure, and require ICE to follow proper procedure in future deportation proceedings.
But put these concerns into your own words !!
What's important is both the number of calls being made as well as the number of different people making these calls. If you call more than once, you can ask whether any progress is being made since the last time you called.
It will be helpful for planning to know what response you receive. After your call, please send a note to DHSandMax@gmail.com with a few details and your impression of the DHS response. We can't promise a response but appreciate any information that you might want to share.
Here are some suggestions to prepare yourself for your calls.
by David Boshart
Having served as Max’s mentor during his licensing period, I was continually frustrated in my inability to see Max face-to-face during his detention. It seemed that every day I made arrangements to visit, he was moved to the next facility. The first time I was able to talk with Max during this whole ordeal was by phone after he landed in Honduras. In our first conversation, he reminded me that we had a mentoring meeting scheduled for April 1. He said it would mean a lot to have someone come to Honduras and see what he is experiencing first hand.
Everyone I consulted with encouraged me to make a pastoral visit to Max in these early days in Honduras. I was able to locate very reasonable flights and lodging, surprising on such short notice. Linda Shelly from Mennonite Mission Network as able to connect me to Mennonite leader in San Pedro Sula, Ovidio Flores, who met me at the airport and has offered to provide ongoing support for Max.
I arrived in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Max’s birthday. It was also Semana Santa (Holy Week). Gloria had sent a used iPad with me which held recorded birthday greetings from Gloria and the children. Max was deeply touched by being able to hear the voices and see the faces of Gloria and the children.
In my time with Max, it remains clear that he is sustained by his strong faith and hope in God’s ongoing work in his life and in this crisis. Max cheers himself with the belief that God has a purpose for him that has yet to be revealed. He reassures himself in the trust that the worse his situation gets, the greater the power of God will be revealed when things are resolved. Max understands the importance of remaining positive even as he works toward healing from what he experienced in the detention and deportation process.
The day after I arrived, we traveled to the rural community where Max is reconnecting with family members he hasn’t seen for many years. He seems to be in a safe location and receiving support from family members. Max is experiencing this place as a place of healing.
Max is a bit of a local celebrity in the community where he is staying. He has been asked to share a testimony or bring a message at neighborhood cell groups or church services several times since he has returned. This seems to be giving him a sense of purpose in the midst a life turned upside-down.
When we returned to San Pedro Sula on Maundy Thursday afternoon, Max contacted Ovidio again. I believe this will be a helpful relationship for Max when he goes to the city because he does not feel safe moving about in the city alone. He would like to get to know Ovidio and build a relationship with Ovidio’s church or several churches in Honduras before becoming involved in any kind of public ministry. I am impressed by the intentionality that Max is demonstrating as he considers each next step.
In San Pedro Sula on Thursday, Max and I had a final two hours to share together. Max confessed, “Dave, I know that I am making it look like I am OK, but I am not OK. I am trying to keep from being depressed.” He expressed deep appreciation for my visit. He said, “Because you were willing to come in person, I know that you love me, but in your coming I feel like I have been visited by everyone back home and I feel all their support.” In the last hours of our visit, I was reassured that this visit was important. We had an extended time of prayer together. While it was a beautiful time communing spiritually, it was also poignant, as our prayers reminded us that we do not know how long it will be until we see each other again nor how long it will be until Max can be reunited with his family.
Returning home on Good Friday, the plane from Honduras to Miami was nearly empty. Peaceful. I returned with a heart full of both pain and gratitude. I have some reflecting to do before I can be articulate about the pain. Yet, I am grateful for my brother, Max, with whom I have bonded in a new way. I am grateful for the possibility of this visit. I am grateful for the sensitive support we received from Brother Ovidio; his presence was and will be invaluable. I am grateful for the kindness of Max’s family who not only took measures to ensure my safety, but who gave me the feeling of being safe. I am grateful for encouragement I received through Max’s witness to his unflappable trust in God. With Max, I will wonder in hope what God is going to do. May our Holy Week prayers result in life resurrected and a speedy reunion for the Villatoro family!
On Monday, March 30, students and community members at Eastern Mennonite University held vigil to honor Max Villatoro's story of detention and deportation. Those gathered heard personal stories, lit candles, sang together, and remembered those affected by a broken immigration system. The photos below were taken by Jonathan Bush. First Mennonite Church of Iowa City members Aliese Gingerich and Rachel Schrock organized the vigil.
Mennonite Church USA contributed a post to SojoNet on next steps since Max's deportation. Read it here.
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
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.