Background In March 2015, Pastor Max Villatoro of Iowa City, Iowa, was deported by US immigration authorities to his native Honduras. Max left behind his wife Gloria and their children. Max and Gloria founded the Iglesia Torre Fuerte congregation in Iowa City in 2010. Iglesia Torre Fuerte is a member congregation of the Central Plains Mennonite Conference. Gloria and Max pastored the church until Max’s deportation five years later. Max is still considered a “pastor in exile” of the congregation.
Max was flown to Honduras in 2015, the land of his birth, a country he had not seen for twenty years. In time he moved to Baja, Mexico where he could be physically closer to his family. A pastor at heart, Max soon began to minister to other deportees and anyone else he encounters. He has been nurturing three separate cell groups, meeting in homes. Max works in construction to support himself.
In early 2019 Pastor Juan Montes from Primera Iglesia Menonita in Reedley contacted Pastor Max in Baja with encouragement from Central Plains Conference. Out of their conversations, dreams, and sense of God’s direction and conversations with a larger planning/support group, this project was birthed.
Vision: The Baja vision is to witness the development of a holistic, culturally relevant Anabaptist Christian faith community. The Baja project brings together evangelism, church planting, and social justice themes. The Villatoros hope to initially establish a viable congregation. They dream of the day when the ministry will expand to include a support center for deportees, a discipleship school providing (among other things) family counseling, and an elementary school.
Ministry relationships: The support team has been in contact with IAMUM (Iglesia Anabautista Menonita Unida de Mexico) leaders. IAMUM is an umbrella organization bringing together eight of the Mennonite conferences in Mexico. IAMUM is supportive of this project. IAMUM member conferences are already relating to migrants and deportees, trying to respond to needs in coordination with other churches. IAMUM could provide legal coverage for the Baja work and first steps have been taken to explore how the Baja project might become part of IAMUM.
- Gloria has engaged in a new significant ministry in a women's rehab center. However, she is pausing her visits because of positive Covid-19 cases in the clinic.
- The Villatoros have been holding virtual Bible study classes and baptism classes. They will wait to hold baptisms until things are safer.
- Your donations helped Gloria purchase a food cart to develop independent income. She will start her business this month, selling food outside her home in the evenings.
- The Villatoros have faced countless difficulties, but when they see how God is working in the lives of those around them, they are inspired to continue and know that their ministry is not in vain.
The Villatoros have created a powerpoint showcasing photos and details of their ministry:
Checks can be mailed to: Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, PO Box 39038, Phoenix, AZ 85069