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.
Juan Montes from Reedley, CA has been relating to Max and Gloria and will continue as a coach to provide spiritual support and help equip them to thrive in their ministries. He has visited Max in Mexico and consults with them by phone.
Family reunification: The most pressing concern has been for the reunification of the family. Gloria and their three younger children have just moved to Baja in August, to be with Max again. After crossing the border into Mexico there is no legal way, currently, for Gloria to return to the United States, though the children are U.S. citizens. On their way from Iowa to Baja, Gloria and their three daughters drove through Arizona and California to visit several PSMC congregations.
Financial support: Over the summer $5,000 was raised to assist the Villatoro family with their reunification in Baja. Thank you for your generosity! Please consider continuing to support their ministry with a monthly pledge.