This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Friends rally for deported pastor, immigration reform

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An advocacy group to support a Mennonite pastor deported in March has been formed.

“Friends of Pastor Max” supports Max Villatoro, co-pastor with his wife of Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower) Mennonite Church in Iowa City, who was arrested March 3 and deported to Honduras March 20.

In the 17 days between his arrest and deportation, tens of thousands of people across the U.S. signed petitions and flooded Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices with calls asking that he be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Members of the group plan to attend Iowa Caucus events and ask presidential candidates from both parties about their support for immigration reform and will continue asking the Department of Homeland Security why “prosecutorial discretion was not applied” to Villatoro’s situation.

“We believe that Max belongs with his family and congregation in Iowa City, and we are trusting that God will make a way for him to return,” said group chair Edie Nebel of Wash­ington, Iowa, in a press release.

In addition to Friends of Pastor Max selling a special “Villatoro Family blend” of Honduran coffee, donations to support Villatoro, his wife, Gloria, and their four children are also accepted by Central Plains Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA.

More information on the group is available at

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