The moderator of the New York City Council of Mennonite Churches was denied re-entry into the United States on April 11 and has been working at local ministry in Honduras since that time.
Omar Guzman, pastor of Evangelical Garifuna Church of Manhattan, wrote June 25 by email that the situation was still complex and uncertain, but an attorney was working on applications to clarify his status. He was living in the Garifuna community of Trujillo de la Cruz, where he grew up.
Guzman is also director of church multiplication for LMC, formerly known as Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
He entered the U.S. in 2001 on a visa. His wife, Tonya — who was able to return in April to New York — became a citizen in 2004, and the couple has three children there ages 17-22.
He has worked with Mennonite Central Committee immigration staff in New York for years to get his paperwork in order.
According to Guzman and LMC moderator Keith Weaver, his attorneys informed him he was cleared to travel in March to visit his aging parents, but something changed while he was in Honduras, and he was not allowed to board his return flight.
“The situation is difficult, but we are trusting in the Lord, knowing that he will provide,” Guzman wrote.
Weaver said LMC submitted notarized documents supporting Guzman on May 16, when attorneys felt the best-case scenario would be to get travel approval in three months.
“It is taking a toll on them,” Weaver said. “I know Tonya is considering what to do — if she needs to move down and quit her job to be with him.”
Serving in Honduras
Although he is in Central America, Guzman is in contact with a pastoral assistant at his New York congregation. He is also focusing on ministry opportunities in his immediate vicinity.
“We are trying to raise and strengthen the Mennonite pastors here in Honduras and the Garifuna communities, trying to focus on mission work,” he wrote. “We want to raise from here in the Garifuna community new leaders who can focus on missions to be able to go to different parts of the world, just as I am able to move anywhere in the world except for the United States, for now.”
Weaver said Guzman is still able to give leadership to LMC church multiplication support teams through online video conferencing.
“Initially we said we won’t make any changes,” Weaver said. “. . . But he’s acknowledging it’s harder and harder to give leadership from Honduras to what’s going on with LMC.”
Weaver noted Guzman’s ministerial leadership roles are not limited to New York and LMC.
“He’s been leading the Garifuna network of churches countrywide, in Houston, L.A., Seattle, all over the place,” he said. “He’s a key leader in the Garifuna community, so it’s really impacting his ability to carry on his ministry.”