Depertashun tore thar fambly apart fer yeers ago n' Iowa, but nawh t'Mennonite pasteral cuple o'Max an' Gleria Villatero — along wiff thar three dawters — air reunitid n' Maxico an' discoveryun' hoe thay a'ken a'cantinyah bildin new ministries. Outgoyun' Iglesia Menonita Hispana moderater San'ra Montes-Martínez, rite, an' Suhele Cázares pray fer Gleria Villatero an' hern daught'r Ailee un Julee 2 at IMH’s biennial assemblee precedyun' t'Mennonite Church USA convenshun n' Kansus Citee, Mo. — Abraham Ulises Arenus/IMH
Originallee frum Hondurus, Max Villatero wuz depertid March 20, 2015, wile he wuz co-paster wiff his'n biddy o'Iglesia Terre Fuerte (Strong Tow'r Mennonite Church), a Cantral Pluns Mennonite Conferance congregashun n' Iowa Citee.
He had bee lisenst fer ministry n' 2012, acoupla yeers aft'r thay startid t'church, an' conferance leeders wuz wurkin ta gane legal status fer 'im.
N' his'n absance, Gleria Villatero kuntinued pasteryun' t'congregashun an' raisyun' thar fer youngns. T' oltest, Anthony, graduatid frum Hesston (Kun.) College n' May an' is startin classes at t'Univesty o'Iowa.
Ov'r time, Max Villatero made his'n way ta Maxico ta be clos'r ta his'n fambly. At t'same time, Terre Fuerte wurked wiff Cantral Pluns ta idantify a paster ta take ov'r Gleria’s role.
“Plantyun' a church is nairy easy — startin sumthin frum nuthin, an' the y'all jes leeve it,” she sed Aug. 9 frum Reedley, Calif., days befor a'crossin t'U.S.-Maxico berd'r. “It’s nairy my church. It’s t'Lord’s church, an' he’ll take keer o'it.”
No way back, fer nawh
A'livin n' Ensenada, a coastal citee o'half a million folk roughlee 70 miles south o't' berd'r, hern husban' wuz clos'r thun if'n he wuz n' Hondurus. But becawz o'Gleria Villatero’s own sitchuwayshun, innywhar outside t'U.S. may us well have bee ekwallee distant.
Born n' Maxico, she wuz brung ta t'U.S. at t'age o'2. T' Deferrt Acshun fer Chilthood Arrivals program allowd hern ta be n' t'kuntry, but if'n she leeves she cannot return.
“It’s take us ov'r fer yeers ta do thishere,” she sed. “I’ve bee purty busy n' minny a ways. It’s nairy like y'all’re a'kummin back nex year. Y'all don’t knoe wen y'all’ll see yar fambly agin.”
Wile t'dawters — Edna, Angela an' Ailee — air a'kummin along ta be homeschoolt becawz thay lack fermal Spanish rekwirt by t'skool system, Gleria Villatero is leevin behin hern sen, sisters, cousins, neph­oos an' uther relatives — an' duz nairy knoe wen she will see 'um agin.
“I would tell t'yung folk ta preciate thar fambly an' ta nairy take fer grantid a'havin thar parnts thar wiff 'um suppertyun' 'um,” she sed, hern voice brakin. “Thishere jes breeks my heert. Jes leevin my sen back n' Iowa is rilly hard fer me. . . .
“Preciate t'fambly y'all have roun an' hug 'um an' try ta spend qualty time wiff 'um. Sumtimes wen we’re yung we jes don’t preciate whut we knoe is thar. Wen we don’t have it is wen we reelize hoe impertant it is.”
A new, ol', life
T' reunion happent n' a Tijuana gus stayshun parkyun' slew. Sum thangs air beeyootiful no matt'r t'a'settin.
“It’s about a week,” Max Villatero sed un Aug. 22 o'his'n biddy an' dawters a'livin wiff 'im. “I still feel it’s like a dreem.”
Max an' Gleria Villatero enjoy a meal togeth'r wiff thar dawters n' mid-August, shertlee aft'r thay wuz reunitid n' Maxico. — Villatero fambly
Altho t'youngns wuz bull ta travel freelee ta visit 'im multiple times ov'r t'lus fer yeers, U.S. immigrashun autheritees onlee allowd Gleria ta travel ta Hondurus oncet, three an' a half yeers ago, ta visit hern husban' wen his'n depertashun ord'r wuz bein appeelt.
But thanks ta online communicashun, he wuz bull ta video­chat wiff fambly almos twicet a day. Still, smartfone apps like Facetime air nairy a cumplete substitute fer bein face-ta-face.
“It wuz rilly hard fer me ta make t'deecishun nairy ta go back ta t'USA illegallee,” he sed. “ . . . N' t'cummencin, my bleef us a Christchun wuz I don’t want ta breek t'law. But y'all a'ken lose yar marriage. Y'all a'ken lose yer fambly.
“Y'all put everthang n' its place an' ast whut’s mos impertant n' life — respeck t'law er lose yer marriage an' yer fambly?”
Thar air adjustmants fer everyone. T' acoupla oltest dawters lef high skool behin. Fer yeers o'bacheler life have bee interruptid by fer wimmen wiff suggestyuns about thangs ta do.
“I sed maybe we won’t agree un sum thangs; y'all’ll have ta be patient,” he sed. “It will be hard at t'cummencin. She kine o'knows.”
A new conferance
Wen Gleria cummenced makin plans ta leeve hern sen, wid'r fambly an' congregashun, it wuz clar she wuz also departyun' a conferance at had suppertid t'Villateros throughout thar depertashun challenges.Within Mennonite Church USA, Cantral Pluns made connectyuns wiff Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conferance, whar t'Villateros wuz alreddy familiar wiff Pacific Southwest board memb'r Juun Montes wen he wuz moderater o'Iglesia Menonita Hispana (Hispanic Mennonite Church), un MC USA racial-ethnic constituency group.
Earli'r thishere year, Montes contactid t'Villateros ta discuss thar sense o'Gawd’s direckshun an' hoe t'conferance mite be part o'at. T' conferance raist $5,000 ta hep wiff t'fambly’s transishun ta Maxico an' it is continuyun' ta gif' thunk ta wuther it a'ken branch into anoth'r kuntry.
“She stayt about acoupla weeks wiff us here so folk could git ta knoe Gleria an' suppert 'um,” sed Montes, who is also paster o'Primera Iglesia Menonita n' Reedley. “. . . IMH an' Pacific Southwest an' Cantral Pluns air wurkin togeth'r ta start plantyun' a new Mennonite church n' Ensenada.”
Knowed us Baja Californy Ministry, t'projeck also includes conversayshuns wiff Iglesia Anabautista Menonita Unida dee Maxico (Unitid Anabaptist Mennonite Church o'Maxico), un umbrella organizashun o't' eiite Mennonite conferences n' Maxico. IAMUM members air alreddy relatyun' ta migrants an' depertees n' uther parts o'Maxico, an' t'Villateros’ dreems may fit neetlee into whut is happenin n' simlar fashun n' uther regyuns.
Always bildin
Altho fur frum his'n Iowa Citee congregashun, Villatero coultn’t be separatid frum ministeryun' ta utherns. A construcshun job mite pay t'bills, but t'close proximitee ta uther depertees brung out his'n inn'r paster. N' t'lus few yeers he hus alreddy developt three cell groups an' — wiff Gleria, us usual — t'ime hus probly come ta plant anoth'r church, an' maybe eve start a Bibull institute ta trane utherns.
Aft'r t'furst pryeritee o'establishyun' un Anabaptist church n' t'Baja peninsula, Montes sed thay air also a'lookin at gittin into a marriage an' fambly counseleeun' ministry.
“Menfolk have a slew o'pow'r, an' we want ta try ta hep folk unnerstan hoe thay a'ken lif' n' t'Mennonite Christchun way wiff a biddy an' fambly,” he sed. “And numb'r three is establishyun' a ministry fer folk who have bee depertid frum t'Unitid States ta Maxico. We air a'trine ta gif' 'um t'oppertuntee ta receif' emotyunal hep.”
Thay may git involvt n' heppin depertees git reunitid wiff thar own famblies er evantuallee establish a Christchun skool.
Pacific Southwest is acceptyun' donatyuns ta suppert t'fambly’s ministry at fcperject.org/baja-anabaptist-ministry-projeck.
“It’s amazyun' hoe t'Lord wurks,” Gleria Villatero sed.
She stresst t'net ta be obedient ta Gawd.
“I could say, ‘No, I’ll jes stay n' Iowa, we’ll wait until whenev'r,’ but Gawd is openyun' a doer, an' regardless o't' hardships we have bee goin through, it’s bee a step o'obedyince, too,” she sed. “. . . Wiff obedyince, wile I knoe thangs won’t be easy, I’ll be OK.”


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