In June, Texas announced a $250 million state-funded down payment to continue the construction of the southern border wall without federal support. Since the announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott, thousands of dollars have been raised in private donations from other states and Texas residents.
If we can work this diligently to secure our borders, imagine the possible impact of putting the same effort into addressing the reason for migration.
Understanding the motivation behind migration is vital to improving the border crisis. This idea of identifying the root of the problem and stopping it at the source is what drives the work of Buckner International, the nonprofit I serve, domestically and internationally.
Paul writes in Romans 12:13: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” He encouraged the recipients of his letters to share the love of Christ with those who may be fighting for a better life and in need. This command reminds us of our duty to care for the vulnerable and show them a better life, and we can do that by taking preventative rather than reactive action, especially at our southern border.
Providing funds for countries of origin of migrants is a step in the right direction and a step God calls us to take as we look to help those hurting beyond our border.
What we’ve learned
Buckner International has implemented faith-based programs and built Buckner Family Hope Centers in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Family Hope Centers are child-centered, family focused places where families go to find hope, support and empowerment in their communities through programs providing family assistance, education, financial empowerment, child and youth development, family coaching, counseling and spiritual enrichment.
The programs offered at the Family Hope Centers guide families and individuals as they work to break the cycle of poverty and grow into their God-given potential. Through proactive courses, families learn ways to focus on what really matters, become good stewards of their finances, and learn new skills as they look toward the prosperous future they have in their nation of origin.
“She didn’t want to leave her home country; she simply wanted the hope of a better life for her family.”
When an image of a mother fleeing teargas went viral in 2018, I felt compelled to write an article for the Dallas Morning News where I introduced readers to Maria Elena Raymundo, who lives in Jocotenango, Guatemala, with her husband and four daughters.
When I first met her family, they were living in a small, rented dwelling made with wooden sticks, a dirt floor and a tattered tin roof — a building I have a difficult time noting as a home. Maria Elena’s husband worked in construction in Guatemala but often spent his minimal salary on alcohol. Despite Maria Elena’s wages she earned cleaning homes, the family frequently found themselves on the edge of eviction, cold and hungry. It wasn’t difficult for me to see why they might seek a better life in a different country.
I spent time praying with the family and learned she had three dreams: a home to call theirs, help for her husband’s alcoholism, and the ability to read the Bible for herself. She didn’t want to leave her home country; she simply wanted the hope of a better life for her family.
Maria Elena’s prayer request was answered when two Buckner donors immediately returned to their Texas church and successfully raised enough money to purchase Maria’s family a property in Guatemala to build a new house on, which a missions team constructed.
In Ecclesiastes 7:19, King Solomon speaks about wisdom, knowledge and good stewardship of resources. “Wisdom strengthens the wise more than 10 rulers of the city” When we take a closer look at the core problems at our southern border, we see that similarly to Maria, when we invest in proactive education, we can watch quality of life improve and families accomplish goals.
New U.S. aid still falls short
After her visit to the Northern Triangle of Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris announced $310 million in U.S government aid and relief to help with food insecurity. The funds will be distributed to address various needs. Of that total, $255 million will be used for humanitarian relief, including food assistance, protection of vulnerable populations and to provide essential health services.
“Although the $310 million will make an impact, it is less than half of the $750 million provided by the Obama administration in 2016.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $55 million to make financing more accessible for farmers in Guatemala and expand access to daily meals and educational opportunities in both Honduras and Guatemala.
Although the $310 million will make an impact, it is less than half of the $750 million provided by the Obama administration in 2016. We can strengthen our southern border neighbors and see a change in the quality of life for those living in poverty, one donation at a time through nonprofit funding.
What nonprofit partnerships can do
Last year, even amid the pandemic, Buckner International impacted the lives of 4,240 children and adults in Guatemala, 998 in Honduras, and 5,674 in Mexico. For example, 250 adults received counseling services through our Family Hope Center in Jocotenango, Guatemala, and 73 adults and teens received vocational training through our new Family Hope Center in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala.
An estimated average of 311,000 people left Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador between 2014 and 2020. The number varied each year, with the highest number of migrants leaving the region in 2019, an estimated 709,000 people. This year, more than 226,000 Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans have reached the U.S. border.
“Building strong families and shining hope into their lives with the tools they need to succeed may be the greatest aid.”
Can you imagine the impact we could make as a nation if we shifted our nonprofit and government efforts into similar family focused programs in Central America? Already, U.S. Senas. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have introduced the bipartisan bill New Partnerships Initiative which, among other items, would strengthen the capacities of nonprofits serving in partner countries and authorize $250 million per year for New Project Initiative grants.
Buckner is proud to be a signatory on this bill because building strong families and shining hope into their lives with the tools they need to succeed may be the greatest aid.
Albert L. Reyes is the sixth president and CEO of Buckner International, a faith-based nonprofit ministry dedicated to transforming the lives of orphans, vulnerable children, families and senior adults in the United States and internationally. He is the author of The Jesus Agenda and Hope Now and is a member of the board of trustees of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. Follow him on Twitter or his blog.
We cannot now close our border to those fleeing the horror we helped create | Analysis by Chris Conley