There is not much in the realm of public policy that immigration advocates and opponents can agree upon. Reasonable folks on each side do seem to acknowledge the benefit of constructive steps to diminish the hazards, hardships, and hatreds that compel individuals and families to leave their homes to seek safety and opportunity.

David Hope-Tringali recently emailed about an effort to raise money through Tree 4 Hope that would be directed toward supporting the Lutheran Church in Guatemala. The church is hard-pressed to provide crucial support to families and the community at large, in the midst of political, economic, educational, and environmental distress. In broad brush, these conditions and troubles sound familiar to any Pennsylvania congregation. Yet we realize the challenges are more severe and the support systems much sketchier in less wealthy countries. The church does marvelous work to the extent possible, but good intentions are easily overwhelmed by the daunting needs.

Probably everyone has experienced the outreach of the American Red Cross and similar organizations here at home in trying to deal with the consequences of the pandemic and natural disasters ranging from severe storms to record wildfires. It is hard for us to fully understand how the hurricanes hitting Central America, including Guatemala, have devastated an already struggling population.

What David and Jen and the many supporters they have inspired are accomplishing by building a girls’ school is a monument to compassionate investment of time and talent and resource. As we prayerfully consider ways in which we can contribute, this church is a worthy cause.

At the same time, let us not forget another avenue of advocacy open to us.

Remember that an element of the Trump anti-immigrant effort was to suspend humanitarian funding for certain Central American countries. This was allegedly going to force these governments to do more to restrain their citizens. In reality, it had about as much effect as taking the leaders off the White House Christmas card list. The powerful were not especially distressed about cutting another lifeline to the struggling and suffering population.

Now, we have every reason to believe the incoming administration will move with deliberate speed to reverse the most egregious anti-immigrant policies. Restoration of badly needed assistance will presumably come, but with additional safeguards to see that the money goes for the specified purposes.

This does not displace the role of privately raised and dispensed funding. This money goes directly into facilities and services as decided in cooperation with local communities. These dollars do not risk getting siphoned or skimmed by officials and bureaucrats who are less than scrupulous.

We are all receiving urgent requests for aid as the pandemic surges and mutates. Many families have seen their ability to give curtailed by health or financial setbacks. But for those who can do more and are looking for places where their dollars make a life-saving difference, please remember the Lutheran Church of Guatemala. You can support them by giving at this link:

David Atkinson, a member of our synod’s AMMPARO task force, did policy and communications work in the Pennsylvania Senate for thirty-five years and is a long-time member of Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Susquehanna Township. He writes commentary and scripts for history documentaries for the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy. He also coauthored a political memoir of state Senator Robert C. Jubelirer titled The Senate Will Come To Order; But The Politics May Be Messy and was an interviewer for an oral history of The Reverend Doctor Ken Senft titled: A Life Of Faith. Atkinson also served for thirteen years on the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission.