It was back in the 1990s when I was practically a kid writer at BreakPoint that I first heard about Prison Fellowship’s amazing Angel Tree program.
I was moved by how much Chuck Colson and the Prison Fellowship staff poured themselves into making sure that thousands and thousands of prisoners’ children received gifts at Christmas time.
Everyone knew that Chuck was a tough guy, former Marine Captain, Nixon’s hatchet man, and even as a Christian, he was bold, decisive, and strong. But whenever he talked about delivering Angel Tree gifts and telling those precious children about Jesus and how much He loves them–well, even Chuck got a little teary eyed.
Since 1982, church volunteers across the country have delivered more than 10 million gifts and the Gospel message to many, many children of prisoners. This year, we have a big goal: to reach 300,000 children.
And I’m urging you and your church to consider please joining the effort, to help gather and deliver gifts to reach every single one of those little ones.
So here’s how Angel Tree works: When you sign your church up to volunteer, you will receive a list of prisoners’ children and their caregivers’ contact information. A church volunteer will contact the caregivers to confirm gift wishes. You’ll place those children’s names and their gift wishes on paper angels, hang them on a Christmas tree—an Angel Tree—that you place in your church’s lobby. Members of your congregation then choose the paper angels, buy and wrap the gift or gifts, and return them to the church.
From there, a church volunteer will arrange a time to deliver the gifts and the Gospel materials provided by Angel Tree. Many churches host Angel Tree parties and invite the children and their caregivers to attend.
Yes, folks, it’s a fair amount of work. But if your church is looking for a hands-on ministry to the “least of these,” I cannot think of a more rewarding experience—for your church or for those children.
All you have to do is call 1-800-55-ANGEL to get more information or to volunteer. Or you can go to AngelTree.org.
I promise you, Angel Tree is so much more than Christmas gifts. It’s a way of reconciling families torn apart by incarceration, and it’s about introducing these children and these families to Jesus.
Here’s a quick story to show you the power of Angel Tree to restore families. Prison Fellowship got a letter from a prisoner named Bill. “Being in prison is hard enough,” he wrote, “but having kids and being in prison, well that’s enough to break any grown man.” The kids’ mom had “severed” her relationship with Bill. Since 2012, however, Bill was at least able to be a part of his sons’ Christmas through Angel Tree. But last year after Christmas, Bill heard nothing. The visits had stopped. No letters from the boys. He was afraid and cried out to God for help.
But in February, a letter arrived from the boys’ mom. The first in six years. The letter included pictures of the boys and a heartfelt confession. She said she had carried “enormous” hate and resentment for Bill in her heart—and even resented Angel Tree as some kind of charity she didn’t need. But when the Angel Tree volunteers arrived last Christmas, she witnessed pure joy in the boys’ faces. How could daddy afford this? How did he know what we wanted?”
She told Bill that God sent the Angel Tree people to melt her heart—and to convince her to forgive him. And she now plans to bring the boys to visit him.
Folks, that is the power of God working through Angel Tree. Who would not want to be a part of the many miracles the Lord will be doing in the lives of prisoners’ families this year?
So I hope you’ll volunteer. Sign your church up for Angel Tree. Please, call 1-800-55-Angel, or visit angeltree.org.
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.