It’s from Daddy!

It was a dreary winter day in Texas, and a prison inmate—I'll call him Thomas—was on the phone with his wife. Inevitably, the painful question came up: "What should we do about Christmas for the children?" his wife asked. Thomas winced. As an inmate he had no way to buy any Christmas presents for his kids. It made him feel guilty knowing he couldn't be the father he wanted to be. Later, still brooding over his wife's question, Tom wandered into the prison chapel. "And what to my wondering eyes should appear," he later wrote, was "not Santa Claus or a reindeer, but an angel." A picture of an angel, that is. Plastered on the wall was a poster explaining Angel Tree®, a program sponsored by Prison Fellowship that mobilizes volunteers to distribute Christmas gifts to the children of inmates. We rarely think of all the ripples extending out through society when a man or woman is incarcerated. The door that locks a father or mother in is the same door that locks their children out. Few can imagine the loneliness, the feeling of abandonment, these children suffer. Coupled with loneliness is the economic deprivation that results from the loss of a breadwinner—a loss felt most sharply at Christmas time. That's why Prison Fellowship founded Angel Tree. Here's how the program works. Prison Fellowship cooperates with prison authorities to compile lists of incarcerated mothers and fathers who want to participate in the program. The lists are sent out to churches or Christian groups, and the children's names are written on angel-shaped Christmas-tree ornaments. The ornaments are hung on a Christmas tree, which may be set up in a church or shopping mall or just about anywhere. Those who want to participate choose an ornament from the tree and buy gifts for the child whose name appears there. One of the unique features of Angel Tree is that the gifts are given in the name of the incarcerated parent. That means Angel Tree is not just about presents, it's about knitting families back together. Listen to what one of the Angel Tree volunteers said last year. "The highlight for me," he said, "was seeing the children's reaction when they heard the presents were a request from their father." Their faces lit up with joy. "It's from Daddy!" they shouted, and hugged the presents as eagerly as if they were hugging their missing father. At Prison Fellowship we see the positive effects on the parents as well. In January and February our in-prison Bible studies swell with parents asking, "Is this the same group that got Christmas presents for my kids?" The love of Christians expressed through Angel Tree draws inmates to the love of Christ. Last year Angel Tree volunteers distributed gifts to more than 270,000 children. Why don't you call us for information on how your church or Christian group can participate in Angel Tree this coming Christmas? Angel Tree goes to the heart of what Christmas is all about: A time when we celebrate the greatest gift of all, when our Heavenly Father gave us His Son. For information on how you can share in the joy of Angel Tree, call (703) 478-0100, ext. 634.


Chuck Colson


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