In 1988, arrested on assault charges, Edwin was forced to abandon his promising career in the military and trade in his army uniform for prison garb.
Looking back on his prison life, Edwin is clear-headed: “When I get asked questions … my standard answer is, ‘All things work together for good … it doesn’t say all things are good.’”
Edwin struggled, as anyone does, going into prison. But because Prison Fellowship supporters helped send the Gospel behind bars, prison turned out to be the place where he met God. And in meeting God, Edwin was saved from one life and prepared for another. Edwin participated in every Bible course he could find in prison. He used his years behind bars to be reclaimed, redeemed, and recovered.
With Christmas just around the corner, thousands of churches throughout the U.S. are busy hosting Angel Tree parties to share gifts and Gospel with local children of prisoners. The children’s faces are lighting up with joy when they hear that their gifts came from their mom or dad in prison because they love them and miss them! And the kids’ caregivers are thankful to Angel Tree supporters for spreading the Christmas cheer.
Just last week, Angel Tree received a thank-you note from a mom named Megan.
She says, “I just wanted to express my gratitude for all that the Angel Tree organization does for the children. My four children received gifts through the Angel Tree program from their father who was incarcerated for seven years. It meant so much to them to receive a gift from their dad who they were only able to see a few times a year. Our local church that sponsored the program did a wonderful job of putting together a lunch and program that comforted both the children and the spouses/families of the prisoners. Thank you for bringing some joy into a very difficult time for these families.”
Angel Tree is touching lives all over the country.
A 5-year-old boy named Sage in Utah is missing his dad who’s been in prison for over four years. But on Christmas Eve, Angel Tree will give him and his two siblings a reminder that their father loves them. Sage remembers his Angel Tree gift from last year’s party: “I got a Transformer shirt from Dad.”
And Cindy Williams, a missions coordinator for her church in Texas, is mailing each incarcerated parent a Christmas card that their child made for them at the church’s Angel Tree party this year. What an amazing way to help moms and dads behind bars feel more connected to their kids this season!
A church Angel Tree coordinator named Bonetta Hudson held an Angel Tree party on Thursday night at the Living Word Church of God. She explains why she serves the families of the incarcerated: “It impacted my kids. My kids are in their 30′s now and they still remember the gifts that they got the two years I was incarcerated. It has a long-lasting effect.”
Thank you to all the Angel Tree partners, volunteers, and supporters who are sharing God’s love with kids in your communities this Christmas season!
Angel Tree blesses hundreds of thousands of children each year, but did you know that it also leads their incarcerated parents closer to Jesus?
At a time of year that can be full of sorrow for parents separated from their children, Angel Tree allows moms and dads to reach out from behind prison bars with a message of love for their families. As friends like you enable them to have a moment of connection, wounded hearts begin to heal from the pain and shame of the past.
A prison chaplain in California wrote to me just last month to let me know the difference Angel Tree makes for the men in his facility, but his words of thanks really go to you:
“The gift of Angel Tree for the men here comes from your organization, and it is a huge blessing. These men are separated from their children and broken-hearted. You help heal some of those wounds with the miracle of Angel Tree. I love how your ministry follows up with the families who receive Angel Tree donations and benefits from hearing the good news and being connected to a church family. God bless all of you and from the men here … a huge Thank YOU! Keep doing what you are doing.”
The Angel Tree program helps chaplains build bridges of trust with prisoners, who may become more open to asking for a Bible or attending a chapel service once they see that people like you truly care for them and their families. Your investment in Angel Tree keeps paying off all year long, with parents as well as children!
To learn more about Angel Tree and how you can help, visit www.angeltree.org.
Lee Allen, author of the popular book The Special Guest: A Christmas Story, and his wife Donna Campbell Allen (the illustrator for The Special Guest) are sponsoring Angel Tree this Christmas season. The Allens‘ goal is to raise $100,000 through a promotion called the “12 Days Before Christmas: $100K Challenge.”
Twenty years ago the Allens sponsored Angel Tree with their first self-published edition distributed locally in their hometown of Richmond, Virginia. From that local success they donated $6,500 to Angel Tree. Now with the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition, the Allens have set a challenge to donate $100,000 to Angel Tree.
When Richard Braceful went away to prison, he felt like he had failed his wife and kids. Selena, his wife, struggled as she transitioned into being the family’s breadwinner. And their daughter, Jozelyn, worried that her dad didn’t love her because he wasn’t around.
But when Christmas came, God gave the Bracefuls encouragement through Angel Tree volunteers. Jozelyn received Christmas gifts on behalf of her dad, and she knew everything would be OK.
Hear the Bracefuls tell their story, and see what the family is doing now to give back, serve others, and bring glory to God:
If the video does not play, click here to view it.
Christmas is two weeks away, but it’s not too late to join Angel Tree in serving the children of incarcerated moms and dads! See how you can help.
Every year, Prison Fellowship assists churches in ministering to the families of incarcerated parents through its Angel Tree program. Angel Tree is a ministry that reaches out to the children of inmates and their families with the love of Christ, offering churches an opportunity to share Christ’s love by serving the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners.
During the Christmas season, local church volunteers purchase and deliver gifts and the Gospel to children in the name of their parent behind bars. Thousands of families are served every year by church members who generously give of their time and resources.
Unfortunately, the opportunities to minister through Angel Tree often exceed the number of volunteers in certain areas. Below are the 50 counties in the country with the largest number of children signed-up for the Angel Tree program that are not yet assigned to a church:
My wife Cathy’s family calls this time of year ThanksMas. As Cathy’s brothers married, and we all moved away and starting having kids, her family made up this holiday to create a time to gather. The meal consists of both Thanksgiving and Christmas fare, and we give gifts. We play games and enjoy a weekend together without the pressure of needing to leave and visit with other relatives.
I have always enjoyed ThanksMas because it combines the focus of thanksgiving on what I am the most thankful for: Jesus, God with us. Our Heavenly Father, in His empathic love, came to us and pursued us, so that we could become part of His family. All else I am thankful for in this life flows from that supreme act of kindness.
As we move into the Angel Tree Christmas season, Cathy and I are eager to share about God’s great gift with the children and families of incarcerated parents. As we reflect on His generosity to us during this season, it seems only natural to share the Good News with the most vulnerable among us. The message that has been giving hope to the hopeless for two millennia is no less powerful today!
If you’ve been wanting to get involved in Angel Tree this Christmas, it’s not too late. Learn more about opportunities to give and serve by calling 1-800-55-ANGEL today. And have a Happy ThanksMas!
Every year, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program provides the children of prisoners with gifts on behalf of their incarcerated parents. With the help of churches, church coordinators, and volunteers, these kids are reminded that they are loved by their mothers and fathers behind bars, and that they have a Heavenly Father who provided them with the ultimate Christmas gift—a Child, born in a manger, who would take away the sin of the world.
Recently, one of our partner churches received the following letter in the mail (click letter to enlarge):
For those of you who have contributed your time, gifts, and support to Angel Tree this Christmas season, thank you! Know that your efforts are having an eternal impact in the lives of prisoners and their families across the country. If you would like to get your church involved in Angel Tree this year, there is still time! Visit www.angeltree.org/registration to find out how you can register your church. (Deadline is December 16). And if you would like to contribute to Angel Tree to help ensure that all registered children receive a gift from their parent and the Good News about Jesus, click here.
When most people talk about a “prison code,” they likely referring to an unwritten code of conduct amongst prisoners—one that lays out the expectations for how those behind bars are to behave, and one that defines what type of “inmate justice” might result if those rules are disregarded.
At San Quentin State Prison in California, however, a different kind of code is being taught to prisoners. And while the the traditional “prison code” regulates behavior inside correctional facilities, this code has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these men long after they leave the prison yard behind.
Last Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, Prison Fellowship participated in #GivingTuesday—a global campaign that encourages charitable giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.
On this one day, Prison Fellowship received a wonderful outpouring of support and raised enough money to help over 1000 prisoners and their families. Some gifts are still coming in and we’re tallying all donations. We have so many friends who answered and shared our call to give so we can continue our work to bring Christ’s restorative power to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.
To those of you who contributed and helped Prison Fellowship and its ministries spread the word about #GivingTuesday, we sincerely thank you. If you haven’t yet given, make a contribution now and help us secure a Gospel-filled future for prisoners and their families in 2015 and beyond.