On Dec. 2, 2014, the world comes together to give. Join Prison Fellowship as we participate on #GivingTuesday to support our mission to change the lives of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families through Jesus Christ. We ask our friends, donor, fans, and followers to remember the prisoners on the first Tuesday in December. We made everything easy for online giving.
Here’s how you can help:
- Give to Prison Fellowship through the online gift catalog; or,
- Give to Angel Tree; or,
- Give your time and volunteer for Prison Fellowship and Angle Tree this Christmas
Rick has been one of my star students in Prison Fellowship’s seminary-level program over the past year that we have been holding classes at Salinas Valley State Prison. As a matter of fact, he has given himself to help other students who are struggling, and he even wrote an exegetical paper for the express purpose of teaching others how to write one properly. I now use that paper in all my seminary classes as a model for them to follow.
Imagine my concern last week as I was going over attendance and grade sheets and noticed that Rick has been missing some assignments and absent on more than one occasion.
“What’s going on with Rick?” I asked one of the other students.
“You didn’t hear? Rick’s got a date! He’s going home!”
Benny Se Teo spent many of his early years in prison for drug charges. When he was released, he faced the reality of just how hard it can be to find a job with a criminal record. His break came when he got to train as a chef through a program for disadvantaged youth in London. This opportunity inspired him, and he modeled the plan for his future after this program; he started a business that trains former prisoners in Singapore in the restaurant industry. Benny Se Teo’s restaurant chain with five locations currently employs nearly 70 formerly incarcerated men and women, and four more of his restaurants will be opening next year. This is Benny’s dream: helping former prisoners rebuild their lives.
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You can help former prisoners rebuild their lives, too. Prison Fellowship’s advocacy team is presently working to garner legislative support for the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, which Congress originally passed in 2008. Since then, the act has brought dramatic decrease in recidivism rates as a result of evidence-based reentry programs. If Congress does not pass the act, the continuation of mentoring, career training, family-based substance abuse treatment, and more restorative programming may be in jeopardy.
To support the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, which will help former prisoners transition back into their communities as law-abiding and contributing members of society, please visit www.justicefellowship.org.
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:
If you haven’t looked at a calendar recently (or, in the case of much of the country, looked out the window or walked to your car in sub-freezing temperatures), winter is fast approaching, and Christmas is just around the corner. And here at Prison Fellowship, that means the Angel Tree Christmas program is well underway, helping to provide gifts—and hope—to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents.
But Angel Tree is not just a seasonal endeavor.
Camp David of the Ozarks is an Angel Tree partner camp in Missouri that ministers to the unique needs of children of prisoners. Through its camping and mentoring programs, Camp David provides these kids with the love and support that many of them have not known. More importantly, it introduces them to Jesus Christ.
While most people are most familiar with Angel Tree during the holiday season, our camping and mentoring programs provide opportunities to continue relationships with the families of incarcerated mothers and fathers. As the testimonies in the above video reveal, the Holy Spirit remains living and active in the lives of these families.
If you or your church has been involved with Angel Tree Christmas program, or are planning to be involved in the coming weeks, and would like to continue to reach out to these families year-round, please visit the Angel Tree website and find out what opportunities are available in or around your community.
In the conversation about building safer communities, it’s easy to get caught up in the big topics: record-breaking incarceration rates, headline-grabbing crime trends, and large pieces of criminal justice legislation.
But it’s often the littlest ones among us who are hurt the most by crime. Young children do not understand the reasons for a parent’s absence, and older children feel hurt, betrayed, and confused. The incarceration of a parent will have a massive impact on a child’s present and future, yet they often get pushed to the side.
Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program shines the spotlight on boys and girls on the margins of society. In word and deed, volunteers show prisoners’ children they are special, beloved, and worthy of time and attention, as they present them with a Christmas gift, the Gospel message, and a personal note from their parent.
Thousands of churches are already partnering with Angel Tree to serve children this Christmas, but we need more, especially in the areas of greatest need. Would you and your church consider coming on board? There’s still time!
Here are the top five counties with the greatest unmet need:
- Los Angeles County (CA): 699 children
- Hidalgo (TX): 641 children
- Shelby (TN): 612 children
- Saint Louis (MO): 533 children
- Wayne (MI): 480 children
Is your church in one of these counties, or do you know someone who is? Is the Spirit leading you to take a step of faith and obedience to love the littlest victims of crime? Call 1-800-55-ANGEL to speak with an Angel Tree program specialist today.
Don’t look now, but the holiday season is right around the corner. Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, immediately followed by the retail-driven Black Friday and Cyber Monday, encouraging people to go out and start making their Christmas purchases.
And then there is Giving Tuesday.
What is Giving Tuesday?
In the midst of all the craziness of holiday shopping, Giving Tuesday is a day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, people from around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.
With so many worthy charitable causes deserving a donation, to whom should you give, and how? You can give to one cause or you can give to many. You can give $10 or 10 hours of volunteer work. The point is to give something so that others will be blessed by your generosity.
On December 2nd, we ask that you consider giving to Angel Tree.
Angel Tree is simple: Incarcerated parents sign up their children to receive Christmas gifts. Church volunteers deliver these gifts on behalf of the parents. What makes Angel Tree unique is not only that children, many of whom would have no Christmas otherwise, receive a toy truck or a doll. It’s because the gift they receive is from daddy or mommy. These kids know that even though mom or dad is behind bars, they are loved and not forgotten.
Sharon has never forgotten that New Year’s Eve. She was babysitting her grandsons, My’lon and Montrese, when the phone call came that would change their lives. It was her daughter on the line; she and her husband had just been arrested.
Before Sharon knew it, they’d been sent to prison. Sharon and the boys were suddenly alone.
“I cried for a year, I think,” Sharon recalls. “It’s so hard doing all this by myself.”
But being separated from their parents was even tougher on My’lon and Montrese.
After every visit to the prison, they’d be inconsolable. And Christmas? It became almost impossible.
But this Christmas was different. Sharon took the boys down to the local church where there were gifts waiting for them—gifts from their dad!
A version of the following article appeared in the July issue of Pentecostal Evangel, an Assemblies of God publication.
Jim Liske is president and CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, which works in prison ministry, advocacy, and Christian leadership. Since assuming his position in 2011, he has overseen Prison Fellowship’s efforts to build the Church inside America’s prison walls, advocate for principles of restorative criminal justice at the state and national levels, and empower churches to influence the culture. Liske recently shared his ministry priorities with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.
evangel: What led to your ministry with Prison Fellowship?
JIM LISKE: I was a pastor for 28 years at various churches in Canada and the U.S. Twenty years ago, if you had told me I would be doing ministry with prisoners and their families, I wouldn’t have believed you. But through circumstances in my family and in our church in western Michigan, God showed me we are all prisoners of our own kinds of sin. We are all recovering from something and re-entering from somewhere.
Our church started a powerful parachurch ministry, helping those returning to society from prison and working with the Michigan Department of Corrections. God called my wife, Cathy, and me to Prison Fellowship in 2011.
evangel: Why is ministering to prisoners and their families integral to the Gospel?
LISKE: When you read the Bible through the lens of ministering to prisoners and their families, stories start to jump off the page. Joseph was wrongly imprisoned for an alleged sexual offense. Moses was a murderer. Paul started out as a notorious persecutor of the Early Church. This is the very heart of the Gospel, God taking men and women from the depths of sin and redeeming and restoring them to their full potential. In Matthew 25:36, Jesus says that when we visit the prisoner, we are visiting Him.
Recently I was speaking at a conference in New York City and leading a panel discussion about men and women coming back to the community.
At a break, as others were filing out to get refreshments, a man came toward me. The look on his face told me he knew me. He looked very familiar. I told him I knew we had met, and I asked him when and where.
He said, “At Sing Sing Prison last year.”
If hit me like a ton of bricks. His name is Kris, and when I last saw him, he was wearing a standard-issue prison uniform. He told me he had only been out a few days. I was overjoyed to see him again.
When I met Kris, he was serving his third sentence. He decided to follow Jesus when he attended a Prison Fellowship meeting. He repented. He spent time learning to follow Jesus and not his own selfish desires. As he approached his release date, he made plans to apply for a job, and not plans to score a fix. When he was released, he and his wife sought out a church. He came to the session on reentry so that he could learn how to help others.
It’s one thing to talk about the 700,000 prisoners who come home to communities like yours and mine every year. It’s another thing to look a man like Kris in the face, knowing that because someone had the courage to share the Gospel with him, he has been redeemed and restored. He is no longer part of the problem, but the solution.
Let’s go make more stories like this one happen! Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org.