Angel Tree

No Church Too Small

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted November 26, 2014

Ilene and Peter Ray James live in Grants, New Mexico, where they attend a church with a congregation of 17 people. But the six families of Victory Church of God know that although they are small in number, God has equipped them to share the Gospel in big ways.

Ilene serves as an Angel Tree area coordinator, and her husband, Peter Ray, serves as the Angel Tree church coordinator and a pastor for Victory.

Peter Ray says, “We are a very little church, with a very large heart!”

Ilene and her daughter hand out gifts underneath the sign they made with all 13 names of their church's assigned Angel Tree children.

Ilene hands out gifts underneath a sign with all 13 names of their church’s assigned Angel Tree children. Ilene loves baking and decorating for Victory Church of God’s Angel Tree Christmas party.

Last year, Victory Church of God served 13 local children of prisoners with the Gospel message and gifts on behalf of their incarcerated parents. That’s more than two children per church family! This year, Victory is serving all nine eligible Angel Tree children in their area.

Each year, Victory throws an Angel Tree Christmas party a few Sundays before Christmas. They invite the Angel Tree children and their families to attend the church service, where they hear how much God loves them. Then they all enjoy a meal together and a fun time of gifts and treats.

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Do You Live in an Underserved County? (UPDATE: 11/25)

By Prison Fellowship | Posted November 25, 2014

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:

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Remember the Prisoners on Giving Tuesday

By Jason Bruce | Posted November 21, 2014

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:

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More than Christmas

By Steve Rempe | Posted November 18, 2014

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.

Loving the Littlest

By Jim Liske | Posted November 17, 2014

Liske_154In 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.

Giving Back on Giving Tuesday

By Jason Bruce | Posted November 13, 2014

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.

Giving_Tuesday3With 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.

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Making a Difference for My’lon and Montrese

By Prison Fellowship | Posted November 13, 2014
Myron and My'lose

My’lon and Montrese

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!

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Jim Liske on Serving Prisoners

By Prison Fellowship | Posted November 12, 2014

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.

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Prisoners’ Children Need You

By Eric Metaxas | Posted October 28, 2014

EricMetaxasA version of the following post originally aired as a BreakPoint commentary.

It was back in 1997, when I was practically a kid writer here 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.

Though Chuck rarely got misty eyed, he could when he talked about delivering Christmas gifts every year to those precious children—children who needed to be reminded that mommy or daddy still loved them. And even more important, that their Father in heaven loved them, too.

Since 1982, church volunteers across the country have delivered gifts to more than 9 million children of prisoners.

This year, though, we’re really up against it. Our goal is to reach 350,000 children. So we need more churches—a lot more churches—to sign up to gather and deliver gifts if we’re going to reach every child.

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Stand with a Mom

By Jim Liske | Posted October 28, 2014

Liske_154Parenting is one of the hardest jobs around. It takes all your strength, all your patience, and all your creativity.

But imagine how much harder it gets when the children’s father goes to prison. How does a mom explain his absence to her kids? To her relatives? To her boss? How will she handle all the extra responsibilities that now fall on her shoulders alone?

All the time, we get firsthand accounts of the hardships mothers face when their children’s father goes to prison. One mother of three wrote us asking for prayer. She loves her husband of 10 years very much, and now she barely has the strength to get out of bed in the morning. Another, a mother of a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, is struggling to provide for her family’s needs. And a third mom wrote to say she was moved to tears when she found out that Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program is dedicated to helping children through the emotional challenges of having a parent in prison.

When you support Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, you are standing with countless mothers—and also grandmothers, dads, aunts, uncles, and foster parents—who are caring for boys and girls with a parent in prison. You are getting down with them in the trenches of life, letting them know they are not alone. You are acting as a living expression of the love of Christ.

Angel Tree is active in every state in the country. In a community near you, prisoners’ children and their parents need your help. To learn how to volunteer or donate, visit www.angeltree.org.




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