Angel Tree

Freed From a Spiritual Prison

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted March 26, 2014

When Chris Padgett was 14 years old, his sister was diagnosed with cancer. Exactly two months before she passed away, Chris watched as a minister visited her in the hospital and led her to the Lord.

A few months later – with a softened heart from the loss of his sister – Chris accepted Jesus into his life, too.

Chris went on to attend college and serve in the Missouri Army National Guard for six years. After, he took a job as a security guard at a hospital. He recalls several times when he stopped to pray with patients who were hurting.

“I was truly compassionate,” he remembers.

But soon Chris began working as a corrections officer in a medium-high security prison, and he started to feel himself changing – slowly losing his compassion for others.

“It’s a hard field if you don’t guard your heart,” he says.

It wasn’t long before Chris found himself snowballing into an eight-year lie that would land him on the other side of the prison bars and, at the same time, propel him into a journey toward spiritual freedom.

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Club Hope

By Matt Currier | Posted March 20, 2014
wrapping

A Hope for Kids, Inc. volunteer wraps Angel Tree presents.

Hope for Kids, Inc. launched this past December with the vision of reaching underprivileged kids in the Greater Springfield Massachusetts area with acts of kindness, spiritual renewal, authentic relationships, and physical nourishment. As the founder of Hope for Kids, I began searching for ways to meet these children so we could begin ministering to them.

I made a call to Prison Fellowship, asking if there were any children of prisoners in our area that still needed Angel Tree sponsors to bring them Christmas gifts and the Gospel. Amazed that there were 18 families — approximately 35 children — in the area, I excitedly stated we would be responsible for them.

Hope for Kids, Inc. was able to visit nearly all of the Angel Tree families and children we were assigned, and we watched in awe as God brought in all the money and other resources necessary to bless these boys and girls, as well as their families with the Good News and great joy.

Our organization set up partnerships with stores, restaurants, and a rescue center to provide food and basic necessities for our Angel Tree families, in addition to the gifts from their incarcerated parents. We raised funds and wrapped gifts. Then we sent our delivery team out, equipped with wordless book bracelets to help share the Gospel with kids.

During our visits, nine children and two adults gave their hearts to Christ. And one of the deliveries opened the door to the ministry opportunity that Hope for Kids, Inc. was praying for.

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A Sad Joke

By Steve Rempe | Posted March 20, 2014

“15 Years In Environment Of Constant Fear Somehow Fails To Rehabilitate Prisoner,” proclaims the headline.  The subsequent article tells the story of Terry Raney, a recent parolee who has been reincarerated for assault and battery.

Albert Gunderson, warden of the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, seems baffled by Raney’s return to prison.  “It just doesn’t seem possible that an inmate could live for a decade and a half in a completely dehumanizing environment in which violent felons were constantly on the verge of attacking or even killing him and not emerge an emotionally stable, productive member of society,” he says.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the article referenced above is satire, appearing on the fake news site theonion.com.  If you were fooled, don’t be too embarrassed – China’s official news agency has on a number of occasions posted articles from The Onion as factual (see here, here, and here for examples).

In order for satire to be effective, there has to be a kernel of truth at the center of the joke – something that would make you hesitate, even for a moment, to stop and consider that what you are reading might actually be true.  And in the case of this joke, the truth is a painful acknowledgement of the failure of the existing corrections system to rehabilitate inmates and to reduce skyrocketing recidivism rates.

It would be funny, if it weren’t so true.

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Looking for Love

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted March 5, 2014
leticia close up

Since Jesus Christ turned her life around, Leticia Chavez Paulette has been helping other women walk with the Lord in prison and as they get out. In 2004 at a special luncheon in California, then-President Bush praised Leticia for her work with faith-based recovery programs.

The last time Leticia Chavez was arrested, a female officer at the jail shared a dream she’d had that morning.

“I saw you dead in a ditch,” Leticia recalls the officer’s words. “So I got up and prayed for you. And here you are, 15 minutes before my shift is over.”

“I realized that dream was me,” Leticia says. “I had been hanging out with this guy named Big Red. Later the police came and investigated me in jail. He was suspected of killing a woman they had found in a ditch.”

If Leticia hadn’t been arrested, she might have ended up in that woman’s place. She believes God saved her life that day.

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A Thank You from Angel Tree Parents and Kids

By Prison Fellowship | Posted February 15, 2014

Every year, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program provides children of inmates presents on behalf of their incarcerated parents. These gifts not only give kids something to open on Christmas morning, they transform lives by introducing families to the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Here are just a few letters of thanks from Angel Tree kids and their parents. To those of you who participated in the Angel Tree program this Christmas – thank you! You helped to convey the true message of Christmas to these families. (Click to enlarge.)

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On a Sleigh Ride … to Florida

By AT Sleigh Ride | Posted December 19, 2013

florida_cropThe Angel Tree sleigh ride has begun! Three Prison Fellowship interns are traveling from Virginia to Tampa to connect with Angel Tree churches, their volunteers, and families affected by incarceration at Angel Tree parties down the East Coast.

Last Christmas, 551 children of prisoners in Tampa went unsponsored at Christmastime, so this year, Angel Tree is raising awareness for these kids through local marketing efforts. As part of this “It Starts With a Gift” campaign, the Angel Tree sleigh will be landing in Tampa and spreading joy to families impacted by crime. Although their parents’ are away, these children need to know their parents have not forgotten them. Angel Tree allows this to happen through a simple Christmas gift sent on behalf of the incarcerated parent. And through Angel Tree volunteers and parties, these children also get to hear the Gospel – the Good News that God loves them unconditionally.

I’m Sophie, and I first joined Prison Fellowship as a 2013 summer intern. Awhile back, prison ministry hit really close to home for me, so to be active in Prison Fellowship is amazing. And now I’m on this incredible adventure called a sleigh ride. It’s certainly a dream come true for me. As an intern at Prison Fellowship this past summer, I spent my time researching Tampa for marketing efforts and planning this sleigh ride. It felt so far away and seemed like a pretty adventurous project. Now, as I sit on this Amtrak train traveling to Atlanta where we will start our road trip, it feels very tangible and maybe even more adventurous than I imagined. I joined a team with an amazing vision: to connect with people face-to-face during the height of Angel Tree season. Prison Fellowship staff told me it was wildly innovative, and that might just be why I was instantly hooked on the idea. It makes me happy that Prison Fellowship wants to be out in the field as Angel Tree Christmas is in full effect. I feel so blessed to be one of the girls that gets to hang out with Angel Tree kids this season!

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Do You Live in an Underserved County? (UPDATE: 12/17)

By Prison Fellowship | Posted December 17, 2013

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.  As of December 2, the total number of Angel Tree children still to be assigned is 23,927.  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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For Our Kids

By Jim Liske | Posted December 16, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300When our kids were growing up, Christmas was a joyful, relaxing time for our family. Our son and daughter would look forward to the Christmas break with increasing excitement as the days got shorter and darker.

But imagine, instead, a child who dreads Christmas. For this little boy or girl, Christmas is about the empty place at the dinner table, the shamed silence when their friends talk about the gifts they received, and the sleepless nights spent wondering whether their mom or dad is safe in the frightening place they’ve seen portrayed on TV. Christmas is a reminder of all they lost when their parent went to prison.

Now imagine that child’s smile when an Angel Tree® volunteer arrives with a gift from their parent behind bars – a gift with a tag that says, “I love you so much. Merry Christmas!” Imagine that smile widening when the volunteer has a chance to share that the gift is just a small symbol of the love the Heavenly Father has for this broken-hearted child, demonstrated forever in the gift of Jesus at the first Christmas. This boy or girl now has something to remind them they are loved no matter what!

Friend, this little boy or girl isn’t far away. She’s across town. He’s in your child’s class. In a very real sense, these are our kids.

In the middle of this busy season, will you stop with me and pray for children who don’t have the one thing they want most this Christmas – the parent who can’t come home? And will you join me in asking God what He would have us do to bring the real hope of Christmas to our kids? Learn what you can do at www.angeltree.org.

Frontlines: Coming Home a Leader

By Prison Fellowship | Posted December 16, 2013

Change is never easy, but it’s the difference between despair and hope for a prisoner’s family. Hear about a young man whose involvement in a Prison Fellowship program made him determined to come home as the father his children need!

Helping the Invisible Kingdom Become Visible

By Steve Rempe | Posted December 13, 2013

Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske recently appeared on “First Person with Wayne Shepherd,” a nationally syndicated radio program, to talk about Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree.

During the interview, Jim told host Wayne Shepherd about his upbringing on the family farm.  “I learned everything I learned about stewardship growing up on the farm and caring for God’s creation,” he said.  “… When I look at Angel Tree, we’re preparing the soil by taking the Gospel to the inmate.  We’re cultivating it by giving that inmate the opportunity to sign their kids up.  We’re planting that seed with the gift and with the Gospel, and we pray that we continue to see the harvest of those souls, after God does His thing with the miracle of the Gospel.  For me personally, I get the joy of being involved in the process of helping the invisible kingdom of our Heavenly Father become visible.”

It’s not too late to get involved in Angel Tree this Christmas.  To learn what you can do to bring the Gospel to the families of inmates, call 1-800-55-ANGEL, or visit http://www.angeltree.org/christmas.




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