Angel Tree

Why It Matters

By Jim Liske | Posted March 23, 2015

Liske_154Many friends like you help us with Angel Tree year after year, whether it’s by praying, giving financially, wrapping a gift, or working at a Christmas party. This past Christmas, you helped us match 330,663 children with volunteers who delivered gifts, the Gospel, and personal messages from moms and dads behind bars.

But have you ever wondered whether Angel Tree truly matters? Does its impact continue once the wrapping paper has been thrown away, or the gift is worn out and forgotten?

Here’s just one story from an Angel Tree church coordinator, whose testimony reminds us why Angel Tree matters throughout the year, and often for all eternity:

We have an [Angel Tree] family, who had their inmate step-father and father die in prison last year. We, as a church, have continued to walk alongside the mother, Jennifer, and her kids. She has been attending our church for a few years and was able to lead her inmate husband to the Lord before he passed away. This year is the first time she has been able to participate with the program and she made deliveries. She was so elated to help and so blessed to share with other families. She wants to do it again next year.

Angel Tree supporters didn’t just give Jennifer’s children a gift at Christmas; they helped connect Jennifer and her family with a caring church community that walks beside them all year long, in joy and pain, and helps draw them closer to the God who is restoring their lives. What gift could matter more?

Learn more about the continuing impact of Angel Tree at www.angeltree.org.

A Purple Bible

By Denise Gatlin | Posted February 20, 2015
Denise and her grandson  Zach shop year-round for Angel Tree supplies.

Denise and her grandson Zach shop year-round for Angel Tree supplies.

I have been an Angel Tree church coordinator for many years, but 2014 has to have been the best ministry year yet.  God blessed our ministry in so many ways throughout the year and in a great way during our Angel Tree party. Our church volunteers purchased gifts for over 50 children, sent cards to their parents in prison, and provided support for their caregivers. Some of these caregivers are single moms, grandparents, and even great-grandparents who have limited resources.

I had two young moms, both unchurched and unemployed, who helped me organize and wrap the Angel Tree gifts.  One of their ex-husbands is in prison, but he did not sign his kids up for Angel Tree. Our church made sure we served his kids anyway.  While these two moms were assisting me with Angel Tree, God reached out and touched these families. Now they are attending Sunday school, church, and our AWANA program.  Also, they both found jobs and started working the first week of January.

Out of the 50 children we gave gifts to this past Christmas, there was one little girl’s story I will never forget. She told her mom that she wanted a purple Bible, but she didn’t think it would be possible to find one. I purchase Bibles throughout the year, so I went to my shelf and sure enough I had a purple Bible!  I received a note from the little girl’s mom after Christmas thanking me for making her child’s Christmas so special.  She will never forget that God answered her request for a purple Bible.

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A New Beginning for Wayne

By Prison Fellowship | Posted February 9, 2015
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Prison Fellowship evangelism events are now reaching prisoners in every state.

Wayne spent 12 years in prison, but if you ask him about it, he’ll say, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

You see, it was in prison that Wayne met Jesus. He was in prison when he turned his life—and the lives of his family—around.

“I remember the first year I signed my boys up for Angel Tree,” Wayne says. “When I called home that day—my eyes still tear up when I think about it—there was excitement in my wife’s voice.”

“Angel Tree brought Christmas back into my boys’ lives,” Wayne remembers.

As they told him how thrilled and thankful they were for the gifts that had been given in his name, he couldn’t help thinking, “There really is a God, and He does care.”

The walls that a life of crime and its consequences had built around Wayne’s heart were beginning to tumble down.

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Behind the Scenes of an Angel Tree Party

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted January 22, 2015

If you weren’t able to participate in Angel Tree this season, you can still snag a glimpse of the difference the program is making in the lives of children with incarcerated parents. We’re taking you to Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward, California, where kids gathered on Dec. 13 to learn about God’s love and receive Christmas gifts as reminders that their parents in prison care about them. You’ll hear Rev. Tommy Smith Jr. share why he and his church participate in Angel Tree, and some of the families who attended the Angel Tree party will tell you what the program means to them.

If this video does not load, please click here to view it.

Looking Back on 2014

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted January 16, 2015

AT party Baltimore 2014 093 vWith the help of so many volunteers and partners around the country, Prison Fellowship spent 2014 bringing the Gospel to prisoners, helping former prisoners successfully return to their communities, and supporting families affected by crime and incarceration. This past year, thousands of men and women behind bars surrendered their hearts to Christ, and 50 new “bridge churches” began walking alongside newly released men and women. We’ve seen God work through Prison Fellowship and our partners to transform lives and equip Christian leaders to change the culture of prisons and communities.

Here are just a few of the incredible ways God propelled prison ministry, justice advocacy, and Christian leadership forward last year:

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Taylor Hears From Her Mom in Prison

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted January 8, 2015
Children receive a message from their mom or dad on their Angel Tree gifts.

Children receive a message from their mom or dad on their Angel Tree gifts.

This past December, Angel Tree took gifts and the Gospel to children with a mom or dad in prison all around the county. At Prison Fellowship, we’ve been hearing amazing reports from our Angel Tree volunteers about the lives and families that were touched through the program this Christmas.

A volunteer named Fran writes to us from Tennessee. She’s been involved in Angel Tree for a decade now, and at her church’s Angel Tree banquet just a few weeks ago she met a teenage girl named Taylor* whose mother is incarcerated.

Fran writes, “Before she received the gift, I wanted her to know that it was from her mom and that we helped out as a testimony of what the gift of Christ has meant to our lives.”

Fran asked Taylor for her mother’s name. She told her, and Fran asked to pray for Taylor and her mother.

As Fran prayed, Taylor buried her face in her father’s shoulder, sobbing. This was the first time that Taylor had heard from her mom in 11 years.

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Sharing Our Inheritance

By Jim Liske | Posted December 22, 2014

   If you found out tomorrow that you had received a sizable inheritance, what would you do with it? Pay off debt? Buy a new car? Take a vacation?

This month William, a prisoner serving a lengthy sentence in Virginia, did something astounding with an inheritance he received: He gave a substantial portion of it to Angel Tree, so that the children with an incarcerated parent can receive a Christmas gift and the Good News of Jesus Christ. A letter enclosed with his gift said simply that he “wanted to share.”

As believers in Jesus, we also have received an incredible legacy. In Ephesians 1:11-14, Paul writes, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Our inheritance as Christians is not meant to be hoarded, but joyfully shared with others through words and actions as we spread the message of the Gospel. It’s simply too good to keep to ourselves. Will you, like William, help us spread the Good News of Jesus Christ with prisoners, their families, and all those affected by the cycle of crime and incarceration? Learn more today by visiting www.prisonfellowship.org.

Angel Tree Having an Impact in Local Communities

By Steve Rempe | Posted December 22, 2014

Christmas is only a few days away, and already we are hearing great stories telling how Angel Tree is transforming the lives of men and women behind bars and their families.

In James Island, South Carolina, Angel Tree volunteers at Harbor View Presbyterian Church have been providing gifts to the children of prisoners on behalf of their parents for many years.  And the impact of those gifts is something that they are seeing in their own neighborhood.

“The reason I like the Angel Tree so much is we’re helping people our own community, in our own zip code,” says Sannie Cook, who has participated in Angel Tree for 18 years.  Reflecting on her years serving families, she says, “Sometimes in life you just do something, and all of the sudden, it becomes a part of your life.”

To Sannie, the greatest rewards are the letters of thanks the church receives from these prisoners or their kids. “I really appreciate what your church is doing for my babies,” a recent letter reads.  “May God continue to bless each and every one of you!”

A church in Roanoke, Virginia, is also having an impact on the lives of families in its community, helping to provide gifts some of the 600 kids in the Roanoke Valley who have a parent behind bars.

Micah Alderman, a young volunteer, says he participates so that other kids “get to be noticed and think that other people know them and want to help them.”

Have you or your church been involved in Angel Tree this year?  We’d love to hear your stories!  Please click here to share.

Angel Tree Children Receive Their Gifts

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted December 16, 2014
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Three-year-old Sy’Ryah attended Huber Memorial Church’s Angel Tree party in Baltimore on Dec. 13.

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!

The Miracle of Angel Tree

By Jim Liske | Posted December 15, 2014

Liske_154Angel 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.




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