It was Christmas. My husband was in prison. Haranguing thoughts constantly harassed me.
How can I possibly forgive him? How can I ever live this down? How can I go on?
That was twenty-three years ago. Last Sunday, I fingered an Angel Tree ornament. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled how angry I’d felt two decades earlier. But many people had been the hands and feet of Jesus back then to me. They’d given me the courage to endure and to truly forgive my husband.
I stared at the Christmas tree filled with Angel Tree angels and thought of the children of prisoners who would accept the gifts. Would they feel angry and filled with shame like I had years earlier? Would they take on the guilt of their parent in prison? Would they think their friends hated them for what their mom or dad had done? Would they think, “I’ll just end up like my parent?”
As tears threatened to fall, I thanked God for the bright future that my friends and family had instilled in me back then. I stepped back, gazed at the tree and prayed, “Lord, help my gift change the heart of a child with Your love.”
My eyes danced when I found the gift wish, “Elmo or musical toy.”
Elmo?!? I thought. How perfect! His laughter is so contagious!
So I bought Elmo and prayed, “Lord, let every peal of laughter bring a bucket-load of God’s joy! Let his red fur remind the family of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and bring salvation.” Then I prayed daily for God to bless the family.
Laughter can bring healing, as Norman Cousins demonstrated twenty-three years ago, but Angel Tree has a much better gift than just laughter—the love of God. Countless families have been restored to God’s love through a simple gift given in the name of a prisoner. Mary Kay Beard started this ministry in 1982. She was a former bank robber whose life was radically altered in prison by the gospel.
More than nine million children have been touched by Angel Tree in the last 30 years. The ministry also serves children of inmates through mentoring programs and summer camp outreaches. Some churches, like Shiloh Christian Ministries in Sierra Vista, Arizona, sponsor clothing giveaways, school backpack outreaches, Christmas parties, and monthly newsletter mailings.
Would you like to help a child find a brighter future? Project Angel Tree can help you do that. You could buy an Angel Tree gift, pray for the families, or ask your church to join Angel Tree. You could also donate to the ministry.
Would you like to join us in impacting shattered lives with the hope of the gospel?
© 2013 Nancy Dobbins. Used by permission.