Through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, churches across the country deliver Christmas gifts to local children on behalf of their incarcerated parents. These church volunteers also bring the Gospel message to the children they visit, sharing that their parent cares about them and so does their Heavenly Father. While Angel Tree starts with a Christmas gift, so much more follows after — not just at Christmastime, but all year long.
Prison Fellowship encourages Angel Tree churches to continue reaching out to the children of prisoners throughout the year, through ministries at the church, outreach events, mentoring relationships, and summer camps. Many churches generously choose to send the Angel Tree children they served earlier in the year to a summer camp, where the kids can learn more about their Heavenly Father — who they were introduced to at Christmas — and build bonds with children in similar circumstances as themselves.
For the past 10 years, First Christian Church in Santa Maria, California, has been sending children to Angel Tree camp. This year, the church raised funds to send 30 Angel Tree children to a specialized camp called Calicinto Ranch, where the kids get to play with goats, raise chickens, ride horses, and go swimming. Fifteen mentors from First Christian Church will be paying their own way to be with these kids at camp.
A 12-year-old named Samantha, who has attended Calicinto Ranch in previous years, recently told the Santa Maria Times that camp showed her she wasn’t the only one with a parent in prison. She built supportive friendships with other children facing the same obstacles. And Samantha’s mom says that camp was a turning point for her family: she began allowing her children to communicate with their incarcerated father again. Now Samantha has a connection with her dad!
Thanks to the investment that First Christian Church and so many other churches around the country are making in the lives of prisoners’ children, thousands of Angel Tree kids will find hope at camp this summer. As the school year comes to an end and Angel Tree children start heading off to camp, please pray that they will feel support and love this summer. Please pray for the camp mentors, volunteers, and leaders as they demonstrate to these kids how much God cares for them, and please ask God to stir up desire in the hearts of campers to start or deepen a relationship with Him.