Preschoolers AJ and Butchie witnessed a harrowing scene in the courtroom; if it had ended there, these two little boys would have faced a future without hope or promise. But Prison Fellowship® volunteers and supporters helped rescue them and turn their hearts to their parents.
AJ and Butchie watched in horror that day as both of their parents were brought into a courtroom on drug charges. Catching sight of their shackled parents, the children screamed and flailed to get to them.
Their father, Butch, listened to their heartrending cries of “Daddy, Daddy” — and helplessly burst into tears.
Their mom was released, but Butch was given a seven-year prison sentence.
He attended every Christian program he could, including Prison Fellowship’s intensive reentry preparation program centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Butch’s life was transforming, but his wife, Gwenni, struggled with her own drug addiction. And taking care of AJ and Butchie alone on the outside was demanding.
Angel Tree® Restores Families
“I didn’t see or talk to my kids for two years,” Butch recalls. “I lost sleep wondering if they were OK.”
The long distance kept his family from visiting … except at Christmas. Each year, Prison Fellowship hosted an Angel Tree Christmas party for the prisoners and their families. Local churches donated funds so that incarcerated dads could provide gifts to their children.
“The first year, I had no idea if my family would come or not,” Butch admits. “I was worried that AJ and Butchie wouldn’t recognize me.”
Christmas in the Arms of a Family
But then, the doors opened.
“My family dove into my arms. We hugged each other for a long, long time.”
Because of the generosity of Angel Tree partners, Butch personally gave AJ and Butchie their Christmas presents — a rare opportunity in prison!
And Gwenni tearfully asked Butch how she could become a Christian.
When we last checked in with the family to see how they were doing, Butch was out of prison and the entire family was following Christ. Gwenni’s daughter, Tia, from a previous marriage, is 15 and attends an art magnet school. AJ is 12 and loves to read, and Butchie is 10 and loves fishing with his dad. Newest addition Isaac, 2 years old, marks a new beginning for Butch and Gwenni and their family.
How You Can Help
One gift from Angel Tree can help a child push through the hard times because they have tangible hope to hold onto — an eternal hope thanks to our Heavenly Father. When you give a gift to a child from their incarcerated parent, you are ministering to them and helping to mend and restore their broken hearts.
To learn how you and your church can participate in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program this Christmas season, please visit www.angeltree.org.