A version of the following post originally aired as a BreakPoint commentary.
It was back in 1997, when I was practically a kid writer here at BreakPoint, that I first heard about Prison Fellowship’s amazing Angel Tree program.
I was moved by how much Chuck Colson and the Prison Fellowship staff poured themselves into making sure that thousands and thousands of prisoners’ children received gifts at Christmas time.
Though Chuck rarely got misty eyed, he could when he talked about delivering Christmas gifts every year to those precious children—children who needed to be reminded that mommy or daddy still loved them. And even more important, that their Father in heaven loved them, too.
Since 1982, church volunteers across the country have delivered gifts to more than 9 million children of prisoners.
This year, though, we’re really up against it. Our goal is to reach 350,000 children. So we need more churches—a lot more churches—to sign up to gather and deliver gifts if we’re going to reach every child.
Here’s how Angel Tree works: When you sign your church up to volunteer, you’ll receive a list of prisoners’ children and their caregivers’ contact information. A church volunteer will contact the caregivers to confirm gift wishes. You’ll place those children’s names and their gift wishes on paper angels, hang them on a Christmas tree—an Angel Tree—that you place in your church’s lobby. Members of your congregation then choose the paper angels, buy and wrap the gift or gifts, and return them to the church.
From there, a church volunteer will arrange a time to deliver the gifts and the Gospel materials provided by Angel Tree. Many churches host Angel Tree parties and invite the children and their caregivers to attend.
Yes, folks, it’s a lot of work. But if your church is looking for a hands-on ministry to the “least of these,” I cannot think of a more rewarding experience for your church or for those children.
All you have to do is call 1-800-55-ANGEL to get more information or to volunteer. Or you can go to AngelTree.org.
I promise you, Angel Tree is so much more than Christmas gifts: It’s a way of reconciling families torn apart by incarceration, and it’s about introducing these children, these families, to Jesus.
Just one quick story—there are so many. By age 16, Chris was kicked out of school. His parents divorced, his mom died of cancer, and, as Chris says, he “shook his fist” at God. And before he landed in prison with 69 felony charges, he’d fathered a son, Christopher.
Although Chris gave his life to Christ in prison, he fretted about his son. Chris says, “He knew his dad had to be a real scoundrel.” Chris had no way to show his boy that Jesus had changed him.
Until, that is, an Angel Tree pamphlet was slid through Chris’s cell door. Chris signed up Christopher for Angel Tree, and by Christmas, Christopher had a brand-new basketball. An excited Christopher called his dad, and all he could talk about was his basketball. The wounds began to heal.
When he was released, Chris was awarded custody of Christopher. And Chris is now a business owner. He’s started a transitional home for ex-prisoners, and is fully reconciled with Christopher—who, by the way, himself is growing in Christ and is doing an apprenticeship at a local church.
Folks, that’s the power of God working through the smallest things—a basketball delivered on behalf of a parent in the name of Christ. That’s what Angel Tree is all about, Charlie Brown.
I hope you’ll volunteer. Please sign your church up for Angel Tree. Please, call 1-800-55-Angel, or visit AngelTree.org