Pam Goettel still cries when she talks about the room: a stained mattress on the bare floor, covered by ragged blankets and a pillow Pam “wouldn’t let her dog sleep on;” someone’s cast-off, rabbit-eared television set; and a scrawny evergreen branch propped against the window, decorated with a single ornament the prisoner’s daughter had made in school.
Pam and her husband, Tom, had waded through deep drifts of snow in the unshoveled driveway to visit the little girl, her brother, and their mother. Their progress had been slowed by bags full of Christmas gifts—presents given on behalf of the children’s dad in prison.
Pam and Tom have made similar treks for more than a decade. Every year, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program matches them with an average of 72 children in need of a deeper connection with their incarcerated parent and their Heavenly Father.
The members of the Goettels’ church—Lake Huron Community Church in East Tawas, Michigan—started out delivering two gifts per child, but soon Pam realized that children needed help to stay warm during the frigid winters near Lake Huron. She and the church-based sewing club started making quilts to deliver to every Angel Tree boy and girl, along with hats, mittens or gloves, slippers, small gifts for caregivers, and a Bible or age-appropriate Christmas storybook.
LHCC is a small group of 50 or 60 on any given Sunday, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking outside their doors and responding with the love of Christ to the pressing needs of families in a county with high rates of unemployment and incarceration.
The collective needs of 2.7 million prisoners’ children are so urgent and so heavy. Pam and Tom’s church is one of nearly 8,000 groups committed to serving families of the incarcerated through small gifts and small acts of faithfulness. These are the things that change the world; to answer our deep brokenness, God sent a baby.
With Christmas just a few weeks away, thousands of Angel Tree children are still unassigned. This means that boys and girls in your own community may not get to unwrap a gift from their mom or dad in prison and hear the Good News of our Savior. Will you help share the joy of God’s greatest gift to us this season? Register your church at www.angeltree.org or call 1-800-55-ANGEL for more information.