As Christmas approached this year, the Welsh family began praying for a way to better serve others in their community. It will be the first Christmas without their patriarch, Ed Welsh, who passed away last February. Knowing the holidays would be difficult without Ed, the family decided that helping others might make the grief-filled time easier.
For many years, Ed served in prison ministry. Ed had spent time in prison, so he was “able to speak to the inmates on a level most people couldn’t,” explained Jessikah Voong, Ed’s daughter and an Angel Tree® coordinator. Ed was head chaplain at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail for 16 years until his death, and he traveled around the world sharing the Gospel of Jesus with prisoners.
Honoring Ed’s memory by serving others was a given. But the family wasn’t sure how to do it.
Then last month, a member of the Welsh family discovered something: an online video of prisoners spending the day with their children.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
As the family watched the video together, happy memories of past Christmases participating in Angel Tree® emerged. “Our family headed up Angel Tree for Calvary Chapel Chino Hills for many years back in the late 1990s and 2000s,” Jessikah reminisced. “It was a family affair. We all spent many evenings calling caretakers, wrapping gifts, and delivering [them] to the families. We all loved to be a part in every aspect.”
“Angel Tree took over our house and lives during the Christmas season,” she added. “Some of my siblings were very young, but they helped in any way they could. We all have great memories to this day of serving as a family with Angel Tree.”
That online video inspired the extended family of 32 to action.
FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
“We started this process … with the intent to sponsor 25 kids,” explained Jessikah. “That quickly changed to 50 kids, as we were encouraged to allow God to stretch us and provide.”
The family sat down and filmed their own short video. In it, they explained their goal, and asked others in their community to participate with them through donations and gifts. Jesus is the Key Ministries™—which was started by Ed Welsh to help churches start up their own prison outreaches—is partnering with the family. Since releasing their video on YouTube and social media, the Welsh family has raised enough support to sponsor 130 kids. Because of this, the family has decided to dream even bigger and support 200 kids.
“Ed loved prison ministry,” Jessikah said, “and loved when his family got involved with him.”
It’s a love that has been passed on. For the children in the Welsh family video, this will be their first time participating with Angel Tree. They are Ed’s grandchildren, 17 of them in total. This Christmas, the grandchildren decided to forego receiving presents from each other. Instead, each child has chosen an Angel Tree kid for whom they will shop, wrap, and deliver their gifts at an Angel Tree Christmas party.
Two hundred Angel Tree kids is a “far cry from our little 25 we thought we would start with,” Jessikah said. “I have no doubt God is doing big things, and we are so blessed and thankful we are able to serve in this way!”