Earlier this week we shared the story of Michelle Payette, volunteer Angel Tree® Area Director for New York. Today we bring you a story from Veronica Huang, an Angel Tree volunteer from Michelle's church, Grace Chapel of Clifton Park.
The letter that arrived at Grace Chapel was unexpected. Especially for Veronica Huang.
Two months before, Veronica and her family were eager, first-time Angel Tree volunteers.
"I had heard powerful stories about volunteers spending hours in meaningful conversation [with the Angel Tree families]," Veronica said. "Sharing the gospel with [them] and having the opportunity to pray with them. I am always longing to make these types of connections, and [I] was excited to have that chance."
Veronica and her family volunteered and were soon assigned two children. But when Veronica realized the children were actually two high school boys, she began to have her doubts.
"I was a little disappointed," she admitted. "I was not sure how to connect with teenage boys, much less share the Gospel with them. But this was our assignment, and we had a job to do."
Veronica reached out to the family to schedule a time to visit and deliver the gifts. But the only time available was while the boys' mother was working.
"This was not ideal, as I hoped to meet and maybe connect with their mother, but we took what we could get."
A DISAPPOINTING VISIT
At first, the visit seemed to go well.
"When we arrived at the home, a teenage boy answered the door and looked very surprised," Veronica remembered. "We introduced ourselves, and I mentioned his aunt's name, who was our contact, and he smiled and seemed so grateful. He kept saying, 'Oh wow, thank you so much! Wow!'"
But then Veronica explained that the gifts were from the boys' father, who wanted to do something special for his sons as he could not be with them for Christmas.
"I immediately saw a shift in his demeanor and could see hurt in his face," Veronica said. "I asked if we could pray for him, and he politely declined because he did not know us. We said, 'No problem. We understand. Please enjoy the gifts and have a merry Christmas.' Then we got in our car and left."
The Huang family left feeling disappointed.
"We had hoped to do more," Veronica said, "and felt like we did not make the impact we wanted to make. My husband and I felt like we failed."
And then two months later, the letter arrived.
"To the volunteers of Grace Chapel," it began. "This is not the type of letter I ever thought I'd be writing, especially from a prison cell. …"
The letter was from the father of the boys Veronica's family had been assigned. After receiving their gifts through the Huang family, the sons had visited their father in prison.
"The first visit in eight years," Veronica explained.
In his letter, the father explained how he had made terrible choices in his –life—choices that had led to a struggle with addiction and –alcoholism—and subsequently spent eight years in prison. While in prison, he attended a church service where a priest introduced him to the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
"I am so glad I was sent to this particular prison," the father wrote, "which I now know was not by chance, but by the grace of God. … I never thought I could be forgiven. I never thought God would love me. I thought I was a lost cause. ... I am so thankful to now know that God, the Father, was always waiting for me to come back into God’s care and to know He loves even a sinner like me. I am a new man today through Christ Jesus. And I thank God for people like yourselves who are doing God's work by living out the Gospel. … My faith is no longer in myself but in Jesus Christ."
"He was thankful for Grace Chapel and the gifts [we gave his sons]," Veronica said. "He talked about how shocked he was by his sons' visit and their response to the gifts. He even had the chance to share the Gospel with his family, and he appreciated us opening the door to that opportunity."
NO JOB IS TOO SMALL
The Angel Tree experience touched Veronica's life as well.
"What this experience has taught me is that when serving, things may not feel ideal, but it will be ideal for God, and I need to trust that," she said. "No job is too small when working for the Kingdom of God. He will use every little thing that we do, in His honor, to build His kingdom. … My only job is to answer His call and let Him move the mountains."
Veronica hopes that her story will inspire others to participate in Angel Tree this year. She says she still continues to serve families of the incarcerated through Angel Tree and other programs.
"This is an example of how something as little as delivering gifts to a family can lead to a path that you may not have expected," she said.
"It's sometimes so difficult to believe that the Body of Christ, the Church, is really out there and is alive," the father concluded his letter. "So let me close by saying thank you so much for reaching out and helping me. I will never forget this act of kindness, and I will pray for all of you."
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