Celebrating Thanksgiving in Prison and the Surprising Things That Inspire Gratitude
The holidays are an especially difficult time to be incarcerated. After all, what's there to be thankful for in prison?
It can be hard to count your blessings when you're coping with the day-to-day realities of prison. But the men and women in Prison Fellowship® programs are finding things to celebrate this Thanksgiving. If you're a Prison Fellowship supporter, volunteer, or prayer partner, you're high on their gratitude lists.
WHAT'S THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR?
Alona is a member of the Prison Fellowship Academy®, an intensive, biblically based in-prison program that is guiding her through a process of holistic life transformation. A mother of three, Alona has signed her children up for the Angel Tree® program. As Christmas approaches, she's deeply grateful for the volunteers who will buy and deliver gifts to her children on her behalf. Because of the volunteers' commitment, Alona will have a way to feel close to her children during the holidays—just like last year.
"The thing I like the most about Angel Tree—it wasn't even necessarily the gifts that they got, which were awesome—but it was getting to put the personalized note in there, and they got to see that I was still thinking about them," remembers Alona. "It was like me still being there for Christmas with them and getting to have some joy with them still. … It's such a major blessing."
HAPPINESS YOU CAN HEAR
Sean is another Angel Tree parent who can't contain his appreciation for the way that volunteers and donors have helped his family in a hard time.
"Dear Angel Tree," he wrote in a letter. "I am so grateful. You were able to do something for my son that I was not able to do, so thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Sean might not have been able to see his son open the gifts, but he could hear over the phone the happiness in his child's voice.
"It taught me that giving is so important," Sean continues. "I hope that you are able to continue to help people for many, many years to come. … I will continue to do anything and everything I can here and when I am released to spread the word of giving back and volunteering at organizations like yours."
HOPE AMONG THE PAGES
Parents like Alona and Sean are grateful for a seemingly small thing—the ability to give a simple gift to their children. Other prisoners, like Otis, are thankful just to have their own copy of God's Word.
Not long ago, Otis received an Inside Journal NLT Life Recovery Bible provided by Prison Fellowship supporters. The Bible has large type and easy-to-read language, and the supplementary content is just what Otis needs to support him in his battle against addiction.
"I'm just writing to thank you for the Life Recovery Bible that I received from you," he shared. "It helps me grow spiritually and also helps me keep my recovery on track. I am blessed to have this book."
BETTER DAYS AHEAD
Like Otis, Raymond is just grateful for tools that help him live as a Christian in prison. Not long ago, Raymond says he was despairing. He didn't know how he would find the strength to spend the rest of his life in prison. He felt helpless, lonely, and lost.
But then, he wrote in a recent letter, he picked up a copy of Inside Journal®, Prison Fellowship's newspaper for prisoners. "Through reading the articles and stories, Inside Journal has given me hope and inspiration to not give up on life and to turn to God for companionship when I am lonely and seek help when I’m in need."
As Raymond grows closer to God, he is finding hope to face the days ahead. His circumstances haven't changed, but his perspective has. He marvels, "I'm feeling a connection I can't explain in words, but know in my heart that through God, there will be better days ahead. I'm writing this letter to say 'thank you' for producing Inside Journal. It gave me strength when I desperately needed it."
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