The generosity of strangers helped Oscar Rosales stay connected—and changed his life mission.
Oscar Rosales strives to be a generous man. But that wasn't always the case. Oscar admits that when he was sentenced to federal prison in 2007, he was a self-sufficient person who had been trying to "fill the hole in his heart" with possessions.
Soon after he was booked into the county jail for drug-related charges, Oscar met Brad Sparks, a pastor who told him about the love of Christ. At first, due to deep feelings of unworthiness, Oscar resisted. But gradually, he began to understand grace.
"I started realizing that the God that he knew, the God that I wanted to know, is a compassionate God, is a merciful God … and it was okay for me to be broken," Oscar says.
Pastor Brad encouraged Oscar to pray and study the Bible. And one day before Oscar was transferred to another facility, Brad gave him some advice that he never forgot.
"He says, 'Don't lose the connection with your children. I want you to write them, and I want you to call them. You never forget them, Oscar, you hear me?'" Oscar recalls.
Oscar took those word to heart. He kept in regular contact with his five children throughout his 10-year sentence. His correspondence was full of excitement about his new walk with the Lord. To this day, Oscar's son Anthony, who was 12 when his dad was arrested, remembers those letters.
"Being away, he still had an impact on all of our lives," Anthony says. "He was still learning about himself and his faith, but he really motivated us. He found ways to inspire us with a letter once or twice a week, encouraging us to keep going to church."
The letters helped, but being apart was challenging. Because of his absence, Oscar couldn't provide the kind of daily involvement that his family needed. And he grieved every game, prom, and graduation that he missed.
"It's tough being a dad when you're not there … and you're missing all these eventful times in their lives," he says.
A CHANCE TO CONNECT
A year into his sentence at Pollock Correctional Complex in Louisiana, Oscar learned about Angel Tree®. Angel Tree is a program of Prison Fellowship® that serves incarcerated parents and their children. It strengthens their relationships through the delivery of a gift, the Gospel message, and a personal message of love on behalf of a parent behind bars.
Oscar knew money was tight at home. He was amazed by the fact that people he had never met would use their energy and finances to bless his family. He loved being able write a personal message to each child. And his children delighted in the gifts from their dad.
"It felt like we were able to connect, like he was still around on Christmas," Anthony says. "I usually got a sweater [from my dad]. Because my mom didn't have a lot of money, it was nice getting clothes."
Oscar became an enthusiastic advocate for Angel Tree at Pollock, telling Christians and non-Christians alike about the opportunity to connect with their children at Christmastime.
"It would give me a platform to be able to witness," Oscar explains. "I would get so many men showing up at the chapel just to pick up those Angel Tree forms. It gave those of us who were Christians a time to minister to these guys."
A PROMISE KEPT
Oscar has been out of prison for five years. He owns a home that he shares with Anthony, and he runs a real estate company. From the proceeds of Oscar's business, he is fulfilling a vow he made to God while in prison.
"I promised Him that I would come home and be a contributor to this ministry because of the impact that it had on my life when I was inside," Oscar says.
Last Christmas, his business sponsored 50 children through Angel Tree, Oscar says. He hopes to double that number next year.
Oscar also helps support two orphanages, one in Honduras and one in Mexico. He says his experience with Angel Tree inspired this mission as well.
"This all goes back to Angel Tree because of the generosity and love from total strangers," Oscar explains. "Because of the impact that Angel Tree had in my life, all of this came full circle."
When he was arrested and separated from his family, Oscar never dreamed he'd one day give thanks for incarceration. But he does.
"I call it the tragic blessing because I lost everything, but I gained something no one can ever take away from me," Oscar says. "And that's an intimate relationship with the Lord."
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