As Prison Fellowship Angel Tree turns 40, the legacy of one former safecracker is irrefutable proof of the potential that’s behind bars, just waiting to come to light.
In high school, Mary Kay Beard placed at the top of her graduating class. A few years down the road, she was on the FBI's top ten most-wanted list.
For 40 years, Prison Fellowship® has been going into correctional facilities, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those behind bars, and offering the hope of true transformation. Through the use of Bible-based programming, and with the help of thousands of committed volunteers, lives are being changed, hope is being restored, and darkness is being replaced with the promise of a future.
On August 9, 1976—two years to the day that President Richard Nixon resigned from as President of the United States—Charles Colson founded Prison Fellowship. The former Nixon adviser, who spent seven months in a federal correctional facility after pleading guilty to Watergate-related charges, left prison a changed man, committed to “remembering the prisoner” and honoring the God-given value and potential of every person affected by crime and incarceration.
By the time she turned 27, Mary Kay Beard had established herself as one of the most notorious criminals in the country. Along with her husband, Mary Kay was wanted in four states for a string of bank robberies and was the target of a mafia “hit” for double-crossing the mob on a diamond heist.
In the summer of 1974, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson, the former special prosecutor for President Richard Nixon, entered the gates of Maxwell Correctional Facility in Alabama. There he would serve seven months, having plead guilty to an obstruction of justice charge connected to the Watergate break-in and cover-up.
For over 30 years, Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program has been providing children Christmas gifts on behalf of their mothers and fathers in prison, as well as a simple message about God’s love and forgiveness. Through Angel Tree, families have been restored, kids have been encouraged, and the Gospel has been proclaimed.
A version of the following article originally appeared on the BreakPoint website.
When a parent is sentenced to prison, he or she is not the only one being punished. The children suffer too. How especially tough it is for them at Christmas time.
It was Christmas. My husband was in prison. Haranguing thoughts constantly harassed me.
How can I possibly forgive him? How can I ever live this down? How can I go on?
That was twenty-three years ago. Last Sunday, I fingered an Angel Tree ornament.