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December 16, 200

Column #1,477

Angel Tree: A Perfect Christmas Gift

By Mike McManus

 

            The highlight of the Christmas season for my son, Adam and his wife Amy, is to purchase Prison Fellowship Angel Tree® gifts for the children of a prisoner, and deliver them in the inmate’s name.

 

            Usually, they meet with the kids in person, but this year they gave the gifts for Alex, aged 5 and Xavier, 3 – to their grandmother who will give them on Christmas Day.  Alex will receive building Legos, a Veggie Tales Christmas DVD, and a winter jacket. Xavier will receive a toy truck, and a coat as well.

 

With each gift was a warm personal message to each boy from his dad (written by Adam). Both also received a coloring book to learn that Jesus is the real reason for the season.

Why is this important?

 

Children of prisoners are much more likely as their peers to go to prison themselves because of their exposure to their own parents’ poor choices.  A gift, given in the name of the imprisoned parent, helps to melt the walls of isolation, abandonment and anger those kids feel.

 

There are 1.7 million children of prisoners, whose average age is 8.  They learn about “Angel Tree®” gifts from Prison Fellowship volunteers, usually organized by churches.  This year, about 370,000 children of convicts will be touched by this wonderful ministry, a slight decline perhaps due to the recession.

 

A majority of both fathers (57 percent) and mothers (54 percent) reported never having had a personal visit with their children since going to state prison.  Why?  About three-fifths are confined more than 100 miles from their home.

 

What difference does the ministry make?

 

Lisa’s father has been in prison as long as she can remember.  And for almost as long she has been receiving Christmas presents from him through Angel Tree®  The clothing, her favorite journal and other gifts were always a very special part of Lisa’s holiday, but until a short while ago, the only connection being nurtured was the one between her and her dad.

 

Then, last year, Lisa celebrated her tenth birthday. She was old enough to be invited to a Christian summer camp by Judy, the Angel Tree coordinator at a church in Scottsdale, AZ.

 

“I put together a backpack with goodies in it and drove her to camp,” Judy says. “She was very shy and would hardly talk to me when I tried to talk to her.”

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