My husband Carlos’ dad was in prison when he was little. One time they got so hungry they ate food out of a dumpster. Of course there were no presents. I still see the effects it has on his life. How do you grow up believing God loves you when you have no evidence that your earth dad does? My heart for this is that when we give an innocent child something to hold in his hands that shows his parent loves him, we are giving a base so they can know God loves them.
When Veronica heard that her church planned to participate in Angel Tree®, she eagerly signed her family up.
“I had heard powerful stories about volunteers spending hours in meaningful conversation with Angel Tree families,” Veronica says. They were assigned two children, brothers in high school.
When Veronica and her family arrived at the boys’ home to deliver the gifts, one of the boys answered. “We introduced ourselves, and I mentioned his aunt’s name, who was our contact,” Veronica says. “He smiled and seemed so grateful. He kept saying, ‘Oh wow, thank you so much! Wow!’ ”
Founded in 1982 by a former prisoner who witnessed firsthand the deep need for connection between prisoners and their children, Angel Tree has grown to become the largest national outreach to the 2.7 million children of prisoners.
Churches, organizations, and individuals around the country deliver the Gospel message and gifts valued at $20 to hundreds of thousands of children (age 18 and under) on behalf of their incarcerated parents. This simple act lets the child know that their parent in prison loves them and has not forgotten them.
Veronica hoped her family’s involvement had made a difference, but she wasn’t sure if she would ever know. And then a letter arrived at her church.
“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, the sons had visited their father in prison.
“The first visit in eight years,” Veronica explained. “He was thankful for our church and the gifts we gave his sons. 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.”
REMEMBER THE CHILDREN
Children who have a parent incarcerated are at a higher risk of health problems, depression, and attention disorders. They are more likely than their peers to grow up in poverty, and three times as likely as other children to become involved with the criminal justice system themselves. The emotional pain of a mom or dad’s incarceration grows even more intense at Christmas, and the financial hardship of a lost breadwinner can mean that there are no presents under the tree.
“It’s sometimes so difficult to believe that the Body of Christ, the Church, is really out there and is alive,” the father wrote. “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.”
Prisoners and their children need to know they’re not forgotten. Through the Angel Tree program, you can ensure that this Christmas a child will be remembered.
Will you join us? As a special thank you we have “thank you” gifts for every budget.