November 30, 2007
It's so much more than Christmas presents.
Read about the impact Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree has had on children around the world.
Daniel has only known his dad from the inside of a prison cell. He’s been in prison all of Daniel’s young life. His mom has struggled to meet the family’s needs on just one income. Daily long-distance phone calls to and from prison just add to the financial strain.
So like many children of prisoners, Daniel has had to go without a lot of things other kids his age often take for granted. “I have always felt that because of the situation we’re in, Daniel gets shorted on a lot of things,” his mother laments. “When it comes time to go to soccer, I have to worry about paying the grocery bill, or the [electric] bill. I’m one person.” That’s why PF Canada has programmes like Angel Tree® that consistently respond to the needs of families like Daniel’s.
When Daniel’s father heard about Angel Tree® during an in-prison church service, he immediately signed-up his son. “I let Daniel know that Daddy helped,” his mom says. “At Christmas time, those gifts were from your Daddy caring for you, that this happened.” Daniel’s been receiving PF Canada Angel Tree® gifts from his dad for the last few years, but he still remembers his first present—new shoes, which he proudly wore to the next prison visit he had with his father.
The impact of financial strain combined with the forced separation from a parent puts children of prisoners at a much greater risk of being incarcerated one day themselves. When six-year-old Marcus’ mother went to prison, he was sent to live with his grandmother. His mother was able to keep in touch with him through PF United States’ Angel Tree® programme, which helped to introduce his family to the local church. Through the years Marcus participated in PF’s camping programme and other church activities through his initial Angel Tree® connection. “There’s no doubt in my mind that without Angel Tree and the churches and the 12 years they have been involved with him, Marcus would be in a gang or on drugs,” says his grandmother. “Instead, he’s off to college.”
In addition to the emotional and financial assistance provided to the families of prisoners, PF’s Angel Tree® programme also strengthens the bond within these families. Last year PF Palau started a new tradition of distributing notebooks to the children with their Angel Tree® gifts so that they could compile a scrapbook of notes and pictures that could go back and forth to their parents in prison, who could also add notes to their children. “This notebook (or scrapbook) is a key to our goal in helping to develop deeper relationship between families and inmates,” explains Ruth Snyder, PF Palau Board Chairperson.
Rising incarceration rates have made meeting the needs of prisoners’ children increasingly challenging for Prison Fellowship ministries, but God provides in amazing ways. That’s what PF Australia in Queensland discovered recently when they received a request for gifts for 14 additional children just 10 days prior to Christmas and long after they’d send out requests for church volunteers to purchase gifts. When the PF volunteer went to her church to pick up the original Angel Tree® gifts, a parishioner came up to her saying she had more gifts at home and wondered if they too could be used for Angel Tree®. The PF volunteer gratefully accepted them. “Yes, there were 14 gifts in the box and they were very suitable for the children whose names I had as needing gifts,” exclaimed the surprised volunteer.
In so many ways, the Lord has used Angel Tree® to give children back just a little of what prison so abruptly takes away.
For more information about Prison Fellowship International (www.pfi.org) and their minstry outreach efforts throughout the world, please email email@example.com or telephone (703) 481-0000.