For all the talk about the astonishing number of incarcerated individuals in the United States, there is very little mention of the parentless children left in their wake.
Statistically, there are around 2.7 million children who have at least one parent behind bars. The emotional upheaval this creates is difficult to imagine.
Abandonment, loss, separation issues, the struggles of possibly being placed into foster care, the loneliness of missing a parent – all this, on top of the normal angst and drama that every child is going through.
Regardless of how you may feel about inmates and the time they serve, I think we can all agree that the children, innocent bystanders, become casualties of “the system”. They did not make the choices that brought them to this place.
Thankfully, many programs and ministries are expanding to include ministering to these family members who are left on the other side of bars, and one such ministry is Prison Fellowship. Although they have multiple focus areas, today the spotlight will be on their Angel Tree Christmas gift program.
As holidays approach, most inmates have no way to provide any of the traditional elements of Christmas for their children at home. No way to give even the smallest gift, which is a gesture that seems so small, yet speaks volume to a hopeful child who approaches the tree Christmas morning. With the lack of their parents presence, the next best thing may be a token that says “I remembered”.’
How does it work, you ask? Here is an excerpt from the Prison Fellowship website:
Angel Tree Christmas begins when a church member registers their church for the program with the support of their pastor or other church leader(s). Once a church is registered, the process works like this:
• Receive Angel Tree Names: Sometime in the fall, Angel Tree coordinators will receive the names of children who were signed-up by their mom or dad in prison.
•Display Angel Tree Name Tags: Name tags of these children and gift suggestions are displayed in your church.
• Angel Tree Announcement: Church members need to be notified of the program —bulletin, pulpit announcement, bulletin board, etc.—and invited to select names from the Angel Tree display.
Gift purchase and delivery: Church members purchase, wrap, and deliver a gift for each child on behalf of his or her incarcerated parent—and in the process, share the Gospel.
As Christmas approaches, many of us will be out and about, shopping for our families and friends. As you set your priorities and make your purchases, perhaps you could add an extra name to your list, a child who needs to know, more than ever, that they are remembered and loved this Christmas season.
Ready for the life-changing adventure of Angel Tree Christmas? Please complete the church registration form or call us at 1-800-55-ANGEL if you have questions. When we receive your registration, we’ll send you our Quickstart Kit, video, and everything else you need to get started.
For more information, check out Prison Fellowship here.
© 2019 El-Inkwell.