“Angel Tree has just been a perfect way to begin to bring restoration to broken families.”
Mary Johnson serves with Prison Fellowship as the Field Director for Illinois. She has served in this capacity since February, 2004, and with the ministry since 1997.
She shares a story about a former prisoner who now is a Field Director for Angel Tree in Alabama, Mary Kay Beard.
“While she was doing time she noticed that when the children came to visit their moms in the prison at Christmas time, these moms would do anything to give their child a gift; they’d wrap up toiletries, even toothpaste, just so they could give their child a gift because they wanted to give them something.
“When she was released and then came on with Prison Fellowship in those early years, she put up the first Christmas tree display in a mall in Alabama and then the by the next year, it was embraced and it’s been changed up through the years and just improved on…we’ve done this relationally on purpose.”
Mary has had the opportunity to witness so many changed lives through the ministry of Angel Tree, including her own.
“The whole purpose of this program is really to connect broken children and broken families; parents that don’t feel like they can do anything, and children that desperately need to be loved by their mom or dad to make that connection, to be somebody that are the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Statistics say that 2.7 million children in America have a parent in prison. Mary points out that it may be hard to tell if a child has an incarcerated parent, especially because they are not receiving the support that they need.
“In the school system, if your parents were divorced, they put counselors around you, they comfort you. God forbid your parent dies, of course everyone is there really watching over you and comforting you…if your parent goes to prison, you barely even talk about it and most times you don’t even want the school, or the church, or the neighbors to know.”
“It’s kind of a code of silence and they live a different kind of life; they don’t know who to trust. There’s just a whole other level of shame and stigma that goes with being a child of a prisoner; that’s not right or Godly, but is imposed on children regardless.”
We need to lookout for these children and show them the compassionate care they need.
“They’re not cared for at the level that we would other children in our neighborhood, and yet they are the ones that need probably this tender care more than anyone.”
You can bless and encourage children this Christmas through Angel Tree. $73 will help reach 5 children with a Christmas gift, the Gospel, and a message of love from their incarcerated parent. Learn more here.