Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
Like many teenage girls, Tiffany wanted books for Christmas. But there were three problems. Number one, her dad was in prison. Number two, her family was struggling financially. And number three, Tiffany had been blind since birth.
The first two problems were taken care of when Tiffany’s dad signed her up to receive Christmas gifts through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree ministry. But that still left the third problem. Tiffany could read Braille, but as her mother warned Angel Tree volunteer John Miller, Braille books are “expensive and hard to find.” She wasn’t sure it would be possible to fulfill her daughter’s request.
John wanted to try anyway. He filled out a gift tag for Tiffany and put it on the tree at Community Baptist Church in Manhattan Beach, California. That’s where eight-year-old Evelyn Kenney spotted the unusual request of a girl six years older than herself, whom she’d never met before. For some reason, that particular tag grabbed her attention.
Evelyn’s dad, Sean, wasn’t quite as enthralled. Like Tiffany’s mother, he could think of only how hard it would be to find books in Braille. He tried to get Evelyn interested in a gift tag for eight-year-old twins who wanted Barbies, but his daughter would have nothing of it. “This is the one,” she announced, pulling Tiffany’s tag off the tree.
So Sean ended up making the trek with Evelyn and her sister to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. A staffer there named George asked what kind of books Tiffany might like. Sean recalls, “We had to explain that we didn’t know the girl . . . We shared with George [about] the Angel Tree ministry, how men and women in prison work through chaplains and local churches to arrange for gifts to be given to [prisoners’] children so that they can have a Christmas.”
Speaking of churches reminded George that a Bible in Braille had just come in. The previous owner, who had recently died, had asked that the Bible be returned to the Institute to be given away free to someone else who could use it — all eighteen volumes of it!
As they drove home, the whole family was “numb with the excitement of what had happened,” Sean remembers. They had found the perfect present to meet a unique need. And when the family delivered the Bible to a delighted Tiffany, they got to hear her read it aloud to them.
As John Miller had told Tiffany’s mom on the phone, “Nothing is impossible.” When God’s people allow Him to use them to reach out to those in need, miracles can, and do, happen — like a blind girl receiving a Bible of her own.
If you and your church would like to help make the impossible happen for prisoners’ kids this Christmas, please call us at 1-800-55-ANGEL, or visit our website at www.angeltree.org. We’ll help you match up church volunteers with prisoners’ families in your community. Whether you end up buying a baseball glove or hauling home a Braille Bible, you’ll be helping to remind children of their parents’ love for them — and even better, you’ll be showing them that the love of Christ makes everything possible.
For further reading:
Charles Colson and Mark Earley, eds., Six Million Angels: Stories from 20 Years of Angel Tree’s Ministry to the Children of Prisoners (Vine Books, 2003).
BreakPoint Commentary No. 031030, “Unforgotten: An Angel Tree Story.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030925, “Touched by Six Million Angels: Stories of the Children of Prisoners.”