The Difference Faith Makes

    At the White House Christmas party last week, President Bush told me of his encounter in Philadelphia with a group of inner-city children. The president was deeply moved by a young man he met whose brothers and sisters had been killed in gang warfare, whose mother died of AIDS, and whose father was in prison. "We're going to do something about these kids," the president told me, "kids who have no hope -- prisoners' kids." I was happy, in return, to tell the president about Angel Tree and how we're reaching 600,000 kids this year. When President Bush met with the people mentoring those kids in Philadelphia, there was one young man who wasn't there. I met this young man, Marquis, in Philadelphia a couple of years ago when his grandmother came up to me after a public event and said, "Mr. Colson, thank you for sending my grandson to Angel Tree camp last summer. He was saved there -- and now he's preaching the Gospel to the other kids in our neighborhood." I talked with Marquis that day, and I was so impressed. There was a sparkle in his eye as he told me what Jesus meant to him and how he was leading others to Christ in the project in which they lived. His grandmother told me that if it wasn't for Angel Tree, he would have been caught up in the neighborhood gangs, doomed to follow in his father's footsteps -- straight to prison. Instead, having come to faith in Christ, he was taking Jesus to the streets, sharing Christ in Camden, New Jersey, one of the toughest inner-city neighborhoods in America. He also worked in a church, feeding the poor -- and, we've just learned this past week, talked another kid out of running away from home or maybe even suicide. He was a wonderful Christian witness to everyone he met. Then, two weeks ago, we received a phone call. Angel Tree volunteers who had helped lead Marquis to Christ told us the tragic news. While walking his little brother to school, Marquis -- this vibrant, young evangelist -- was shot and killed. At the funeral, our volunteers gave their condolences to Marquis's grandmother and turned to leave. But as they did, she began to shout to the hundreds of people in attendance, "You see these people? They are the reason Marquis is in heaven -- they took him to camp. He met Jesus there! They are the reason I have hope!" Marquis's death is tragic. I don't know whether we will ever be able to control the violence, the death, and the risk in neighborhoods like this. But I do know that our hope is to take the Gospel there and with it reach thousands more children. And we can pray that God will raise up more godly leaders like Marquis to help bring others to Christ. And if that happens, we will see cultural changes one kid at a time. In order to help that happen, the president, in Philadelphia, signed an executive order that will eliminate discrimination against faith-based groups. Faith-based groups are the best hope for changing neighborhoods like the one Marquis lived in. This will give groups like ours much greater freedom and greater access to federal funds. You can be part of the solution too. This year Angel Tree is attempting to reach nearly 600,000 children of prisoners. As of today, we have 40,000 children who still need an Angel Tree sponsor. If you can sponsor a child, even at this late date, will you call our Angel Tree operator at 1-800-55-ANGEL, or visit our website, The difference that faith-based organizations make in transforming lives is absolutely clear. Ask the president, or -- if he's busy -- ask an Angel Tree kid. But let's ask now. There are thousands of kids like Marquis out there in those cities, and we need to reach them. For further information: Please donate online to help reach Angel Tree kids with a gift and the Gospel this Christmas. BreakPoint Commentary No. 021030, "From Crack to Christmas: One Family's Story." BreakPoint Commentary No. 021029, "It Started with a Kick: The Story of Sage." Kaye Fair, "Silent angels help inmates' kids," The Sedalia Democrat, 11 December 2002. Edward L. Kenney, "Inmates' children get a taste of Christmas," The News Journal(Delaware), 8 December 2002. "Executive Order: Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-Based and Community Organizations," White House Office of the Press Secretary, 12 December 2002. "President Bush Implements Key Elements of his Faith-Based Initiative," Downtown Marriott Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 12 December 2002. "Putting Faith to Work: Enabling the Church" -- In this special "BreakPoint" broadcast, Managing Editor Jim Tonkowich talks with Jim Towey of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and Joe Loconte of the Heritage Foundation about the positive impact people of faith can have on their community.


Chuck Colson


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