The Gift of a Left-Behind Present

    Six years ago, Pamela Mathisen heard about Angel Tree on her local Christian radio station. So she gathered some college students from her church, and together they purchased gifts for prisoners' children in their county and then brought them to the radio station for Angel Tree. But Pamela forgot one of the gifts -- the largest one -- leaving it right by her front door. The next day she took it to the Angel Tree delivery site. That's when Pamela's life changed forever. While she was at the delivery site, she found out that they needed drivers to deliver gifts. So she offered to help and visited two families that day. "I was overwhelmed with the needs each family had," she says. "A sense of hopelessness and fear abounded in each home." She was so touched by the families' needs that Pamela contacted Prison Fellowship and volunteered to do even more. A PF state representative invited her to become the Angel Tree coordinator for Union County, North Carolina. Pamela contacted three other women. Together they prayed and recruited other Angel Tree church volunteers in their area. In no time, groups of excited church volunteers were delivering Christmas gifts to 138 children of prisoners in Union County. Each year since then the number of churches, volunteers, and children has grown. Last year, Angel Tree volunteers served more than 221 kids at Christmas. But the volunteers didn't stop at Christmas. They wanted to minister to the kids and parents all year round. So they started the Angel Tree Ministry Team in Shiloh Baptist Church and focused on ways to work with the kids throughout the year. The Team now remembers the children and their families on birthdays, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day. They send more than twenty prisoners' children each summer to their state's Angel Tree Camp. They've introduced the entire community to the Angel Tree children by providing an annual August AngelFEST. Using donations made by local businesses, AngelFEST volunteers offer children learning opportunities, health screenings, special guest speakers, and fun activities. They invite the community and each year sign up new volunteers from other churches in the county to serve Angel Tree families. Union County's volunteers have helped Angel Tree moms move into houses, find jobs, join local churches, and study for driver's licenses. When one Union County volunteer, Wendy Kiker, learned that a prisoner's child, Gabriel, was failing first grade, she started tutoring her on a weekly basis. Gabriel now makes straight A's and has the highest average in her third-grade class! What an example for all of us. Last year, volunteers like Pamela reached out to 600,000 children of prisoners. But more than 2 million children of prisoners, just like Gabriel, need your help this Christmas. And this year we hope to reach every child through Angel Tree. Will you please pray? Ask God how you and your church can extend God's love to hurting boys and girls through Angel Tree. Call us today at 1-800-55-ANGEL for information on how your church can join in this life-changing work. For more information: Angel Tree is breaking the cycle of crime by sharing the love of Christ with children of inmates. Won't you please contribute to this ministry today? BreakPoint commentary no. 020826, "In the Nick of Time: Breaking the Cycle of Crime."


Chuck Colson


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