‘Nobody Steals from Us!’

Over the years I've heard some wonderful stories about Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program. But I don't think I've ever heard a story quite like the one I heard last spring. I had flown to Las Vegas to attend a Prison Fellowship luncheon. As part of the program, five inmates from the Nellis federal prison were there to tell us about how they'd become involved with Angel Tree. The inmates described how they had raised funds within the prison. Then they decided to really get into the Christmas spirit and shop for the gifts themselves. So with the warden's permission, a prison escort drove them to a nearby WalMart. Now, some of you parents and grandparents may remember what the hottest toy of the year was last Christmas: It was the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Well, it turned out that WalMart was sold out of Power Rangers. The inmates asked the store manager to check to see if there were any Power Rangers left in stock. They were in luck. Moments later, the manager announced over the store intercom that he had located one last Power Ranger, and would they please come pick it up. Of course, the whole store heard that announcement and knew that those men had gotten the last Power Ranger in the store. A few minutes later, while the inmates were searching for another toy, someone stole that Power Ranger right out of their shopping cart. The inmates were outraged. "Nobody steals from us!" they declared. And they immediately began searching the store for the thief who'd stolen their Power Ranger. Well, with the help of the store manager, the prisoners finally recovered the toy. And the manager warned the inmates that they had to be very careful with their possessions. Why? Because, he said, there were criminals hanging around the store at Christmas. Like I said, it's a wonderful story about inmates helping with their meager funds to get gifts for kids in need. But if you're wondering why I'm telling you about Angel Tree in August, it's because this is the time of year the program begins. Here's how it works. Prison Fellowship cooperates with prison authorities to compile lists of incarcerated parents who want to participate. The prisoners' gift lists are sent to churches or Christian groups, and the children's names are written on angel-shaped ornaments. The ornaments are hung on a Christmas tree, which may be set up in a church or shopping mall or just about anywhere. Participants choose an ornament from the tree and buy a gift for the child whose name appears there. Volunteers from churches within the community then deliver the gift to the child in the name of the incarcerated parent. And they take that opportunity, using a Gospel booklet and an illustrated Bible, to tell the child the real meaning of Christmas: It's about the birth of Jesus Christ. Angel Tree is a blessing for children whose lives have been torn apart by crime. But the program also benefits the giver. One of the Nellis inmates who took part in the shopping trip later told a prison official, "This is the best Christmas I have ever had." Why don't you call BreakPoint, and we'll tell you how your group or church can participate in Angel Tree. Like that prisoner at Nellis, you may find yourself having the best Christmas of your life.


Chuck Colson


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