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Sharing the Joy of Christmas... the Angel Tree
By Ellie Hayes - December 9, 2004

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to me.'

Then the righteous will answer Him saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:34-40

How It All Began

Angel Tree Christmas helps churches share Christ by meeting the needs of the families of prisoners.
Angel Tree Christmas helps churches share Christ by meeting the needs of the families of prisoners.

A reformed bank robber by the name of Mary Kay Beard founded the Angel Tree Project in 1982. After years of robbing banks, first with her husband and then with her buddies, she was finally tracked down by the FBI and sentenced to 21 years in a prison in Alabama. Although she was raised in a Christian home, somewhere along the line she strayed away from the Lord-her first Love.

While in prison, she returned to the Lord and asked Him into her life again. The idea of Angel Tree came to Mary Kay when she realized that the women in the prison were saving trial size toiletries given to them just so they would have something to give to their children. When their children visited and received the presents, they were overjoyed with these simple gifts.

The parents longed to give their children more, but being in prison with little or no means of support made it difficult for them to give anything more to their children.

Not Santa Clause but Jesus Cause

The Prison Fellowship Ministry, which sponsors the Angel Tree Project, is a national organization. It shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ with prison inmates and their families.

The ministry gives prison inmates a way to reach out to their children during the Christmas season. The Angel Tree Project is a reminder of Jesus' love and compassion. It's a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of our loving Savior Jesus Christ and how we must all endeavor to show that love and compassion by loving others.

One volunteer with Angel Tree is a former recipient of a caring gift through this project, and she remembers how blessed she was by it. Today she is a Christian giving back the love that someone once gave her in her time of need.

Sharing the Gospel

President Bush and Mrs. George W. Bush joined Shiloh Baptist Church in Virginia for an Angel Tree celebration
President Bush and Mrs. George W. Bush joined Shiloh Baptist Church in Virginia for an Angel Tree celebration

Having a family member in prison takes a toll on the entire family, especially the children.

When Angel Tree volunteers receive the name of a child of an incarcerated parent, they contact the child's family. The volunteers often pray with the family over the telephone before they go to deliver the presents to the child. Most of these families are in need of someone to minister to and pray for them.

Next, the child's name is hung on an Angel Tree located in a church. Church members show their love by taking the name of a child off the tree and buying the present requested on the card.

Volunteers from the Prison Ministry deliver the gifts to the children, along with personal notes that the incarcerated parents write to their children. These kind helpers also share the Gospel with the children and their families.

This year the children will get a little something extra with their Christmas presents, sure to leave a longer lasting impression than racecars and teddy bears. They'll receive a book that will teach them more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Spreading the Love of Jesus to All

The names of 100 children are on the Rock's Angel Tree this year- more names than the previous year. The presents these children receive are more than just Christmas presents. They are little treasures the children will carry in their hearts all year long. They are reminders that their parents haven't forgotten them; and, most importantly, that Jesus hasn't forgotten them.

There is still time for you to share the love of Jesus with a child through the Angel Tree Project. You can contact Kathy at 858.292.7332 to receive the name of a child still on the Angel Tree.

The presents will be delivered to the children on the 18th and 19th of December. For additional information, please visit www.angeltree.org.

For more information about the Prison Ministry, click here »