A Christmas Angel

  All Jessica wanted for Christmas was a puppy, but both of her parents were away in prison. Jessica herself had been fighting leukemia for months. Who would see that this 13-year-old received anything for Christmas, much less a puppy? The answer came through Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program. When her mother was incarcerated, Jessica and her two brothers were taken in by their Aunt Eunice in New York. When the Christmas season rolled around, so did Angel Tree coordinator Carole Schmidt. First, Carole wrote up a list of things to get for Jessica's young brothers. Then she turned to Jessica. The young girl was tall and pretty, but leukemia had left her painfully thin. "What would you like for Christmas?" Carole asked. Jessica answered, "A puppy." Carole turned to her church for help locating just the right dog. When her pastor told Jessica's heart-wrenching story from the pulpit, three families came forward to offer a puppy. Carole settled on a mixed cocker-sheltie. The family donating the puppy told Carole: "Can you believe it? We already named this puppy 'Angel.'" How appropriate that this puppy named Angel should wind up playing such a special role in an Angel Tree program. A local veterinarian donated Angel's puppy shots. A pet store chipped in with a collar, puppy toys, and a supply of dog food. When Christmas Eve arrived, Angel Tree volunteers brought the squirming puppy to a surprised and delighted Jessica. That Christmas marked the beginning of a friendship between Jessica and the church that had brought her her own furry little "Angel." When church members learned that Jessica needed a ride to a distant hospital for bone marrow testing, 15 people came forward with offers to drive her. Last March, Jessica faced a painful round of chemotherapy, but her spirits were lifted by knowing that hundreds of people cared about her and were praying for her. And Jessica, her brothers, and her aunt have all begun attending the church that brought an Angel into their family. This year's Christmas season is still several months away, but the time to prepare for Angel Tree is now. Here's how the program works. Prison Fellowship cooperates with prison authorities to compile lists of children whose parents are behind bars. When your church or Bible study calls us, we'll send a list. When the Christmas season arrives, you'll write the children's names on angel-shaped ornaments and hang them on a Christmas tree. You can set the tree up in a church or shopping mall or just about anywhere. People who choose to participate choose an ornament from the tree and buy gifts for the child whose name appears there. These gifts are given to the child in the name of the child's own parent, who is incarcerated. Last Christmas, Angel Tree brought gifts to more than 490,000 children. Almost 70,000 volunteers from some 14,000 churches participated in this program to remind children of their incarcerated parents' love. But the impact of Angel Tree volunteers on the lives of these children doesn't stop at Christmas, as Jessica's story shows. Why don't you call BreakPoint, and we'll tell you how your church, Bible study, or business can participate in Angel Tree. [Or visit the Angel Tree website at for more information.] You can make a difference in a child's life--not just at Christmas, but for all eternity.


Chuck Colson


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