From Crack to Christmas

  Hundreds of thousands of prisoners' kids will be celebrating Christmas this year because of your unselfish gifts to Angel Tree! Christian volunteers across America, working through local churches, will give more than a half million of these often-forgotten children wonderful Christmas gifts, and -- best of all -- the gift of Jesus Christ! Let me tell you about a family that Angel Tree helped put on the right path. Armel and Sharmel, whose parents Marilyn and Armel Sr. were long-time crack users, lived on Cleveland, Ohio's dirty inner-city streets. To support a growing drug habit, Marilyn sold plasma to blood banks, and Armel Sr. robbed stores. Before long, Armel Sr. landed in prison. Marilyn and the children ended up in a Salvation Army's homeless shelter. During Marilyn's visit to the prison, Armel Sr. told his wife: "I'm going to get my life together. I've been running from God too long. You need to seek after God, too." Armel Sr. then became active in the Prison Fellowship Bible studies. And his wife Marilyn attended a special church service at the prison where she gave her life to Christ. Angel Tree became a ray of hope to the kids, Armel and Sharmel, as well. Through Prison Fellowship Bible studies, Armel Sr. signed up his kids for Angel Tree programs. Angel Tree church volunteers brought the children pajamas and underwear, a remote-control sports car for Armel, and a baby doll for Sharmel, along with Bibles and Christian literature. Through the help of our DeVos Scholarships, Armel and Sharmel attended a week-long "Joy of Living" Christian summer camp. They enjoyed horseback riding and tubing, as well as daily Bible studies, morning worship, and prayer times. Both children gave their lives to Christ at camp. Marilyn noticed the difference in the children after the camp experience. "The change is amazing," she said. "When the kids got home, they couldn't wait to show off the Bible verses they had learned. Their attitudes have improved . . . and I know God has used Angel Tree to renew all of our minds and spirits." When Armel Sr. was released from prison, the family began attending church together. When, down the road, they experienced some hard times and slipped back into some bad habits, Angel Tree volunteers kept in touch with the family. They continued to minister to them through the Christmas and camp programs. The family is back at church now. Marilyn attends a Wednesday night Bible study. Armel Sr. hopes to join her soon. The children are enrolled in children's church programs. "We're going to do it God's way now, and not in our own strength," Marilyn says. "Things are getting a whole lot better." It is so wonderful to know that in the midst of homelessness, brokenness, addiction, and even imprisonment, God's faithful hand never leaves hurting families. We at PFM, through Angel Tree at Christmas and Angel Tree camping in the summer, will continue to reach out to prisoners and their kids, surrounding them with our love, telling them about and showing them God's love. So this Christmas, why not give a gift of eternal worth by getting involved in Angel Tree? And maybe get your church to sign up as well. In doing so, you'll be helping to give hope and the Gospel to kids like Armel and Sharmel -- and reconciling whole families as well. For further information: Visit the Angel Tree Website or call 1-800-55-ANGEL for more information about what you and your church can do for prisoners' children this Christmas. BreakPoint commentary no. 020827, "The Gift of a Left-Behind Present: What One Woman Can Do." Charles Honey, "Billionaire Shares Wisdom Gleaned from Faith and Business," Newhouse News Service, 2000. Rich DeVos, Hope from My Heart: Ten Lessons for Life (J. Countryman Books, 2000). Digby Anderson, "How to Be Happy: Research proves left-wing policies can't help," Wall Street Journal, 29 September 2002.


Chuck Colson


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