Shoes, Underwear — and Christ

When you don't have shoes and underwear, a toy really doesn't matter that much. That's what former Prison Fellowship staffer Jennifer King discovered when she accompanied some children on an Angel Tree shopping spree at a Phoenix K-Mart. Among the children were the six Estaban kids, whose father was in prison. When they were invited to join the Angel Tree shopping trip, their mother canvassed her neighbors, hoping to borrow some shoes for each youngster to wear while shopping. Inside their small trailer, a meager pile of hand-me-downs comprised the family's whole wardrobe. Four-year-old Lindy pulled out her "party dress" for the occasion: a well-worn, adult-sized T-shirt. "They had almost nothing," said King. "Nothing, but a lot of love!" that is. But K-Mart employees, working with volunteers from local churches, were eager to treat the Estabans and other Angel Tree children to a festive Christmas celebration -- one that included breakfast and a twenty-dollar gift certificate for each child to spend on anything in the store that he wanted. Most of the children who come into that store make a beeline to the toy section, grabbing Barbie dolls, Power Rangers, and games. Not the Estaban kids. Instead, they headed straight for the shoes and underwear. When King and others realized what was happening, they held a quick consultation. They agreed to use additional Angel Tree funds to cover the clothing needs of the children. Nudging the Estaban children toward the toy section, they encouraged them to pick out something "fun." Even then, the children cheerfully selected school supplies -- paper, colored markers, and scissors. Both the K-Mart employees and Scottsdale Bible Church were touched by the children's selflessness -- and decided to unofficially adopt the Estabans. The store donated new clothing, food, and toys. The church helped locate furniture and started preparing weekly food boxes. They made plans to send the school-aged kids to Christian summer camps and Vacation Bible School. The suburban Scottsdale congregation also teamed up with an inner-city Phoenix church to make ministry opportunities more accessible to the Estabans. What a wonderful story and an example for all of us. This is what we should be doing to rescue all of these inner-city kids. And this story shows us as well that Angel Tree often changes the lives, not only of the children it serves, but also of the servers. This Christmas, Prison Fellowship hopes to deliver gifts to more than half a million children of prisoners -- clothing and toys that are given on behalf of their parents behind bars. But as I broadcast, there are still 60,000 children unclaimed who won't receive gifts unless someone steps in to help. If you want to send a gift -- and God's love -- to a prisoner's child this year, please call 1-800-55-ANGEL. Two thousand years ago, the Christ child was born in a stable -- the Child of homeless parents. He had nothing, but strangers brought him gifts that would be used to help feed and clothe Him. Through Angel Tree, you and I have the privilege of bringing gifts to modern-day children who are in the same desperate circumstances. May we never forget how much we owe to that holy Baby, and may we never stop serving "the least of these" -- children like the Estabans -- in His name. For further reading and information: Please help support the ministry of Angel Tree. Donate online or call 1-800-55- ANGEL. We're also still looking for volunteer churches and community groups to deliver gifts and the Gospel to prisoners' children this Christmas. Sign up today for the free daily Angel Tree Advent e-mail newsletter and don't miss another edition. Read past stories here. Charles Colson and Mark Earley, Six Million Angels (Servant, 2003). BreakPoint Commentary No. 041210, "Angelic Intervention: Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree Program." Dante Delvecchio, "Area churches help to bring some holiday cheer to children of prisoners," Times-Herald (Philadelphia, Pa.), 13 December 2004. Christopher Hall, "Churches, sorority spread holiday joy: Children of jailed parents to get gifts," Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), 11 December 2004.


Chuck Colson


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