Last Sunday our church hosted an Angel Tree Christmas Party for over 150 children and the family members of inmates. Angel Tree is a ministry of Prison Fellowship that connects the children of inmates to churches, ministries and individuals who want to brighten up their Christmas.
In Canyon, we participated in Angel Tree, but our participation ended with the dropping off of the Christmas presents to the homes of the children. I really enjoyed taking the relationship a step further by having the party and sharing an El Paso style Christmas dinner of enchiladas, rice and beans around the table.
One of the activities of the evening was the making of Christmas Family pictures. While the children waited for their pictures to be taken I had an opportunity to talk to them and get to know them better. One of the things that struck me was how these boys and girls reminded me of my own children. Their eyes lite up at the sight of the Christmas tree and their smiles reached from ear to ear when they saw the table full of brightly wrapped Christmas gifts.
It was hard to imagine the life these boys and girls experienced. I was especially drawn to the teenagers, who were growing up in a world disrupted by the choices of their parents. As all social workers know these children are at risk of falling into the same vicious cycle of despair that claimed their parents.
When Jesus began his earthly ministry he chose the words of Isaiah 61 as his marching orders:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners
As I witnessed the events of Sunday evening, I could see the darkness being driven back by the power of love.
Additional Note: Several of our members wanted to take this relationship one step further so Sunday a van will be running to pick up many of these children and their families to worship with us Sunday. I can hardly wait to see them.