The Angel Tree is one of the national programs of Prison Fellowship and Peace Lutheran has been a church partner with them every year since 2001. Our congregation looks forward to the Angel Tree making its appearance on the Sunday after Thanksgiving each year. The program starts with prison chaplains who work with prisoners to help them provide Christmas gifts for their children. They pass on these gift requests to area churches like ours and we contact the families and confirm the gift requests. The program is designed to help keep a bond between the parent in prison and the children who are missing them and it is also a great opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the families.
Angel tags are created and hung on the tree after each Church service until they are all gone. Each child in the program receives one gift. It can be a clothing gift or a fun gift such as a toy. Each gift should be valued between $15 and $25 dollars. The parameters for the gift are set by Prison Fellowship and followed so that there is equity among the children receiving gifts. The gift is purchased and then wrapped and returned to Peace with the angel tag attached. Gifts are then delivered to the families before Christmas and are presented to the child as coming from their parent in prison. We have served between 30 and 50 children each year.
Besides delivering the Christmas gift, it has become a tradition to also bring an age appropriate Bible or Bible story book for each child in the program. Our "Delivery Angels" (those volunteers who deliver the gifts to the child's home) sometimes have the opportunity to read to the child from the Bible and share the Gospel message. There have been many wonderful stories that have come back from these interactions at the children's homes.
The children who receive the gifts are so happy to know that they were not forgotten by their parent who is in prison. Both the prisoner and the custodial parent are always very grateful. As one prisoner wrote, “Thank you so much for the Christmas Angel Tree gifts for my children, it’s very gracious and appreciated! May the Lord bless you as you have blessed us.”