By Nancy Dobbins
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Elmo by Nancy Dobbins
It was Christmas. My husband was in prison. I cried a lot. Haranguing thoughts constantly whirled around my head.
"How can I possibly forgive him? How can I ever live this down? How can I go on?"
That was twenty-three years ago. Last Sunday, tears filled my eyes as I fingered an Angel Tree ornament. I recalled how angry I'd felt 23 years earlier. Then I remembered all the people who had been the hands and feet of Jesus to me back then. They'd given me the courage to endure and to truly forgive my husband.
As I stared at the Christmas tree filled with Angel Tree angels, I thought of the children of prisoners who would accept the gifts. Would they feel angry and filled with shame like I had 23 years earlier? Would they take on the guilt of their parent in prison? Would they think their friends hated them for what their mom or dad had done? Would they think, "I'll just end up like my parent?"
As my eyes misted over, I thanked God for the bright future that my friends and family had instilled in me in the last 23 years. I scanned the gift wishes of the angels hanging on the tree and prayed, "Lord, help me choose one that will transform a child with Your love."
My eyes danced when I found the gift wish, "Elmo or musical toy."
"Elmo?!? How perfect! His laughter is so contagious!”
So I bought Elmo and prayed, "Lord, let every peal of laughter bring a bucket-load of God's joy! Let his red fur remind the family of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and bring salvation.” Then I prayed daily for God to bless the family.
Laughter had healed Norman Cousins 23 years ago, but Angel Tree has a much better gift than just laughter—the love of God. Countless families have been restored to God’s love through a simple gift given in the name of a prisoner. Mary Kay Beard started this ministry in 1982. She was a former bank robber whose life was dramatically altered in prison by the gospel.
More than nine million children have been touched by Angel Tree in the last 30 years. Angel Tree is just one part of Prison Fellowship. Other ways they reach children of inmates include mentoring programs and summer camp outreaches. Some churches, like Shiloh Christian Ministries in Sierra Vista, Arizona, also sponsor clothing giveaways, school backpack outreaches, Christmas parties, and monthly newsletter mailings.
Would you like to help a child find a brighter future? Project Angel Tree can help you do that. You could buy an Angel Tree gift, pray for the families, or ask your church to join Angel Tree. You could also donate.
Would you like to join us in impacting shattered lives with the hope of the gospel?
by Nancy Dobbins
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