Home Christian News A Gift of Christmas Joy for the Children of the Incarcerated

A Gift of Christmas Joy for the Children of the Incarcerated

But the 33-year-old says the presents should be part of a larger effort by incarcerated parents to have a relationship with their children. In her case, her dad — who now works for Prison Fellowship — would tell her Bible stories during prison visits; talk to her about school, boys, sports and music; take interest in the books she was reading; and remember some classmates’ names.

“Little things like that…make the difference,” she said. “The Angel Tree gift is just the icing on the cake.”

The Salvation Army also has a program that sends Christmas gifts to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents in Minnesota and North Dakota. The initiative — separate from the Christian organization’s own Angel Tree program for low-income families — resumed this year after being canceled last year due to the pandemic, though it’s limited to North Dakota for now because of coronavirus restrictions.

“For the inmate, Prison Toy Lift provides a dignified way for the parent to be part of their child’s life at a very important time of the year,” said Brian Molohon, executive director of development for The Salvation Army Northern Division. “It is a tangible expression of love from the incarcerated parent and truly brings joy to the kiddos who might otherwise have only a painful memory of their parent’s absence.”

The prison ministry at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church delivered Christmas cards that were signed by members of different congregations and sent for inmates. The cards included messages of encouragement.

“Christmas is a tough time of the year for a lot of people,” said the Rev. Marilyn Schneider, the ministry’s coordinator. “But if you’re locked up and you don’t get to be with your family and friends or anyone from your life on the outside, and then someone reaches out and says, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you. We’re praying for you. We care about you. God loves you’ — it really, I think, has an impact.”

Schneider caught a glimpse of the project’s impact in a letter sent by a woman who once received one of the cards.

“I can’t explain what that personalized card meant to everyone; you could just feel the mood lifting up,” Schneider quoted the letter as saying. “Someone who doesn’t even know me thought of me.”

Another time, a former inmate encountered one of the ministry’s team members and let him know that he was carrying around, in his pocket, the Christmas card he had received, Schneider said, adding many prisoners might not get other mail.

“We believe Jesus really had a passion for caring for those on the fringes of society,” Schneider said. She hopes the effort inspires those writing the cards to continue thinking about prisoners and seeking ways to become involved.

Chaplain Carmelo Urena offered one suggestion.