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December 26, 2013

‘Generosity of Strangers’: Angel Tree ministry helps children separated from parents

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Christmas can be a hard time, especially if you have to spend it away from a loved one.  In those times, people often have to rely on family to make things a little easier and occasionally, the love and generosity of a total stranger.

For the last 11 years, First Baptist Church in London has participated in a very special ministry, the Angel Tree program, to share the love of Jesus Christ and to help make the holiday season a little brighter for these families.

The church held their annual Angel Tree party on Wednesday night, inviting around 60 children and their caregivers to join them for food, fellowship and presents.

The Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program was founded by Chuck Colson in 1976 for the purpose of reaching out to the children of inmates and their families at Christmas, a time when families should come together.

“I heard about Angel Tree on the radio several years ago, on K-Love, and I felt like God was speaking directly to me. I thought, ‘we need to do this,’” said Kim Smith, director of children’s ministry at FBC.

Through the nationwide program, prisoners sign their child or children up to receive Angel Tree gifts. Through the registry, children are connected with a church in their home area, and that church calls the children’s current caregiver for permission to purchase Christmas gifts for them.

Families can refuse, but according to Smith, not many do.

Each child gets two gifts — one gift of clothing and one toy. The gifts are said to be from the parent, Smith said.

What is perhaps most special to children who participate in FBC’s annual ministry is the personal message to the child written by their incarcerated parent.

Charlie Brock has been participating in the program his whole life.

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