Chuck Colson: Jim Liske, the CEO of Prison Fellowship, recently told me one of the most exciting Angel Tree stories I’ve ever heard. I’ve asked Jim to share that with you today. Jim?
Jim Liske: Thanks Chuck. This is an exciting story. It begins 36 years ago when a young husband and wife — both heroin addicts — knocked on the door of an elderly couple’s home in Harlem. They asked for a drink of water for their children, aged two and five. Once inside, the father pulled out a knife. He tied up the residents while his wife searched the apartment for valuables.
It was a routine they had repeated many times until they were finally caught, convicted and sent to prison. Their children — including five-year-old Michael Carrion — were sent to live with strict grandparents. The experience of losing both of his parents, and having his life turned upside-down, was traumatic for little Michael.
Then one day, a few days before Christmas, there was a knock on his grandparents' door. On the porch was a tall, African-American man with a huge box in his arms. Michael's father had recently accepted Christ through a Prison Fellowship ministry, and had signed Michael and his sister up for Angel Tree, Prison Fellowship's gift-giving program for the children of prisoners. Michael tore open the box. Inside was a big game board with men in armour. Michael loved it. His sister unwrapped a doll.
But an even better gift was the message from the man who'd delivered the gifts.
“You know your dad can't see you right now,” the volunteer told Michael. “He wants me to tell you he loves you. Jesus loves you too, and will heal your family. Things are not always going to be this way.” And then the stranger got down on his knees, and he prayed with Michael.
As Michael — now an adult — recalls: “Love was extended to me by an Angel Tree volunteer. That never left me.”
Folks, this man went the extra mile, comforting Michael and praying for him.
The fatherless boy had some rough years ahead, especially when he hit his teen years. But in time he, too, accepted Christ. The little boy who missed his dad is now is now the Reverend Dr. Carrion, a full-time minister at The Promised Land Covenant Church in the Bronx. The church has two sister congregations, both in the spiritual trenches: One is located at a drug rehab center, the other inside a prison.
And yes — Michael's church takes part in Angel Tree every Christmas. Unlike most pastors, he knows what it means to grieve for a missing dad — and how much it means to receive a gift from him at Christmas.
And that's where you come in. I'm hoping that everyone who hears this broadcast will encourage his or her own church to take part in Angel Tree this year. There's no time to lose; we need churches to sign up right away. For more information, please, call 1-800-55-Angel, or visit our website, www.angeltree.org.
You never know whose life you may touch — children who desperately need not only the love of their fathers behind bars, but also of their heavenly Father.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.
Publication date: September 28, 2011