Every year kindhearted people across Chicagoland purchase Christmas gifts for loved ones. They take great care to find just the right size and color. It’s a gift that brings joy to hearts and a smile to the faces, not just to the people opening the gifts, but also the people who wrapped the gifts.
This past Christmas season 26 churches and organizations participated in CPO’s Angels of Hope program. This annual CPO tradition provided Christmas gifts to 222 families who have loved ones incarcerated. Compelled by Christ’s free gift for all of us, hundreds of families budgeted money and saved so that they could purchase gifts for people they did not know. Rev. Brooks of Canaan Community Church says, "We have been participating with Angels of Hope Christmas Outreach for 6 or 7 years now and it has become a highlight of our year.” Some churches open their doors to receiving families “where we had their gifts under the tree. We then read the Christmas story together,” said Pastor Puett of Crosswinds Church “and then prayed over the family. Then each family member opened one gift. The joy that was experienced by the family overflowed to our church family.”
But many take the gifts, these physical incarnations of Christ love, straight to the receiving families homes. The interactions with the receiving families can be an amazing time of learning, worshipping, and creating relationship. Katie from Parkview Church shared about her gift delivery in New Lenox, “Beth is 38, and is living in a 2 bedroom apartment with 5 children. Some are her’s and some are her boyfriend’s. The kids vary in age from 5 to 15. She often has other kids crash at her place when they need to. Her boyfriend John was incarcerated in August. This is not his first time through. Beth is really hoping his 3 1/3 year time will heal him. She openly admitted that her and her boyfriend have had alcohol and drug issues in the past. Her boyfriend is on his 3 or 4 DUI conviction and she also has one or two. When we got there she was very welcoming, she even helped us carry in the stuff. She invited us in to talk for awhile. You could tell that she is so desperate for an adult friend to talk to.”
These God ordained opportunities are not just about giving Christmas gifts. Rev. Brooks recently told CPO that, “We pray, sit, laugh, and talk with the families and then we gather back together and share about our time. It is always a rich and fulfilling time, so much so, I tell Canaan that at least once a year everyone gets to preach the sermon because we always receive far more encouragement than we provide and the sharing time is powerful.”
Would you consider taking part in the Angels of Hope program in 2016? Contact Noreen for more information.