Lori’s brother was given a 23-year sentence. Out of compassion Lori chose to raise her brother’s daughter. Becky was only 3 years old when Lori became her new mother. Since Becky’s dad was arrested close to Christmas, the season always came with difficult emotions. But when Becky was 5 years old, something new began showing up that reminded her of her daddy’s love: Angel Tree gifts, brought through Prison Fellowship’s Project Angel Tree. For the next 10 years Becky was an “Angel.” This means that from the age of 5 to the age of 15, Becky received regular gifts from her daddy, who was incarcerated. Every year, when the Angel Tree gifts were brought by local church volunteers, Becky jumped up and down with delight, because not only was she getting a Christmas gift, it was from her daddy.
As Becky entered her teens she gained a better understanding of her dad’s circumstances. She realized that her dad was not buying and sending the gifts to her by himself, but that caring people she had never met were volunteering their resources and time to bring her gifts in the name of her daddy. This experience gave Becky a deeper appreciation for the good that the Angel Tree gifts represented for so many years. Around this time both Lori and Becky began volunteering for Project Angel Tree in their own church. The heartfelt impact of the yearly Christmas gifts on Becky was all the inspiration Lori needed. Soon Lori was leading her church’s effort, and they were able to take gifts to as many as 100 children each year. The church often held an Angel Tree party and invited as many of the children and caregivers as could show up to experience a loving community. The remaining gifts were always delivered to the families that could not attend the party.
In one of these years, Lori and Becky sought to deliver a gift to a family that lived too far away to attend the party. Lori describes how difficult it was to find the family’s house. As they drove around searching the address listed on the Angel Tree application, she could not find the house. Suddenly, Becky spotted what looked like little more than a utility shack. “That can’t be their house; maybe we should go back,” Lori said. Becky pleaded, “We won’t know until we try knocking on the door!” Because of Becky’s insistence, Lori agreed and the two of them knocked on the door of the shack. The door was answered! The family was living in difficult circumstances without running water and electricity. The Angel Tree gifts were offered in the name of the incarcerated parent, and the family was very thankful. Lori and Becky both learned important lessons that day. Becky gained a valuable lesson in gratitude through seeing how difficult it can be for some families. And Lori learned the lesson, “If God sends you on a mission, don’t give up until he tells you to quit.”
Becky is now 27, married, and building her own family. Her dad is now out of prison. It’s difficult for Becky and her dad to build a relationship that didn’t have a chance to grow through the years. But because of 10 years of regular Angel Tree gifts, the door remained open for starting from scratch. More importantly, Becky grew up never questioning the love that God and others have for her.
-Testimony as shared with and written by Danny Duchene, National Director for CR Inside