Celebrate Recovery® Principle 8 says, “Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words.” There is no better way to be used by God to carry his message of love to others than by helping with Angel Tree, a program run by Prison Fellowship that brings Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents. When Prison Fellowship partnered with Celebrate Recovery to help meet the needs of these children, it was a match made in heaven.
What makes Celebrate Recovery perfect for Angel Tree? Our focus on healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are the secret sauce of Celebrate Recovery. These relationships include a healthy relationship with God as well as with others in the CR family. Angel Tree is acting on Principle 8 by taking the healthy relationships of our CR family into the lives of children and families with a mom or dad in prison.
This is a vital service because mental health researchers have shown that when a child experiences the separation and incarceration of a parent, it can lead to increased physical and mental health problems throughout the child’s life. It can also lead to less resistance to peer pressure and a greater likelihood of entering a life of substance abuse and incarceration. In other words, unless there is a positive intervention in the child’s life, a cycle of generational incarceration begins to unfold.
I was a child of incarcerated parents. I know firsthand what it feels like to have my family devastated and separated by my parents’ crime and incarceration. I felt abandoned, afraid, and angry. No one around me understood what I was going through. In 1979, there was no one from Celebrate Recovery or Angel Tree who could help me resolve the feelings of shame and isolation as a result of my parents’ arrest. Instead, I escaped into drug addiction, resulting in crime and imprisonment.
Years later, I began working through the principles of Celebrate Recovery with my group and my sponsor. These relationships helped me understand the importance of having caring people in my life. I was able to work through my recovery struggles with someone who cared, rather than isolating with difficult feelings.
This is the impact of reaching out to the children and families of the incarcerated during Christmas. It lets these families know that they are not alone, they are not isolated, and they do not have to hide the struggles they face. My sponsor and fellow group members don’t have to be perfect to help me through my struggles; they just need to show up and care. The same is true for participating in Angel Tree. Just showing up and caring enough to bring a Christmas gift to a child can have a lifelong positive impact on the child’s life. Your CR family and Angel Tree truly are a match made in heaven!