It was a few weeks before Christmas, and Mike Atkinson, the pastor of a church in Beckley, West Virginia, was helping the youth group set up an Angel Tree in the church narthex. As he helped the kids tie the cardboard angels onto the tree, Atkinson saw the usual gift requests: dolls, clothes, toys, action figures. And then his eye was caught by an unusual appealone that would bring a blessing to two families that Christmas.
The request was from a 14-year old girl who wanted a bicycle. Atkinson knew that a good bike would be far beyond the recommended price range for Angel Tree gifts. He considered leaving the ornament off the tree, but something stopped him.
If the angel was still there after the Sunday service, he decided, hed call the family and get another gift idea.
Two days later, worshipers began arriving for the morning service. Just before the service began, a woman Ill call Marie came into the church with her husband. Marie spotted the Angel Tree and started looking over the gift requests. When she came to the one asking for a bicycle, she froze.
Later, during the service, tears began rolling down Maries cheeks. Naturally, her husband wanted to know what was wrong. Unable to speak, Marie scribbled just a few words on a note and handed it to her husband.
Pastor Atkinson later said "Seven years ago, this couple lost their own 14-year old daughter, Carrie, in a tragic bus accident. Just before Carrie died, her parents had bought her a bicycle for her birthday. She had ridden it only once or twice."
Last Christmas Marie prayed that God would help her find just the right child to give Carries bicycle to. Two days later, she found her answer on the cardboard ornament.
On Christmas Eve, Marie and her husband came to the Angel Tree gift party, and watched the little girls face as the bicycle was rolled out. As Pastor Atkinson recalls, "its hard to put into words what everyone was feeling. It was truly what I call a holy moment. It was an answer to prayer for two familiesand a reminder that God works in mysterious ways."
Our staff and volunteers go through every prison in America, taking applications from incarcerated parents who tell us the names and locations of their children and whos taking care of them. These lists are then sent to churches and Christian groups, which contact the parent or caregiver of the child and find out what the child wants as a gift for Christmas. Then those requests are written on angel-shaped ornaments hung on Christmas trees.
Participants choose one and buy a gift for the child whose name appears there. Volunteers then deliver the gifts in the name of the incarcerated parents. And they take that opportunity to tell the children the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Every Christmas we are overwhelmed with stories of children finding Christ.
To find out more about Angel Tree call BreakPoint at 1-800-995-8777.
Youll be giving a blessing to an unknown childand through Gods grace, you may receive the biggest blessing of all.