The First Christmas is a fresh retelling of the nativity story for children who know nothing of Jesus. Thanks to your generosity, last year we were able to give away 80,000 copies, including some to children with a parent in prison.
Imagine how tough it must be, when you’re a child, having a mum or dad in prison. There are awkward questions from school friends that you don’t know how to answer. At home, you learn not to talk about that parent who is doing time but you miss them so much that your heart aches.
You’ve been deprived of a parent through no fault of your own but it doesn’t stop you loving them, or them loving you. And that can be particularly difficult at Christmas.
The Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Project brings some much-needed joy to children of prisoners at Christmas. Volunteers work with local churches and prison chaplains to buy, wrap and deliver a Christmas gift to them, as if that gift had come from their parent. And thanks to the generosity of SU supporters, the parent can also choose to give their child a copy of SU’s The First Christmas.
Dan McNamara, a prison chaplaincy volunteer, was involved with the gift distribution last Christmas at HMP Ford, an open prison in Sussex with around five hundred inmates. He says, ‘I’ve seen for myself how The First Christmas changes lives’.
"I’ve seen for myself how The First Christmas changes lives."
Hope where it's needed most
‘One of the prisoners, Steve, was a real tough guy; you wouldn’t mess with him. Nobody came to visit him – his crimes had estranged him from his own family, including his own parents and his 5-year-old son Ben who he hadn’t seen in three years. Mostly he was a closed book. But when he spoke about his son, he softened.
‘When we asked if he’d like us to send Ben a toy for Christmas, along with a copy of SU’s The First Christmas, he jumped at the opportunity. So we got a toy train, and Steve wrote a personal message to his son in a Christmas card.
‘As Christmas drew nearer, the prison chaplain and family engagement officer were working behind the scenes to persuade Steve’s ex-partner to make the journey down from London with Ben to visit. I’m sure the fact that Steve wanted to give his son a gift helped sway her.
‘And so it was that Ben and his mum arrived at HMP Ford for the Christmas family day. Steve got to spend two hours with his son – he told me afterwards how much it meant to him, seeing his son’s face light up when he tore the wrapping off his gifts. They played together with the train, then Steve hoisted Ben onto his knee and read him The First Christmas. And as he read, he said he realised that what was important was his son, how stupid he’d been to commit a crime, and how much he truly wanted to be a better dad.
‘The last time I saw Steve was a few months later, shortly before he was released from prison. His parting words to me were, “You won’t see me in here again.” And he really meant it.'
"...he told me afterwards how much it meant to him, seeing his son’s face light up when he tore the wrapping off his gifts"
You can share the real meaning of Christmas!
It’s not too late to donate to our appeal and get a copy of The First
Christmas into the hands of a child who needs to hear its message
of hope. Donate online here or call us
on 01908 856000
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