Christmas Spirit 1
Johnny Jones, 20 December 2002

I have baked nothing for Christmas. My trash cans are full. My living room is a mess - scraps of paper, boxes, wrapped packages, and a box of Poppycock on the table. And Amy's future in-laws are coming on Sunday for their first visit to our home.

So it sounds like I don't care about Christmas at all, to be so unprepared.

But I do care. That's precisely why everything is a disaster. I have spent the past week working on Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree gifts for children of prisoners.

Not alone. Without your help we could not have served dozens of families, or close to 60 children. I am so happy that these families will have gifts in the names of their incarcerated fathers (or mothers).

As I told you last week, I was determined to get gifts to the 16 children in the Salem area. Those children had sponsors or gifts by the time the paper came out; I made an announcement at our church, and the Lord touched hearts to give. I am amazed by the generosity that would motivate such a last-minute outpouring of money and time.

Then Janice, our state field director, sent me more names, of children in a wider radius around here - children from Bunker and Licking and Black and Fredericktown and Bismarck, and even farther afield.

So I spent my days on the phone, while Amy worked and Chip did Christmas cards and Bryan studied for his qualifiers.

I wanted to share with you, without using any names, some of the adventures I had calling people. Some were parents, many were grandparents, some were foster parents.

Not all of them wanted to receive a gift on behalf of the children's father right away. One lady said, "Why should she want anything from him? He's totally ignored her since she's been born!"

Another of the children was a surprise. The mother didn't have a working phone, so I contacted the grandfather. When I tried to verify the children's ages, he said, "I didn't know about that youngest one." Oops!

At first I left my number on answering machines. The calls I received back had voices that sounded grateful that someone cared.

When I asked for prayer requests, so many of the mothers, or wives, or sisters, wanted us to remember their family member in prison. One mother told me, "He made a mistake, but now he's right with the Lord." I believe that, because Christmas is about redemption. We can make mistakes and still be made new. We can be changed.

One grandmother told me that her son had told his daughter she would be getting something from him for Christmas. That was the last phone call I made - I was awfully glad I got through to them! She also said the Dad writes his daughter every week, and calls her.

One of the families was disappointed because they had expected a release date before Christmas, and that didn't happen.  "His son was so upset!" the grandmother said.

I would tell you more, but I've really got to go. I have to get to Rolla to buy the rest of the gifts, including some things from the Christian book store there. After all, that's why I went to the trouble. It's not out of my own heart, but out of God's heart that good gifts come. I'm just glad He can use me in a simple way.

May He bless your Christmas and your hearts. And those who helped me help others - thank you!