News in November 2016:
You can become right now an Angel for one child of prisoner and you can donate a Christmas gift or financial support for one child or more children. Please, contact us!
Thank you for your generosity: firstname.lastname@example.org or +420/ 602 308 210
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic (Mezinarodni Vezenske Spolecenstvi – MVS) was founded in November 2010 and became an affiliate of the worldwide organization Prison Fellowship International in summer 2011. MVS is a Christian ecumenical social movement and cooperates with church denominations within the country, as well as state and non-profit organizations. MVS targets prisoners and their families (especially children), ex-offenders, victims of crime and all those affected by crime (e.g. prison personnel and chaplains). MVS strives to reduce the social, material and spiritual harm caused by crime and incarceration, which affects offenders and their families as well as victims of crime. MVS programs include: Angel Tree, a program in which gifts are sent to children of inmates with a personal letter from the parent included with the gift; pre- and post-release programs; Club for ex-offenders; ongoing collection of hygienic items for women inmates; letter writing and sending of parcels by volunteers; Sycamore Tree project, a program of restorative dialogue between victims and offenders of unrelated crimes; program of support of the mothers’ and children’s unit in the women’s prison; concerts within various prisons; Five Faces of the Wall annual benefit concert in which individuals share their stories, between musical sets, from one of five groups of people affected by crime – victims, offenders, ex-offenders, prison employees, and families of inmates.
OVERVIEW OF PRISON FELLOWSHIP CZECH REPUBLIC
What we do, and Why by dr. B. Losiewicz
The goal of PFCR, is to demonstrate the love of God to all those affected by crime in a loving and tangible way. We begin, every advent season, with a nation-wide Week of Prayer in Czech churches asking for God’s Justice to prevail for Prisons, Prisoners, Prisoner’s families, Victims, those who work for the prison system, and for all those in society damaged by crime.
Throughout the year local Christian individuals and Churches provide much needed and much appreciated hygienic items for the women’s prison in Svetla na Sazavou: soap, shampoo, sanitary napkins, deodorants, toilet papers , hand lotions, toothpaste – basic necessities that are too costly for the women to afford, and otherwise in short supply in the budget-strapped prison.
In addition, throughout the year, local Christians donate books, Bibles, and clothing and craft supplies for prisoners. Individual Christians also develop relationships with individual prisoners by sending regular letters and packages. Envelopes, papers and pens, stamps, news from the outside world – even the small things are much appreciated.
Reduction of Recidivism: It is no surprise to us as Christians that the love of God, as expressed by His people and by His precepts, can bear remarkable fruit in the lives of prisoners and ex-prisoners. Let’s look a little closer at how that love, and those precepts, help reduce recidivism (the return of an ex-prisoner to prison for a new crime) and help ex-prisoners return to society with a new set of healthy, productive, non-criminal behaviors and attitudes.
The Prisoners Dilemma: You’ve done something very wrong, and you’ve gone to prison. What hope is there now? You’ve messed everything up and don’t know where or how to start over, or even maintain what you had before prison. Your wife lost her husband, she lost her economic support, your kids lost their dad, you are ashamed of yourself – what next? Where do you go for help?
Society’s Dilemma: A person who commits a crime, damages people, and damages society. Our societal solution is to separate that person from society, for a time (prison), where at least temporarily they can do no more harm. Hopefully, the imprisonment will encourage them to stop their damaging behavior, and turn over a new leaf – returning to society as new people who no longer choose to engage in criminal activity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Far fewer than half of released prisoners succeed in rebuilding a new crime-free life after prison.
But there is hope. Secular researchers have found a four things that characterize those who do succeed in creating a new crime-free life after prison:
- Repentance and Inner Change
- Maintaining and Building Family Ties
- Development of Realistic Expectations and Practical Skills
- A New Set of Healthy Relationships with non-criminal friends
As you read, further, you will hear about specific ways in which various PFCR programs encourage these four healthy characteristics in their programs for prisoners and ex-prisoners.
PFCZ PROGRAMS TO ENCOURAGE FOUR BASIC HEALTHY CHARACTERISTICS IN THE LIVES OF PRISONERS AND EX-PRISONERS
Repentance and inner change
Sycamore Tree: a bible-story based program encouraging repentance and restoration
Video Letters: videotaped apologies to families and victims (in planning)
Maintaining and building family ties
Angel Tree: Christmas presents for children of incarcerated parent
Audio Letters: Parent-recorded bedtime stories for prisoners‘ children (in planning)
Mothers and children in prison: Regular visits to the women’s prison department for mothers living there with their children under 3 years old
Development of realistic expectations and practical skills
Prerelease program: regular in-prison meetings with soon-to-be released prisoners
A new set of healthy relationships with non-criminal friends
Letter Writing: Regular correspondence by letter with selected volunteers
Visits: Individual and group visits with incarcerated prisoners
Club Dve Ryby: social club for ex-offenders, families and friends
Meet you at the Prison Gate: On request, we meet released prisoners at the prison gate and help them settle into housing, and provide practical help and basic support until they are established.
Post-release mentoring: One-on one and group meetings with local Christian volunteer mentors – for coffee and friendship; access to crisis help by telephone.
Interested in hearing more about one of these specific programs? Read on!
PFCZ PROGRAMS (in alphabetical order)
Angel Tree and Audio Letters: You love your dad. He was always there for you. He pitched the baseball low so you could hit it, and he read you bedtime stories every night. Then, one day, he is gone. The other grown-ups are distracted and upset. Your dad has gone to prison. He won’t be back for years. Children caught in this situation often do not understand. Where is their dad (or mom)? Why did they go away? Don’t they love them anymore? Imagine your delight when, come Christmas morning there is a letter from your dad – and a Christmas present from him under the tree. He didn’t forget you after all! He still loves you!
A generation after founder Prison Fellowship Chuck Colson started Angel Tree program in the United States, we are starting to hear the stories of now-grown-up Angel Tree Children – how the receipt of letters and presents from their incarcerated parents helped fill the gap in their heart caused by the absence of their parent. The gifts, for a young child, is a tangible „I love you“ they can understand.
Last year local donors, organized by volunteer PRCR staff, provided Christmas gifts for more than 400 children of incarcerated parents together with personal letters of from parents in prisons.
PFCR is also setting up a program to provide audio recordings of incarcerated parents reading bedtime stories to their children left at home – another tangible „I love you.“
Club Dve Ryby Twice a month, ex-prisoners, family, friends and volunteers meet in an informal social gathering with coffee and snacks. Everyone is invited, and the talk often lasts far into the evening as ex-prisoners share stories, experiences, advice and friendship with other ex-prisoners, friends, families and volunteers.
The name of the club „two fishes“ reminds us that even the smallest gift to others, like the two fishes given to Jesus by the little boy in the Bible story, can in God’s hands „feed“ thousands.
Hygenic Items Prisoners often have little or no money to buy needed hygienic items in the prison store, and these items are often in short supply in the budget-strapped prison. Several times a year our volunteers deliver a car-load of shampoo, soap, toilet paper, hand lotion, sanitary napkins, deodorant, etc., which are very much welcomed by the women, and by the prison administration, and serve as tangible evidence of God’s love for everyone.
Letter Writing and Packages to Prison Selected trained volunteer engage in a year round ministry by corresponding with prisoners via the Prison Fellowship mailing address. For some prisoners this is the only contact they have with the outside world. Letters are followed by packages with clothing, hygienic items and food as an expression to God’s love to the prisoner.
Meet you at the Prison Gate and Post-release Mentoring Imagine you woke one morning to find yourself in a strange place – it looked oddly familiar, and the people spoke your language, yet everything was new and strange. You had nothing but yourself, the clothes you were wearing, and the bus ticket you just used to return to your home town after 10 years away. But it didn’t feel like home anymore. You didn’t know exactly how to go about finding food, or housing, or even a friend. What next?
Even though it would feel like starting from zero, it really wouldn’t be for most of us. Most of us have a variety of personal inner resources we can rely on to rebuild our life. We have a past history of successes, good parents, honest friends, job and living skills. With time, we can build again to where we were before.
In contrast, most ex-prisoners don’t even have that personal capital. Many have never known anyone in their life who really cared. If they weren’t ignored as children they were often outright abused. Many of their old friends are criminals. They didn’t have many successes even before prison, and now they are outright pariahs with no one to count on.
Christ says to us – „I was just out of prison, and you welcomed me. You provided a care package with a comb and shampoo and pen and paper. You gave me an umbrella when it rained, and bought me shoes. One of your friends, at your request, donated some clothes and some furniture and some laundry soap. And some craft supplies or tools when I had nothing.“ And you reply, Lord, when did this happen? And he replied: „as you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me“.
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic offers crucial re-entry assistance to ex-offenders: someone to meet them at the prison gate and take care of their immediate needs; someone to listen to their story, care, and help them think thru and implement long term solutions; clothes, basic hygiene items, low cost housing, counseling, friendship, referrals when needed. Research shows that the first 3 months post-release set the pattern that will either keep the prisoner free, or see their return to their old criminal lifestyle and return to prison. The single most important factor in success is having a mentor, a helping hand and a model for inner and outer change.
Mothers and children in prison Svetla nad Sazavou Women’s Prison in the Czech Republic has an innovative women-with-children’s unit, where children under three years of age and can live with their mother. Prison Fellowship Director Gabriela Kabatova and Board Member Kelly Prudek had been making regular visits to that unit for half a decade before PFCR was founded. Their ministry there continues under the aegis of PFCR. Gabriela and Kelly and other volunteers continue to make regular visits to the mothers and children. They organize Christmas presents, Christmas parties, toys, and spend time monthly with the mothers and their children. The smiles with which they are always greeted is a sight to behold!
Sycamore Tree We are really excited about the imminent start of PRCR’s Sycamore Tree Program. Whether conducted in prisons, or outside of prisons, ST volunteer coordinators lead small groups of prisoners or ex-prisoners and victims of (unrelated) crimes in eight weeks of guided discussions of the effects of crime on people and on society. The discussions, which are based on Bible stories, allow the participants to discuss the issues in the abstract, focusing on the characters (Zacheus, Onesimus) in the stories and not on themselves. After a few sessions, however, many participants start to see the application of the issues to themselves, and there have been dramatic changes of heart in worldwide ST programs as both prisoners and victims come to personal terms with the biblical principles of repentance, forgiveness, inner change and restitution.
Video Letters This program, which is still in the planning stage, allows prisoners who are sorry for their crimes to make a video letter to their families, or in some cases to their victims, expressing their remorse and their apologies for the harm they have done. This is often a breakthrough event to begin to repair family relationships that have been seriously strained by the incarceration of one member.
Visits to Prison and Pre Release Program PFCZ volunteers make both individual and group visits to prisoners on a regular basis. While legal technicalities do not allow us to conduct an official worship service or bible study, there are no limitations on personal witnessing. One of our goals is to develop mentoring friendships in prison that can then be a source of social and spiritual support for ex-prisoners when they are released.
Once a month a group of volunteers conduct a Pre-Release Program for a selected group of women at Svetla nad Sazavou Women’s prison where the goal is to help the women develop appropriate attitudes and expectations in preparation for release.
Week of Prayer Every year, during the first week of Advent, PFCR joins with Prison Fellowship International in sponsoring a nationwide Week of Prayer – organizing Churches and individual Christians to pray for God’s Justice to abound, for prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, families, prison officials and who are adversely affected by crime.
Approach to Restorative Justice
I have been a teacher for more decades than I care to count, but the most interesting teaching experience I ever had was watching participants‘ faces when I gave a sample Sycamore Tree lesson to an audience of volunteers, supporters, and prison officials in the Czech Republic. Knowing the materials in advance, I knew that I did not have to do anything but present the materials, and then could be silent and watch the Holy Spirit work as the audience thought through the guided questions about the bible stories. I would like to share that experience with you as a concrete experience of how God’s word works in the heart of man. But first, a little background.
Prison Fellowship International’s in-prison Restorative Justice Program „Sycamore Tree
Tree,“ is named after the tree Zaccheus climbed in order to to see Jesus. After his encounter with Jesus, Zaccheus changed dramatically. He repented, apologized, and made restitution for the offenses he had committed against the community he lived in. The Sycamore Tree program does not preach, but merely presents bibles stories for consideration and discussion to a group of prisoners and unrelated victims. The stories are chosen to illustrate some basic truths about human nature that are true across cultures:
1) all humans commit offenses against others,
2) all human beings tend to make excuses for their own bad behavior, and
3) in order to find peace and healing, all human beings need to repent, and make restoration (when possible) for the wrong they have done.
4) Forgiveness is better than vengeance
In order to be open and respectful of prisoners and victims from all cultures and religious backgrounds, Sycamore Tree is not faith promoting, although it is unapologetically faith -based. We present the bible stories and trust the Holy Spirit Himself to do His work in the hearts of participants. We operate from the belief that Jesus has something important to say to each human being, addressing the basic needs of man, the deepest heart of man – victims and offenders alike.
The Sycamore Tree program has been implemented in at least one country in every continent in the world, and has an excellent track record for helping prisoners come to recognize and repent of the harm they have done others, and for helping victims find healing, and the ability to forgive.
In order to give you a small taste of what we do, and what God can do, we reproduce here an excerpt from the Sycamore Tree Program (with the permission of PFI). We offer it to you because we ourselves are astonished at how God can cut through the Gordian knot of recurring cycles of injustice and crime with a simple message to individual men. Here, for your thoughtful consideration, is the story of Philemon, a slave owner; and Onesimus, a criminal, who lived in an unjust world, who met Jesus, and repented of his own crimes in spite of the past injustices he himself had endured.
Excerpt from PFI Sycamore Tree Program: The story of Philemon
My name is Philemon [Fill-a-mon]. I am a businessman living in Colosse (Colah-see). I do all right, but you know how business is. One day things are going well. The next you wonder if you will make it. But overall I’ve been pretty successful. A couple of years ago I met this man from Jerusalem. His name is Paul. He’s a missionary who has done a lot of travelling to tell people about Jesus. For awhile I wondered about him. He has such a strange story about his two completely different lives. First he spent all his time and energy harassing, arresting and even killing followers of Jesus. Then he switched completely, and he now works just as hard getting other people to become Jesus’ followers.
I started attending the little church in Colosse he helped set up. The more I heard, the more I felt that what he said was true. So I decided to follow Jesus, too. To became a Christian. Then I found out why Paul had changed so much. Everything changes when Jesus is part of your life! It was pretty amazing.
When Paul had to move on, I told him to be sure to stay with me any time he was in Colosse. Occasionally we would get letters from him. But now it was our job to tell our friends and neighbours about Jesus. Things went pretty well. Being a Christian changed how I did business. I tried to be very fair with my customers. And I treated my workers better. In fact, I tried to do what Jesus said. To love them like I loved myself. Some of them really seemed to respond well to that. They took a lot of interest in their jobs, and they developed new skills as I gave them more responsibility. One of them was named Onesimus [Oh-ness-ih-mus]. He showed a lot of business sense. He seemed to take any challenge I gave him and use it to grow. He wasn’t a follower of Jesus, although he was respectful of my beliefs, of course. But he was eager to learn and seemed to be trustworthy. I put him in charge of more and more things.
Then one day my world turned upside down. In the middle of the night, Onesimus ran off. He took a large sum of money that I had gotten that day from a big customer. Most of it would go to the man who supplied me the goods that the customer had bought, but I’d have made a good profit, to. In one night Onesimus changed me from a comfortable businessman to a big debtor. I had to sell off some of my land in order to pay off my supplier.
Not only that, but he took some silver serving dishes that my grandfather had hand-crafted. The silver was worth a lot, I know. But the dishes were special to me because they had been made by my grandfather, who died ten years ago. We put out an all-points bulletin and posted his picture around town, but he was gone. No one knew where he had gone. He had just disappeared. So I lost money, some land, damaged my reputation as a good businessman. But I also lost something else. My confidence in my ability to judge other people. My trust in the people who worked for me. My feeling that God would make everything work out well.
Imagine my surprise when a year later a sales clerk rushed into my office and said that Onesimus had just come into the store! My first impulse was to put him in chains and have him beaten for what he had done to me. My second was to call the police and have them handle it. But as I sat there, wondering what to do, I got curious about why he had come back. What must be going on in his mind? He must have known how angry I was. The clerk told me that Onesimus had given him a letter for me. It was a letter from Paul. Paul! How could Onesimus have come across Paul, and why would Paul use him as a messenger? I opened the letter to find:
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia [Af-ee-ah] our sister,
to Archippus [Ar-kip-us] our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about
your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may
be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of
every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and
encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you
ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old
man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my son
Onesimus [Oh-ness-ee-mus] who became my son while I was in chains.
Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favour you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.
He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you inthe Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write toyou, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Epaphras [Ee-paff-rus], my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus [Aris-star-kus], Demas [Dee-mus] and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (NIV)
Next, we ask our Sycamore Tree participants to think through these questions:
1. What are some ways that Onesimus’ crime might have brought loss, death and destruction to Philemon?
2. How did Paul respond to these harms?
3. What injustice forms a backdrop to this story?
4. How did Paul respond to that?
Note: according to Roman Law, Philemon could punish Onesimus in any way he saw fit – including by execution
Possible answers to discussion questions:
1. What are some ways that Onesimus’ crime might have brought
loss, death and destruction to Philemon?
[financial loss; trust betrayed; business reputation damaged; embarrassment and shame]
2. How did Paul respond to these harms?
[he acknowledged that Onesimus owed Philemon something and offered to pay it himself; encouraged, but did not command, Philemon to be reconciled]
3. What injustice forms a backdrop to this story?
[Philemon had slaves and Onesimus was one of them]
4. How did Paul respond to that?
[he encouraged, but did not demand, him to grant Onesimus freedom]
Further discussion: Crime
Crime is an offense against at least three different entities: is a sin against a human being (it caused harm), against the State (it involved disobeying a just law), and against God (the offender has violated basic Natural Law, or the inborn rules of morality). Using these three different perspectives, we can begin to see the wisdom in Paul’s letter, and its applicability to modern society.
Discussion Questions and Possible Answers
If crime was only a sin against God,
1. how would we respond to offenders? [Encourage them to repent.]
2. How would we respond to victims? [Encourage them to forgive.]
If crime was merely disobedience of just laws,
3. how would we respond to offenders? [Hold them accountable]
4. How would we respond to victims? [Help them to testify against defendants and campaign for a just response to their crime]
If crime was only seen as causing harm to victims and communities,
5. how would we respond to offenders? [Recover money from the offenders; work to reduce future crime]
6. How would we respond to victims? [Tend their injuries]
Once more think through the story of Philemon and Onesimus. Can you see the advantages of understanding and responding to crime as the Bible does? [More comprehensive; no one gets left out]
I hope you enjoyed your journey thinking through this excerpt from the Sycamore Tree program.
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic and Sycamore Tree
In 2012, the Diplomatic Spouses Association of Prague funded Prison Fellowship Czech Republic to translate this program into the Czech language, so it could be used in the Czech Republic. Czech volunteers have been trained to coordinate the program, and several prisons have tentatively agreed to conduct the program, pending approval from the main prison administration. In the meantime we are looking for ways to implement the program with ex-prisoners outside the prisons.
You can find out more information about Sycamore Tree at the PFI website: www.pfi.org. Or, feel free to contact PF Czech Republic at the address listed on this webpage. We ask for your prayers.
By Dr. Beth Losiewicz
COULD THIS BECOME TRUE IN OUR CHUCH IN CZ?
BETH LOSIEWICZ : MY STORY
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic: An Ex-Pat’s Story.
A new face at church, I smiled and extended my hand:
„Hi, I’m Beth. My husband is working in IT in Prague.“
„I’m Gabriela. I am the Executive Director of Prison Fellowship International Czech Republic.“
„Wow! I have always admired Chuck Colson’s work. Is there anything I can do as a volunteer to help you?“
Gabriela’s eyes lit up! What I didn’t know was that Prison Fellowship Czech Republic (PFCR for short) was almost brand new, that Gabriela and a few others were bravely, without much support, creating the organization, standing up to naysayers, winning approval with Czech officials, developing programs and had been praying for new volunteers to help them!
It was the most fun I ever had in my life! Their second annual board meeting was held in my apartment! I got to help them with the english in several grant applications. I got to meet their very first client – Ladka, who they met at the prison gate on the day of her release. They helped her with things you needed to speak Czech to do – settle her government paperwork, help her find food and accomodations for her first few weeks of freedom after a nine year sentence for aggravated assault. I was priviledged to just love her – give her an umbrella, a sweater, a comb, a notebook and pen. Sit beside her at church, where she was very nervous. Invite her to a bible study. Buy her a cup of tea at Friends Coffee house, or a sandwich in Stromovka park, or a hamburger at McDonalds.
Even though my Czech was miniscule, and her English even less, even though I was a little bit frightened at first, I found that love finds a way to communicate. (One of my favorite ways, was to find the thing I wanted to say to her in the Czech pocket New Testament, and show her the verse – then watch her face light up! I particularly remember the delighted response of her friend Pavla to the verse in James about true religion being to help widows and orphans. Here, her face said, was a God worth considering!)
I got to shop for toiletry items for donation to the women’s prison in Svetla Na Sazavou. (Can you imagine trying to live without shampoo, or sanitary napkins, or toilet paper?) I got to meet Christian brothers and sisters across the Czech Republic who have a heart for Jesus‘ lost sheep. I got to help write two successful grants for funds to jump start their shoe-string budget. (Which, by the way, is still shoe-string). I got to attend a Prison Fellowship International Meeting in Sofia Bulgaria. I got to pick up (from donors) and pick out (from stores) clothes and craft supplies for the ladies in the pre-release program at Svetla Na Sazavou’s women’s prison, share hugs with them in prison, in person, and then, (great joy!) greet them after their release. I got to pray for them, help them find clothes, furniture, listen to their stories step by step as they worked to get their bearings again in free society.
Diesel, Ladka, Kaja, Jana, Martina, Pavla, and all the others. Thank you for the gift you gave me of your light, your hard work to get your life back in order, your witness to others that it COULD be done, your perseverance. And most of all, for your friendship. My (alas too short) time in Prague shines with the memory of your faces, your stories, your witness, your love.
I am no longer in the Czech Republic, and I recognize what an incredible gift it was for me to be able to get to know the Czech people at that nitty-gritty day-to-day level. My PFCR co-volunteers (most of whom spoke English as well as Czech), ex-prisoners (many of them now Christians) now number among my life long friends. I miss them, I pray for them. I look for ways to continue to help them, even now after I have gone. We are still praying for open doors, for hearts to change, for helpers in the harvest, for funds to continue to work. Would you be willing to join us in those prayers? My Czech family. I love them.
ANGEL TREE PROGRAM: BECOME A PART OF IT!
When someone is sentenced to prison, they are not the only ones who suffer. Particularly hard hit are their children, who often are too young to understand why their daddy and mommy are no longer at home. The incarcerated parent commonly has neither money nor opportunity to purchase birthday or Christmas gifts for their children, because they are earning no salary while in prison; and the loss of a wage earner often leaves the family impoverished.
Angel Tree is a program implemented by Prison Fellowship across the world, to provide Christmas gifts to children whose parents are incarcerated. In the Czech Republic we begin preparing for Christmas in September, by letting Churches and Christian groups know about the opportunity to participate. Usually a coordinator from each organization volunteers to make the request to their congregation or group, and is the main communicator between their group and the Prison Fellowship staff.
The coordinator will inform PFCR as to how many gifts their group are willing to donate, and Prison Fellowship then gives incarcerated parents the opportunity to sign up their children up for the program. Sometimes the parent suggests what the child might want for Christmas, and always the parent writes a letter to their child to accompany the gift.
Once Prison Fellowship has received all the requests from the prisons, they match up children with donors. By late November the coordinator can expect to receive the details about each child, along with letters from the parents. As the Angel Tree gift is often the only present the children will receive on Christmas, donors are asked to donate only new gifts. The recommended minimum gift values is 250, 350 or 450 depending on the age of the child.
There are two ways gifts can be donated by individuals or groups:
A) If you wish, you can make a cash donation and a Prison Fellowship volunteer will buy, wrap and mail the gifts purchased with the donated money.
B) Or (the preferred option) in late November we can send donors the names, ages, gender and addresses of children who are to receive gifts, along with a Christmas letter to them from their incarcerated parents. The donor then purchases the gift(s),wraps them, encloses the letter and mails them to the child(ren),in their parent’s name, in time for Christmas.
Thank you so much, in advance, to those of you who will chose to participate. Former „Angel Tree children“ who are now grown up often tell us how important the gifts were to keep them connected with their parents during difficult times. Sometimes, too, this program leads to a connection between needy families, and churches who can help minister to them during their time of severe emotional, social, material and spiritual family distress.
Please contact us at Prison Fellowship at Czech Republic if you would like more information, have any questions, or would like to donate. God Bless You.
Written by Dr. Beth Losiewicz
GIFTS FOR CHILDREN WHO HAVE A PARENT IN PRISON
Become a Christmas angel by sending a gift to a child who otherwise wouldn’t receive one.
Through the Prison Fellowship International program Angel Tree, you can send a Christmas gift to the child of an incarcerated parent. The gift is sent in the name of the parent, including a personal letter to his/her child.
In cooperation with the prisons, gifts are sent to the most needy of families.
Children of incarcerated parents are often referred to as the unseen victims of crime, often stigmatized as a result of the collapse of their family. The children face the effects of their parents’ behavior, including long-term separation as well as other effects of the sentence.
In the program, volunteers choose a gift for a specific aged boy or girl. The gift is always newly purchased and a recommended price is given for each age category. Placed within the package is a personal letter from the incarcerated parent to their child. The package is wrapped, mailed or delivered to the address of the family of the child. The child knows through this gift that their parent is thinking of them and loves them.
If you don’t have time to purchase a gift yourself, you may choose to help with a financial donation to the program.
Between August and October, MVS provides the opportunity for churches and organizations the possibility of participating. Various prisons are also gathering up the names of the most needy children to whom a gift will be given.
Applications for the program can be found online at http:/www.prisonfellowship.cz/
Please join with us in helping children of incarcerated parents.
Thank you very much,
Prison Fellowship Czech Republic
‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Mt 25:40
written by: Kelly Prudek 2014
Prison Fellowship International
Angel Tree Program
Instructions for gift sponsors:
Thank you so much for volunteering to participate in the Angel Tree Program, by sending a Christmas gift to the child of an incarcerated parent. We really appreciate you! Allow us to explain the process to you…
You have been given the name, address and age of a child (or children). You have also received the telephone number of the person who cares for the child. Please be sure to keep the letter from the parent in a safe place as well as all the information about the child. If the parent’s letter were lost, we wouldn’t be able to replace it.
How to correctly address the package for sending:
On the package you must write clearly the name of the caregiver on the first line, and under that the name of the child. If you have forgotten to write the caregiver’s name, and have only written the child’s name, the post will return it to sender.
How to write the return address:
Do not put your own address on the package.
You must use the address for Prison Fellowship Czech Republic:
Nad Habrovkou 3, Praha 6, 16400
Other possible suggestions:
- Take a photo of your gift before wrapping it and email or send by post to MVS. We meet regularly with incarcerated parents who are thrilled to see the gift that has been given to their child in their name. The joy you experience will be doubled!
- If you would like to deliver the gift to the family instead of sending it, please contact us and we will advise you how to do this. The family must agree to this means of delivery and also agree on a pre-determined time.
When to send the gift: No later than 16.12!
What not to do:
- Do not put the name of the incarcerated parent on the return address of the package. For the return address, use only the address for Prison Fellowship Czech Republic (see above)
- During the telephone call to the caregiver, do not allow any manipulation. If there is a request for anything besides the gift, please contact us right away.
- If the caregiver requests that you not send a gift to the child, please respect their wish! We will send you the name of a different child.
- Don’t forget, that the child is anticipating receiving a gift because the incarcerated parent has informed the family that a gift is on the way. Please don’t disappoint the child and their family.
- Only send a newly purchased gift.
Our recommendation: Keep the contact information of the child’s family throughout the year in order to pray for the child, and, if you are interested, you may contact the family again in the future, for example at Easter, or summer vacation or at the beginning of the school year. You may want to buy the child a special gift during these times. With Angel Tree, Christmas can be all year long. Families of incarcerated parents are grateful for your expressions of kindness. If your offer of help to a family is accepted but you are uncertain how to proceed, please contact us and we will assist you.
Thank you again, for your willingness to help the child who cannot change their situation, and for showing compassion to them at this time in their lives.
May the Lord bless you this Christmas, as you open your heart to a special child and his/her family.
MVS, z.s. Kelly Prudek 2014