The Fayette Citizen-Religion Page
Wednesday, December 16, 1998
Church plays Santa to inmates' children


Staff Writer

Saturday morning, members of Corinth Baptist Church of Fayetteville will meet at the church, load their vehicles and set off like Santa's helpers to deliver presents to local children who won't be spending the holidays with one of their parents.

This is the third year the church has taken part in Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministry. The prisoners fill out applications for their children back at home to be included on local churches' angel trees, then church members call the families to find out the children's wants and needs and begin shopping.

"It's a way for the parent in prison to let the kids know they're thinking of them, and they want to be with them," said Donna Imsand, a seventh-grade teacher at Corinth. "Plus it's an opportunity for us to present the Gospel."

Imsand was driving to the mall more than three years ago when something caught her attention on the radio. A guest on J93.3 was giving her testimony about the prison fellowship ministry; her husband had been incarcerated and later rehabilitated for drug abuse, and through the angel tree ministry they both accepted Christ. Later that same day, as Imsand was at home wrapping gifts, she saw the same lady on television. Her heart was burdened, and she talked to her pastor at Corinth the very next morning.

"It took nine months for it all to come about," she said, "sort of like birthing a baby." Each year the number of angels on the tree has increased, and this year 100 children have been "adopted."

"You would not believe the presents that we have under the tree probably 200," she said. "They're just everywhere. ... God has just blessed it."

Members met for a Christmas wrapping party earlier, and will end their day Saturday at Chick-fil-A to discuss how the delivery of gifts and the Gospel message went.

"Sometimes you're received well, sometimes you're not," Imsand said. "But if just one accepts Christ, it's worth it."

Some of the homes they go into have nothing, she noted no tree or even furniture. But some families have fared well and have a lot. Occassionally a family has moved or for whatever reason cannot be located. In those cases, the church sends a letter to the prisoner saying they couldn't find them. In other cases, there are more children in a home than was expected, so the members usually bring extra gifts just in case.

Extra gifts and unclaimed angels from the tree are purchased with funds raised by the church's senior adults at an annual soup and cornbread fundraiser.

In addition to the wrapped presents that were requested by the children, tote bags are given containing donated gifts, including Bibles, crayons, literature about the Christmas story, and special salvation bracelets made by the church's Girls in Action.

The bracelets, Imsand said, are a quick way even if there's no time to read the Christmas story to "present the Gospel even as they're kicking us out."

The colorful bracelets have a knot on each end, one to represent rebirth when we're saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and the other to represent eternal life. Black shows we're born into sin, red is the blood of Jesus which "washes us clean," white represents our purity once we're saved, green shows our growth in Christ, and gold represents the streets of gold we'll walk in heaven. A Scripture verse related to each color is also included with the bracelets.

This year youth from Corinth Baptist will be helping deliver the presents, to give them missions experience.

"A lot of people are interested in missions" that focus on reaching people at a distance, Imsand said. "But we've got missions right here at home we need to take care of."

For information about the program, call Imsand at 770-506-7125 or Corinth Baptist Church at 770-461-4456.

Back to the Top of the PageBack to the Religion Home Page