Christmas cards for prisoners program touches hearts

 

December 22, 2023

First Christian Church

Liz Shelite and Rev. Drew Kirtley of First Christian Church in Alva sign Christmas cards to prisoners at Bill Johnson Correctional Center (BJCC). First Christian, and other churches, set up tables where congregants could participate in the program that touches hearts at BJCC by including them in the Christmas joy.

"Christmas is hard on inmates," wrote Rev. John Clapp in response to an email asking about his Christmas cards for prison inmates program. Clapp is the chaplain at Bill Johnson Correctional Center in Alva.

"About four years ago, I was approached by an inmate concerned about other inmates who do not receive mail or contact with their families during Christmas," Clapp said. "Some did not have family, some had been abandoned and some had burned too many bridges. I have multiple services and events, but I never thought of the loneliness and struggle many have experienced seeing others get Christmas mail while they have yet to receive anything.

"I came up with the idea to partner with area churches to help remedy this problem. Pastors would distribute the names of inmates to their church members. The members would pray for the inmate during the holiday season and send a Christmas card telling them so. I pick up the cards from the pastors, prepare the cards, ensure that no inmate was overlooked, and add a candy cane to each card from my church. We usually hand them out on Christmas Eve. This year, 14 area churches assisted me with this project."

The impact has been considerable.

"I have had grown men cry over their cards. I have seen so many men touched by a simple card and a gesture of love and concern. Many of them cannot get over the fact that someone is praying for them," he said.

Being able to meet those intangible needs, to reach people's hearts, seems to fill Clapp with joy. "I love my life!" he concluded.

 

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