Christmas Carnival Reaches Out to Prisoners’ Kids

Post a Comment » Written on December 24th, 2003     
Filed under: News
HALAWA, HI (December 24, 2003)  – Wellspring Covenant Church hosted a unique Christmas carnival recently, combining church children with the kids of prisoners who are being incarcerated both in Hawaii and elsewhere.

The second annual event on December 13 drew around 300 people, including 80 who are children of prisoners. Each of those children received a toy or “fun” item and an item of clothing, said church staff member Mary Ellen Azada, who serves as Pastor of Call and Ministry Development. Kids from the church and friends of Wellspring parents were also given gifts. To see photos of the event, visit Christmas Carnival.

Wellspring Covenant has made connections Chuck Colson’s Angel Tree Fellowship, which is part of Prison Fellowship. Azada works with a ministry contact in Oregon and the church chooses the children to invite based on their zip code of residence (those who live closest to the church).

“One of the things we wanted to make sure to do at this carnival was to have a party WITH the children of incarcerated people, not a party FOR them,” said Azada. “Because of the shame and stigma associated with these children, we have worked hard to make sure they know they are loved and accepted regardless what their parent has done. The result is that it was one big carnival, whether you were a child of an incarcerated or a child of Wellspring or a child of a friend of Wellspring.”

One reason the ministry to the children of prisoners is unique is the fact that many parents are no longer being imprisoned in Hawaii due to crowding. “Prisoners are being packed in as much as they can,” Azada said. “To alleviate the problem of overcrowding, many of the prisoners in Hawaii end up being sent to prisons in Oklahoma and Texas. Unfortunately the effect on the children is that some children never see their parent for years. In addition, the cost to visit their parent in prison is prohibitive.”

Another unique feature is the massive volunteer help from so many in the congregation. More than 200 people helped in one way or another, said Azada, in everything from setting up and taking down tents, to coordinating food to leading crafts and decorating gingerbread creations and picture ornaments and Christmas cards. There were also those who led games, coordinated activities at an inflatable jumping device and climbing wall and gift-wrapping and distribution coordination. More than 100 donated gifts and over 40 helped wrap the gifts.

“We don’t see this as a mission project of a few individuals of the church – and that’s what I absolutely love,” Azada said. “Those categories don’t shape what we do . . . “it’s about a deep desire in every person’s heart to share the love of God and what God has done in our lives that moves us to keep looking for those in our community, especially those hidden from our view, and to share His love.

“It’s not about ministering to people ‘out there’ because the reality is if we think about it, many of us know friends and relatives who may have had trouble with the law, minor or not,” Azada continued. “It’s about seeing the real victims, innocent children, and doing our best to show the love of Jesus.”

Wellspring Covenant Church began meeting in the home of Dale Vallejo-Sanderson, the church’s Lead Pastor and pastor of Vision and Leadership Development. The church hosted its initial worship service at its current location on September 9, 2001. Wellspring Covenant has an average attendance of 325, with two services on Sunday and four pastors.  The church is seeking to become an official member of the Covenant during next year’s Annual Meeting in Minneapolis.

Vallejo-Sanderson said of the church, “We are devoted to exploring and developing fresh ways to nurture the hearts and minds of each person, including ourselves, to become all that God intends for us to be and to do of His will in this world, together as a family of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about Wellspring and its ministries, call 808-484-8880 or visit the church’s website at www.wellspringhawaii.org.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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