Willow Creek Community Church's congregation assembled more than 70,000 Prison Packs at weekend services Sunday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 4, as part of an annual compassion and justice initiative to gift every inmate incarcerated in Illinois with a Christmas gift.
Prison packing began five years ago in Willow Creek's Care Center, a ministry that is committed to fighting poverty and injustice.
"The Bible instructs us to remember those who are in prison," says Executive Pastor Heather Larson. "Providing each inmate with a gift extends Christ's love to a population that is often forgotten."
As part of regular weekend services, the congregation at all of Willow Creek's eight Chicago area locations, including students and children in the church's Promiseland ministry, helped assemble Prison Packs.
Each pack includes a Christmas card, Bible study and journal, an activity book, pretzels, honey buns, brownies and candy bars.
"This initiative is an opportunity to extend compassion to those who deserve to feel God's love, regardless of what they've done," says Josie Guth, director of local compassion and justice efforts at Willow Creek.
"It's a collaborate effort that we pray leads to transformation."
Prison Packs will be distributed the week of Dec. 4.
In addition to reaching every inmate in Illinois, Willow Creek will send Prison Packs to prisoners incarcerated at Angola, a maximum security penitentiary in Louisiana.
Churches in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana and Georgia caught Willow Creek's vision to reach out to prisoners with gifts, and will provide Prison Packs to inmates during the Christmas season.
Willow Creek Community Church, 67 E. Algonquin Road, South Barrington, now in its 41st year, is a multisite, nondenominational Christian church with weekly attendance of more than 25,000.
For information, visit willowcreek.org.
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