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Rogue Angel: A Christmas Story

By Charles Colson
Breakpoint Online – Mary Kay Beard founded Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program that ministers to prisoners by caring for their kids at Christmas. What a legacy, particularly when you consider Mary Kay's past.

Reading her new book, Rogue Angel, is a lot like reading the plot of a blockbuster movie. Her early life included facing the fists of an alcoholic father's rage, seeing him race their car with her young siblings across the railroad tracks seconds before an oncoming train, and learning that he tried to destroy their house with dynamite while the children were in it.

In a hurry to leave her childhood behind, Mary Kay married Paul Mahaffey after knowing him for only seven days. Six months later, she found out that he was on the list of America's most wanted criminals. It was a list she would be on soon as well—the result of a series of small rationalizations and little compromises that led her away from the faith of her mother, Grace, a devout Christian.

"By the time Mary Kay came to the full realization that her husband was a professional gambler, burglar, bank robber, and safecracker," writes her biographer, Jodi Werhanowicz, "she did not care. It was a short step from accepting Paul's trade to practicing it herself."

Her first steps into a life of crime were tentative, like sewing magnets into her dress pockets and leaning on the gaming table while Paul rolled his loaded dice. Then she grew more brazen. She held people at gun-point, staged bank robberies in midday, organized her husband's prison break, and even crossed the mafia. The results were a contract on her life and thirty-five charges in four states plus eleven federal indictments.

When she found herself facing twenty-one years in an Alabama prison, Mary Kay came to terms with Christ through volunteers who visited her in prison and a Gideon's Bible in her cell. Just as her steps away from her mother's faith were gradual, so were her steps back as she learned daily obedience to God in the little things.

While Mary Kay was in prison, she noticed that the inmates grieved for their kids at Christmas, even saving toiletries and other necessities so they could wrap them up and give their kids Christmas presents. So when she was released, and came to work for Prison Fellowship in Alabama, she started the first Angel Tree, hanging the names of inmates' children on a Christmas tree in a shopping mall so shoppers could buy the gifts. And in that first year Angel Tree delivered more than three hundred gifts. I did not even know about it until the next year, but it was a huge success. And now some twenty years later, more than 7 million children have received gifts.

The book Rogue Angel tells the exciting story of how all of this came to pass and how one woman's obedience can be used to do mighty things for God. Remember these children received not only a gift, but also the Good News of the birth of our Savior.

You can order a copy of Rogue Angel and help ensure that even more children and their incarcerated parents are reconciled to Christ and each other. Please call us here at ­­­BreakPoint, and if you are able, give a gift to help Angel Tree this Christmas (1-800-55-ANGEL).

That gift will help us share the grace of God and, as Mary Kay's life shows, God's grace changes everything.

From BreakPoint, Copyright 2005 Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500." Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their web site at

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