Jesse Trees carry Christmas story abroad

Originally published in Western Recorder –

Louisville—A group of Kentucky Acteens made Jesse Trees as gifts for two missionary families during the Christmas season.

A Jesse Tree is “very similar to what we see as an Advent calendar at Christmastime,” Denise Gardner, Kentucky Acteens specialist, said. The tree works as a devotional, walking the family through the Christmas story giving “the whole picture of Jesus, and why He has to come.”

During their retreat at Jonathan Creek this summer, the Acteens made ornaments for both of the quilts to be given to the missionaries. Each girl chose which felt ornament they would make, with all 25 ornaments telling a different aspect of God’s plan for mankind, starting with the creation of the world and ending with the manger. In the end, each ornament went in a numbered pocket to be placed on the quilt.

“The trees that the Acteens made came about because we have a missionary family that is serving in the North African Middle Eastern Affinity group, and it’s their second Christmas on the field,” Gardner explained. “Last year, she didn’t have anything to help celebrate and to help her kids understand Christmas, so she wanted a Jesse Tree.” The girls made two trees and have received a request for another.

Heather Hendricks, WMU communications specialist, expressed that these quilts are a small way for the missionaries, some of them in dangerous regions, to be able to celebrate Christmas in a small way for their children.

“Especially the ones that received the quilts in North Africa, they are not allowed to put up huge Christmas trees, but they still want to celebrate Christmas. They still want to keep American traditions,” Hendricks explained. “This is a chance for them to put up something small and still celebrate the birth of Christ with their children and teach them the stories and their traditions, and not put themselves in as much danger.”

In addition, the act of service taught the Acteens that even small things can make a difference, Hendricks said. “I think that the girls learned that it’s a lot of hard work to make these things, but a lot of hard work pays off. I think the girls learned that they can do something for missionaries all around the world. It’s important even if they do a little something; it can go all the way around the world and it can be a big blessing.

“We are providing our missionaries with a way to simply be able to share the Christmas story with their children. But they, in turn, use it in their ministry too, by showing other people and other children the tree,” Gardner added. (WR)