By Eileen Barkman in Japan — Christmas decorations! At our home in Japan, we start putting them up one day, finish the job the next day — and start taking them down on Day 3. Yes, we have a unique custom!

A few years ago, a volunteer team from Hong Kong brought several hundred small, handmade angels for us to give away. We passed out many to tsunami disaster survivors, but there were still a LOT left over.

We put them to good use as ornaments on our Christmas tree. Whenever people visited, we invited them to choose an angel from the tree to take home. When the tree started looking a bit bare, we filled in the gaps with more angels. And when the dear friends in Hong Kong heard about this, they sent even MORE angels for our tree!

When Rikki* walked into the living room for our neighborhood Bible reading circle and saw the Angel Tree, she gasped. Then she just stood and gazed, drinking in the beauty of the sparkling tree. When I told her that she could take an angel home with her, she was thrilled.


Eileen Barkman decorates her Angel Tree with hundreds of tiny ornaments.


In August, Rikki joined the Gospel choir that meets at our church. There she heard about the Cherry Ladies conversational English class that I teach in our home. Rikki joined Cherry Ladies and very soon began coming to our Bible reading circle as well.

From the beginning, we noticed that Rikki was a thinker. She seemed to have a purpose in life besides just having fun. She worked hard to speak English naturally and now teaches English to children in her own home.

One day this month, Rikki stayed after class to have me proofread some of the stories she has translated into English. As she was leaving, she shared a little tune that she sings to the children at the close of her English classes — a song about angels watching over them as they go on their way.

No wonder, then, that when Rikki saw the Angel Tree for the first time, she stood amazed.

That day we read about an angel — the one that came to Mary and told her she would bear a Son. We also read about how the angel came to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid of taking Mary as his wife. We talked about angels being God’s messengers, far more awe-inspiring than most artistic depictions would have us believe.

Rikki took an angel ornament home with her. But we trust she took far more. She is beginning to hear about the eternal, almighty God who not only created the angels but who made the entire universe. She is hearing about Jesus who came to be our Savior and who is the one who lovingly and powerfully watches over us as we walk through life.

This Christmas day, pray that Rikki — and the thousands of others around the world who have heard the gospel through SEND’s ministries this year — will respond in faith and worshiping awe at our great Savior who is the Creator of all things beautiful. Merry Christmas! 

* Not her real name


More stories about Christmas 


After exhaustion, elation

Though it came at a difficult time, the Christmas meal one family shared with Vietnamese unbelievers now seems extra merry. Read the whole story.


Baby in a manger

Enter the mess

The very reason we celebrate during this dark, cold month is that we have a Savior who didn’t remain distant, who didn’t stand back and watch it all unfold. Be encouraged by a Christmas poem, titled “Jesus Entered the Mess.”