The gift of a lifetime takes place as people are reunited on our stage through the Surprise Reunions.
Some of our favourites have been two sisters separated by the war in Bosnia for 12 years, two brothers reunited after 27 years apart, two sisters after 36 years apart, as well as many CHEO patients being given the opportunity to see loved ones during a very challenging time in their lives…all so moving and incredible.
At the expense of Bethel Church, a person(s) are contacted, arrangements are made months in advance, an airline ticket is purchased and our guest(s) are flown in to experience the time of their lives. We take care of them overnight and then bring them to the church to meet the cast and crew in the green room. At the appropriate time in the production, they walk out on stage, much to the surprise of our guests in the audience. It is all very secretive and calculated. The details and logistics are massive for each reunion…yet it is pulled off each time.
In 11 years, 84 reunions have been played out – each person flown in has never missed a flight nor have they lost their luggage.
You will not want to miss this exciting time! Watch on stage, as it could be you who experiences the surprise of a lifetime!
Friday, November 30th, 2006, 7:00 PM
This story came to us from the staff of CHEO. An 8 year old boy named Owen was first diagnosed with leukemia in August, 2005. He lives in Cornwall with his mom Jamie, and brother, Kole. Things were going fairly well for him until this last summer when he had a relapse. His prognosis is still relatively good however. Owen’s grandmother, Kathy Hosie, moved to British Columbia to find work. She could not afford to come and visit. When she was asked to come and surprise him during our production, her response read this way:
“When Owen was first diagnosed, I was able to be there for him, my daughter and my other grandson Kole. But due to a job offer I had moved away before the relapse happened. During this holiday season, I know a reunion would make Owen so happy. Christmas was always our special holiday together. He was so upset that I wasn’t there to decorate and sing our songs and enjoy the holiday season as we did all the years before. And now, thanks to this wonderful opportunity we can have our special holiday as we always did.”
Even though the weather gave us a scare and both parties had a little trouble making it on time, Kathy was reunited with Owen & Kole. There were many tears that evening from both the boys and their grandmother.
Kathy was also interviewed by CTV that evening. That footage was aired on the 11:30 local news broadcast.
Saturday, December 1st, 2007, 2:00 PM
This reunion turned out to be more moving than we expected.
Brian, Lillian & Ezra Min were flown in from Las Angeles, California to surprise Brian’s parents. James & Hester Min are the ministers of the United Church in Cobden and were extremely sad that they were not going to see their only grandchild over the Christmas holidays. They were reminded of when Brian was born in Korea and how they left him for 4 years, not seeing his first steps, not hearing his first words, as they had come to Canada to study to become a Pastor.
When Brian was first asked if they would like to come and be reunited with his family, Brian responded this way:
“My wife and I are overwhelmed. I looked at your website and was really touched by the reunion stories and photos. What a wonderful thing you are doing. I’m flabbergasted that you are asking us to participate. I know that my mom and dad miss us dearly, especially their grandson, Ezra.”
Since returning to LA, Lillian writes:
“What a wonderful week we had with Brian’s parents! Ezra was so blessed to spend the week with his grandparents. They delighted in everything he did. They proudly showed him off to their church and Ezra was mesmerized to watch his grandpa preach to the congregation on Sunday. Throughout the week we continued to feel God’s love for us because of what you did to bring us together. God bless you and Bethel for the work you are doing to reunited families from near and far.”
As an added bonus, Brian’s two brothers from Toronto were able to attend the production and see the reunion take place.
Saturday, December 1st, 2007, 7:00 PM
Saturday evening became a special evening when Marilyn Chenier walked into the “Home for Christmas Green Room”. She was a bubbly, full of life and energetic lady who could not have been more excited. She come from Hornepayne, Ontario to be reunited with her two sisters, Judy & Brenda. It had been 25 years since these sisters were able to spend the Christmas season together. Marilyn writes:
“There is a lot to be grateful for…seeing and celebrating Christmas with my sisters and their daughters is going to be wonderful. Then about the event itself….I am speechless. I have never been in a large Christian gathering before. That alone is going to be awesome! I am so grateful for this reunion and celebrating this very special Christmas Gift together. I thank everyone that is involved. God bless you all!”
Marilyn and her sisters were interviewed by CTV during the production and this footage was aired late that evening on the 11:30 News.
Sunday, December 2nd, 2007 – 7:00 PM
It was our pleasure to reunite two old friends who had not seen each other in over 17 years. This story came to us from Charlene Rodgers who had a colleague at work who has become very ill with an aggressive form of cancer – Rick Brown. Charlene was able to find out from Rick’s wife, that he had a very good friend from Granite Falls, Washington State. It took us awhile to find this friend, Brad Burton, as we had no contact number or email. God led and we followed and sure enough, found him. When Brad got the call to come, he was thrilled and delighted! Couldn’t believe this was happening to him. He accepted the invitation right away.
After the reunion took place, we received this email from Rick’s wife, Rosemary:
“Rick has enjoyed his time with Brad – in fact we all have. It has been a real pleasure to see Rick this excited and eager to get up. Brad has been a wonderful guest – he really cheered Rick up. Thanks so much for thinking of Rick. Thanks for all you did and all the wonderful things that were done by the people at Bethel. Rick often feels that he has been forgotten and feels house bound, but after Sunday he knows that people are thinking of him. Maybe now he will attempt to get out more.”
Brad’s mom and sister were able to attend the performance for the first time and could not believe the generosity and love they felt here.
Tuesday, December 4th, 2007, 7:00 PM
Throughout the years we have been privileged to see God work tremendous miracles. This reunion was one of those times that we knew He was working. Anita Sallom has lived in Canada for 36 years. She contracted MS at the age of 24 and had been confined to a wheelchair. The story goes that Anita had 2 aunts in Lebanon that she had not seen since she was only months old. Anita wanted to go to Lebanon because in her culture, it is common for a young lady to return to her roots. However, since she could not do that, we decided to bring one of her aunts here – Ilham Jaber. Not only did Ilham come, but her husband, Mitri came as well. This couple did not speak English, they had never travelled to Canada, and they had not seen Anita in 36 years. (However, we all enjoyed listening to Mitri sing “O Christmas Tree” in English – he remembered it from studying in Jerusalem 50 years ago)
When the reunion took place, it was evident that Anita had no idea what had happened but as soon as she realized who was in front of her, she was shocked and delighted to have find out that her aunt & uncle were there to see her.
It was a complete miracle that Ilham & Mitri were able to obtain travel Visa’s to come to Canada in spite of the unrest in their country. They will be staying here for almost 2 months to spend time with their family and enjoy a Canadian winter.
Wednesday, December 5th, 2007, 7:00 PM
We were delighted to meet Irene Redfearn when she flew in from Yorkshire, England. Irene had not seen her daughter, Cindy, in a couple of years. Being an only child, Cindy and Irene have always been extremely close, and even more so in recent years with the loss of Cindy’s father. It had been extremely difficult being separated by thousands of miles as Cindy and her husband, Ian, are expecting their first child in February. Also, Irene had just experienced great difficulty in England due to massive flooding in her area.
Irene was most likely one of the most excited people ever to come for a surprise reunion. She called almost daily counting down the days until she could see Cindy & Ian. She said this was one of the most exciting experiences of her life.
When Irene arrived, she was able to stay with Theresa Demerais. This experience became quite thrilling for both ladies as an instant bond took place. It is quite certain that they will remain friends.
Irene was able to stay for a week and visit with her family.
Friday, December 7th, 2007, 7:00 PM
One of the most moving reunions took place on Friday evening. The staff at CHEO approached us with an amazing story. Jenny Richmond, an 18 year old girl, suffering from cancer, was about to get the surprise of a lifetime.
Because of Jen’s aggressive form of cancer, she was married about a month ago to ensure that she could walk down the aisle with her dad. At her wedding, the question was asked, is there anyone whom she wished could have attended that didn’t make it. Of course, there was and a reunion started to unfold. We called Matt & Helen Lynn in Glasgow, Scotland. They were completely delighted and accepted our invitation right away. They had not seen Jen in 4 ½ years and for sure, since she had been diagnosed.
As Jen and her family are all from North Bay, Ontario, we had to find a creative way to get them all here. Through our contact in the family, about 20 people came to see the reunion. Jen’s mom also did not know so it was a double surprise.
Later, a family member writes to us:
“Words cannot express the joy you have given our family. The days leading up to this amazing reunion have been full of excitement, reflection & appreciation! To reunite Jenny with her Uncle Matt & Aunt Helen during this Christmas season after such a long & exhausting battle, is one of the most positive events our family has experienced in quite some time. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you!”
Matt & Helen were interviewed by the A Channel, along with Jen later and this footage was aired that evening on the 11 o’clock news.
Saturday, December 8th, 2007, 2:00 PM
This story came to us from Kelly Brushett who attends our church. Her husband, Neil and his two brothers, Craig & Sheldon all moved here from Newfoundland, leaving behind their parents in St. Albans, Bay D’Espoir. This year had been an extremely difficult year for this family with the loss of a little baby girl. We thought that they could most definitely use a lift so a reunion was planned. When Ed & Joan Brushett received the invitation to come, they could not believe it. Being afraid to fly, an alternate plan took place. They got on a bus that took them to the ferry – from there, they arrived in Nova Scotia to be put on another bus to take them to Truro. In Truro, they boarded a train and made it here safely.
This couple were so moved that we would do this for them. There were many tears in the green room leading up to the reunion. Ed & Joan hardly travelled from their home in Newfoundland so this was a big trip for them!
When the boys saw their parents, it became a very emotional moment. On top of that, Joan’s sisters were also surprised.
They will be staying here until January 2nd . We were so thrilled for them to be able to spend Christmas with their 3 boys and their families!
Saturday, December 8th, 2007, 7:00 PM
It had been a year in the making – one of the most challenging yet rewarding reunions that we’ve ever had. In November, 2006, a story came to us from Maria Karaceper. Her mom, Laura Garcia had not seen her sister, Margarita in over 26 years. Margarita lived in Peru so we began the process. It was evident that this story was not going to happen quickly so we put it on our list for this year’s reunions.
Early in 2007, we started to make the calls – Brad Paterson took the initiative to really make this happen. Without his help with the language and incredible patience, this would not have ever unfolded. But God had a plan.
Over this past year, Margarita obtained a valid passport. From there, an incredible amount of paper work had to be collected and taken to the Canadian Embassy in Peru in order for her to obtain her travel / transit Visa. Brad was able to help Margarita with that paper work and gathered most of the information himself.
We also were fortunate to find a contact in Peru who helped us tremendously. We feel that God placed him in our path to help obtain the Visa.
When Margarita got the final word that she had the Visa…we were unbelievably happy! She travelled here on Dec. 6th and is staying until February 6th.
It was a complete miracle that this happened. When Margarita arrived to stay with the Paterson’s before the reunion, we found out that the two sisters had lost contact for 18 of those 26 years – even to the point of wondering if each other were alive.
What a thrill we had to see these two sisters reunited! It is something we will never forget!
Sunday, December 9th, 2007, 2:00 PM
It had been over 17 years since Esther Peprah had seen her brother, David Aboagye.
David wrote to us after he had accepted the invitation to come and surprise Esther.
“I really appreciate this great offer extended to me by Bethel to have the opportunity to see my sister Esther and her family after 17 years of separation. The last time I saw Esther was when I visited her in Ottawa in August of 1990. I have been planning to visit them again for a long time but time and work has not permitted me. So I think this is God’s perfect time. Esther is the 7th born and I am the 9th of nine children born to my mother. Growing up, my only memory of Esther is how she used to tease me and call me nicknames.”
Just two days before David flew here to Ottawa, he had gone to Ghana for a 3 week visit. He felt that even though he had just returned home to New York City, he could not pass up this offer to come and surprise Esther.
It was quite evident that the two siblings were extremely happy to see each other. And of course, David got to meet Esther’s 3 children!
Sunday, December 9th, 2007, 7:00 PM
For our final reunion, we were able to fly in Horst Generich from Berlin, Germany. When Horst received the call only one week before the closing Sunday, he accepted immediately. Even at the age of 77, he was prepared to get on a plane to come and surprise his old friend, Len Peschel. These two men have been friends for over 70 years. They first met in Germany, and ended up in the British Army together where they shared many great adventures. Unfortunately in the early 50′s, the two went separate directions, one back to Germany and the other began a new life here in Canada.
While they visited daily on their webcams, Horst said that he could not pass up the opportunity to see his friend in person just one more time!
As we watched Len come up the aisle, it was completely evident that he was shocked and moved to see Horst on stage.
While here, the two men were able to go to the war museum and enjoy a week of reminiscing and enjoying each other as good friends do. They both came to visit the office just before Horst left to return to Germany and it was entirely moving to hear them speak of how much this meant to them.
Friday, December 1st, 2006, 2007, 7:00 PM
Our first reunion was a very special one. Garreth Benjamin was flown in from Vancouver, BC to surprise his brother, Bradley who he hadn’t seen for 6 years. Garreth had also never met his nephew, Abram. The bad weather didn’t put a damper on their reunion as Bradley could not have been more surprised to see his brother on stage. This reunion was covered by CTV and was broadcasted several times that weekend. Garreth wrote to us:
“This has been an unbelievable time for me and my brother. Thank you so much! You have touched my heart and the heart of my mother. She wanted us to be together for so long and you made that happen. I’m not mushy but I have to share with you, I felt God’s love for the first time.”
Saturday, December 2nd, 2006, 2:00 PM
Alison Turgeon was flown in from Sydney, Australia to surprise her mom and family. This reunion was special in that it took us months to work out he details and find a decent price on the flight. Alison had made a trip to Sydney about 6 years ago and was not supposed to stay there. So for her mom, it was a dream come true to see her come out on our stage that afternoon. Unbeknown to us, Alison grew up about a block away from Bethel and knew that we were in the neighborhood. God had us find someone from half way around the world to come here and surprise her family. Unbelievable!
Saturday, December 2nd, 2006, 7:00 PM
At about 4 years of age, Emily had moved to Australia with her mom, leaving her dad behind in Ottawa. She was flown here with her mom, Alison, to surprise Henry Mercado. This reunion brought many tears to our eyes as Emily came out on stage with open arms to be reunited with her daddy. Henry was unbelievably shocked. Further to the reunion, Winners, (Henry’s employer) gave him the week off with pay and a dinner out with Emily. On top of that, the A Channel taped the reunion and had the entire family on their early morning news show, December 4th along with Wayne.
Karen Solomon, host of the morning show wrote this to us:
“I just think what you’re doing is so spectacular. As you’re aware there are so many negative and bad news stories. It’s nice to hear about something good for a change!”
Sunday, December 3rd, 2006, 7:00 PM
This time last year, Lydia Richard was on her way to see the production when her husband suddenly passed away. She was devastated to say the least and went through the Christmas season, 2005 feeling lost. Lydia’s good friend, Teresa Demerais brought the story to us and we followed up with flying her sister here, Christel Muhs, here from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Just recently, an email was received from Lydia. She writes:
“It has taken me a while to process what happened on Sunday, Dec. 3rd. I also wanted to see how long this wonderful feeling of joy would last. I had a difficult Oct. and Nov. as I did not expect to be grieving then any more. Since Christel’s visit I have been in a wonderful, serene Christmas spirit; which is also surprising because I have always been a wreck getting ready for Christmas. Today I am almost as joyous as the children are when we get a new snowfall. Thank you ever so much for this priceless gift.”
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006, 7:00 PM
This was a beautiful reunion that took place as Krzystof Myszka was brought in to surprise his brother in law, Czeslaw. Krzystof had never been to Canada and did not speak any English. Thanks to Barb Jeppel, the call was made and the reunion was planned. Czeslaw works in a local nursing home as a dish washer. He left behind his sister, mother and family in Poland as he moved here to start a new life. When the first call was made, we had the wrong number, but surprisingly enough, the person on the other end knew Krzystof and was able to give us the right number. Krzystof was also able to obtain a travel visa which is often a road block for us. It was definitely meant to be. Krzystof told us that this was “a dream come true for him”.
Friday, December 8th, 2006, 7:00 PM
The reunion that took place on this Friday evening was a special one that most can relate to. Jean & Gordan Braun were flown in from Moosejaw, Saskatchewan to surprise their two daughters who live here in Ottawa. They are a very close family and had tried several times to come up with enough money to visit one another. A mutual friend of both of Leanne & Lisa, called us to see if we could help. Both of these girls had never come to the Singing Christmas Tree Production before so you can imagine how they felt when they saw their parents walk out on the platform. There were many tears of joy as the family was reunited.
Saturday, December 9th, 2006, 2:00 PM
We were all in for a treat as we saw this story unfold. Kimberley had not seen her mother, Sharon, in over 18 years except for only 4 hours together. The relationship had grown apart over time and both did not feel strongly enough to try and make an effort to be together – until, of course, we heard the circumstances. When we called Kimberley to come and surprise her mom, not only with herself but also with Piper, Sharon’s granddaughter – she consented with reservation. However, it was time for reconciliation and with the help and encouragement of Bethel, it worked out beautifully. After speaking with Sharon a few days later, it was evident that this was the gift of a lifetime – one that she will never forget. Now they have a chance to renew their relationship and hopefully over time, a great healing will take place that has already started.
Saturday, December 9th, 2006, 7:00 PM
This reunion came to us from one of our choir members. Lindsay Dundas wanted us to surprise her mom, Pat by flying in her best friend from Winnipeg. Pat had a challenging year and Lindsay thought a reunion would cheer her up. So we made the call to Judith Ford, who ended up having other relatives in Bethel that made the story even more exciting. Judith & Pat had been best friends since their teen age years and had kept the friendship going through life’s circumstances. It was a reunion that both will never forget and we know that it was a blessing to Pat.
Sunday, December 10th, 2006, 2:00 PM
What an exciting story this turned out to be. Anthony Skaff had never been to Canada – not only that, he had never met his grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins. At the age of 23, he received a call from us to come and surprise his entire family. He consented to leave his home in Stockholm, Sweden to make the trip of a lifetime. He could not stop emailing and saying how grateful he was for this opportunity. As the story unfolded, Anthony started to memorize pictures of his relatives here so that he would be able to call them by name upon arrival. When the reunion took place that Sunday afternoon, there were many tears of joy as the whole family reacted in shock at what they were seeing. We were so glad to be a part of this dream come true. Anthony has opted to stay in Canada for a little while longer as he may never get back.
Sunday, December 10th, 2006, 7:00 PM
Few reunions will have such a memorable quality as that of Mansvi Koul and her Grandfather Surendra Bhatnagar. Just over a year ago, Mansvi, a smart, talented young teenager was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. She has gone through rigorous treatments to defeat this disease, and our prayers are with the family for a full recovery. Bethel and the staff at CHEO figured a surprise visit from her Grandfather, who she thought was already on his way back to India from the United States, would cheer her up. As Surendra walked on stage, Mansvi didn’t even give him the chance to walk down the stairs to her, but let out a scream and ran to embrace her grandfather. The story was covered by CTV Sunday evening, December 10th.