The Bethel Lutheran Church congregation is eagerly awaiting a very special reunion.
It has been 12 years since Bayasaa Bars, a 14-year old boy from Mongolia, came to Rochester for life-saving heart surgery at Mayo Clinic.
He and his mother stayed at the home of Bethel members Dave and Jan Kaehler for five weeks and then returned to Mongolia. The Kaehler family did not believe they would ever see him again.
"The day we put them on that airplane, we were so sad to think we would never hear from him again. They came to Rochester to get Bayasaa's heart fixed, and they stole our hearts when they left," Jan Kaehler said.
Bars, now 26, contacted the Kaehlers this May through Facebook, and they have been emailing each other ever since, talking about the possibility of a return visit.
"We were totally surprised when he contacted us. This is really emotional for us all; we just can't wait to see him," Kaehler said.
Bars began his return trip to the U.S. on Saturday, traveling by train to Beijing. He will travel nearly 6,000 miles total, landing in Rochester on Friday night. The Kaehler family will host Bars during his visit.
In celebration of Bars' return, a Missions fundraising concert is planned for July 15 at Bethel Lutheran Church. The public is invited to attend and share in the joyful reunion.
The evening will include a selection from the Bethel adult choir, duets from Kim Schmidt and Kathi Kaehler, the Kaehlers' daughters, and a presentation recapping Bars' previous visit to Rochester.
To conclude the evening, Bars will share his personal testimony and thank all who prayed for his recovery. The event will be followed by refreshments and a meet-and-greet.
Donations will be taken to support the work of Samaritan's Purse: Children's Heart Project, the program that brought Bars to the Mayo Clinic for heart surgery, and Food for Kidz.
The Children's Heart Project of Samaritan's Purse arranges life-saving operations for children who live in countries where the required medical help is not available.
Food for Kidz is a nonprofit organization that packages and distributes nutritious meals to hungry children and their families. Bethel will host a food packing fill on Oct. 4. Along with other local church congregations, they are hoping to raise $15,000, enough to pack 100,000 meals for the hungry.
"We hope that hearts are touched," said Schmidt, who's organizing the concert. "Even if you cannot make a donation, please come and be blessed."