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'It feels like a dream': Ohio priest reunites with wife, children after 15 years in Africa

Cincinnati priest reunion CVG
Posted at 1:40 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 13:40:05-05

CINCINNATI — Transportation authorities expect more travelers rolling through the Tri-State this week than at any time in the last two years.

"We are expecting to reach maybe 95% of the volume that we saw pre-pandemic," said Mindy Kershner, spokesperson for Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. "That's beginning (Monday) and lasting all throughout the week. The busier days will be Monday, Wednesday and then Sunday after Thanksgiving."

The most popular destinations from CVG include Denver, D.C., Orlando and Los Angeles, Kershner said. Along with the Ohio Department of Transportation's public affairs department, she advised travelers to plan well and give themselves time to navigate around potential delays.

Few know more about overcoming stalled travel than Tesfaldet Mehari, a priest with Holy Trinity Eritrean Orthodox Church in Hartwell. On Monday afternoon, he saw his wife, Mulu, for the first time in 15 years.

"This is the best (moment) of my life," he said.

For their daughter, Hermela, and son, Kobiez, it felt like they met their dad for the first time ever.

"He left me when I was three years old," Kobiez Tesfaldet said. "This is the first time I've seen him and I'm happy."

"It feels like a dream," Hermela Tesfaldet said. "I'm very happy. Our mother was with us, but we also need[ed] a father's love. So I think that's the hardest thing."

Conflict in east Africa in their native Eritrea forced them out.

Mehari spent five years in the Middle East before a bishop gave him a parish in Hartwell. He spent the next eight years serving and working on a reunion with his family. The congregation supported him.

"In our religion, a priest should not be away from his family," said Haile Misghina, a church advisory committee member and past chairman. "But Father Tesfaldet, since he came to Cincinnati, we always worried about him because we are married. During holidays, we sit down with our wife but he (doesn't) have any wife on his side."

Four days before Thanksgiving, Mehari's family caught a plan in Ethiopia. They headed to Cincinnati after a stop in Chicago.

"I didn't sleep all night," he said. "I was (tracking) them on the phone."

Mehari's wife and children landed at CVG surrounded at baggage claim by Mehari's congregation.

"This Thanksgiving is really amazing with my beloved family united here," said Mehari. "I really thank God for everything."

Larry Seward at WCPO first reported this story.