BRIGHTON HEIGHTS (KDKA) — Members of a church in Brighton Heights have one more reason to celebrate this holiday season.

A visitor showed up at their Sunday morning service this weekend and it was a welcome surprise for a congregation missing their assistant pastor.

Capt. Tom Fodi snuck in through the side door of Emmanuel Christian Church.

Most of the congregation – including Fodi’s parents, thought he was still in Iraq. They came to church hoping to talk to him over the Internet. Instead, they got they got a big surprise.

His mother couldn’t believe her eyes when her son walked through the door.

“There’s no words to describe this,” said Carol, Capt. Fodi’s mother. “It was amazing.”

Capt. Fodi, an Air Force chaplain and an assistant pastor at the Brighton Heights church, served five-and-a-half months in Iraq. He counseled soldiers on the front lines.

“When you’re standing there in that place or you’re lying there wondering what’s going to happen when the alarms are going, you’re really thankful for the things that you have. You’re thankful for God,” Capt. Fodi said.

Capt. Fodi’s wife, Erin, was one of the few people who knew he was coming home. She masterminded the surprise.

“We also thought it would be hilarious, just a great Christmas present to his family and everyone else,” said Erin.

“I remember when I was in Iraq, for many days I spent wishing I was back here in Pittsburgh,” said Capt. Fodi. “I missed my family, missed my wife, missed my church.”

Capt. Fodi thanked the congregation for all of the support during his time in Iraq. Now that he’s back with his family, he’s looking forward to a special Christmas.

“It’s going to be our best Christmas ever. My wife and I already talked, we’ve already got our presents,” he said. “[I’m] just glad to be home.”

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