WCR PHOTO | LORRAINE TURCHANSKY
Jason Malaka asks Kristin Kopp to marry him at the site of the biblical wedding feast of Cana.
When Kristin Kopp read in her Sunday bulletin last Easter about Archbishop Smith's Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she knew she had to be there.
"I just felt a calling to go as soon as I read about it," she said. "It was an opportunity to encounter Jesus a little deeper than I had been."
As it turned out, the pilgrimage brought an unexpected blessing for the 26-year-old massage therapist from Stettler.
During the group's stop at Cana, the site of the wedding where Jesus performed his first miracle, she learned to her delight that a wedding was also in her future. Surrounded by a circle of pilgrims, her boyfriend Jason Malaka bent down on one knee and popped the question.
The pair first met two years ago at a Live-in retreat, but only began dating six months ago. Kristin talked about how much she was looking forward to the pilgrimage, and how nice it would be if Jason could come along.
He kept telling her he couldn't afford it – until her birthday on Sept. 1, when he presented her with a travel backpack and a copy of his itinerary for the Holy Land trip.
Jason, a 22-year-old carpenter from Red Deer, had the idea of proposing at Cana right from the beginning. But he had doubts. He knew this pilgrimage was supposed to be about Jesus, and Kristin's deep desire to get closer to Him.
WCR PHOTO | LORRAINE TURCHANSKY
Tracy and Michael Edmonds renewed wedding vows at Cana in Galilee.
He didn't want to draw attention away from that. So the night before they left, he asked Kristin's parents' permission to ask their daughter to marry him, and shared his planned to surprise her with the proposal at Cana.
His future father-in-law gave his blessing and told him, "If I could go back and propose to my wife anywhere in the world, that's where it would be."
So the plan was afoot, with Kristin blissfully unaware. All she knew was that she expected Cana to be the best stop on the pilgrimage. "The wedding at Cana was all about celebration and joy, and for us as Christians, rejoicing in Jesus doing his first ever miracle on earth," she recalled.
Jason also shared his plan with the archbishop, who asked the prospective groom whether he was sure Kristin would be able to answer honestly in such a public environment. And was he sure she would say yes? Yes, he was.
About a dozen other couples renewed their wedding vows at the church in Cana that day, just before the surprise proposal.
As Kristin witnessed the outpouring of love during that ceremony, she thought it might be nice to participate in something that significant in this place sometime in her life, "but I had no idea it would be so soon!"
Michael and Tracy Edmonds from St. Thomas More Parish in Edmonton were among the couples who renewed their vows. Married for 28 years now, they were profoundly moved by the ceremony.
"I think it's important, because you get a special blessing from God, which reaffirms your path in life, your vocation," said Tracy.
"And I got a special smile from Tracy," said Michael with a grin. "The same one I saw on Kristin's face a few minutes later."
As for the newly betrothed, they say they're not in any rush to set a wedding date.
"We'll just offer it up to God," said Kristin. "So far we're received so much from him, so many miracles already, we'll place this in his hands too."