Ukrainian refugee families were welcomed and prayed during Tyler’s church service

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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – Refugees from the city of Mariupol in Ukraine were welcomed and prayed at a church in Tyler on Sunday morning.

Coleman Bailey is part of Serving Orphans Worldwide, an organization supported by Rose Heights. Bailey has spent the past few months helping transport Ukrainians to safer areas.

“We had to bring everyone from western Ukraine to Frankfurt, Germany. We drove all night. We have kids with us, it was crazy, but we drove all night to Frankfurt,” he said. “From Frankfurt we flew to London, London to Mexico City, Mexico City to Tijuana, and then we went through a humanitarian parole system that the United States had in place from Mexico to Southern California. Then our crew flew over here last week.

All the families accompanying them today are directly linked to their orphanage. Some are wives and children of orphanage graduates, others are family members of orphanage staff. Rose Heights and Serving Orphans Worldwide have partnered to help people resettle from Ukraine.

“We have five orphanages and then we ran out four more on top of that, so in total it was 340 children we moved. And we moved those kids to Lithuania, Ukraine and Spain,” Bailey said.

Yulia Kozirkova is now at Tyler and was prayed for Sunday morning. She was born and raised in Mariupol. Before the invasion, she worked and lived in Kyiv.

“I think it was 5 a.m. and I was in Kyiv. I wasn’t even at home then, I was at my friend’s house, so I only had my backpack and I just left with all this to the west of Ukraine,” she said.

After a while, she was able to come back for a few more things.

“When you think about starting your life over from scratch and in a new place. It’s a hard thing to think about. So I just packed very necessary things, not a lot,” Kozirkova said.

Allen Townsend, is the senior pastor at the Rose Heights campus and said this week that some prayers they prayed for had been answered.

“To see that same song with them on stage after that felt like a fulfillment of prayer requests that we’ve been raising for many months now, as they’re in the midst of this crisis,” Townsend said.

While Kozirkova says she’s grateful to be safe, there’s still a lot to process.

“The work we did in my church in Mariupol is something I have been doing for many years and has been a big part of my life,” she said. “I’m standing here thinking that I could have been home right now doing something that I’ve been doing for many years. Now that’s not something I’ll be back to in a while, it’s is something that’s gone forever, so it brings that sadness. But I still hope that there are places that are ready to welcome you, there are places that can be your home and wherever you are, the church can be your home.

Currently, Ukrainian families are staying with host families in Tyler until rental properties offer them a longer-term living situation.

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