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Ukrainian refugee families welcomed, prayed for during Tyler church service

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 10:47 AM CDT

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

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

“We had to get everybody from western Ukraine over into Frankfort, Germany. We drove all night long. We have some children with us, it was crazy, but we drove all night long to Frankfort,” he said. “From Frankfort we flew to London, London to Mexico City, Mexico City to Tijuana, and then we crossed through a humanitarian parole system that the U.S. had set up from Mexico into Southern California. Then our crew flew over here just this past week.”

All of the families that are with them today are directly connected to their orphanage. Some are the wives and children of graduates from the orphanage, others are family of staff at the orphanage. Rose Heights and Serving Orphans Worldwide have partnered to help folks resettle from Ukraine.

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

Yulia Kozirkova is now in Tyler and was prayed over Sunday morning. She was born and raised in Mariupol. Before the invasion she was working and living in Kyiv.

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

After some time she was able to go back for a few more belongings.

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

Allen Townsend, is the main campus pastor at Rose Heights and said this week, some prayers that they’ve been praying for were answered.

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

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

“The work that we’ve been doing in my church back in Mariupol was something I’ve been doing for many years that was a huge part of my life,” she said. “Standing here thinking, I could’ve been at home right now doing something I’ve been doing for many years. Now it’s not something I’ll be back in a certain time, it’s something that is gone forever, so it brings in this sadness. But then still hope that there are places that are ready to host you, there are places that can be your home and wherever you are church can be your home.”

Right now the Ukrainian families are staying with host families in Tyler until rental properties open up as a more long-term living situation for them.

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