A church in California welcomed Ukrainian refugees from Tijuana, Mexico into shelters and called on other American churches to aid as well.
The Baptist Press reported that the Russian Baptist Church of West Sacramento, California has been receiving refugees transported from Tijuana by David Slabodenko and other church volunteers. Slabodenko has been sleeping three hours for the last couple of days just to get the Ukrainian refugees safely on American soil.
The Russian Baptist Church, whose congregation averages 2,700 Ukrainian and Russian worshippers weekly, would distribute the refugees into temporary shelters built at their grounds or into family homes. Slabodenko stressed what they have isn't enough.
"In Sacramento, we have around 200,000 Slavic people who speak Russian and Ukrainian, but we're not going to be able to take all these people in, so we're trying to get American churches also involved. I just want to tell you guys, this is the time to open our hearts, to open our minds and just help these people," Slabodenko said.
Slabodenko disclosed that he receives calls from other refugees asking for help to get to the U.S. One Ukrainian man called him crying because his son died and all that was left of his son with him were the son's hand and feet. Slabodenko estimated around 300 refugees arrive in Tijuana every day. The majority of those arriving are Ukrainians while a few are Russians.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote President Joe Biden on March 11 asking for the United States to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The Commission also asked that the U.S. refugee resettlement program be rebuilt and for the government to support countries assisting in the resettlement of displaced Ukrainians. The letter urged Biden to ensure that religious freedoms in Ukraine be secured.
Biden then announced on March 24 that the US will open its borders to a maximum of 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. The announcement came a day after the United States declared war crimes were committed by Russia.
Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission commended Biden for welcoming Ukrainian refugees. The Commission said it is something they directly advocated and is a solid step to aid refugees fleeing from the terror caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Commission also expressed hopes that Biden would eventually consider increasing the support and funding the government allocates in the rebuilding of the country's "ailing refugee programs."
Russian Baptist Church Senior Pastor Mikhail Avramenko revealed that they have already formed a Fast Response Help Committee to oversee the influx of Ukrainian migrants, now that the US has opened its borders. The said committee will handle all communications involving requests from Ukrainian refugees for spiritual, financial, and material aid, as well as, settlement. Avramenko said they have similarly prepared a registration process on March 27 for congregants to indicate how many refugees they can accommodate into their homes and how many they have currently sheltered.
"We're going to accept them in our families first and then we'll open our gym and our second building and our classrooms to convert them to temporary living facilities. We can (house) maybe 200 people. But we don't have this plan settled, because we think maybe end of March, there's going to be influx of people coming to Sacramento," Avramenko said.
Avramenko shared that what is happening now creates an awareness that we are all children of God regardless of one's ethnicity.