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Hospitality to Ukrainian Refugees in San Diego

On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, I had the privilege of ministering to 19 Ukrainian refugees who came across the border of Mexico. They crossed the border the day before legally and spent the night at Old Town Community Church. Other clergymen and women who ministered to them were Alex and Irene Achacoco, who are pastors of the church, and Don Biadog, the lead pastor. Rev. Biadog is a retired Navy chaplain who is also a Southern Baptist Convention minister, and former Command Chaplain of MCAS Miramar in San Diego.

The ministry included providing food and shelter and transportation to the San Diego International Airport. This group of Ukrainians was comprised of relatives who were leaving by plane for Atlanta, Georgia to be with other relatives, with the exception of one who was preparing to fly later in the day to Seattle, Washington to be with his sister. This refugee was the sole individual among them who spoke English.

I was delighted with the opportunity to pray with the group and share a message of faith and hope and gratitude for God’s intervention in bringing these Ukrainians to America. I also shared in bearing the costs of the humanitarian support with the church. David Okhotin, pastor of the Russian Baptist Church of San Diego, phoned in to assist in translating for Rev. Biadog and me as we ministered to the refugees.

Various refugees shared, through the English-speaking Ukrainian translating, the atrocities they experienced in Kiev, Ukraine. They fled for their lives amidst the bombing, the ruble. Others went without water and food for long periods of time. Some experienced great fear and inner turmoil to leave their homes and country and nearly all of their personal possessions. They were heartbroken, but so grateful to God that they did escape and get to the United States. The church opened its doors to them and is allowing waves of Ukrainian refugees to spend the nights in their sanctuary.

The overwhelming thought I experienced from my encounters with the refugees and this ministry is the lesson of what the Bible teaches about hospitality: welcoming strangers and treating them well with the love of God. Hospitality is a virtue that is both commanded and commended throughout Scripture. The Word of God commands us, saying, “When a foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The foreigner who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:33-34, MEV).

For me, this seemed like a homecoming, because not only have I been to the Ukraine twice and welcomed by Ukrainians to conduct evangelistic crusades, engage in relational evangelism, and engage in interviews about the military chaplaincy, but also because this time I was on the welcoming end of Ukrainians coming to my country.

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Category: Get Involved, Spring 2022

About the Author: James F. Linzey studied church growth under C. Pete Wagner and signs and wonders under John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. He served on the large ministry team at the Anaheim Vineyard and is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible. He has a BA degree in Biblical Studies from Southern California College, and an MDiv degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous articles and books, speaker, and recording artist.

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