US$3,000.00raised of $30,000.00 goal goal
Most people have in their hearts a desire to make a difference in the world. Through some unique contribution of our own, we desire to leave a lasting imprint of ourselves in the form of some enduring act of positive effect. We all carry this out in our day-to-day, moment-by-moment work and service to care for our families, support our friends and communities, and perform well in our workplaces.
While this provides an important quality of satisfaction and fulfillment throughout our lives, there is something that pulls at us when we see great injustice, needless suffering, and tragedy. We wish we could do something to bring about justice, to soothe the suffering, and prevent loss of life; we wish we could make a difference in these situations that loom larger and farther than anything within our own power could possibly impact.
My wife, Anya and I, felt this way as many of you do, as Russia undertook its invasion of Ukraine, sieging its cities, and terrorizing its civilians. We have been broken-hearted, as our family and our story have deep connection to people and places within both Russia and Ukraine. While knowing not to discount the power of prayer, we prayed with fervor for peace, while also wishing we could do more.
As the invasion endured longer than expected, Anya's brother, Sasha, asked if we could help a friend of his escape from Ukraine to America. We had no idea what we could actually do, but we said we would see what might be possible.
Soon after, Anya saw a post by a member of a local Russian-speaking women's group on Viber, asking for beds for a Ukrainian family they were taking in, and we had one to offer. Anya also took the opportunity to ask how the Ukrainian family had been able to enter the US, and they explained that the US had just instituted a "humanitarian parole" for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. This program allows Ukrainians seeking asylum to legally enter the US at the Mexican border, in Tijuana. She further explained there were churches helping to care for the families waiting in line to undergo the process.
We realized this was our chance.
We contacted Sasha's friend, Tatyana (Tanya), who had already just arrived to Poland in a caravan of cars from Kiev with her eleven-year-old daughter, Zlata. A week prior, they had been hiding in the basement of a child care center as bombs dropped in Kiev, and finally worked up the courage to come out, run to their car, and start driving for the Polish border. We let her know about this opportunity; if they wanted to come, we would bring them, take them in, and help them get situated in America.
After considering all that would entail--the journey, leaving the prospect of return to Ukraine behind for an unknown length of time, and maybe even starting life over in a new country--they decided they would come.
The journey was long, difficult, and exhausting physically and emotionally. They flew from Warsaw to London, England, then to Mexico City where they spent the night. The next day they flew from to Puerto Vallarta, where they missed their connecting flight to Tijuana due to too brief of a layover, so they spent a night in a hotel there. The next day they flew to Tijuana after a five hour wait they were greeted by a ministry group and taken to the US-Mexican border for processing. There they were given a number:809, and only the 200's were currently being processed at a rate of 200 per day.
Three days and nights they waited in line, sleeping on the ground under open pavilions. Church ministry groups provided food, and the women waiting in line organized preparation and distribution. They showed others how to do this organization in case their number was called, so there would always be someone who would know what to do as people were processed.
They took turns in long lines at the one available free bathroom, or paying for another bathroom across the street, until some portable toilets were eventually brought. Tanya contracted food poisoning on the second day, but fortunately a doctor was present who was able to give her medicine and she recovered after 24 hours. She then worked the next 24 hours helping with the food organization.
Finally, they received their papers at the processing center, and upon exiting, they were greeted by the church group who brought them to a church, fed them, and then drove them to San Diego or LA as needed for flights to their final destinations. Tanya and Zlata spent the night in LA for two nights then flew to Jacksonville with a brief layover in Washington DC.
They arrived in Jacksonville, at midnight on Tuesday, April 5th, and they have settled into Nikita's bedroom, which he graciously agreed to make available to them.
Now there is a lot to do to get them situated for the coming year, after which they can apply for new status. They hope to be able to stay, and start a new life in America, and one day bring her parents. For now, Tanya, an accountant, will be looking to get work as soon as she has her work papers; and Zlata will start going to school with Naya, both in 5th grade.
Meanwhile, there is a great deal to be done, and some significant expense. The best situation for Zlata will be to attend school together with Naya, this year and next year, so she has someone familiar to be with, and staying in the St. Johns County school district. As you can imagine, any rental housing, let alone affordable housing, in this area is hard to come by, but it is our goal provide the best possible situation for them.
In addition to rent, their immediate financial needs include a reliable car for Tanya to drive to work, car insurance, and health insurance. As they continue through the legal process of changing their immigration status in America, there will be more expenses for filing fees. Once they move into their own home, they'll need some help at first for furnishings, and to supplement their clothing their ability to buy food. Once Tonya is able to legally work, they will be able to support these basic needs themselves.
Through this process, I've reflected back on the words I shared in at my Father's graveside service this past August, as I recounted his generosity and kindness: "There are many who want to change the world, but few who choose to love the people in it." These have served as a continual personal and daily challenge, and a reminder that the most effective way to change the world is through acts of love to the people around us; to love our neighbor as ourselves. And as Yeshua taught us through the parable of the good Samaritan, our neighbor is every person we have the capacity to bless.
Please join us in helping Tanya and Zlata make a home for themselves in Jacksonville, Florida, as start this new chapter in their lives. Our goal is $30,000 by June 1 to help them on their way.
Please donate as your heart leads you, so together we can provide for all their immediate and future needs on the path to self-sufficiency in this great land of promise and opportunity for all who are willing to undertake and persevere in the American journey.
- Eric Painter
Standing In Line, and Other FunUpdate posted by Eric Painter at 12:42 am
The past couple days we've gotten guidance on health insurance and more from Lutheran Social Services, and today was a long day of waiting in line at the Social Security office...who sent us away requiring more paperwork, including some requiring medical appointments.Zlata says she enjoys school, even though she's just. . . . .
12 Month BudgetUpdate posted by Eric Painter at 05:21 pm
We thought it might be useful to provide a simple list of the financial needs, explaining the amount we're campaigning for. Here it is!Dependable car for Tanya to drive to work: $7500-10,000 (one-time cost)Car registration, insurance, and gas are added costs: $300/mo.Rent in St. Johns county school system: $2,000/mo. ($24K. . . . .
Zlata starts school!Update posted by Eric Painter at 05:00 pm
Thank you all so much for your generosity. Wanted to update you that yesterday was Zlata's first day of school! She's in 5th grade, so she's together with Naya in her class, which is a great situation for her. The St. Johns county schools system has a special program for. . . . .