KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thirty Ukrainians remain in Kansas City after their country was invaded while they attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes conference in San Antonio last month.
FCA now has offices in 105 countries. But their first outside the U.S. and largest contingent is in Ukraine.
Andriy Kraftsov spreads a message of hope in Ukraine through sports. He oversees Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff in areas including Russia, who warned him an invasion was likely coming while he and 13 other Ukranians were in Texas for a conference. So they brought their families with them, then saw the news on a hotel television.
“The first feeling was guilt that we’re here and our friends are dying and our cities destroyed,” Kraftsov, who lives just outside Kiev, said.
“Suddenly we realized we had an issue on our hands long term what happens? Do they go back, can they go back?” Dan Britton, FCA Chief Field Officer, said.
FCA brought all 30 Ukrainians here to Kansas City where they are now staying with local families. Kraftsov’s wife and 5 sons, age 10-19, are in Kansas with Britton, who happens to also be Ukraine’s Men’s National Lacrosse Coach.
“Just being in Ukraine in December and fast forward to now and see what’s happen just breaks my heart,” Britton said.
Kraftsov just traveled back to the Ukrainian-Polish border to help his mother flee the war-torn country.
“The way they welcomed Ukrainians with open arms when the train comes in and all these people get out kids and moms and dogs, it was impressive,” Kraftsov said.
Now back in Kansas City, he and the other Ukrainians are holding Bible studies through Zoom with coaches and athletes stuck in their homes with bombs going off around them. The mission, not just to survive, but to serve.
“People want to go back to rebuild their city rebuild their families and continue to rebuild their lives,” Kraftsov said.
FCA has established a Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund that’s raised nearly $300,000 in just two weeks, to help Ukrainians stranded here and trying to start over elsewhere in Europe.
“It’s been really amazing to see the local Kansas City region step up. We’ve had churches host meals and be able to provide fellowship for them and encouragement,” Britton said.