Valley Ukrainians gather in service prayer to offer peace

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the conflict in Ukraine continues, a local church and its members who are both Ukrainian and Russian came together for prayer Friday night.

Action News was at the prayer service and captured how people came together in a time of shock and grief.

"Because of what is happening in Ukraine, because of the war happening there. I want to thank you, you came to show your solidarity and your support," said Alex Ivanov, Lead Pastor at House of the Gospel.

After hearing that his home country was under attack, Pastor Alex Ivanov felt a lot of uncertainty, but knew he had to do something for his congregation in the days to come.

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"Prayer for peace is the title of the evening and we are going to pray for the oppressed, we are going to pray for the defenders, we are going to pray for peace of course," said Ivanov.

Members at the prayer service who have family still in Ukraine shared what they are hearing from loved ones overseas.

"I have my cousins, I have an aunt there, my mom's sister. And my dad's brother and his family," said Daria Grokh, member of House of the Gospel.

Daria, who is 14 years old, tells Action News that conversations at home have been about her family's location and safety.

"So far where my family is right now, everything is ok so far, but we are hoping it will stay that way," added Grokh.

And for refugees who decide to seek shelter overseas, House of the Gospel has assisted asylum seekers in the past and is prepared to do so again. And at this church, a reminder that all are welcome.

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"Eight years ago, we hosted a few families who came here. We welcomed them and tried to serve them as much as we can, and we are prepared today," said Eugene Kovalenko, Associate Pastor, House of the Gospel.

"We have Ukrainians here and we have Russians here. My wife is Russian, my wife's parents are Russian, and my Dad was born in Russia. I was born in Ukraine. But through all of that, of what is happening, we still find hope and peace in Jesus Christ," added Ivanov.

Though this week's events have been hard to take in, especially for those with family members in attack zones, Friday's theme continues to urge for peace.

"This week I was, as I saw the news and I saw the declaration of war and then then troops coming in, I was watching it closely online, the feeling of anger and desperation comes in and you just start feeling very emotional, but then as a christian, as a pastor, I realize what I need to do is I need to pray," said Kovalenko.

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Other local peace services are scheduled throughout the weekend in honor of Ukraine.

Both the Ukrainian Catholic Church and Ukrainian Catholic University are taking in donations.
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