Ukraine 2022

Fleeing Putin’s war, Ukrainians make their way to U.S. through FSW partner ministries on the border

By Elket Rodríguez

All along the U.S.-Mexico border, the pastors who comprise Fellowship Southwest’s Immigrant Relief Ministry are welcoming Ukrainian migrants. 

In Tijuana, close to the Pacific Ocean, Pastor Juvenal González has fed dozens of Ukrainian migrants waiting on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro International bridge. 

“There they are, there they eat, and there they sleep, before crossing the international bridge,” González said. “Ukrainians don’t want to go to shelters in Mexico.”

González oversees two refugee shelters and feeds hundreds of migrants stranded in Tijuana. He also is the senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista de la Calle—Baptist Church of the Street—in Tijuana. “We are looking for Christians in San Diego to support them,” he affirmed.

700 miles east of Tijuana—across from El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua— pastor Rosalío Sosa is monitoring the Ukrainian migrant flow. According to Sosa, who operates Red de Albergues para Migrantes (Migrant Shelter Network) composed of 21 shelters in the state of Chihuahua, more than “50 Ukrainian migrants” have arrived in Ciudad Juarez in last three weeks. 

“As soon as the Ukrainians arrive to the international bridge, they are immediately allowed entry to the U.S.,” Sosa said. Like González, Sosa also indicated that Ukrainians are not staying in shelters.

Southeast of Juarez, Lorenzo Ortiz, director of El Buen Samaritano Migrante Ministry, which is composed of three shelters in Nuevo Laredo and a fourth shelter in Saltillo, about 180 miles inland, is expecting an increase in the number of Ukrainian migrants seeking entry into the United States. 

“We are waiting for families from Ukraine to arrive at any moment,” Ortiz said. “A family from Ukraine arrived in Monterrey yesterday, and they already went to the border,” Ortiz said Tuesday, March 22.

Monterrey is 136 miles south of Nuevo Laredo and serves as a hub for migrants hoping to enter the United States. Ortiz collaborates with pastor Carlos Jaramillo Ramírez of Iglesia de Dios de la Verdad who operates a migrant shelter in Monterrey.  

Near the Gulf of Mexico, in Brownsville, Texas, Pastor Carlos Navarro of Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville (IBWB) has already assisted one Ukrainian family in the church’s respite center. “Only a couple so far, but it is projected that more Ukrainians will begin arriving next week,” Navarro said.

IBWB operates a migrant respite center in the church’s campus where volunteers minister to refugees after they are released by the U.S. government for their final asylum court hearings and before they pass through the city to live with sponsors elsewhere in the United States.

The efforts of these border pastors complement the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s efforts in Europe led by field personnel Gennady and Mina Podgaisky – assigned to Kyiv, Ukraine, but currently living in North Carolina due to the ongoing military conflict. The Podgaiskys, along with other CBF Global Missions field personnel located in Europe are assisting in the evacuation and settlement for Ukrainian refugees. 

To support Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant relief ministry, which includes the border pastors who work with refugees along the border, click here. If you want to donate to CBF’s Ukrainian relief fund, click here.

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