Religion Unplugged

In Alaska, a Russian-speaking church becomes a hub for helping Ukrainians

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An elevated cross reaches toward the blue sky at a nondescript corner of Alaska’s largest city.

Viewed from the right vantage point, the cross towers over the snow-capped mountains that adorn Anchorage’s horizon.

Inside a nearby church building, a few dozen immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and other Slavic nations gather in a circle at a Thursday night prayer service.

Related: In rural Oklahoma, a Ukrainian priest prays for his mother — and his homeland

Members of New Chance Christian Church — a Pentecostal congregation that conducts Sunday worship in Russian with English translation — sing, pray and speak in tongues.

Prayer requests on this sunny, chilly evening — the sun won’t set until after 9 p.m. — focus on the war in Ukraine.

“Jesus, we cry out to you for the people of Ukraine,” church member Yuriv Tarankov pleads as he prays. “Jesus, we cry out to you to stop the bloodshed, to stop this war.”

A cross outside the building where New Chance Christian Church worships in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

‘We have to do something’

Zori Opanasevych, a 31-year-old mother of three, rests her chin in clasped hands as she begs God to intervene.

In the heart-wrenching stories of ordinary families caught in Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Opanasevych sees herself. In the children’s frightened faces, the Ukrainian-born Christian can’t help but envision her own kids — ages 5, 7 and 10.

“That could have been me there right now in Ukraine,” she said. “I could be using my body to shield my children from bombs right now.”

Instead, Opanasevych — whose family moved to the United States when she was 7 — has put her life on hold to organize a faith-based relief program for her homeland.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged

%d bloggers like this: