As war continues in their home country, many Ukrainians are traveling to distant places for refuge. Brazil is one of the countries that has opened its borders to refugees.
Vitalii and Iryna Arshulik are Ukrainians living in Brazil as church planters. They minister in an area where 80% of the population is of Ukrainian descent. They’ve partnered with Elias Dantas, a Brazilian pastor living in the United States, who is in contact with Ukrainians seeking asylum in other countries.
The Arshuliks represent a combination of efforts from evangelical organizations and churches around the world to help refugees. The International Mission Board plays an active role in this effort.
In March, Vitalii was sent by the First Baptist Church of Curitiba to São Paulo to receive the first group of 29 Ukrainians. The group was comprised of eight families. Two of the families have three or more children, so the father was allowed to flee with them.
Once they arrived, church members cared for them and took them on a tour of the region, introducing them to the culture and traditional Brazilian food. During that time, refugees shared through tears their personal experiences from the war. After the initial transition to Brazil, the church helped the families find permanent apartments in neighboring communities.
After the initial group, more refugees have come and been met with the same care and concern. Local Brazilian Baptist churches have made commitments to the refugees to help for an extended time.
The refugees are all brothers and sisters in Christ from evangelical churches in Ukraine, and they are already making a big impact in the city. The church in Prudentópolis, where Vitalii and Iryna are serving, rented a bigger space for worship as more than 100 people gather every Sunday. They have also started a youth group.
This impact has gone beyond their city. The Arshuliks have been invited to many TV and radio shows to share their experiences. In addition, their influence has reached other countries as they have met with ambassadors from the United States, Canada, Ukraine, England and the European Union to find ways to help the Ukrainian refugees adjust to the new culture.
Vitalii’s family has led in this process because they know Ukrainian culture and can communicate with the refugees in their own language. The Arshuliks can see how God prepared them for these ministry opportunities. In addition to their original call to reach Brazilian Ukrainian descendants for Christ, they also now have the desire to help their own fellow citizens physically, emotionally and spiritually.