Fellowship of Christian Athletes, based here in Kansas City, held its global conference earlier this year, inviting staff members from all around the world, including a group of 29 people from Ukraine.
That was in February, two days before the Russian offensive began. The conference was in Texas, but the group was moved to Kansas City and has been here since.
"You don't know what's happening, you can't explain it, but you just have to be obedient,” said Andriy Kravtsov, FCA’s North Global Divisional Vice President.
Kravtsov, his wife and five sons are part of the group who came to the U.S. for the FCA global conference.
“Where you happen to be, that's where you happen to be, and I guess that God has a plan for that moment," Kravtsov said.
He and his family, as well as the rest of the FCA staffers and their families, only planned to be in the U.S. for a week.
"We did not believe that this is actually going to happen in our lifetime," he said.
The group has grown to 30, after one of their number had a child here in the U.S. When the invasion began, they were left with nothing but the contents of their suitcases and hours of television coverage.
"It's been exhausting,” Kravtsov said. “Emotionally, physically, spiritually, you just check in all the time. At that point, we were not thinking about what to wear. Because it was not important. Important was the life of those you love."
Still, they needed help. They needed extra clothes, and more importantly, a place to stay.
"When that happened, we realized there's no manual,” FCA Chief Field Officer Dan Britton said. “We had no playbook to realize, what's the game plan?"
Britton described these last seven months as watching a miracle unfold.
"God showed up, the KC family showed up, and the FCA team supported that," Britton said.
The group went from staying in host homes, to apartments in Shawnee and Lee's Summit. Donations for food and clothes have poured in for months.
Last week, Andriy and his wife were invited to share their story with a group of teenagers from another local group, C You in the Major Leagues.
"Whenever you think you've reached your point, these people exceeded 100 times what anybody I know has done," said Korey Messick, a CYITML student and senior at Van Horn.
And this group will likely never hear the word “refugee” the same way again.
"Everybody can get in the mindset of refugee, and when you're a refugee, all you do is survive. And you can't survive for a long time," Kravtsov said. “The crippling moment is you're going to feel hopelessness, because you're going to question your identity, and who you are. And people will tell you who you are. You don't have to listen to the people, but listen to The Creator, who said who you are."
Kravtsov says he's been back to Ukraine twice in the last seven months. His home, at last check, still stands. But it had been looted, which he described as an incredibly violating feeling.
The group plans to go back to Europe after the first of the year, likely to Poland. They hope to continue not only FCA's mission with coaches and young people, but also help other Ukrainians who've had to leave the country.
The group is also requesting donations of sports equipment for FCA athletes in Ukraine. If you’d like to learn more about that, click here.