A few years after World War II, American believers received news that hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian Pentecostal refugees were in China desperately looking for a way to immigrate to the United States, or to some other democratic country that would accept them and give them religious freedom.
There were several groups of these brethren; one under the leadership of Alexander E. Shevchenko. These had received direction through prophecy to leave the Soviet Union via China in order to escape the persecution and bloodshed that was predicted by the Holy Spirit.
With painful memories of the bloody revolution of 1917 still in their minds, the people of the USSR were ready in 1922 for the hope and joy of the Pentecostal message that was brought and spread throughout the Ukraine and Russia by Ivan Voronaeff.
Alexander E. Shevchenko was a witness of this move of God when the message came to his city. He was saved in 1926, and saw many marvelous manifestations of the Holy Spirit among the people. That same year, Voronaeff was arrested and sent to Siberia. It was then that prophecies began to warn believers that “a long journey” awaits them. The prophecy was: “I send you on a difficult journey; much trouble and sorrow awaits Ukraine and Russia. There will be bloodshed; millions will die, but whoever believes in God and will follow Me will be saved.”
While working in the fields sowing seed, the Spirit spoke through one of the believers: “Children, you sow seed, but you will not harvest it.” Later, just before harvest time, the Lord spoke to them again. “People, the time has come to depart. I will lead you and will preserve you in the way.”
Believers began to sell their furniture and belongings in preparation for the flight from the U.S.S.R. They started their journey, not realizing how long it would take them. Their first major stop was in Lower Ural. While here for several months, they faithfully witnessed and saw many come to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In 1929 some of the brethren saw a vision of a great fiery star blazing in the sky. As they continued to watch,they saw images of war tanks, blood, and many corpses, all mixed together. (This was indeed fulfilled later during World War II in the very territory from which they had fled).
This vision prompted the believers to continue their trek eastward. Arriving in the Alma-Atа in Kazakhstan,the group settled there for three years. Here, as before, God saved many souls and filled them with the Holy Spirit. Refugee groups from other cities met here also, so that there were about 300 pilgrims altogether.
They traveled on to Uzbekistan, and had hoped to spend a few years here but the Holy Spirit urged them to move on. In 1931, they finally came to Panfilov (Djarkent), about 40 kilometers from the Chinese border and stayed for nearly three years.
These pilgrims (along with the populations of the southern part of the USSR) began to experience starvation because of the great famine.
Again, under the urging of the Holy Spirit, Alexander Shevchenko with a company of 46 people pressed on toward China in 1933. But now the road was much more dangerous than ever. The border between The Soviet Union and China was patrolled by many guards, and the distance to where they had hoped to crosswas much farther than they had thought and shelter by means of generous villagers.
Now that they finally entered China, the Holy Spirit let them know their journey had not yet ended. They must continue eastward toward the sea. Many of the pilgrims were weary with travel and wished they could settle down, but a Chinese revolution that erupted and threatened their lives soon spurred them into action. They pressed forward and eventually arrived in Shanghai in 1948.
Just eight months passedd when word came from the authorities that they would soon be evacuated to the Philippines. When they arrived, they were placed in a refugee camp that housed 6000 persons, most of whom were of Slavic origin.
The Philippine climate was very hot and difficult for these newly arrived refugees, but with the hardships came relief when they met other Christiаn believers in the same camp. They soon formed a choir and rejoiced in the Lord as they sang.
Awaiting further developments in the resettlement, word finally came from Paraguay, inviting them to settle there as farmers. The refugees were рpromised land, a house, seed, and tools for farming, along with other benefits that sounded so good. Many, including the Shevchenko’s, accepted the invitation and left the Philippines in 1949.
On their way to South America they stopped at ports in Australia, Ceylon, India, and via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. Then on to Italy, France and Brazil. From there they flew to Paraguay, arriving just before Christmas.
It did not take them long to discover they were not happy with Paraguay. The promises were not kept. They had to borrow sums of money to buy land, a house, tools, etc., which tied them down with debt, and even after eight years they still found it difficult to deal with the climate.
They began to cry out to the Lord again: “Why are we here, Lord? Is this what You had in mind for us?” Again, the Holy Spirit spoke to them to be patient, to settle down for a while and He would open a way for them.
In 1957 correspondence from believers in the United States advised them it was now possible to come to California. Many accepted this as from the Lord and took immediate steps to resettle. Before long there was a stream of new immigrants that came to San Francisco to settle in an area where many Slavic believers lives.
Prior to this emigration from Paraguay, 135 Russian-Ukrainian Pentecostals left the Philippines forthe United States in 1951, and were greeted in San Francisco by Dr. Thomas F. Zimmerman, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, and by Dr. A. A. Gouroff.
Slavic people who were already residing in San Francisco, and those who came from the South America,joined forces and together formed a sizeable Pentecostal congregation. With the help of the Northern California District of the Assemblies of God, and others, the congregation built a beautiful structure which they called the Russian Gospel Temple.
Under Pastor Aleksander E. Shevchenko, the congregation affiliated with the Assemblies of God and became a center of worship for many Slavic Pentecostals. Shevchenko retired in 1987 and the congregation elected his son Alexander A. Shevchenko to serve as its senior pastor.
This church produced many Slavic pastors, evangelists, gospel singers, musicians, and Christian workers who greatly contributed to the Kingdom of God. Several new churches were also started by those who originally were members of the Russian Gospel Temple.