In the early 1990s, there was a movement of former citizens in USSR countries starting to immigrate to America to chase religious freedom. Growing up in the Soviet Union, the communist party was in control. If you weren't a Communist, you didn't fit in and were treated differently — typically in unfair ways.
Certain former citizens sought refuge in America. They had to leave everything behind — career, family, and their homes. Coming to America was not easy. Many former Soviet citizens did not speak English; they did not have much money and relied mostly on sponsors and eventually other family members who moved to America.
Senior pastor Peter Sayenko was one of those immigrants who made the trip to the United States, where he would start his own church for the Slavic community in the Tacoma area. There, he leads one of the biggest Slavic churches in the area with approximately 2,000 adult members.
The Slavic Christian Center, better known by local Russians as "Sayenko Church," is a Pentecostal Christian faith based. Sayenko, who has been a pastor at the church for 25 years, has a reputation as a friendly and Godly man, who is really good with remembering names and faces.
Sayenko was born into a Christian family in Ukraine. At this time Ukraine was under the regime of the Soviet Union.
"The ruling political party at that time was the communist party, and the strict rule of Atheism ruled the country," Sayenko says, "The time was very difficult. There was destruction after World War II. During my youth, I dedicated my life to serve God."
Sayenko, his wife and 11 children immigrated to America in January of 1991 after the authorities of the Soviet Union took away their citizenship because of their faith and deported them out of the country. The authorities in the United State of America gave their family refugee status. They settled in the state of Washington in the city of Tacoma. "We thank God, the US government, and the good people of Tacoma," Sayenko said. Today, Sayenko's family consists of 8 daughters and 4 sons. All of their children are married and have children of their own. The Sayenko family has multiplied to 40 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Sayenko says, "We all serve God, love America, work, and study to be good and beneficial citizens of this great country that we call home."
In 1992, the Slavic immigrant church chose Sayenko to be the pastor of the church and he has been a pastor ever since. Before moving to America, he was a pastor in Ukraine for 25 years. Sayenko says, "There is not much difference [between religion in Russia vs. America]. We all believe in one God and learn from one book, the Bible." Slavic Christian Center has a huge impact on the city of Tacoma. Part of the church building acts as a private school Monday through Friday for students from kindergarten to 10th grade. Sayenko says, "Slavic Christian Center strives to be beneficial in all the services we see in our city and the surrounding cities we live in."