Simi Valley Church Hosts Benefit Concert to Assist Russian-Ukrainian Immigrant Family


(From left to right) Hannah, piano; Lena, violin; and Olga, cello, perform a variety of Christmas songs at the December concert.
(From left to right) Hannah, piano; Lena, violin; and Olga, cello, perform a variety of Christmas songs at the December concert.

When Phil White and Jan White, Simi Valley church senior and associate pastors, were called to hold evangelistic meetings in Russia 30 years ago, they did not know the impact that divine appointment would have today.

At that time, Phil and Jan became acquainted with friends Lena, an Adventist student studying violin and piano, and Olga, another Adventist student. Through the years, Phil and Jan visited many times. In 2018, Phil accepted an invitation from Andrew Kovalev, senior pastor of the church in Moscow and husband of Lena, to lead a revival series for young adults. During that time, he reconnected with the Kovalev family, and the friendship between these two families grew stronger.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Phil and Jan immediately thought of their friends. Their communication during the covid pandemic had declined, but the Kovalevs were still in their hearts.

Andrew and his son, Daniel, were being increasingly pressured to join Russian forces to fight against Ukraine. Because of their faith and ancestry (Andrew is Russian and Lena is Ukrainian), they were uncomfortable doing so. Andrew and Daniel quickly decided to flee Russia, with Lena and Hannah soon to follow. The family embarked on a tiring and frightful journey—with no more possessions than what could fit in a suitcase for each—that took them from Russia to the United Emirates, Turkey, Mexico, and finally the United States last October. Once in America, Phil and Jan became their sponsors, and the Kovalevs have been living with them, becoming not just a part of their family but also a part of the Simi Valley church family.

In December, Simi Valley church hosted a benefit concert to help pay off the debt the family has accrued since leaving Russia. The event featured concert musicians Lena, violin; Olga, cello; and Hannah, piano. Other performances included a trombone quartet, vocals, and the flute.

Friends from far and wide have become a part of the Kovalev story, helping how and when they can throughout their journey. “God sent me all of you so that I will be in His hands,” Lena shared at the concert. “Thank you to all of you for being with us on this journey.”

“God is in this story,” Phil said. “It’s a reminder of what God can do when we let Him do it.”

If you would like to hear more about the Kovalev family story and view the concert, visit

If you would like to donate, visit and select “Russian Family Relief Fund.”
By Araya Moss