Members will tell you their services are always a party at Life Central Church in Plano, but this Sunday’s party was extra special as they welcomed a rare guest who’s like a family member to many there.
14 year-old Karina Bondarchuk is from Ukraine, and has grown up with a rare mouth disorder called congenital lymphangioma; a disorder that causes her tongue to swell up and that can threaten her life is conditions cause it to get out of control.
She has gotten treatment throughout her life in her home country, but doctors there told her family that they couldn’t do anything else for her.
Church members in Plano were first introduced to her by Pastor Paul Cook after he learned of her situation and decided to take on the task of trying to help.
"It was kind of overwhelming,” said Cook.
They flew her into DFW last September and brought her to see local specialists like Dr. Jeffrey Fearon who said that they could help the teen here.
Church members and volunteers started raising funds and local medical support to make Karina’s surgery possible.
"Just this phase would have been 80-some thousand dollars and it's probably costing us about 18-thousand dollars,” said Cook.
Finally, after months, Karina walked back into the church during service on Sunday; members surprising her with confetti and cheers.
She will be in America throughout June and July as she does some sight-seeing and begins treatment to fix the disorder. Karina will then return in about a year to finish the process.
She said that she was excited to get the surgery finally, and thanked her “North Texas family” for helping to make it happen.
Though she speaks little English and has to rely on a translator, Karina was able to smile to the congregation and confidently say “thank you!” as the room erupted in cheers.
NBC 5 will continue to cover Karina’s progress and transformation as it takes place over the coming year.