Beginning in November 2019, a group over 60 members from Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, called the “Mayflower Church” for their commitment in seeking the freedom, began arriving in the Republic of Korea from China after enduring repeated threats and interrogation from Chinese police. After being denied asylum in South Korea, the group moved to Bangkok, Thailand and are currently seeking UN refugee status. However, the Thai government refused to renew the tourist visas for the church members and they face the very real threat of deportation to China.
In early January Trent Martin, Advocacy and Training Coordinator for 21Wilberforce, met with Mayflower Church members in Thailand. Below Trent shares his experience during that visit, what lies ahead for Mayflower Church members and how you can help.
I had the opportunity to join with members of the Mayflower Church for a moving Sunday morning worship service. Pastor Pan Yongguang and several members of the church extended a warm welcome. As the congregation joyfully sang Chinese hymns and recited scripture, I could feel the conviction in their faith that had brought them on this journey. Pastor Pan shared a sermon on maintaining our faith and joy in the midst of trials and suffering. While I had heard these verses many times before, it was exponentially more impactful to hear them spoken in a community suffering for their faith.
Following the service, I was able to eat a delicious hot pot lunch with Pastor Pan and his family and visit the simple accommodations where all the families are living. We discussed what their new lives are like in Thailand and how they were currently educating all their children at home, something they could not do without government sanction in China. While several of the church members already speak English, many of them are looking for ways to strengthen their English skills in preparation to move to America. They also shared that while they were able to find work in South Korea, they currently haven’t been able to work in Thailand.
It was surprising to hear firsthand the lengths to which China’s Communist Party is willing to go to silence a church that simply wants to peacefully worship God in a free land. While living in Jeju Island in South Korea, the congregants received threatening calls, messages and pressure from the CCP to return to China. Even while they are overseas in Thailand, they still fear the CCP will send agents to kidnap them or pressure the Thai authorities to deport them.
The families are attempting to gain UN refugee status and they are waiting for all their interviews to enter the UN refugee program. Even though a group of churches and a local resettlement group in the Tyler, Texas area have committed to financially and materially supporting all the asylum seekers’ resettlement to the United States, the U.S. government so far has not offered them humanitarian parole or a pathway to asylum.
We are continuing to call on the U.S. State Department to maintain our proud tradition of being a refuge for those seeking freedom to worship, just as the first Pilgrims did in 1620.
How you can help the Mayflower Church members
Please keep each of these families and their expressed needs (below) in your prayers and also consider supporting them while they remain in their transition period in Thailand.
- Security from deportation by the Thai authorities and from any potential abduction by Chinese government agents,
- Entry in the UN refugee program and that the United States government would allow them to move to America,
- Financial support for their expenses while they live in Thailand and wait for their resettlement.
The organization ChinaAid, which has taken the lead on supporting the Mayflower Church’s case, is currently offering sponsorships for each of these families. Learn more here.
You can also use 21Wilberforce’s Freedom Center to ask your Members of Congress to help secure the resettlement of this church in under 2 minutes by going to this link.