Members of the Holy Reformed Church of Shenzhen gathered for the last time on August 28 for a training organized by “Voices of Martyrs – Korea” on Jeju Island. Unlike the previous trainings, this time only a small number of parishioners were present in person, the majority – 61 parishioners – participated in the training via video link, reports Christian Megaportal inVictory with reference to “Voices of Martyrs – Korea”.
“Earlier this week, they left Jeju for Thailand,” said Dr. Hyun Suk Foley, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs – Korea. According to him, the rest left a few days after the training. Now the parishioners have applied for refugee status from the United Nations Refugee Agency in Bangkok and are quietly awaiting a decision by checking into local hotels.
Members of the Shenzhen church, dubbed the “Mayflower Church” by global religious freedom advocates, fled China to Jeju Island in 2019, where they worked for a living and sought asylum in the Republic of Korea. After losing at several levels in the Korean judicial system, the group decided to flee again.
“They were concerned about what they saw as increasing persecution by Chinese authorities of their family members who remained in China,” Foley’s spokesman said.
Church members also suspected that Chinese authorities may soon try to kidnap or blackmail church members in Jeju because the church members were unable to secure legal refugee status in Korea.
“The goal of the church is to obtain official refugee status, which in their opinion prevents forced repatriation to China in the short term and in the long term may lead to resettlement in another country, for example the USA,” said the minister of worship.
“Voice of Martyrs Korea” first learned about the church when Pastor Pang Yongguang called through an interpreter and asked for a face-to-face meeting at the airport.
“He and his church members arrived on Jeju Island as tourists with little or no money,” Foley’s spokesman said. “In order not to be arrested before leaving, they did not tell anyone about their plan, including us.”
Pastor Pan explained how he founded the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church in 2012 under the control of the Philadelphia Bible Reformed Church of the United States.
“Pastor Pan told us that because of his affiliation with a foreign religious group, the authorities began questioning him at least twice a week since 2014,” Foley’s spokesperson said. – “When he refused to join the Chinese Communist Party-sanctioned Patriotic Three Selves Movement (TPSM), which includes official churches, the authorities pressured the owner of the church building to evict the congregation. Church members did not want to send their children to public schools where children are taught atheism and communism, so they voted in 2019 for the entire church to flee China.”
Representative Foley emphasized that he explained to Pastor Pan that Voice of Martyrs Korea does not help Christians avoid persecution, but prepares Christians to testify in the midst of persecution. Pastor Ban expressed his understanding of the organization’s vision and interest in seeing the organization provide comprehensive anti-bullying education to his entire church, adults and children.
“Fortunately, while living in Jeju, Pastor Pan and the Mayflower Church received help and support from Korean churches and refugee missions while awaiting an asylum decision in Korea,” says spokesperson Foley. He says Christian lawyers have worked with the group through a series of petitions and appeals as their petitions have been rejected at every level of the Korean court system.
During its three years of existence, the Jeju Island church was visited several times a year by representatives of “Voice of the Martyrs – Korea” to conduct trainings on what the Bible teaches about persecution in the life of a Christian.
Foley says that while preparing to revisit the church last month, the organization learned that parishioners were already traveling in small groups from Jeju to Thailand, as they did three years ago.
“When we called to let Pastor Pan know that we were coming to teach, he told us that he wasn’t sure how many parishioners were still on the island, but he wanted us to come and encourage them one last time. Before leaving,” says Foley’s rep. – “By the time our team arrived, Pastor Pan was able to fully tell us about the entire church leaving.”
According to Foley’s spokesperson, they brought along Floyd Brobbel, CEO of Canadian Martyrs’ Voice, to speak with the church: “Mr. Brobbel reminded the Mayflower congregation of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that God’s power is made perfect in weakness and that in Christ we can never be cast out spiritually, even if we are cast out from our homeland. It was a difficult time as parishioners listened to the sermon in two different countries, neither of which was their permanent home.
According to Foley’s spokesperson, their organization has the honor of being the first organization to welcome the church upon arrival in Korea and the last to say goodbye to the church before leaving.
“It seems that God did not send the church here to live permanently in Korea,” he says. “It seems that God sent the church here so that the Voice of Martyrs Korea could study with them what the Bible says about persecution and faithful witness. So many Korean churches, ministries and lawyers helped them while they were here. “Voice of the Martyrs – Korea” participated in this process to prepare them for the next.
“Voice of the Martyrs-Korea” hopes to keep in touch with Pastor Paan and the members of the Mayflower Church.
“Other organizations will continue to bear their relocation and court costs,” a Foley spokesman said. “But it seems that God has appointed ‘Voice of the Martyrs – Korea’ to remind the church what the Bible says about the persecution of the believer. We pray that wherever God sends them, they will be His faithful witnesses.”