Jeju “Mayflower Church” denied asylum, faces potential repatriation to China and persecution

The South Korean government has denied the second appeal for asylum for the 60 members of Shenzen Holy Reformed Church, including its Pastor Pan Yongguang. The group, dubbed the “Mayflower Church” by global religious freedom advocates, fled China in 2019 for Jeju Island, where they have been supporting themselves by doing menial labor during their asylum process. The denial means the group must leave Korea and return to China in the next few weeks.

Dr. Foley teaches the Mayflower church about ways they can Biblically handle the trauma they received as a result of persecution.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has been training the group for the past two years how to respond to the persecution experts believe they are likely to face upon their return.

The original ship called the Mayflower carried 102 Pilgrims to the ‘New World’ in 1620 as they fled persecution in England. This “modern-day Mayflower” group looks like they will not be granted the religious freedom they were seeking here in Korea, but they still have freedom in Christ, which no government can take away.

The congregation continues to trust God despite the denial of their request. They are a well-trained congregation, not only by us through our persecution training but also by Pan Yongguang, their pastor. The pastor and church members continue to pray that God may yet open a door for asylum in another country like the U.S., but they are fully prepared to be faithful witnesses to Christ no matter what the cost if the Lord sends them back to China.

Pastor Pan founded the church in 2012 under the oversight of Philadelphia Bible Reformed Church in the United States. Because of his connection to the foreign religious group, Pastor Pan began to be interrogated by authorities at least twice a week beginning in 2014. When Pastor Pan refused to affiliate the church with the Chinese Communist Party-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM), authorities pressured the landlord of the building where the church-run elementary school was located to evict them. Church members didn’t want to send their children to state-run schools to be indoctrinated into atheism and communism, so they voted to flee China as a whole church in 2019.

Pastor Pan is pictured with one of the youngest Mayflower Church members.

The group, which consists of twenty-eight adults and thirty-two children, posed as tourists and arrived on Jeju Island with almost nothing. In order to avoid being detained during their departure, they had not communicated their plan to anyone, including us. We learned about them and met them for the first time after they arrived. Along with China Aid and other international organizations which help persecuted Christians, we’ve done what we can to help them. Churches in Jeju have also done a lot. Everyone who meets this group loves them, because they are completely non-political and they are all hard-working. They really just want to worship God freely and educate their children to love and serve the Lord.

In June, the South Korean government denied their original asylum request. They filed an appeal shortly afterward, but according to Representative Foley they were denied a second time on October 5th. Facing a deportation to China on October 19th, they filed yet another appeal, in order not be sent back to China. They are uncertain as to how long they can stay in South Korea.

South Korea only accepted an estimated 0.4% of refugees in 2020.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea concurs with other China persecution watchdog groups China Aid and Christian Solidarity Worldwide that if the “Mayflower Church” returns to China, they will be subject to extreme punishments including imprisonments, forced disappearances, and torture. Recently, the CCP has questioned three of the church’s members who remained in China when the group fled, demanding information about the group and also demanding that the members break off all contact with them.

Pastor Foley talks with Pastor Pan about the Christian persecution in China. 

Voice of the Martyrs Korea will continue to stand with the church and share their story, no matter where they are sent. We’ve come to deeply love and respect Pastor Pan and each of the church members since we first met them and learned of their story when they arrived here in 2019. We’ve trained not only the adults but even the young children again and again what the Bible teaches about persecution in the life of the believer. We know that even if God sends them back to China, it is only because he has an even bigger plan and purpose for them, and they will be faithful.

Four hundred years after the original Mayflower Pilgrims, Christians still remember and are inspired by their story. We will do our best to continue to tell the story of these “modern Mayflower Christians” to inspire and challenge people here in our country and around the world.

Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit

Please note “China” on all donations.

These Mayflower Church children practice the principles of worship so that their families can participate in daily family worship in their homes. 

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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6 Responses to Jeju “Mayflower Church” denied asylum, faces potential repatriation to China and persecution

  1. giffordclaibornegmailcom says:

    Thanks Eric. God bless you as you serve the Mayflower Christians.

  2. Susan Burger says:

    What a wonderful article on this amazing Mayflower Church Family led by Pastor Pan. It is impossible not to fall in love with this amazing pastor and church family. Mayflower is the perfect name for them. I join you in sharing deep love, admiration and respect for them. It grieves me to think of them returning to China and yet if need be, they are totally willing to embrace the Cross so that God will be glorified. This is not human, but only possible through the Spirit of God who reigns in their hearts. I pray for the Lord to make a way where there is no way for them to find asylum elsewhere. Pastor Pan is a truly courageous servant leader, of whom the world is not worthy. I pray that the news of the Mayflower Church and their amazing Mayflower pastor will be published all around the world to the praise and glory of our Lord!

  3. Ruth Thomas says:

    Praying for Pastor Pan and the Mayflower church, that they would be faithful to God wherever He leads them. Praying for VOMK team as you teach and learn from these brothers and sisters.
    Bless you all
    Ruth Thomas

    • tdillmuth says:

      Thank you Ruth! These precious people from the Mayflower church have people praying for them around the world. I know that this encourages them! God Bless ~ Pastor Tim

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