A Texas church will allow a persecuted Chinese congregation recently granted asylum in the United States following a yearslong process to worship at its property regularly.
The Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, which is commonly known as the "Mayflower Church," held its first worship service on Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Midland campus.
The Chinese congregation gathered at the church's youth center for worship and will be permitted to use the property three times a week, reported Baptist Standard.
"It's a real blessing for us," FBC Midland Pastor Darin Wood told the outlet. "Our church has a heart for missions. … This is a further reflection of that."
When the Mayflower Church saw the youth center space given to them for worship, "they broke down and cried," Wood said, because "they had never had a building to worship in before."
Named after the ship that took the Pilgrims to America in the 17th century, the Mayflower Church fled China due to ongoing persecution, interrogations and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, initially seeking shelter in South Korea in 2019.
South Korean officials refused to grant the church asylum, allegedly due to the influence of the Communist Chinese government. From South Korea, the congregation of around 64 members traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, hoping to set up a new community there. They were detained by local authorities last March after their visas expired.
A coordinated effort by the U.S. government, the United Nations and the Thai government resulted in the church members' release for them to be resettled in the United States.
The last remaining Mayflower family arrived in Dallas on May 26 after the family of five was delayed by childbirth, according to China Aid.
ChinaAid CEO Chad Bullard, whose organization oversaw a welcome event when the church arrived in Texas, said in a statement at the time that the successful resettlement was "a successful example of nonpartisan, international cooperation."
"We are thankful to all parties, including various U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department's International Religious Freedom Office led by Ambassador Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, USCIRF, and a number of congressional offices including Chairman Mike McCaul and Chairman Chris Smith," said Bullard.
Freedom Seekers International, a Texas-based Christian organization whose mission is to help resettle refugees persecuted for their faith, helped relocate the Mayflower Church.
Last year, FSI reported helping the Chinese congregation with learning English, finding employment, learning how to drive and settling on a piece of property in the Midland area.