13 Christians who have left China for the United States over the past 10 years due to persecution from Chinese authorities participated in a Bible-based trauma recovery workshop in Midland, Texas on October 27 provided by Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid.
“For Chinese Christians, persecution doesn’t stop when they leave China,” said Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, who led the workshop. “Partly that’s because persecution-related trauma can last a lifetime and even carry into the next generation when it’s not treated properly. Partly it’s because most Chinese Christians still have relatives living in China who are currently under government surveillance there. And partly it’s because many Chinese Christians report that they themselves are experiencing active surveillance by Chinese agents even though they are now living in the US.”
Dr. Foley received her master’s degree in clinical counseling with a specialization in trauma care from Colorado Christian University in the United States. In addition to teaching Bible-based trauma recovery directly to persecuted Christians still living in China, Dr. Foley has also provided trauma recovery aftercare to Christians who have left China to seek religious asylum in other countries.
Six of the October workshop attendees were from the Shenzen Holy Reformed Church, the so-called “Mayflower Church” which fled China for Jeju Island in 2019 before relocating to Thailand in August 2022 in their ongoing efforts to seek religious asylum. They were permitted to come to the US in April 2023. Representative Foley said her organization has provided twice-yearly persecution training and trauma recovery sessions for the church members since the church first arrived in Korea. The church’s pastor, Pan Yongguang, who participated in the October workshop, called Dr. Foley’s trauma recovery training the church’s “secret weapon”.
Chinese Christians who came to the US to escape persecution, along with members of the China Aid staff, participate in an October Bible-based trauma recovery workshop in Midland, Texas led by Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley and translated by China Aid CEO Bob Fu.
“Counselors know that the heart of trauma recovery is the recovery and strengthening of whatever healthy family and group rituals and routines already exist in the life of the traumatized person or community,” said Representative Foley. “For Christians, the most powerful resource for trauma recovery is daily household worship.”
During the October workshop, Pastor Pan explained to the other attendees that the families in his church had previously prayed and read scripture in their homes daily, but it was only after working with Voice of the Martyrs Korea that they learned how to use daily family worship as the main means of managing and reducing stress and recovering from trauma for each member of the family. “Since that time, whether they were living in Korea, Thailand, or now the US, Pastor Pan has asked each of the families in his congregation to send him a ‘confirmation text’ when they do family worship each day, so that he knows they are dealing with their stress and trauma daily,” said Representative Foley.
Among the other October workshop attendees, who asked to remain nameless for security reasons, many reported living alone or with only a spouse or minor child after other family members had been killed or were still being detained in China. Some reported still being watched by observers who they believe are from China. One had even had their phone stolen recently and credited the theft to Chinese agents. The attendees expressed their uneasiness in being around other Chinese people in the US and their sense that their homes, churches, and workplaces are not safe from surveillance by Chinese agents.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley teaching Bible-based trauma recovery techniques at a private October training event in Midland, Texas for Chinese Christians in the US, with China Aid CEO Bob Fu translating.
“In situations like this, the traumatized person must of course still focus on their survival and the survival of their family members both inside and outside of China,” said Representative Foley. But she says that doesn’t mean they should postpone dealing with their traumas.
“Trauma recovery should not wait until a trauma is over, because as our workshop participants shared, they are continuing to have to deal with persecution and trauma even though they have left China,” said Representative Foley. “The most effective trauma recovery strategies are ones which people can use even in the midst of ongoing trauma. They are strategies which don’t require professional counselors and which can be taught and practiced by ordinary people. That is why daily household worship is so powerful as a trauma recovery strategy: It is something any traumatized person can learn to do and practice for even just a few minutes each day. It helps them remember that God is in charge, even when the circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.”
In addition to the day-long workshop, Representative Foley and Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley met the next day for individual trauma recovery sessions with several of the participants.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley and Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley with Pan Yongguang, pastor of the so-called “Mayflower Church” which fled China in 2019, at the private October trauma recovery training event in Midland, Texas for formerly persecuted Chinese Christians now living in the US. The training was conducted by Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid.
“Some of the workshop participants have been in the US for a few months, while some have been here more than ten years,” says Representative Foley. “But all are still experiencing high levels of active trauma due to ongoing persecution of family members inside China, as well as suspected ongoing surveillance by Chinese agents in the US.” In such cases, says Dr. Foley, trauma recovery strategies are especially important. “It is easy for an asylum seeker to become depressed when they realize that their problems have followed them to their new country and, in some cases, become worse because they are often no longer able to maintain contact with family members in China, who may now be in even more danger because of the asylum seeker’s departure,” says Representative Foley. “In these cases, we should not make false promises that everything will be OK or that everyone will be safe. Instead, we need to equip them with practical strategies for dealing with trauma arising from circumstances beyond their control. As Pastor Pan from the Mayflower Church testified, daily family worship is the ‘secret weapon’ the Lord has given us for this purpose.”
Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with persecuted Christians in China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer.