A Christian mother and her two daughters escaped China earlier this year the help of an activist who has called the ordeal nothing short of miraculous.
Chen Guiqiu fled China with her two children, ages 15 and 4, after authorities imprisoned her husband, Xie Yang, a well-known human rights lawyer, on a charge of inciting subversion.
According to the AP, Chen had helped release her husband's account of being beaten, deprived of sleep and otherwise tortured while in detention, prompting police summoned her for hours-long meetings. During those meetings, authorities threatened to evict her, deny her children schooling and have her fired from her job as a professor of environmental engineering at Hunan University.
The pressure became increasingly unbearable, but it wasn't until police detained Chen's then-14-year-old daughter as she tried to board a train for Hong Kong, that she knew it was time leave.
The trip was anything but easy.
Chen contacted Bob Fu, a Christian rights activist based in Texas who has helped several high-profile dissidents flee China, before fleeing their central China home in February. The family traveled on foot and by car for five days -- sometimes with no place to sleep and nothing to eat but a bag of chocolates
Eventually, the three made it to a safe house in Bangkok, Thailand. Unfortunately, their nightmare wasn't over.
In early March, Thai police found the three at the house, took their possessions and sent them to detention. In immigration court, a judge ordered that Chen be deported.
After hearing of Chen's detention, Fu, the president of China Aid who was, at one time, tortured in a Chinese prison for his faith, told the U.S. State Department and his associates in Thailand, who found her in the jail. Fu said U.S. officials arrived at the jail while Chen was in court.
After her hearing, authorities took her back to the jail, and more than a dozen Chinese security agents waited at the entrance to escort Chen and her two daughters back to China.
Chen prayed: "Don't desert us now, not like this."
The Lord answered her prayers: U.S. Embassy officials convinced Thai officials to allow them to quickly take Chen and her daughters out a back door, according to CBN. When the Chinese agents at the entrance learned the family had escaped, they followed them to the Bangkok airport, where Chinese, Thai and U.S. officials reportedly disputed over who had custody of Chen and her daughters.
Eventually, the family arrived in the U.S. on March 17.
"It's absolutely nothing but a miracle!" Fu told the outlet of the family's escape. "I was really thankful that the Trump administration made a decisive, unprecedented decision and took action and helped protect (Chen) and the two daughters."
Chen and her daughters are living off the charity of her supporters, and the former professor plans to seek a job, a home, and school for the girls.
Meanwhile, Chen's husband, Xie, went on trial a short time later, and an attorney appointed by the government represented him and no witnesses were called. Xie pleaded guilty and asked the court to grant him a lenient sentence based on his repentance.
Fu called the legal proceeding "totally a fake, show trial," and said Xie is missing again, along with his parents. He told CBN News the three were "somehow put in a remote mountain area."
In recent months, dozens of churches have been raided by authorities as China's government, under president Xi Jinping, becomes increasingly suspicious of the Christian faith. In previous years, authorities bulldozed hundreds of churches and removed thousands of crosses in addition to imprisoning -- and even torturing -- pastors and human rights lawyers.
Because of these ongoing abuses, the church is ranked 39th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
In an interview with The Gospel Herald, Fu shared how Chinese citizens are "thirsty" for the truth of the Gospel - particularly in light of the oppressive nature of the Communist government.
"The authentic love and compassion that is manifested in the lives of believers has been a major factor in the spread of the Gospel," he said, citing a Purdue University study that found the country is on course to become the world's "most Christian nation" by 2030.
"Under Communism, trust among the Chinese was destroyed," Fu revealed. "But the church was the opposite - Christians were the first ones to love those with disease and illnesses, the first ones to care about the elderly, the vulnerable, the children."
Despite ongoing persecution, Fu added that he is "more optimistic than ever" that the Gospel will continue to impact the country in a tremendous way.
"While we still feel the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters in China, we have seen the Good News spark the rapid growth of Christianity," he said. "We have seen a great revival - more and more believers are becoming actively involved. I believe that in the end, the Communist Party will be called the 'Servant of the Lord.'"