John Cao

John Cao

Image of Pastor John Cao who was placed in prison on illegal border crossing charges, despite the fact that they had never had trouble before.
John Cao, imprisoned since 2018

Freedom in Chains

In February 2023, John Cao’s mother met with him face-to-face for the first time in three years. She reported he was in good health, and that he was thankful for his international friends.

Building Bible Schools

Pastor John Cao served as a missionary in Myanmar’s Wa State, transforming the lives of more than 2,000 impoverished minority children by building 16 schools and working to fight poverty in the region. Chinese officials knew that he repeatedly crossed the border between China and Myanmar because of his work and allowed him to do so for three years.


However, on March 5, 2017, authorities in China’s Yunnan province intercepted Cao and his colleague, Jing Ruxia, and placed them in prison on illegal border crossing charges, even though they had never had trouble before. Later, they changed Cao’s charge to “organizing illegal border crossings,” and he was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2018.

His family in the US

Cao is married to an American citizen, Jamie Powell, and is a legal resident of North Carolina. When faced with the option of obtaining American citizenship, he chose not to better be able to serve the persecuted Chinese church.

The CCP against the gospel in Myanmar

Those observing Cao’s case believe that his imprisonment does not come from the violation of any border law, but rather arose from China’s ongoing campaign to suppress the Chinese church. Following a farce appeal process on July 25, 2019, a Yunnan court upheld Pastor John Cao’s seven-year sentence. In the court surrounded by the heavy police presence, the court handed down the decision.

Secret trial

Officials only permitted Cao’s family’s lawyer, his 83-year-old mother, and his sister to hear the verdict. One source reports that Pastor Cao has been experiencing health challenges and that he’s lost more than 50 pounds. In August, CCP authorities transferred John to prison in Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province.

Inspiring poetry

John Cao never wavered in his faith during his time in Kunming. Since 2021, he began writing poetry regularly. He reflected on his imprisonment, his previous mission of building schools, his family, and, of course, his faith.

He wrote so much that not only did ChinaAid compile and translate them into English, but his mother started writing poetry as well. His optimism for the future is contagious, which he shared in one of his letters, planning for his future after prison:

I hope to have “three joys”: enjoy following the Holy Spirit, enjoy reading books, and enjoy making friends. Also, I hope to have “three loves”: Love Jesus, love enemies, and love everyone.

John’s message to the international community

During a video meeting with his mother, John told her: “Mom, please bring my regards to my American family, other relatives, and friends, especially brothers and sisters across the world.”

Pastor John Cao with his mother, wife, and two sons
Photo: John Cao with his mother, wife, and two sons (ChinaAid source)
Living Lyrics: Poems from Prison by Pastor John Cao

Write to John Cao

Read his poetry

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