UBFism – Lee Horror Stories

One of the tactics used at UBF is the invention of horror stories about people who leave UBF. Samuel Lee, the late co-founder of UBF, was good at spinning up such tragedies. Some who were around Lee realized most of these stories are just made up and whatever facts they are based on have been embellished significantly. The stories instilled fear and intimidation however to those who were not around Lee. Here is the first typical horror story illustration, in which UBF is paraphrased as “God’s mission”.

From “God is Pleased to Give Us the Kingdom of God” (10/29/1995):

“A young man studied architecture. He made some money. Then he became proud. He abandoned God’s mission and bought a good house in the suburbs. As soon as he moved into an overly luxurious house for him, he was attacked by liver cancer and died after six months. His wife is in huge debt. She suffers from deep despair and nihilism.”

In the following passage, Samuel Lee calls himself “commander,” “leader” and “the servant of God”. He equates his own word with God’s word and obedience towards him with obedience towards God, in very explicit terms:

From “The Triumphal Entry” (4/18/1999):

“To obey God or not to obey God’s word determines our fate. There were three medical doctors. They came as UBF missionaries to Chicago. But when their commander arrived, they all ran away so as not to suffer in doing the work of God. The leader was unhappy about them and did not bless them. Then soon one of the doctors, who was an anaesthesiologist, overdosed a patient for an operation and the patient died. So he lost his medical doctor’s license. Now he is running a grocery store very poorly. Another one, influenced by American relativism, cursed the servant of God. Then he left UBF. After several years, he was in a severe car accident. His body was totally crushed and his hands and feet were paralyzed. The third one got a proper job. But he has rheumatism in his right leg and in his left hand. He suffers day and night. All these events happened when they took God’s word lightly. This is to say that when we obey God’s word, God blesses us; when we disobey, God does not bless us.”

In 1989, 30 members were expelled from Chicago UBF by Samuel Lee, because they had attended a charismatic oriented Christian meeting outside of UBF, while Samuel Lee was absent from Chicago. Apparently they felt burned out and empty in UBF and were looking for new spiritual experiences. On his return they were immediately branded as “hallelujah” Christians, who were being led by feelings and emotions. The following passage from another sermon of Samuel Lee (in which he is referring to himself as a “servant of God” again) alludes to this event:

From “A Fieldwork Training” (7/2/2000):

“It is very dangerous to hear the word with one’s feelings. Once a servant of God visited a mission field. The church members were going to see a witch woman’s clever demonstration. The witch woman told them that Jesus was coming after three months. She put some water on each one’s forehead and predicted that all kinds of the best blessings would come upon them. Next, she demanded, ‘If you are going to receive all the blessings I spoke of, pledge an offering and bring it to me.’ People like flattery. Sometimes they know that it is wrong, but they like flattery and the promise of success. This is sinful human nature. About thirty of the church members went there and received water baptism on their foreheads and the prediction of blessing and success. They gave all their money to the woman. After one month the woman disappeared. The church that invited her also disappeared. It had been on Western Avenue. Those who were ordained by the witch woman suddenly became self-righteous. They began to dance in the darkness on the stage of our church. They looked like witch doctors. They were speaking what they did not know; some were foaming at the mouth; some acted like mental patients. So the servant of God drove them out, all thirty of them. Later, three young men from among them suddenly died of unknown diseases. One woman, who was asked to remain in the church as a prayer servant, ran away. One day, on her way home from work, she had a big car accident. Only her head has been alive for the last ten years.”

In the following passage we come across seven of tragic people who had “run away” from UBF. The situation of the medical doctors mentioned in the sermon only a month before has become even worse: The first one not only sunk into poverty, he even has to work more than 17 hours daily. The second one not only got completely crippled in a car accident, but has got two “retarded” sons added to that. The third one has no more rheumatism, but suffers from insomnia and stomach ulcer now, and actually is only vegetating, in a permanent battle with his wife. In the context of the sermon, these people are compared with the “evil tenants.” The tragic case of an architect quoted above is also mentioned, this time however, he doesn’t die of liver cancer after six months, but of kidney cancer after two months. Another two disobedient missionaries (strangely all of them being medical doctors) lost their jobs in the hospital and are looking for a new job without success. The story of the missionary who left UBF together with the “hallelujah” Christians and suffered a car accident thereafter so that “only her head is living,” is included, but the dates are not matching up again:

From “The Parable of the Tenants” (5/16/1999):

“Many Korean missionaries came to America. They worked hard for God’s vineyard. Soon they were blessed. They became rich and honorable. Then several of them ran away from God’s vineyard to use their wealth all by themselves. When they ran away from God’s mission, God did not bless them. He loved them and wanted them to repent. One of the medical doctor missionaries was an anaesthesiologist. He gave too much anaesthesia to a patient. As a result, the patient died. So he lost his physician’s license. Now he is running a small grocery store. He has to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and gather merchandise to sell during the daytime. His work finishes at 10:00 p.m. Another was a very proud medical doctor. When he was blessed by God, he ran away. Then God gave him two retarded sons. Later he had a severe car accident and is now totally crippled. He lives on government aid. A third one was blessed by God while carrying out God’s mission. But he ran away. Now he has insomnia and a stomach ulcer. He is existing. But his daily work is not medical work but a boxing match with his wife. Another of them finished his architecture study with much subsidy from God’s institution. As soon as he graduated he ran away. Then he got kidney cancer and died after two months. Two medical missionaries are as proud as Herod the Great. They were dismissed from their hospitals and are intensively looking for jobs. But they have had no success. One lady was greatly blessed by God when she was doing God’s work. But when she ran away with hallelujah Christians she had a car accident, and only her head has been alive for the last seven years.”

The same horror stories were retold by Samuel Lee year after year, with strongly varying embroidery and details, as already seen above. Interestingly, in the following variant, all women in Lee’s story suddenly became men, including the poor woman of who “only the head had been alive:”

From “Preach the Gospel in this World” (4/22/2001)

“There are two kinds of people. One kind is the people whose hearts are like flintstone. The other kind is very gentle and weak-minded. Brutal and strong people mask themselves as witch doctors and deceive weak people to empty their pockets. In 1998, I came from Korea after the World Mission Report. In the Chicago UBF, thirty of the members had contacted witch doctors. Witch doctors sprinkled water on their foreheads and told their fortunes. Even though it was lying, they felt good. When they thought about the witch doctor’s lying again and again, they began to feel that the lies were true. Then the thirty of them became useless to God’s world mission ministry. Soon after, they formed their own group and went out to make a hallelujah fellowship. Among them, one man who finished his Pharm.D. died suddenly at his desk, sitting in the chair. Another one died of a heart attack. One was sincerely asked to remain as a prayer servant. But he ignored the request and ran away. On the way he had an accident. Only his head is alive. After that they became very quiet and didn’t bother campus evangelism and world mission work in UBF.”

To make this point clear again, all these passages were taken from official Sunday service messages of Samuel Lee in Chicago UBF, which are more or less copied by all other UBF chapter leaders. If you want, you can certainly find some more examples in these and other Sunday messages. However, even more of these horror stories were told by Samuel Lee in the so-called announcements after the sermon. These announcements usually follow the Sunday lecture in UBF. They were frequently as long as the lecture itself, and are used to praise and rebuke individual members. Samuel Lee also used them to boast about himself and to give Bible interpretations and examples which would be too absurd for being included in the documented lecture. Unlike the sermon, such remarks in the announcements are not recorded in writing, but they leave a lasting impression in many members. Later in the week, these horror stories are also used to intimidate the sheep in the one-to-one Bible studies.