A Happy UBF Chapter

VowRenewalWL12 UBF couples (10 from West Loop) renewed our marriage vows on Oct 12, 2013 after attending a series on marriage excellently led by Kevin and Julie Jesmer over 8 months at West Loop Church. Our happy pictures on Facebook had over 1,000 views and countless likes.

I would like to share what my dear wife wrote to me in a card celebrating this occasion. I asked her and she gave me permission to share it. In my opinion, she is pretty blunt (thanks to my influence!) but also gracious.

10.12.2013CtBtConservatoryRenewalVowsDear Ben,

After 32 years of marriage, I believe that this year we began to truly embrace the obvious fact that we are very different — in outlook, temperaments, response patterns.

It is clearly the work of God through the gospel that has enabled you (us) to embrace these differences. And I sense that because of this your desire to change or fix me has greatly diminished. This makes me feel better about myself and actually inspires me to want to change, press on forward and be sanctified. It also helps me to respect you as a godly man–in spite of your own glaring faults. :-)

I am also thankful for the change in you, brought on by God’s Spirit working in leading our family and church into a deeper understanding of the gospel. I appreciate your efforts to be  less critical and more patient with me (in driving and making business decisions). There were times when I doubted God’s power to work in us (especially you!). But God’s hand is clearly guiding us in spite of ourselves.

Now my prayer is that God may bind us together more deeply through all the shared events of life, that we may learn what it means to live out the gospel, confess, forgive and experience the power of grace. That most of all our family and marriage may produce a lasting legacy and example for generations to come.

“We love because he first loved us.”


I had previously shared that if not for UBF I would not be married. My marriage is indeed my happiest story next to the grace of Jesus. I believe that this is also true for the happy couples we have at West Loop, which enables us to be a happy church. Last month our members collectively came up with our catchphrase: “Live out the gospel in life and community.” We can do so when the Spirit of God fills us with the fruit of love, joy and peace (Gal 5:22-23).

Thank God for happy marriages and a happy church. Thank God for my happy wife (in spite of me!).


  1. Thanks for sharing this Ben! Who knew that such a bitter, rebellious, supposedly-left-ubf person like you was so happy?

    This is awesome news. I’m glad to see such a thing happening. And because I’ve visited West Loop Church a few times, I can attest that you are a happy church!

  2. Thanks, Brian.

    It is interesting that so far one person checked dislike for this article. Any speculations as to why someone might dislike this post?

  3. This is getting to be fun. Now there are 2 dislikes in the past hour or so!

  4. Hi Ben,

    For me, I didn’t click “like” or “dislike” on this one– I’m really glad to hear about such happy events, but I’m ambivalent about the article itself.

    One possibility for the dislikes is that someone is just messing with you. But assuming the dislikes are real, a former member perspective might help.

    As a former ubf leader, my gut reaction to your title is “WTF?” I’m nauseated whenever I hear of such wonderful, happy stories in ubf. It really has nothing to do with you or the other couples. In no way do I want ubf people to be depressed all the time. What disturbs me as a former members is the absence of concern for the painful divorces. I know you care much about such things, Ben, but your article supports the notion that there are no problems with ubf marriages. It is not fair to portray that onto you or your article, but since there is not a single source of real care or concern about the divorces from ubf leaders, we former members tend to feel put off by your article.

    Another perspective, as a former member, is that we may experience extreme sadness over hearing about such a happy event as renewing vows. We wonder, why couldn’t that have been done during our time in ubf? Why were we rebuked for having Christmas trees or holding similar celebrations? Why were we not allowed to have such happy events? Let’s face reality Ben, your chapter of ubf is only a “happy ubf chapter” because your repented, and you encouraged all your chapter members and leaders to also repent of the elitist, 12 point heritage system activities and attitudes that plague almost every other ubf chapter.

    Maybe this gives some insight into a former members’ perspective and why someone might click “dislike”. That “dislike” button might be the only means for a former member to vent frustration over the ubf self-glory and self-praise that I know you yourself hate.

    • Also, when I read the Facebook comments like “Oh that’s such a cute idea!” I feel like vomiting, smashing the wall and ripping my clothes like the OT prophets… Such things make us former members feel like the disappearing family members in the Back to the Future photos…

  5. Thanks so much, Brian, your comments are VERY VERY helpful for me to see from beyond my own perspective, prejudices and paradigm.

    Yes, I am VERY concerned with divorces or horror stories about UBFers “marriage by faith.” Recently, 4 young adults (2 pairs) in various UBF chapters who are fully committed members left UBF, because their respective shepherds were trying to dictate and control their dating and courtship. This really causes me to feel as you do–like the OT prophets.

    I may be wrong but I really thought that the “dislikes” are related to mainstream UBFers who think that this article does not focus on what is of utmost importance and that is MISSION, and that this article only wants to promote “FAMILY CENTEREDNESS.” Anyway, that’s what I thought about the two dislikes so far.

    And I am sorry if this came across as though I am flaunting how happy our WL families are (which I know is nothing but the grace and mercy of God).

    • You might be right also, Ben. Some second gens or other young people may not believe it, but there are so many ubf directors and shepherds who hate anything that is not “mission centered” and despise the “family centered” activities like you mention in your article. These people truly believe they are upholding some sort of holy standard. They are like the husband in the joke: “Honey, why are you upset at me? I told you I love you on our honeymoon 10 years ago. Nothing changed. Why do I have to keep telling you I love you?”

      So we have uncovered another great contradiction in the ubf heritage. The directors push SO hard to get you “married by faith” but they care little about actual family life. They uphold SB as such a great model of faith and yet never teach the value of a life of celibacy.

      I’m not worried about such leaders however. Such shallow and superficial and flawed interpretations of the bible will be exposed and rejected by future generations. People long for deep witnesses of Jesus’ love.

    • As a former ubf member I may say that I like the article, Ben, though I didn’t like the title. (I didn’t add “like” or “dislike”). So I suppose the “dislikes” are from the “mainstream ubf” members :( Your chapter is not actually a typical ubf chapter. It is not fair I think that you represent ubf with the single happy chapter. And many people who are in ubf are not happy at all and may tend to “dislike” what you say. We, former members, were not happy while in ubf too, but now we are out and are happy, at least not less than you :) So I personally like your article and you for your ability to be in ubf but not of ubf and to be happy in ubf though almost all the rest are misarable there.

    • Unless the people who click “dislike” don’t explain why, we can only guess. I can imagine that it’s either from someone who knows about the many marriages and marriage attempts in UBF that went horribly wrong because leaders arranged and interfered. So writing about the few marriages that miraculously were happy anyway (mine included) without mentioning the systemic problems with UBF marriage might blow up in their face. Or it could be from someone in UBF who has the traditionalist view that marriage should be mainly for coworking in world mission, not for its own sake and for living happily. Some ex members of Bonn UBF reported that their marriage vow and promise was primarily about world mission and they had to promise they would “put their head on the line for the servant of God (i.e. the chapter leader)”. That’s no joke.

      Personally, I’m glad everything went so well for you and that your chapter has changed its ways so radically. But being lucky ourselves we should not overlook the misfortune that was cast over others’ marriages by UBF leaders unnecessarily, and we should do everything that such things cannot repeat. Many sad stories of marriages in UBF exist, most of which have never been told for understandable reasons.

  6. btw, our “happiness” is not without fights and battles, conflicts and confrontations. We have them among our couples (maybe especially mine!) and among ourselves, which can become heated and passionate.

    But at the end of the day, God pours out his mercy and grace to us, so that only by the power and grace of God, we do not hold on to our differences or grievances, but love each other by the strength God provides (1 Pet 4:11).

  7. Ben, I have no idea either about the like vs. dislike. I sometimes like, but never dislike articles or comments. For dislikes I would rather just contribute a comment instead. But I honestly see your article as in some way “sarcasm” and also a light tap in the face of UBFers. Let me explain.

    Sarcasm, because of indeed the apparant happiness even though tensions do occur – but that is natural anyway. It’s like your giving them the finger, while your hand is still inside your pocket. When I first commented on ubfriends we briefly discussed how the usual atmosphere in ubf chapters was not family or couple friendly. Keeping the old fashioned Korean tradition of men on one side and women on the other – separating husbands and wives. It is so funny that for a new comer into the church they have no idea who is married to whom. It is quite silly really. I understand the concern for preventing sin, but actually the prohibition on natural communication between people I would say is an even greater sin.

    The light tap on the face is in regard to typical ubf marriages themselves. For example, take the ideal – “co-workers”. If we only see each other in those terms than it is quite fake and will soon cause us many problems down the road. Yes, we are co-workers in Christ, but we must also see each other as a husband and wife and as parents. If we only see each other as coworkers than our love is not really for each other, but for mission exclusively. This means that if one of us is struggling with something critical maybe the other person cannot understand or even begin to aid in restoration. The consequence is judgment from your spouse in ubf works – which is not Christianity or Jesus centered.

    You suggested that I like the Westloop fb page recently. I thought those pics were amazing. I agree with Brian overall in some way, but also have no opinion, because usually we are not allowed to see intimacy between married people or between parents and children. All relationships are stifled by the straining of ubf mandates and mission. But this article just celebrates marriage – marriage that is not between two young people, but between two older people. It is may I say, their second marriage. Renewal of vows is a concept not really discussed in ubf. I do not think that many consider it as important. But actually it should be important.

    • Ben!! Maybe it’s because I am tired and need sleep, but I just caught something. Your title was created to catch our attention. It reads: “A Happy UBF Chapter”

      Are you saying that there are no “HAPPY” UBF chapters?
      If your happy and you know it…

      Sorry, need sleep. ;-)

  8. Ben….I like your article…it gives me hope that God is bringing change to Ubf and marriages are honored and families….this has to change for Ubf to begin to please God again….Jesus himself honored his family….in Ubf the pride of mission is destroying families….children are neglected and abused with the antifamily culture…..the break up of my family was due to this…..God has been faithful……and now I can say I am truly happy in the Lord and found a healthy church that builds families……God has restored my conscience and now being used to minister with love and grace to families and my children say I have changed…last week my 16 year old son decided to go back to church with us on his own…we pray to never neglect our children for mission…family is most important blessing from God….Genesis study is taught with no emphasis on family

  9. Thanks for your comments. They have helped me to “see” what I may not have realized before reading your comments.

    To restate again, I am sorry if this comes across as if I am flaunting my happiness on others. Or that I am oblivious of some sad abusive practices regarding some marriages in UBF.

    My initial and primary motivation to write this article was perhaps two-fold:

    1) I was touched by my wife’s card to me, which I wanted to share with the world, because this is nothing but God’s mercy, magnanimity and marvelous grace to us.

    2) I was quite shocked to notice that our West Loop pictures had over 1,000 views and countless likes on Facebook! Kudos goes to our designated photographer, Christy Peace, who captured so many moments so well of all of our couples. I was so moved and so touched when I first saw each picture and each lovely couple, who are so precious to God, for they reflect his love and grace to each of them.