It’s more fun in the Philippines – Part 1

pIt is very hard to start this story, because in some sense my trip has changed me in remarkable ways. Maybe it’s best if I start at the start.

Why did I go to the Philippines?

I went to the Philippines because I was invited by a student named Rem. I spoke with her on facebook and she invited me to “see God’s work in Phil”. At first I was unsure, due to multiple factors. First I was certain I could not afford the trip, but then I received my income tax return and suddenly found myself with an extra $1000. Secondly, I was unsure if I had enough time off from work. God provided, I had exactly enough sick days combined with a day off for Good Friday to visit. Fourth, I did not want to miss my own Easter conference for theirs, but as luck would have it our conference was a weekend before. Finally, I had told my pastor that I would attend the European conference. This plane ticket would be so expensive that I would not be able to attend both. The day after Rem invited me Paul mentioned that he would pay half of the ticket to Europe. That Saturday I bought the ticket.

God’s will

I told my pastor Paul that night that I had been invited. It is a joke that I know everyone in UBF due to the internet. Paul is consistently confused how I know so many people, and I am constantly confused how he does not understand how the internet works. When I mentioned I had been invited he smiled and said “it would be good if you attended. We should pray.” This was what I expected him to say. Many months prior Paul had suggested that I go to Brazil this summer. I was excited about this. He said he would pray, and he said he would contact Brazil UBF. He never did. I kept asking about it and he kept saying “If it’s God’s will it will happen.” About a month later he changed the story up on me. Now I ought to go to Korea as a short term missionary. I was a little confused, but realized I would be going nowhere without his blessing. That December I spoke with Mark V. He said there would be a short term missionary form that would appear online in early 2014. When this was posted I mentioned it again to Paul. He said that he would bring me to Korea and accompany me for 2 weeks. This was not what I had in mind. Then he dropped the topic and I never heard about it again. I spoke with a missionary and explained that I might spend the summer in Korea, but I explained that Paul might not want me to go. He said “He might want to catch you more.”

I then realized what had happened. Paul wanted to train me as my roommate’s replacement when he was married (Mark Yang told me this directly in February) and this meant I needed to be with him here; me going abroad was not conducive to his plan. Paul would not tell me “No.” he would just say “We will pray.” Then he would do nothing to facilitate this plan. When nothing came of it, the reasoning would be that it was not God’s plan. That Sunday he told the table at lunch that I had been invited, and I mentioned I was going. He said “If its God’s plan.” I responded “Well the plane ticket it nonrefundable, so it better be God’s plan.” He said “What?! You bought the ticket? I thought you were going to pray like Jesus.” I told him I had. All he could say for the next 45 minutes was “That is good.” As if he was trying to convince himself.

My Chapter’s reaction

My chapter’s reaction was very interesting. My roommate thought that Paul was trying to do damage control for “the ignominy of you going around him”. I had told one missionary and I explained the above story of Paul’s inconsistent response to my desire to go abroad. She said “We all learn obedience to God in time.” Other missionaries were very excited and showed only positive enthusiasm for my trip. The universal response was initially confusion “Who invited you?” They all seemed very confused that a student could invite me. Then they seemed at ease when I mentioned I had been in contact with Dr. Ben Toh and Dr. William Altobar. But they then seemed confused how I knew either of them. I mentioned that I knew them from this website and from Facebook.

Paul’s Blessing

Although Paul was initially stunned at my rashness, he became very supportive. He purchased a hotel room in Tokyo for my layover. The Monday after I bought the ticket he said at bible study he would “talk to Dr. Ben Toh” and that he would “officially send me out.” It was at this moment that I realized something very important. Paul saw me as a missionary. His definition of missionary meant anyone visiting a foreign country for some Christian purpose. I did not see myself as such; I had just been invited as a guest. Since Paul believed this to be a mission trip, this made me a missionary and missionary is a title. I realized that Paul’s reluctance to send me out before was because I had not been “trained” enough to be a missionary. This all came later, but it underscores a major issue in UBF. That with native Korean leaders there is this air of unspoken rules combined with obedience mixed with poor communication. Paul remained busy hosting our Easter conference. About 5 minutes after our Easter Conference Sunday he asked that I say a few words. He asked why I was going and I explained that I had been invited. I was going to present my life testimony and testify about the grace of God in my life. Two days later I departed from America for the first time in my life. Paul called Ben Toh that morning and then things got interesting.

In part 2 I will discuss my trip and God’s work in the Philippines.


  1. I’m glad to hear your story of this trip, forests. I think you can see more clearly now than ever the contrast between a Spirit-led, Christian ministry and the ubf-led, heritage ministry. There is just no comparison.

    I am also glad that we can see real-time, publicly how ubf directors operate. Notice the contrived manipulation of events to produce loyalty to ubf under the guise of “God’s will”. All the weird scenarios were not merely poor communication, but intentional manipulation by your chapter director to spin the events to get what he wants — your “marriage by faith”.

    One word of warning: Don’t fall for the “we’ll make you a missionary” trick. That worked on me to keep me another 10 years in ubf as a ubf loyalist. You mentioned “Paul saw me as a missionary. His definition of missionary meant anyone visiting a foreign country for some Christian purpose.” I doubt that is his definition. Korean chapter directors in ubf would certainly define “missionary” in terms of being sent by ubf.

    So on one hand I am glad to hear you got to experience a redeemed ubf chapter in the Philippines. On the other hand, your report sparks PTSD-like trauma in me as I recall all the bulls–t games Korean ubf directors play. They only have one goal in mind: make you into a ubf loyalist.

    Nothing in your report surprises me; all I can say is “been there, done that”.

    • forestsfailyou

      I speak gently when it comes to some of the events here. Be assured that if they are “controlling” me they are pretty awful controllers. The main way of coercion seems to be only allowing one choice with a combination of ignorance of the end goal on the part of the member. I see neither in me, but I know that you cannot know my true thoughts behind a computer screen. Cs Lewis once said that the way to tell if you are in a dream is simple, in a dream you cannot analyze what is happening. I am still questioning, still analyzing, still making my own choices- making friends along the way.

    • forestsfailyou

      Additionally I agree with everything you have said here. They will never have what they want from me.

  2. Forests, the “coercion” I speak of is what I call the “elephant tether”. You are an “elephant”-like person, so no one would likely forcefully try the tether you. You are too independent minded. So you need an elephant tether to be controlled.

    Anthony Gittins speaks of such a thing better than I can:

    “Elephants in captivity can be restrained very cheaply. If a baby elephant is tethered it will soon discover its limitations and not resist the tether. Though it grows to be amazingly strong, as long as it remains tethered each day or night, it will never realize its true power. The kingdom proclaimed by Jesus is modeled on radical equality, and the Spirit who renews the face of the earth is calling us to be transformed rather than tethered. We have no business trying to tether the Spirit, and God’s Spirit will surely not tether the faithful, but will lead them to enjoy great and God-given strength.” -–Anthony J. Gittins, Reading the Clouds, loc. 626

    I expound on this thought in my book (which I will be sending you soon as promised)

    “Undue influence is influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences. The word “undue” is important in this definition. When some force is undue, that force is unwarranted or inappropriate because it is excessive or disproportionate to the object of that force. Sometimes that force is actually a weak force, like the tether on an adult elephant that had existed since the elephant was young. The power of undue religious influence may not be in its coercion but in its perception. Such influence may be carried out not by actual force, but by perceived force or imagined consequences.”

    Rest Unleashed: The Raven Narratives

  3. Brian, I forgot about the excellent “elephant tether” story from Gittin’s book “Reading the Clouds.” But the story that touched me from his book was about the baby polar bear who grew up in a London zoo and did not know how to be a polar bear when he grew up and died tragically:

  4. MJ Peace

    What a cliffhanger! I want to hear the rest of the story. But honestly, we all know why it’s more fun in the Philippines… because Filipinos know how to have fun, party and enjoy themselves. It’s a characteristic trait present in most Filipinos and so is a sense of humor. It’s in our blood:)

  5. Forests, good series and beginning. We spoke on the phone before things finalized. I am happy to hear that everything went well and that you really did experience the Holy Spirit when you visited Philippines. I agree (from your comment in 2nd article) that this opener is a little negative in tone, but reveals what many of us have also experienced and can confirm. Your chapter director sounds like he is building you up to build himself up. These events were out of his hands because you talked to others in the ministry and broke spiritual order. But what can he do? Not very much, because an argument would cause consequences he has chosen to avoid. Anyway, he blessed you which is important. However, in my experience that “upper hand” of blessing should be scrutinized and treated with caution. In the end you live before God and what I liked about our conversation was your attention to please God and not necessarily the members of UBF. What leaders don’t want to understand is that following Jesus is not so much a disrespect to the leaders as much as it is a respect to God. If we follow leaders without questions or without even thinking about things in/for our lives we are not submitting to God at all, but rather submitting to man. As you said, you already bought the ticket – so – your director no longer had any power at that point to decide that you attend or not.