It’s more fun in the Philippines – Part 2

sIn Part 1 I spoke of the lead up to my trip. This story is the story of my trip so I will begin with my initial impressions. When I last left Paul had spoken to Ben. My shepherd’s last words of advice to me were to be careful not to become married or introduced. He said Filipinos were “crazy for Americans” and that “it wasn’t my time”. With that I departed for the Philippines. Although I started the story and have proceeded chronologically I will depart from this to explain some major lessons from my time in the Philippines.

The 9th Beatitude

The poverty was something I don’t think I ever got used to. There were dozens of people walking everywhere. The city was not zoned so every spot that was vacant was turned into a makeshift house. Electrical wiring hung precariously. The Philippines reminded me of that scene from Going to America; the city looked like 1980’s metro Africa. Nothing could have prepared me for the state of their bible house. Their bible house was essentially two half houses connected with a board and covered with an open roof. This meant no amount of air conditioning would cool this place. There were no washers or dryers. Coworkers slept on a sheet on the ground. I was shocked at this place, but what shocked me more was that everyone was happier than I have ever seen. It is true, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” They would have seen redder roses than I would have seen, and greener grass- had there been any grass to see. All the areas that could have grass were just dirt. I was astonished at their attitude towards life. Most of the people there wore clothing that appeared to have been fashionable several years ago in America. It seemed cross training shoes were absent. Shoes there seemed to be a thin and most comparable to slippers. Despite it all I never once heard anyone complain.

More Fun

The tagline for tourism in the Philippines is the titular “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” The students there would use it sarcastically. When we arrived at the resort there was a man urinating on the side wall of the resort in board daylight with several people all walking around him. I was shocked and laughed at this, when someone said “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” A day later I was walking to my room and a lizard crawled up the wall besides me. I asked if this was normal and the girl said “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” The whole tone of the conference itself could be described in this way “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” Nothing was mandatory. The schedule was set but you could have done nothing and nobody would have mentioned it to you. Friday’s schedule included a message after breakfast, then bible study. After bible study was socialization for a few hours until lunch. After lunch was music practice and free time. After dinner there was dance night. Different groups preformed dances and skits. Some of these were Christian and others were not. I saw a traditional Filipino dance. Saturday’s schedule was dance cardio before breakfast, a message after breakfast, group bible study, socialization and free time until lunch, after lunch there was music practice until dinner, after dinner there was life testimony sharing and music. The two presiders could not in any culture be said to have taken their role seriously. They joked the whole time in introducing people and everyone loved them. When they said “God is good.” You could see them glowing. It was an abrupt change from anything I have ever seen in American UBF, and “It was very good.”

The purpose of Bible study

The bible studies were very different from my home chapter, or even the chapter of the second gen I started under. When I sat down with her to study the bible I was confused. I asked her where the questionnaire was. She said there was no questionnaire. I asked her what we were going to study. She asked me what I wanted to study. The bible study was very 1 to 1, in the sense that we were on equal grounds. Although the students there seemed shy and in some cases differential to me, in bible study they spoke confidently about the gospel that gave them life.

We jumped around the bible as I explained how Christian virtues are only virtues when held under unfavorable conditions. I said that Christ can be said to love us because he loved us when he had every reason not to. Because there was no questionnaire to steer the direction of the conversation the bible study felt more organic and more real. I was not constantly on guard against questions that desired answers out of context.

Another thing I learned from the bible study is that the Shepherdess was very unfamiliar with the Old Testament. This struck me as odd at first. Later that night I had a different student leading bible study question me about what John had meant when he called us “Children of God” in 1 John. I spoke with Dr. William Altobar regarding this. It seemed to me that unqualified students were leading bible studies. He said that “Bible studies are there to build relationships between students so they can experience God.” I realized from this that I had taken up unknowingly that the purpose of bible studies was to learn about God. But in the Philippines, it was to experience God. It is important to note, but hard to see that if we have any good about us it come from God, we are like mirrors reflecting his glory.

Students are led to Christ in the Philippines by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit though students facilitated God’s word. In some sense I wonder what is best. I think that traditional UBF chapters led by native Koreans use the bible study to pass on teaching of obedience and loyalty though bible study. Traditionally it seems American protestant bible study try to pass on knowledge of the scripture though bible study. But the bible studies with Hope seemed as though she wanted to testify about Christ. No matter what we started talking about the conversation would end talking about Christ and his work in her life. Sometimes it became irritating to me. I wanted to talk about theology and she wanted to talk about Christ. The correct choice seems obvious.

In part 3 I will discuss what I learned though the messages, and the success of UBF in the Philippines.


  1. Love this series, forests.

    “Filipinos were “crazy for Americans” and that “it wasn’t my time”.

    LOL! Exactly what I was told by Korean missionaries in 1992 when I went to Russia in nearly the same manner as you are describing here. I was told “Russians are crazy for Americans”. And there was the same confusion and consternation regarding my trip because I made my own decision to go to Russia with a foreign exchange language program and not with ubf.

    Of course, after the fiddle-faddle, the ubf Koreans then “supported” me and “sent me”. I decided to meet Samuel Lee in Chicago at the last minute before going to the OHare airport. And of course then we all claimed that I was a “ubf short-term missionary” to keep face. I was shocked when I arrived in Russia and found the director there was told I was not going to attend my language class but would only stay with the ubf missionary family. I disobeyed that “direction” and did both– attending the Russian language study and then staying extra time to be with the missionaries.

  2. Joe Schafer

    Hello everyone. Like Brian, I have stayed away from this website since the beginning of Lent. It was a very positive experience. Now I’m slowly returning.

    Forests, thank you for this series of articles. They are quite interesting.

    This article made me think about the inherent limitations of 1:1 Bible study.

    Much has been written on this website about the problematic nature of hierarchical shepherd/sheep relationships in ubf, and how 1:1 Bible study is used to reinforce them. I don’t want to rehash any of that right now.

    But even if people aren’t doing that — even if they are just using 1:1 Bible study as a technique to spend time learning from God’s word — learning happens much more efficiently in small to medium sized groups. Each of us has limited knowledge. We are all ignorant about many things. When you are meeting with one person, there is no way to get around the limitations of that person’s knowledge and experience. But in a group setting, people can acquire many bits and pieces of knowledge from one another, because although each participant is ignorant, they are ideally ignorant in different ways. (I say “ideally” because, in communities that have been taken over by groupthink, that will not happen.) In a healthy and diverse community of equals, learning happens exponentially faster in groups. There are certain occasions where 1:1 meetings can be helpful, but over-use of a 1:1 mechanism tends to hinder learning and propagate ignorance.

    • Hey Joe, welcome back! I agree with the point about needing other people. I have found how much I need the perspectives and differing input from numerous sources.

      I want to expand your point about about group-think. I have always valued the input of multiple people. It has been said that the worst ideas in all history (like “new Coke”) came from a group of people who had no dissenting opinions. But I became conditioned to think that I needed a specific kind of people, i.e. ubf people, for those “differing opinions”. I falsely thought that as long as another ubf person gave input then I had gotten a “new perspective”.

      But now that I am no longer confined to such a worldview, I see how wonderful and helpful and healthy truly differing ideas can be. It is painful at first to hear someone who has an entirely different perspective than I do, but it gets easier. Sort of like jumping into a pool, seems cold at first but then you adjust.

  3. Welcome back, Joe.

    Forests, You have articulated more poignantly than I ever have about why I have loved to go to Philippines UBF in Manila yearly over the past decade. Perhaps it is because you are more Chestertonian! In a word, the joy is overflowing and the Presence of God is palpable (John 3:8). God-willing, I may go for the 2nd time this year in November, en route to attending my mother’s 97th birthday in Malaysia.

    Even though they tend to treat me somewhat differentially (as they do you) because I am older and a foreigner, yet I am basically just “one of the guys.” This is so refreshing. There is no role playing or any forced or coerced hierarchy that needs to be enforced. Even the youngest student has no hesitation to come and joke with me and make fun of me, without any hint of disrespect, but with an openness and transparency that they accept me as though I am one of them. This is just so cool. It is like a glimpse and a slice of the kingdom of heaven.

    Every year I mention emphatically that I have learned more from them than I can ever possibly teach them, and that I have been blessed by them more than I can ever possibly bless them.

    • forestsfailyou

      I was a little saddened by the nearly entirely negative tone of part 1, but your 1000 word criteria kinda put a restraint on me. A truth does not cease to be a truth because it is ugly. I am not concerned with any issues that might arise from my pastor hearing or reading part 1- for that he would need to have some sort of leverage on me, of which he has none. This story is a joyous one though. And it would be a sin to view it in any other way.

  4. Hey forests, this comment caught me off-guard: “And it would be a sin to view it in any other way.”

    Why is a different viewpoint considered a sin? Could you further explain what you mean by this?

    • forestsfailyou

      Ah, I was using it in the same way that we might say “It’s a sin to cry on such a happy day.” or “It’s a sin to not eat the cherry on a sundae.”

      Now that I think about it, I believe that it is a sin to not be joyous when we have been given so much to be joyous for. Focusing so much on something negative that we forget the positive is the crime of the pessimist. They see everything wrong but do not loving anything enough to change it. But similarly we might fall into a trap of finding everything so joyous that we over look the bad things. Jesus was both an optimist and a pessimist, he hated the world enough change it in his death, and loved it enough to think it worth dying for.

    • forestsfailyou

      I do realize what you concern was reading it more closly. I so appreciate that a conclusion was not jumped to that i do not consider different viewpoints sin. That is something interesting to consider. Can holding a belief be said to be a sin? Sounds like an article. I wonder if it would be a good idea if maybe multiple authors here all wrote an article answering the question and their thoughts on it. That way people could see many view points on the same question. Sounds great!

    • Thanks for clarifying forests. I like your response. I think a sign of a maturing person (like you) is that they don’t always take things so personally. I say “maturing” because we all have a lot of growing and learning to do. You expressed exactly my sentiment, that we should discuss whether a belief can be a sin. This is a huge topic for me, since I’ve been literally condemned to hell for my beliefs (not by ubf people but by others who call themselves Christian). I am preparing two book reviews that will address this very topic in a BIG way. The crux of my thinking is that incorrect beliefs are not sin. But as you say, such a simple answer does not suffice.

    • I should note that ubf people don’t seem to care what beliefs I hold. I noticed that back in 1987 :) What ubf people do care about and even condemn me for (or at least write me off as ungrateful and useless to God) is for leaving ubf and for criticizing the ubf heritage and rejecting it as “God’s best ways”.

  5. big bear

    Forests….great to see the joy in your writings…great reports…traveling to other countries and meeting new people in God’s love is the adventure I miss most about UBF..I enjoyed the simplicity of the gospel in foreign lands especially in Africa…enjoy your time and develop friends and see the unity of all Christians…unfortunately you will have to come back to the USA and a controling chapter director and your joy will be short lived unless you remember the love of Christ and you are surrounded by healthy christianity…my wife and I will visit Romania and the world in the near future and we are praying for you

  6. Overall I am happy you enjoyed yourself. I will add that in fact a Bible study should only be with a q/a sheet if we are looking for facts. But, you could not find the style you have been so condtioned to in UBF. There is no scripted answer. And what is that answer? – Go to campus and feed sheep. If you do not feed sheep and write testimonies you are not a real Christian….

    Instead of that nonsense you were able to experience the atmosphere of believers as guided by the Spirit. It sounds like no one was governed by the packed schedule that leaves you exhausted. Btw, I don’t expect it to be a concern, but, were sheep shadowed by their shepherds for most of the time? or Were they able to freely socialize with others during the conference and in the gathering. This is a minor issue that bothers me a lot at typical NA conferences.

    Oh, and just to say, that these days for Koreans the old framework is not really effective on the younger generation. Believe me, the impression that the old silver missionaries give you is actually not the reality among younger shepherds or students. However, yes, we are still living in a system that is in love with its founder and heritage…

    Anyway, looking forward to the third…

    • forestsfailyou

      Most of the Shepherdesses (80% of the attendance was female)were only a year or 2 older, and they elders didn’t shadow. They seemed to be together a lot, but it was due to the activities always involving everyone. The relationship between shepherds and sheep was more of a friendship. I did feel very uncomfortable that they were openly referred to as “sheep”, even with them present.

      To be fair though, I didn’t feel shadowed at the Easter conference with my chapter, and I know that there was a reasonable amount of free time. Saturday after noon was all free and we had smores after testimony sharing on Saturday. Friday night people played soccer when they arrived. In fact James Rabchuck made it a point to say we shouldn’t feel guilt because we ended before 10 pm. This might be a new change though.

  7. Forests, you wrote:

    “Friday night people played soccer when they arrived. In fact James Rabchuck made it a point to say we shouldn’t feel guilt because we ended before 10 pm. This might be a new change though.”

    This is not a new change. Of the plethora of ubf conferences I attended, almost every time, we ended by 10 pm. The big summer conferences on Saturday nights would sometimes go past 10 in the early 1990’s, but that was a rare exception. So why would JR even mention “don’t feel guilty?” It is a reverse-psychology trick to instill guilt. No one would even think of feeling guilty about ending a bible conference meeting before 10 pm. Mentioning it simply plants that idea in your mind.

    All these things you mention are, for me, like reliving a bad dream. As a sheep, you experience mild annoyances that you tend to justify or overlook, thinking “I am my own man”. The spiritual abuses don’t really occur until marriage by faith or when you become a conference-level or Sunday messenger. The abuse happens to families and to messenger-level shepherds.

    For example, if we use ubf’s own presentation and look more closely at the ubf machine, you can see what I’m talking about:

    The ubf training machine

    Of the six stages of ubf training, the birth, rooting and growing stages are rather enjoyable. You will see contradictions, theology shortcomings, “poor communication” and such (as you already have) in these stages. But if you are growing in obedience and loyalty to ubf you will start to be invited to “disciple training”. This isn’t too bad either but some people really get hurt in this stage. Like you, forests, I was an “independent sheep”. I was strong enough to pass stage 4 without major trauma.

    But stage 5 and 6 is where the abuses kick in. In stage 5, soldier training, you realize that all the lee-way and nice things you received up to now as a sheep are taken away. You are playing by the Korean’s rules now. We used to call this solider training “dead-dog training”. The intent is to break you down so you can move to stage 6, leader training. Normally you must marry by faith in stage 5 in order to pass onto stage 6 (but there are no documented rules for any of this, it is all experienced).

    Remember that 10 pm time JR mentioned? That goes out the window now that you are in stage 6. As a leader you must be willing to stay up all night for absurd reasons, like memorizing someone else’s lecture. When JR mentioned the 10 pm “don’t feel guilty” he was likely talking to the messengers and leaders.

    One final note, if you look again at the ubf machine diagram that a ubf director created, notice the never-ending cycle. If they fail to break you in stage 5 or you get fed up and leave in stage 6, they just start all over. And what happens after stage 6? What do you do then? You are expected to just keep living the ubf lifestyle forever. And that’s where families and children and wives and husbands get hurt. That’s where our books come in.

    • forestsfailyou

      One day soon I will write a response to this claim
      “As a sheep, you experience mild annoyances that you tend to justify or overlook, thinking “I am my own man”. The spiritual abuses don’t really occur until marriage by faith or when you become a conference-level or Sunday messenger. The abuse happens to families and to messenger-level shepherds.”

      It is ancient knowledge that people respond to incentives. That is why it is important that we give people none who would have us to be something we do not want to be.

      I actually like writing and would like one day to give a message, but it will not be here. My pastor was having me give testimonies on chapters. He would read them first, and then say they were ok and I would present them. About a month ago he tried to have me edit one of my testimonies. I said that Jesus was a rebel when he threw down the money changers tables. You can imagine the issue with this. After some discussion I realized he was unmoved by my correct argument. So I did what he did to me in Part 1. I told him I would pray and never talked to him about it again.

    • I am going to further support forests on this one. I do agree with Brian however. Let me explain. I have experienced an older, bigger and more developed chapter with several native house churches. I have also experienced a smaller chapter where I became one of two “native” house churches. (Am I really a native house church? Sounds like 1/2 a native house church.)


      In the bigger, more settled church it played out as Brian expressed and in the smaller one it played out as forests has suggested. What can be concluded is a number of things. But to support forests I agree that you can still do your own thing in a less established chapter without serious consequences to your experience or your image. However, where this will change is after marriage – as Brian already said….after marriage you are two.

      After marriage who is pulling the strings on the marionettes? Always be aware that your actions have consequences upon your spouse and vice versa. Depending on communication, you may not even be aware of the stuff that goes on because if you cannot be bullied, maybe your future husband/wife can be. I witnessed my wife run from the room in tears during a Friday testimony meeting. I had no idea why, but when I looked at the director’s wife she told me it was none of my business – just between my wife and her. Yeah right.

      After marriage husband and wife are one – and I have always made it a point to communicate with my wife. After all, before we did marry we had been known to skype for up to 6 hours. So, communication is hardly our weak point. That being said, the director’s wife had such a grip on my wife that I had no knowledge of what had been happening after our wedding ceremony until that day when my wife could no longer keep her composure in public or in private.

      Being your own man is possible when you do not care about your reputation in the broader ministry context. But, remember that church members love to gossip and UBF is built on it. Oh, I forgot reporting about a sheep’s so-called spiritual growth is not gossip. I am just saying that the place where you can be your own man will shrink depending on your status in UBF. Being your own man is very selfish if you are married with children. The ripples affect your spouse and your kids.

      It is important to take heed from Brian’s commentary. He has experience and confesses how he was caught up in the system. I too was caught up in the system. I had actually told my director to “Go to Hell!” However, after marriage I had to succomb as a result of the system, purpose for gathering and increasing demands upon my family. Of course you can be your own man even at that point, but there is a cost in the quality of life when you are still being your own man (in your understanding of what that has actually become). As I said, being your own man is actually very selfish when you have a spouse and later when you have children who will receive any kind of treatment just because of who you are.

  8. Now this is the kind of conversation I’ve been looking for. I think ubf people will be well-served by opening these kinds of dialogues.

    @forests: You mentioned two very good points that resonate with me: “it is important that we give people none who would have us to be something we do not want to be.” I needed to learn that lesson 20 years ago, but didn’t learn it until just recently.

    You also wrote: “About a month ago he tried to have me edit one of my testimonies.” I am really glad to hear that you put a stop to this right away. Spinning your life narrative for you is the beginning of stage 3, “ubf disciple training”. You have to be extremely vigilant as a ubf sheep the longer you stay. The transition to “ubf shepherd” involves a revamping of your authentic self, and always includes an existing ubf shepherd or chapter director editing your testimonies and guiding your “life testimony” away from your authentic self to ward the “Shepherd X” identity. I am likely going to expound on these 6 stages of training in my second book.

  9. @gc, you raise several valid points. I just want to add that “be your own man” is just a meaningless slogan to me. I only use it in blogging to counteract the strange ubf teaching “you can’t be your own man”. I don’t like this slogan because it has both false and true implications and sounds like the “should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” question.

    In the false sense, “be your own man” implies just what you mention, gc, “being your own man is actually very selfish”. To be your own man is indeed to be selfish.

    In the true sense, “be your own man” implies autonomy and self worth. So in this sense we are need to be our “own man” or “own woman”. Jesus’ call to deny yourself was never meant to cut out your self-esteem or diminish your worth. Jesus said we are worth far more than the birds!

    So because of this dual implication of the slogan “be your own man” I find it harmful that ubf often uses this throughout most of the stages of their disciple training, based a shaky proof-texted ideology called “spiritual order” from John 21:18. That was a dead dog training verse for so many people.

    All this is related to humility. To be actually humble, we should know our self-worth and have self-confidence but not view ourselves more highly than we ought. The problem for me is that I was smitten by the Korean-based “haan syndrome“. See WestWing Episode 5.4 (entitled “Han”)

    • forestsfailyou

      Respectfully, I feel like your position seems inconsistent. On one hand you say that you were control and enslaved by UBF, but then you say that you could “form your own chapter and do what you want!” You are correct in hearing unchecked authority, but this is not a dissimilar position than many non UBF chapters.

      This seems to speak to a system that allows pastors to be very very bad, but also a system that allows very very good. Great freedom can be used in very bad ways, but also in very good ways. In the Philippines we see it being very good, in other places it is bad. If we would have something be good, we must allow for the possibility it is bad. It’s the nature of freedom.

      I think it is perhaps of the utmost importance that we make a clear distinction between free, graceful UBF chapters such as Springfield, Il and the Philippines, and controlling UBF chapters that are usually run by native Koreans. I would hate for someone from UIS in Springfield to stumble upon this site and get the idea that Springfield, Il has controlling elements.

    • Forests, I understand why you may see inconsistency. The word “ubf” is a massively complex word. When we say “ubf” I should clarify between ubf Korean missionaries, ubf ideology, ubf heritage, ubf 2nd gens, ubf shepherds, ubf sheep… etc.

      Also, you wrote:
      “On one hand you say that you were control and enslaved by UBF, but then you say that you could “form your own chapter and do what you want!”

      I’m not sure where I used the word “enslaved” but the phrase I use now is “undue religious influence”. This speaks to how the ubf ideology controlled my mind (admittedly because I believed the ubf ideology hook-line and sinker).

      Also, my ubf life was split between two periods:

      1. ubf in Toledo (16 years)
      2. ubf in Detroit as my own chapter (8 years)

      Sometimes I am not clear as to which period I am referring to, even though I try to be clear.

      When I speak of the controlling nature of my ubf shepherds and the ubf ideology, I mainly refer to period 1 in Toledo ubf.

      When I speak of the newfound freedom as a director, I refer to the pioneering life in Detroit. Even though my mind was not free from the ubf ideology in Detroit, I was free from the direct interaction with Korean missionaries and other ubf leaders. Still, during that time in Detroit ubf, I still tried to execute the ubf heritage.

  10. Another good point, gc: “In the bigger, more settled church it played out as Brian expressed and in the smaller one it played out as forests has suggested.”

    I would concur. This supports what I’ve been saying all along. The smaller ubf chapters may be healthier because essentially a lot of them have been “kicked out of ubf” and are just keeping face. Many of them have gone rogue, which is exactly the advice I got from a senior ubf Korean just before I resigned as chapter director. I simply could not keep the cognitive dissonance going to become a rogue ubf chapter.

    • These last few paragraphs I wrote in 2012 seem relevant to our conversation here:

      “I was surprised to hear this direction from an older Korean UBF missionary, who had been pioneering many years on his own. When I shared my struggles with him, he told me the best direction is to do what he has been doing for decades: form your own chapter and do what you want! That’s when I realized something significant: As a UBF director, I had no accountability to anyone. As long as I did not infringe on some other UBF director’s territory, I was free!

      This sounded awesome at first. But then I realized a key problem with the current UBF authority structure. As a director I did indeed have freedom to do what I wanted, but I also had absolute power and authority. The only requirements from UBF headquarters was to send in offering & attendance numbers, to send in an annual work report and to be present at at least one staff conference per year. I didn’t even have to write “sogams”, just a work report. I realized that I could setup a Muslim training camp or an athiest think-tank in my chapter, and call it “UBF”. As long as I was good enough at playing the game, I could be my own man. This is ironic since UBF historically teaches you that no one is “their own man”.

      After realizing how many rogue chapters are out there, and realizing that “going rogue” was my best chance at staying in UBF, I became fearful. I feared having too much power with no accountability. Is that a Christian way of leadership, I wondered? Soon after these things, and after many phone/email conversations, I resigned as director of Detroit UBF. I did not want to be part of such an unBiblical model of leadership. Such a model, in my observation, causes undue sectarianism and destroys the unity our Lord prayed for.”

    • It seems in the last decade most chapters have the possibility to do more or less what they want. In the old days there were more limitations. For instance, Augustine Hope Song, who lead Moscow UBF in the 1990s, was kicked out by Samuel Lee and replaced by Stephan Kim, when he started to cooperate with other churches and attend a Bible seminary. And the same nearly happened to Peter Kim in Kiev before he was brought back to the party line by Kaleb Hong. People in UBF chapters who are enjoying this freedom now should understand that it did not always exist. It was one of the things the reformers fought for, who were expelled in 2001.

    • forestsfailyou

      Mark Yang in February told me not to attend seminary. My roommate proceeded to say that “too much spiritual knowledge was bad”. I laughed.

      My mother has many mental illnesses. I learned that the best way to deal with a crazy person is to laugh. The smile makes them think you are in agreement with them and deep down inside they are just like us. They want acceptance.

      So I laughed. Then I related Cs Lewis, Learning in Wartime. I said that the learned path is indeed a path. I said that good philosophy must exist for no other reason than that bad philosophy exists. That Paul tells us to get on with our lives, to get married, to attend dinner parties (even those held by pagans!). Our lord attends a wedding and makes miraculous wine. The solution to the paradox is well known “Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.” But my roommate in his unique combination of willful blindness and ignorance, could accept the reasoning but not the conclusion of the Apostle Paul.

      Mark Yang’s visit confirmed most of what many of you wrote on this site regarding older Korean leaders. Mark Yang told me that I had been brought here to St. Louis for a purpose, and he told me that I would replace my roommate. But Mark Yang forgot Mark Yang. Who is he to make this call? As Mark Yang writes in his book:

      “Worldly rulers try to dominate everyone over them. Using their higher position, they want to lord it over others.”

      p134 Jesus’ Discipleship Training

  11. GC, Thanks for sharing this, that really does not require any comment or commentary: “I witnessed my wife run from the room in tears during a Friday testimony meeting. I had no idea why, but when I looked at the director’s wife she told me it was none of my business – just between my wife and her. …the director’s wife had such a grip on my wife that I had no knowledge of what had been happening after our wedding ceremony until that day when my wife could no longer keep her composure in public or in private.” – See more at:

    I pray that as people begin to share their stories more and more, such sad accounts may decrease, diminish and disappear entirely.

  12. Instead of the phrase “be your own man,” which I personally do not favor (though I understand as Brian explained), perhaps an alternate phrase might be: “Be your authentic self,” perhaps as in “Let It Go”:

    “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
    And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
    It’s time to see what I can do
    To test the limits and break through
    No right, no wrong, no rules for me
    I’m free!

    Let it go, let it go
    And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
    Let it go, let it go
    That perfect girl is gone
    Here I stand in the light of day
    Let the storm rage on
    The cold never bothered me anyway.”

    • Yes Ben, I LOVE the Frozen movie. That song and many others lately have been a healing balm to me. Another song is Katy Perry’s Dark House.

  13. Forests,

    “I think it is perhaps of the utmost importance that we make a clear distinction between free, graceful UBF chapters such as Springfield, Il and the Philippines, and controlling UBF chapters that are usually run by native Koreans. I would hate for someone from UIS in Springfield to stumble upon this site and get the idea that Springfield, Il has controlling elements.”

    Until ubf leadership addresses the problems summarized in my open letter in an honest, open, public, Christian manner, all ubf chapters have to live with the cult label. These issues have gone on FAR too long… as in 53 YEARS too long.

    You should speak to top ubf leaders about the things you mention here on ubfriends. Why is there no safe place in ubf for corporate repentance?

    So ubf leaders have the choice of 1) addressing my 2 demands or 2) accepting the cult label issues.

    • forestsfailyou

      The Philippines was the greatest cult I have ever been to!

    • big bear

      Forests…the Phillippines UBF does sound like a joyful cult:))))) Many cults ate joyful…when I was a teen I joined the moonies for one day and my family stopped me before I got on a bus to sell flowers in Florida…they can rob you of many years of your life like joining a gang or a dysfuctional family but the name of God is used… can be lonely and us who come from broken families are easy bait….stay close to family and watch every move and expose abuses immediately….

    • I believe in the early days of UBF in the 1960s, UBF in Korea may have looked somewhat similar to what forest reported from the Philippines. But only 15 years later, it had developed into a rigid, full-fledged personal cult as the 1976 open letter to Samuel Lee shows.

      There is always an imminent danger when there are young, euphoric, idealistic people with a strong mission and vision, but when they have no clear rules and separate from the rest of society and churches. One charismatic and authoritarian person can then start to slowly transform the whole movement into a personal cult or deadly and rigid legalism. An antidote would be if UBF Phillipines openly studied these problems, openly discussed what spiritual abuse is, how to avoid it, discuss what the authority of a shepherd is, discuss examples of the past, discuss the danger of the shepherding/discipling movement, the danger of cults in general like the Moonies, discuss the history of UBF critically. And if they associate and cooperate with other churches, closely monitoring and obvserving each other and holding each other accountable.

      By the way, I had similar feelings toward UBF Kiev when I visited it first. The people there seemed to love each other so dearly and they were completely on fire. So much different to my German UBF chapter that seemd to be ice cold and rigid and regulated compared to them. In Kiev, everything seemed to be voluntary and done with joy. The place really seemed to overflow with love. But later I learned that in reality, that love was also conditional, just like in my own chapter, as soon as somebody left, he or she was badmouthed and forgotten, and behind all the activity and smiles there was always fear of the charismatic, and sometimes warm and friendly, but also strong and authoritarian Korean leader, who could sometimes expell people for disobedience, nonconformance, lazyness, or shame them in front of the group. I would not say that everything was “fake love” and they were hypocrites. Not at all. They really meant it, they were serious, they were nice and kind people. Still, there was something already wrong deep inside, the fear of men, the overemphasis of outward activity, engagement and conformance. Most of those who I met there and became friends with have now left UBF Kiev. It’s easy to overlook this inherent danger and be blinded by the loving and happy and friendly atmosphere.

      Actually, this problem has already been discussed several times here, e.g. in the Community (Life Together) thread:

      “Life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis, but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole Church. Every principle of selection and every separation connected with it … is of the greatest danger to a Christian community. … the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church, drives it into sectarianism.”

    • forestsfailyou

      I do want to note for anyone reading this. That I do not think UBF Philippines is a cult. I was being sarcastic. That can be hard to convey online.

  14. big bear

    Chris…you speak the truth in love…I agree 100 percent with your post..this was exactly what I was trying to say…there must be accountability and a working with the whole body of Christ…

    • forestsfailyou

      Yes this is always a fear. The only argument for progress is that things always get worse. Left to itself a white fence become black, a torrent of change by it’s nature changes it. That is why orthodoxy is needed, so that we have change within a set of doctrine. The issue many times with orthodoxy is that it gets the aim correct, but not the methods. People cannot see that these are two differing things. I think that the Philippines could become bad given enough time, but this is true for any group of people banded together with some goal. The greatest evils are always accompanied by the greatest joys, many times they are masked. We must remain vigilantly happy.

      For me the greatest strength of the UBF group in the Philippines was the philosophy of their leadership. Facilitated freedom. Not this false freedom of the freedom to choose the choice I have chosen for you. To be fair some people honestly want to make the choice and happily make it. We must allow a person the freedom to become a slave (in some people’s eyes) with eyes wide open. Nevertheless students who wanted to become more involved were allowed the opportunity, it was no different from Cru- another campus based ministry in America.

  15. MJ Peace

    “Bible studies are there to build relationships between students so they can experience God.” I love this view. I think we learn about God through learning about humanity, each other. And I think it is great that the Bible Teachers at the conference in the Philippines didn’t have to know all the answers. W.E.B. Dubois said, “Responsibility starts with responsibility.” That’s something I’ve seen lacking in missionaries abroad (and I’m not just talking about UBF). They hold their position of leadership too long. It’s not a church plant, but a church-hold-on-to-the-power-forever. But Philippines UBF in Manilla (I’m not sure about now, though) has no missionaries. It was my Uncle who started the ministry when he was a Med student and then left after 4 years of studying to return to the US. He led William Altobar to fend for himself. And God showered his wisdom and grace and still is.
    I also wanted to say that I saw this type of leadership in Andy Stumpf when he said, “The older generation is not the ceiling, but the floor on which the younger generation builds on.” He said it at this past Easter Conference. I really believe every chapter is unique and has to come up with their own leaders and DIFFERENT methods as the Holy Spirit leads.