If Not for Ubfriends I Would Not Be Getting Married

Although there are tons of marriage by faith stories out there, some good some bad- I in some sense feel that mine has a ring of uniqueness to it. Not to say its better or worse in an abstract sense, it just makes for a good article. If you are new here I will refer you to the first part of the story http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/06/the-greatest-struggle-of-my-adult-life/

As I was saying then. When I was asked by Dr. Ben Toh if I wanted to maybe marry someone from the Philippines I was so eager to marry I just said yes. After all that was my main goal all along for being in UBF.

Actually…that’s the story I had told to me sometime later, and I am sure is not an isolated bit of gossip. It is very far from the truth, but what they say about me makes little difference. Such a story is deeply hurting to me as it denies that I struggled so hard against the very accusation. Truth is, as they say- not something you could have guessed. My goal will not to defend any of those stories beyond giving a demonstrative account and letting the audience decide for itself. So then…

When I was asked by Dr. Ben Toh if I wanted to maybe marry someone from the Philippines I told him no. More specifically I said I didn’t want to marry and even if I wanted to go to the Philippines I didn’t have money to go there. While the question was tactfully asked, I had been fighting against marriage by faith for so long I wasn’t about to be taken in by someone whom I barely knew. I was well aware of Dr. Ben’s previous “shepherd” life and I was unsure of what and how he viewed marriage by faith. I had read that many shepherds gain prestige or even glory from marrying native leaders, so if Dr. Ben had not changed, I then expected him to try to convince me. If Dr. Ben was like the others, I reasoned he would pay for me to go there or at least say that there are happily married Americans in UBF to Filipinas, or maybe even something about how Filipinos were not like Koreans. To my surprise he didn’t do any of that. In fact his response was further proof that he had changed from his old days of telling people to threaten divorce to keep them in UBF. He said that it wouldn’t be marriage, that you could just meet someone and date her or whatever. There was no commitment to him, no promise of anything. Furthermore, he said since I didn’t have enough money he could just pass my email along and we would pray. No heavy handed deception, no mention of Genesis 24. It didn’t seem uncommon from something I would tell a good friend if he was looking for someone to date.

Then something remarkable happened. I had met someone from the Philippines UBF on Facebook. She was one of the student leaders in the Philippines. She invited me for Easter, with no knowledge of the prior conversation with Dr. Ben. Again, I thanked her but told her that I didn’t have money. Then that week I received a rather large income tax return. Apparently my mother had failed to claim me as a depended (she could have and I expected her to) which made my tax return exactly enough for a plane flight for Easter. But still problems existed. I did not have enough time off to make such a trip, but as God would have it I discovered I had more time that I thought, additionally I had Good Friday off school, and moreover I would lose all my time off at the end of April. That meant I had to use it sometime in April. But even then I had promised my pastor that I would go with him to Europe for the conference in the fall. That Friday he asked me if I was still going, I said yes and asked the price of the plane ticket. To my surprise he was willing to pay half my ticket amount. The rest is history. I flew to the Philippines and met the woman I am now engaged to. To be clear, I was not engaged there, or even to the woman who invited me.

As far as fiancé is concerned, I could never have expected someone better. I was worried about certain strange legalisms and such from her, but the whole chapter there seemed immune to it. I suspect it’s all the grace. She is quite wonderful and I could never have imagined anyone better. She is kind, compassionate, and loves everyone. She is selfless, supportive, and smart.


Although I did not propose, promise marriage, or even state we were dating- people back home in UBF by and large treated it like I was everything but married. The reactions were extremely varied. My friends thought it was border line insane, but since they are my friends they just expect stuff like this from me. My family was hesitant at first, but after meeting her they loved her and thought it was good for me to marry her. For me this was perhaps most important, your family knows you better than anyone and if they disapprove of a spouse there is usually a very good reason. More than a few UBF missionaries and leaders were excited. More than a few UBF missionaries were apathetic, they ignored it. One missionary in particular became infuriated. She told me that my marriage would not last with her because it wasn’t from “God”. I had talked a lot with this missionary about her experience and knew that her family had rejected her marriage by faith decades earlier. When I asked how this case was different from hers she said that I didn’t have the guidance of Godly people. She then never spoke to me either in person or on Facebook and condemned Dr. Ben Toh’s “attempt to shepherd you”. This reaction was unique to her and in stark contrast to my chapter which more or less accepted it and became very excited. It took about a month for everyone to get used to it. My roommate gave little direct response, but he expressed grumblings not unlike Mat 20:9-16 on a few occasions.

I am not sure what is to be taken away from this story. God truly works despite barriers and issues. I am so thankful for what God has done in my life and I cannot wait to start the next chapter of my life as a married man.


  1. I love your title (and your reflections). But I’m not sure that your title will be as well received by traditional UBFers, who I am sure would much prefer my title, which supposedly is one of the very few UBFriends articles I’ve written that they actually like, appreciate and even applaud!: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/01/23/if-not-for-ubf-i-would-not-be-married/

    • forestsfailyou

      That’s too bad for them. They are free to change any of the reasons that I rejected their idea any time they want. It would have been different if they would have acknowledged any of the problems that I heard personally from many around the world. But instead I was outright lied to by several people. It goes without saying that wasn’t well received by me.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, how do you think they would like this paragraph?

      “UBF is like a spiritual wasteland and is full of idol worshipers according to their custom in spiritual darkness. But God is working mightily through the Holy Spirit using UBFriends, shining the light of God’s glory all over UBF.”

      I took that paragraph from a published UBF mission report and just changed a couple of words. The original version was:

      “Asia is like a spiritual wasteland and is full of idol worshipers according to their custom in spiritual darkness. But God is working mightily through the Holy Spirit using our missionaries, shining the light of God’s glory all over Asia.”

      Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

      For some strange reason, UBF leaders don’t think it’s problematic to publish offensive statements about people whom they are trying to evangelize. But I’ll bet that, if someone published that first version, many of them would be furiously gnashing their teeth, even though it’s somewhat true. There is a fair amount of idol worship going on, and this website has been shining a light on it.

  2. “It would have been different if they would have acknowledged any of the problems that I heard personally from many around the world.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/18/if-not-for-ubfriends-i-would-not-be-getting-married/#comment-16209

    Acknowledging problems in UBF (that is likely even evident to themselves) has seemingly been something that is almost impossible for some (or many) to do over the last five decades. All those who acknowledge problems have either left UBF or have been basically marginalized and caricatured.

    I’m still speculating and wondering why some of our missionaries and leaders are just simply unable to frankly acknowledge that “Houston, we have a problem,” even though they/we are experiencing countless problems and difficulties and unnecessary obstacles because of this inability to acknowledge the obvious.

    This is an illustration I heard and used from a ubf sermon about denying God’s existence (which I no longer like to use): To deny God’s existence is like looking up in the sky and closing one’s eyes and saying, “There is no sky.”

    Isn’t looking at ubf and saying “there’s no problem in UBF; all the problems are with UBFriends (and with Brian Karcher!) virtually the exact same thing???

    • Ben, I received a rather odd, out of the blue email the other day. I don’t really understand what this person was saying or why they were telling me, but here is one sentence that made me ROFL…

      “I noticed a lot of 2nd gens in UBF secretly follow Ben Toh.”

    • This is funny…in my subdued Oriental sort of way. Well I guess if they supposedly surreptitiously and secretly follow me, then it’s a big secret to me as well! :-)

    • They know, Ben but seemingly only in priavate, personal meetings. Some weird kind of amnesia occurs with them while making public statements; a strange phenomenon that I haven’t figured out yet. :-p

    • Might it be the sadly misguided idea that public “official” reports must always be so-called positive–not negative–and encouraging–not discouraging?

      Doesn’t this often come at the expense of not being entirely forthright or honest?

      Of is it simply equating acknowledging abuses with shame and with losing face and credibility?

      In my opinion, some older folk just do not realize that coming clean with nothing to hide really increases their credibility and enhances their strong sense of honor.

  3. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey, forests! I have to say I am thrilled at being able to see you make your own decisions, especially regarding marriage. Congratulations on your engagement.

  4. Joe, I find that any Christian missionary who makes statements like this highly problematic and actually rather sickening, if not unChrist-like: “Asia is like a spiritual wasteland and is full of idol worshipers…” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/18/if-not-for-ubfriends-i-would-not-be-getting-married/#comment-16221

    Such statements imply the unquestioned superiority of the Christian, which cannot but make the missionary always feel like they (rather than Christ) is the Savior, and that they are far better than the natives simply because they are Christian.

    Ultimately, this really denies the grace of God.

    • forestsfailyou

      Well, Christianity is undeniably superior. I don’t think that’s the problem. I think a blanket statement needs to be careful. The apostles and those who came after never used that language except when referring to specific philosophies and churches.

    • Ultimately, there is only ONE who is superior. Yet he condescended himself to be the lowliest servant of all (Phil 2:5-7; Mk 10:43-45). Making such statements that is disparaging and condescending toward others (even if it may be true) never ever promotes the humility and servantship of Christ, but only ugly hubris and uglier elitism.

  5. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Congrats, forests. Glad to hear that you’re happy and experienced God’s work despite pushback.

    That those kinds of negative responses about a marriage being “from God” (UBF’s way) or not and about shepherding are not called out by UBF leadership (since they are standard teaching and widespread) is infuriating and one reason why I could not stay in UBF. More of the same ubfisms and methods of control. I haven’t found the majority of people who teach these things as bad or evil people, but the problem is that this is what they were taught and how they also showed their “faith”. It’s systemic and praised, and the cycle continues–well, not in forests’ case, thankfully.

    Amazing that we are here happy and thrilled that forests married in this way. Of course, those who married by UBF’s way will say that it was their own decision. And it’s true–such people did make that decision for themselves. I did as well. I don’t take away at all from how such people believe they expressed their faith by that decision. But the context in which that decision was made is setup and manipulative, and, in many cases, deceitful. The words of the infuriated missionary aren’t surprising at all, and show how the UBF shepherding system creates a possessive, competitive and unloving environment.

    • forestsfailyou

      Yes. I mean I had made my decision in my heart shortly after meeting her. But I remember that Andrew Martin really regretted his choice to make a decision so fast without dating her. Culturally, I also could not propose without her families consent, so a proposal after a few hours like I had read time and time again was not possible. This was a major consideration for me. I wasn’t willing to alienate her family (or mine) with a sudden proposal. When I went back, despite knowing her for 8 months I learned so much and we grew so much in just a few short weeks together that it really confirmed for me what I had already decided many months prior- that I would marry her.