Telling it to the Church, Part 3

Yes, the time has finally arrived. The moment that handfuls of you have been waiting for. After a two-year hiatus, we pick up the story that began with Telling it to the Church (Part 1) and Telling it to the Church, Part 2.

Oh, my, how the times have changed; so much has happened since then.

Be forewarned: this installment will be different.

wonkaAnd rejoice, for today is your lucky day! You are the winner of Wonka’s Golden Ticket. Reach out your hand. With this V.I.P. pass, we’ll descend into belly of the beast, to the inner sanctum, that secretive world of UBF leadership that has never before seen the light of day.

And this time, I will be naming names. Yes, today you will hear things that I have not yet shared with anyone, except for my wife and perhaps our dog.

Why am I doing this? Because I want to. And because I read an inspiring message from Washington UBF. This part of the message stuck in my heart.

How should we carry out this ministry? Look at verse 2. “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” The gospel ministry is not like the worldly business or political campaign. It is a non-profit ministry. There should be no shameful secret agenda, no distortion, and no deception. Honesty, transparency, purity, and straight talk are the backbone of the gospel ministry.

I couldn’t agree more. Nothing promotes the gospel like honesty, transparency, purity and straight talk. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.


‘Twas the middle of November, the week before Thanksgiving. From my perspective, morale in had fallen to be at an all time low, but the leaders didn’t seem to have a clue. What concerned me most was the lack of communication.  In private, a few leaders were becoming a wee bit honest, dropping some lines that sounded sincere. But no one had a grip on what I saw happening all around. Paul Hong was cheerfully chirping about his chapter, with that fancy new building and all. But I knew from firsthand reports that not all was well in Toledo, and dark clouds were looming on the horizon. Jacob Lee was crowing about all that love they were feeling in Washington, how he was so buddy-buddy with the younger generation. But Sharon and I had been to the Harvest Festival a few weeks earlier. We had seen for ourselves how the young people in the audience (virtually all second gens, almost no natives in sight) were rolling their eyes. Many had snuck out of the lectures because they were bored or offended. The title of that Harvest Festival was “Empowering the Next Generation,” but the ones who enjoyed it were the oldest Korean missionaries. The program was designed to tell the elders’ stories, to affirm their values and life-choices. But once again, a report had gone up on the UBF website telling how wonderful that Harvest Festival was, how the next generation had been empowered and accepted their mission and true identity. In most of the chapters that I knew well, members couldn’t be honest with their leaders; there was no safe space for people to express what they truly thought and felt. Leaders and members who saw each other daily had entirely different perceptions of reality, as if they were living in parallel universes.

On my own, I had decided to contact more than fifty UBF members whom I believed I could trust. I had collected their answers to five open-ended questions about the state and trajectory of UBF. I synthesized my findings in this report. That project occupied two weeks of my life. I worked day and night to finish it quickly, because I wanted the report in the hands of UBF leaders before a senior staff retreat. Sharon can testify how hard I worked, even when it was probably a stupid thing to do at a time when I should have been taking care of my health, my career, my finances and my family.

Dear everyone: You can say whatever you like about why I did this. Call me proud, foolish, inexperienced, know-it-all, untrained, too big for my britches, full of typical Ivy League mentality, blah blah blah. Whatever negatives you may say about me, I can give you more. All of those things are absolutely true. Yes, I am the proudest of sinners. But with God as my witness, I say this to you now.

To the leaders of UBF: When I put together this report, I did it on my own time, of my own initiative, without getting paid, knowing that it would probably land me in trouble, yet I did it anyway because I loved you and because I cared about the future of our ministry. I did it because I imagined that, as pastors, you just might be interested in how you were perceived by your flock.

To the Americans who were/are in UBF: When I put together this report, I also did it for you, because I am one of you. I did it because I loved you and because I cared about the future of our ministry. I did it because I hoped that someday you would be allowed to become who you really are, the people that God created you to be, American disciples who live in the American context, free to break out of the hyper-Korean evangelical mold into which you had been so awkwardly forced.

To all  the Korean-American second-gens: When I put together this report, I also did it for you. I was not one of you, but I loved you. I hoped to convey to your parents and your leaders some of the things that you wanted to express but could not say directly. I did it because I hoped that UBF could really become a unique multicultural community where the work of the Holy Spirit had broken down boundaries,  where unity in diversity was not some farfetched goal but our daily common experience.


On that snowy day in November 2010, I drove up to Camp Wonderland, Wisconsin to attend the senior staff retreat. I had emailed my report to the senior staff members two days earlier, but had not yet received any replies. I shared a ride with a member of the senior staff, and the conversation was fascinating. He was frustrated with the way UBF had been going, sick and tired of all the power plays, petty politics, all the people who couldn’t be trusted. In that car, he opened up and shared two stories that I had never heard before.

The first story was about all the political maneuvering that took place during the first reform movement in America (1989-92). He said that Samuel Lee had come within a hair’s breadth of being ousted. At one point, even Paul Hong and Sarah Barry knew that Lee was out of control, and they tentatively agreed to side with the reformers. But when this man  decided to stand with Lee, the tide turned back and some would-be reformers flipped. Paul Hong read the writing on the wall; he flipped back to support Lee, and was rewarded for his loyalty by being appointed director of Toledo after James Kim was forced out.

The second story he told was of his experiences with Samuel Lee. A member of this man’s chapter claimed that his Sunday messages were almost as good as the messages of Lee. When Lee heard about this, he became very upset. He demanded to see copies of this man’s Sunday messages. Those copies were returned to him, with every paragraph marked up with red ink, and the man was forced to make hundreds of corrections under the guise of “improving his English.” Those corrections were completely unnecessary, because the manuscripts had already been checked and edited by an English major from that chapter. Even worse, this man was ordered to come to the Chicago center for message training every Monday. Those trips were very costly, taxing his health, his finances, his family and his ministry. He said that those trips almost killed him. But for some reason, he decided to do it anyway. Finally, he spoke of one American shepherd who stood at Samuel Lee’s side in Chicago, supervising and carrying out this abusive training. Years later, he asked that American shepherd, “Why did you do that to me? Didn’t your conscience bother you?” The American said nothing; he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. That American is still in a place of leadership and, as far as I know, has no intention of ever allowing these issues of abuse to be freely discussed or admitted.

As he told these tales, I was taken aback. The stories themselves were not surprising; I had seen the harsh training since I first came to UBF, and I vaguely knew of the political wrangling in the late 80’s and early 90’s which ousted some chapter directors. What surprised me was his willingness to tell me straight up.  As I listened to the stories, I began to wonder: Are we on the verge of something? Are we reaching a tipping point where leaders will finally open their mouths and speak of those dark things that must never be spoken?

If anyone is interested in finding out what happened during the reform movement of 1989-92, I suggest you go and visit this man. Take him out to dinner, order a bottle of wine, and he just might be willing to tell you everything. Five years ago, he couldn’t care less about the reputation of UBF, and as far as I know, that hasn’t changed.


My memories of that Wisconsin retreat are a bit hazy, but I will share what I can recall.

When I saw the schedule for the retreat, I became upset, because it was not going to be a retreat at all. Little time had been set aside for open group discussion. The program was filled with Bible study, business items and committee reports. Still I hoped and prayed that our time would be productive.

The group Bible study was led by Sarah Barry, and the passage was from 2 Chronicles 20. The people of Judah were facing a national crisis. A vast, three-nation army approached from the desert, ready to attack at any moment. King Jehoshaphat had no idea what to do. He called a national assembly, and standing there before the men, women and children of Judah, he cried out to the Lord: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

As we studied this passage, I was stunned. Kings are not accustomed to showing ignorance or weakness. Even if they have no clue what they are doing, they want to project an air of strength and confidence, so that their followers stay with them and do not lose heart. Indeed, that was the leadership stance I was given by UBF: remain strong, keep choongshim, never stop marching, and when you are clueless, pretend that everything is going according to plan. That’s what I thought it meant to “have faith.” But in this passage, the top leader made himself vulnerable. He became a sitting duck, an easy target for a political or military coup. But when he stood in vulnerability before his nation, and together they all cried out to God, the Lord’s answer came through a prophet, and their deliverance that day was truly miraculous.

I found this passage so appropriate, the perfect metaphor for what was happening in UBF. Problems were mounting, morale was low, strength had run out, and the leaders had no clue. During that Bible study, I remember asking two questions.

My first question was, “What would it look like for the leaders of a Christian organization to actually do what Jehoshaphat did? What if we admitted to ourselves and our members that we have no good plans or answers for our problems? What if we all stood together helplessly before the Lord with our eyes firmly fixed on him, so that we might be open to his answers and his deliverance?”

When I asked that question, the room became still. I waited and got no response.

My second question came a bit later, and it was something like this. “One of the big items on our agenda is to decide what to do at the national staff conference three months from now. As of today, none of us has a plan. There are some big problems in our ministry. Our chapter directors are tired, morale is low, and many of you have been saying that we are burned out. I hope you all read that report I sent to you. Those issues are real; I didn’t make them up. Is it an accident that we are studying this passage today? Or might God be speaking to us through his word, asking us to do something courageous that we have never done before – to openly admit to our chapter directors that have no answers, and to stand together with them as equals before the Lord, repenting together and seeking direction and help from God alone?”

Once again, the room was silent. I knew that my question would make some uncomfortable, but I never imagined they wouldn’t even acknowledge the question.

The Bible study moved on.

That moment was for me a real eye opener. For a long time, I had known that UBF leaders were deeply flawed. But even in the worst of times, I had always sensed in them a stance of openness toward Scripture, a desire to treat the Bible as the word of God being spoken to them, and a willingness to obey what they were hearing. But at that moment, I felt a strange physical sensation. It was as though we had suddenly swung around on a hinge. Instead of looking into the face of God intending to do what he was asking, we now seemed turned away with our backs to the Lord, ignoring his voice and deliberately walking away. That was a feeling that I will never forget. It’s a feeling that I never want to feel again.


Little time was reserved for open discussion. At one point, we were able to talk for maybe an hour or so. I have a few memories of what went on. I remember Jim Rabchuk telling the story of how he had gotten burned out. The demands that UBF had placed on him (and many related demands that he had placed on himself) became overwhelming, and he was learning the necessity of saying “No.”

Jim also began to talk about some of the problems in his ministry.

As he was talking, he was interrupted by Jacob Lee. Jacob said (my paraphrase, but I believe it is accurate): “We can’t keep talking about all these problems. Of course, there are problems, we always have problems. We talk and talk and talk and there is never any solution. We cannot solve all our problems. We must move on from these problems and do the work of God.”

Jim got visibly upset. He shot back, “Missionary Jacob, that is ridiculous!”

I had never seen an American openly confront an older missionary like that, certainly not in the presence of other leaders. I was shocked, and yet I felt strangely comforted. “Good for him,” I thought. “Good. for. him.”

And James H. Kim made a passionate speech about spiritual disciplines. He had begun to read Peter Scazzero’s books on spiritual formation, and was learning the importance of contemplative prayer. He said (again a paraphrase): “Our American staff shepherds are all burned out. They have no time to think, no time to recharge. They are just doing, doing, doing every day like machines. That is not a Christian life. That is not the way to be a leader. Leaders must reflect, must stay in the presence of God. Leaders should meditate with times of deep contemplation!”

I was ready to stand up and applaud.

John Jun didn’t like what he was hearing. He yelled, “Time over! Time over! Time for lunch!”

Then James H. Kim shouted over him: “Each one of our staff shepherds MUST spend THREE HOURS EVERY DAY in quiet study and contemplation!”

My heart sank like a stone. That was the last thing our burned-out staff needed to hear. Three hours a day? I couldn’t contain myself, so I blurted: “Missionary James, you said ‘three hours a day.’ Is that instead of some things they are currently doing, or in addition to everything they already do?”

The discussion was over. It was time for lunch.


Here are a few more things I remember from that staff retreat.

callbellAfter that exchange with James H. Kim, John Jun started to clamp down. At our next meeting, he brought out a call bell, one of those metal contraptions you see on the front desk of a hotel. When he thought someone was talking too much – which was after about 60 or 90 seconds – he would ring the bell and say, “Time over! Time over!” As he did this, some of the missionaries laughed. To me, this was not a laughing matter. We desperately needed to get real about things that truly mattered, and I didn’t care how long it took. But the funny thing is, at that time I didn’t get upset about the bell. I had lived in UBF-land so long that I was accustomed to that kind of treatment. Months later, when I told some friends what John Jun had done, their jaws dropped. They couldn’t believe that the leader of a Christian organization would do that in a room full of adults, shutting people up by ringing a bell. In retrospect, I see that this was outrageous. But at the time, it felt almost normal.

curlicueThe so-called retreat shifted into all-business mode. Ron Ward discussed plans for a new CME (Continuing Missionary Education) institute. That 30-minute presentation was the longest three hours of my life. It droned on and on and on. Then Jacob Lee laid out his vision for a UBF school  for the education of children, teaching them all subjects (reading, writing, math, etc.) from a standpoint of mission, so that we could pass on UBF core values to the next generation. Of course, we all knew what was really happening: these leaders were angling for pots of money from the UBF treasury to fund their pet projects. To say we were bored would be an understatement. The next item was conference planning. Mark Vucekovich talked about the 2013 International Summer Bible Conference, and it was decided that we would hold it at IUP. When Mark asked questions, he got essentially no response. My strength had been sapped, and I sensed that others were feeling the same way. (Later, some confirmed to me that, yes, they were bored out of their skulls.)

The last major item on the agenda was the North American Staff Conference to be held three months later. No plans had made, no theme was proposed. I spoke up and said something like this: “In light of what we learned from our group Bible study, why don’t we do what Jehoshaphat did, admitting that we really don’t know what we are doing, and stand together in prayer before the Lord to seek help and renewal for our ministry.”

My suggestion wasn’t acknowledged. They fidgeted for a brief moment and then moved on.


After hearing complaints that we needed to talk, John Jun made a small concession. He allowed everyone in the room to speak in turn, saying whatever was on their minds, within a limit of two minutes. Thankfully, he did not ring his bell. I cannot recall anyone’s remarks, except for the elder Daniel Yang, who said something like this: “My main concern is that we have no spirit. In the old days we had great spirit, because we used to study the Bible every day, 365 days a year, on Christmas, on New Year, no exception. It is my opinion that we must go back to intensive Bible study 365 days a year, so that our spirit may be revived. You might think differently, but that is my opinion.”

When my turn came, this is what I said. This is an exact quote. I wrote it down so I wouldn’t stumble over my words, and I saved it on my computer.

As I reflect back upon my life, I see five people who helped to shape my Christian faith. First, my mother, who raised me and my twelve siblings by faith in God alone. Second, a Catholic priest who befriended me and prayed for me during my freshman year at MIT; it was through his influence that I read a Christian book and committed my life to Christ. Third, Mother Barry, from whom I learned to respect and interact with Scripture. Fourth, John Armstrong, whose writings deeply challenged my sectarianism and opened my mind and heart to interact with the Body of Christ beyond UBF. Fifth, my wife, who has taught me countless things that other people could not; through her I am experiencing the love of God in new and wonderful ways.

Please forgive me, but I cannot identify Dr. Lee as my spiritual father, nor can I see myself as the fruit of UBF. I have drawn much spiritual nourishment from UBF, but I would not be the person I am today without those other influences. This is why I will never be just a UBF man, and why I cannot get excited about dedicating the rest of my life to promoting UBF-specific values. To do so would deny my roots and my heritage.

In feeling this way, I am not alone. America was a Christian nation long before UBF missionaries arrived, and a “typical” North American person in UBF will have significant spiritual influences in his or her life outside of UBF. To strongly press the principles of UBF upon us, to force us to claim that as our spiritual heritage, is to divide us from ourselves and from one another.


On the last day of the retreat, three senior staff members excused themselves and left early, saying that they needed to get to the airport. Later I learned that at least one of them deliberately changed to an earlier flight, because he concluded the retreat was a waste of time.


And now, we turn to the question that prompted this article.

What happened after I wrote that report?

Brian guessed this:

I suppose the ubf echelon kicked you out of the Well, and marginalized you in various ways…but I will let you tell the story.

Yes, that did happen eventually, but those events unfolded over a couple of years.

Ben said this:

My short guess is that you were called aside, basically reprimanded, told to “keep you place,” “mind your own business,” and basically asked, “who the heck do you think you are?” Well, probably not in those exact words.

Something like that sort of happened. At the beginning of the retreat, John Jun was not aware of my report. The guy who managed his email hadn’t told him about it. At the retreat, someone urged Jun to look at my report, and that first night, he did. The next day, just as we were heading to lunch, he poked me on the arm and said, “A leader should be humble! A leader should be humble!”

I took one step backward so that he could no longer touch me, looked him in the eye and said, “A leader should be honest.”

He replied, “Okay,” and then we went to lunch.

Reactions from the senior staff were muted. A couple of them said, “Thank you for your report,” and that was it. During the next week, I got feedback from a few more.

Brian’s and Ben’s answers aren’t wrong, but no one nailed it.

The answer to “What happened?” is so predictable, so typical of happenings in UBF-land, that when you hear it, you’ll slap yourself and say, “Duh!”

So obvious that it’s invisible, like that nose in front of your face.

This is what happened after that report.

(Drum roll, please.)


Joe Schafer humbled himself.

That’s right. I did exactly as UBF trained me to do. I sucked it up. I decided that once again, I needed to trust my leaders, believing that they would do what was right in God’s time. So I decided to pray and wait some more. I would lie low, not make waves, and keep following the leaders to God-knows-where.

And I urged everyone else to do the same.

After getting survey responses  from dozens of members, I feared that hopes were building that change would be imminent. I knew that nothing would happen for some time, so I wrote a letter and emailed it to everyone who had answered my survey. My key verse for the letter was Ephesians 4:3:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I did not ask anyone to keep quiet. I asked them to approach their leaders humbly and prayerfully, not with a spirit of division or complaint, but in a manner that was gentle and constructive, realizing that people from different generations and cultures will see things differently.

If you don’t believe that I actually did this, see for yourself. The letter is right here.

If you hear anyone say that I stirred up trouble, print a copy of this letter and place it in their hands.

As I waited for UBF leaders to do something about these issues, I didn’t sit down and do nothing (as several know-nothings have suggested). In the months ahead, I continued to study the Bible and preach Sunday messages. I prayed for our ministry, especially for those who were unhappy. We entertained UBF guests at our home, including Paul and Sarah Hong, who stayed with us overnight. I wrote dozens of positive articles for UBFriends, monitoring the website day and night to interact with everyone who cared to comment. I read dozens of books on various topics, especially the theology of mission.

And Sharon and I enrolled in John Armstrong’s first cohort on missional ecumenism. At a time when we really could not afford it, we paid from our own family budget (not with ministry funds) the full registration fees for the year-long course, for all the books, and for round-trip travel and accommodation in Chicago. We didn’t do this to become know-it-alls. We did it because we needed to understand what Christian unity is about. We were longing for someone, anyone, to please teach us how to relate to other Christians in our community. Most of all, we desperately wanted to know what the gospel required us to do in response to our fellow believers in UBF who, as the weeks and months went by, seemed ever more distant and different from us.

And with that, dear brothers and sisters, I bid you do widzenia.

curlicueP.S. – Some of you might say that I’ve gone too far, that it was unethical and unChristian to reveal what happened at that retreat. If so, I suggest that you lodge a complaint with Washington UBF.  Then please note that, during the many years that I served on the senior staff, no one ever suggested to me that the proceedings were to be kept secret.  In fact, at that Wisconsin retreat, I specifically recall some of the members (I could be wrong, but I think it was Henry Park and perhaps Paul Hong) saying that they are completely open and transparent about these things, and when they return home after a senior staff meeting, they meet with their members and inform them of what happened. And no one never said I should spin the events to make UBF leaders look better than they are. So I have done precisely what they said, explaining what happened as I experienced it.

If you were there and would like to tell it from a different perspective, send us your article, and we’ll publish it right away.





  1. Thanks so much, Joe, for sharing Part 3. It’s well worth the 2 year wait! I actually didn’t realize that after you submitted your 18 page report that you were still trying your best and giving your heart to “play ball.”

    I’m personally really really sorry that it seems to me that no senior leader in UBF took to heart the 18 page report you wrote, or even appreciated the herculian effort it took for you to prepare it. Or maybe they just could not bear to read anything that they perceived to be disparaging, even if it is true.

    I hope and wish that everyone who loves UBF as their church will read this post. As a Christian who fears God and loves God, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with disclosing names. After all the entire Bible discloses the names of sinners!

    Also, seriously, what’s really the big deal about not disclosing what happened at a godly, Christian church/staff conference?? Someday, it’s going to be shouted from the rooftops anyway (Lk 12:3)!

    Shouldn’t every Christian’s life be an open book for the whole world to see?

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks Ben. I’m not looking for vindication, and I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I wrote this to set the record straight. And as the truth comes out, perhaps someday the leaders will put into practice what we all learned that day from 2 Chronicles 20.

  2. Great, Joe. We are eternally grateful for your love and perseverance for us. And we can attest that you did not stir up trouble. In fact, right now Tuf is reading me emails that I sent him in 2011 about how bad bible study was and how difficult I was being trying to get people in Toledo UBF to say something, anything real.

    It is strange, looking back, how we accepted the disrespectful abusive behavior to adults from other adults. It’s sad that this still has yet to even be acknowledged.

  3. Amen Brother. I’m not privy to comment on upper level management. I certainly don’t have an Ivy League degree, but I always admired your intellect. Like you, I had many Christian influences as I grew up. When I began my freshman year of college I was attending 3 different churches searching for answers to a personal tragedy. I soon settled into ubf. The ministry was very small but I enjoyed the family atmosphere. I attended many summer bible conferences as my college career went on and even served as a messenger a few times. I always hated the editing process that ultimately led to a final project that no longer resembled my own words. But I figured as long as it was the word of God he would use me as a blessing to those in attendance. Like so many others, the ubf philosophy was drilled so that eventually I began to resent the organization. I was also a proud man and didn’t want to be told what to say and how to pray. The breaking point for me was at a life testimony sharing session at an international conference. There was a student in my group who had a total meltdown. His bible teacher had totally edited his testimony without him even knowing until he began to share and realized the words weren’t his own. Glaringly obvious to me, this persons own life story was edited behind his back to for the Korean ubf mold. I don’t want this post to drag on so I’ll stop there from now. I’m not done with my airing of grievances. 10+ years of this ministry has left me with some hard feelings.

    • Thanks so much for sharing, PirateJ. Your testimony is sadly all too common. It’s quite understandable that ubf has left you with unpleasant emotions. I’m sad and sorry to hear this, even though I’ve heard it so many times before.

      Someday, the ubf hierarchy may begin to acknowledge this and address this, so that that healing, rectification and reconciliation may one day also become part of ubf’s story.

      The present triumphalistic ubf story is incomplete, unreal, one-sided (the side of the hunter, not the lion), and resonating less and less with people.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank ye, Cap’n. Ahoy! Strange critters we be, tryin’ to squeeze into clothe didn’ fit us.

      Sorry, my pirate vocabulary is lacking.

      We’d love to hear them tales whenever you like. Sharing here helps us to process our thoughts and emotions. As these stories come into the light, they may someday lead to healing and reconciliation. Keeping them hidden accomplishes nothing.

      A quote from this article that recently appeared:

      “Reconciliation is grueling work. Initially, it opens up more wounds than it heals…”

    • Joe Schafer

      The point that PirateJ made is quite profound. As an American, I will say this. The main thing that we Americans did wrong was:

      We allowed the missionaries to write our life stories.

      That’s why these articles and comments are so important to me. Those of us who experienced these things need to take back our life stories, because they aren’t the property of UBF missionaries; they belong to us.

      So I hope that people continue to use this space, and whatever platforms they need to use, to reclaim that which is truly theirs.

    • forestsfailyou

      + 1 for the name

    • forestsfailyou

      When I wrote my life testimony last year I told the story of how I was born to a mentally ill mother, how my father passed away when I was 4, how I was adopted and came to know jesus when I was 14. How God provided for me and gave me free college, how he kept my brother alive even though he nearly died many times. I was outraged when the response was “too much ad not enough bc”. if my life was condensed into 24 ubf showed up at 9:30 pm. I don’t exaggerate when I say that there was an honest attempt to convert my life story into a “I was sinful lost, Godbless before UBF. Now, everything is ok because UBF gave me christ. I have heard statements that indicated that it is truly not believed that I was a Christian prior to UBF. I was baptized! twice! I attended church and bible study and youth group. It burns me to think of this. I hear all this talk about how other churches are sunday only, nominal. But what is remarkable is none of the people who say that have attended those churches. This claim is mostly baseless.

    • +1 to Forests . . .

      When I attended a New Years Conference in Korea, I was asked to write my life testimony. The actual expectations for it were never made clear. I struggled hard and hard and the only feedback I got was, make it shorter. No explanation, no description.

      In the end, David Kim completely rewrote it into the grand ole ubf opry. It was basically the same, but different. I am sad now that I didn’t stand up to the whole thing.

      Now, someone could’ve said, please make it simpler so we can translate to English. Oh, thanks! I could have made the vocab simpler on my own. But in the end, that was the excuse. Skip the details, get on to the UBF part.

      Forests, your life testimony is awesome and uplifting. Put a mental post it note in your head that says the person who was trying to change it is not really to be trusted, imo.

    • Quite a few times I reviewed students’ testimonies before they were shared at a conference. Usually, it was as a second review and done at the conference. Reviewing, editing, and rewording at times was necessary. The students often had a difficult time with the writing itself–putting their story to words in a cohesive, meaningful, and structured way. Yet what Pirate J, Forests, and MattC mentioned, the rewriting of the life story to fit the UBF salvation mold was very apparent and done while the shepherd was reviewing and helping to shape the written piece. A few times I remember sitting with the student and “re-writing” the whole testimony, taking out all of the UBF revisions to their history.

      The zinger came at the end. So often the students confessed the same “decision of faith” to be a shepherd and 1:1 Bible teacher for campus mission. After years of hearing it, writing it, and impressing it on others, I could see how it was at times a fabrication and pressure from UBF and not really the work of God in their lives. So, I began ask them, “Is this your idea? Or did somebody here suggest it?” Their answer would determine if their “decision” would remain in the final draft or not. Another common “decision” was leaving loved ones or things, either family or a boy or girl friend or a job–something that takes up your devotion, hope or love. It was upsetting to see what was going on and how people were being manipulated.

      I first shared my life testimony at a UBF conference when I was eighteen. OF course, I was unaware of how it had been written to fit the pre-UBF story and present-UBF “decisions” for devotion and campus mission. At that time, my “main life problem” and sin were focused on and solved after coming to UBF. But it wasn’t exactly true. My catholic upbringing was also not important for my life story, apparently.

    • Forests, Matt, Charles

      You three just explained why I call ubf the “identity snatchers”.

      The take your identity and break you and then form the “shepherd X” identity. Dr. Hassan calls this the cult self. He describes the methods another Korean group uses and they are the same as ubf’s techniques.

    • The greatest moment after leaving ubf was to hear my 9 pastor friends tell me I was a Christian BEFORE ubf snatched me. I was so happy to realize this truth and find my authentic self!!!!

    • And yes I am Catholic.

    • I have experienced the same editing of life testimonies. When a student with whom I made Bible study for years left UBF, he particularly mentioned that one experience where our director changed his life testimony, removing the parts where he talked about pre-UBF Christian experiences. UBF life testimonies always follow the 2 or 3 point outline (1. my horrible and Godless life before UBF, 2. how I was found and saved by UBF, 3. how I promise to devote my life to live as a UBF shepherd, how thankful I am, how great the vision is for my life etc. with sometimes 1.+2. or 2.+3. collapsed). Next to the regular, repetitive weekly indoctrination through SWS and BS, this one-time event is the most powerful instrument to manipulate people. Because if you share something in front of many people, psychology says you will make it your own way of thinking, even if when you are not yet fully convinced of what you shared, or somebody else re-wrote it so that it is not what you really on your own mind. No you can’t ever reconsider what you had written and shared in the heat of the moment and under influence and pressure of the people around you.

      I still remember how they pressured me to deliver my life testimony on a large European conference. They knew exactly: Once I did that, they had caught me forever. Finally I gave in (all the time not thinking much about UBF, but only about God and my life). Then when you get all the applause, and you have made a commitment in front of so many people, you get immediate affirmation through applause and congratulation. Now you can’t step back anymore. You need to proof to others (and mostly, yourself!) that you were serious. My chapter director exploited this when he approached me only minutes after sharing my life testimony asking me to give up my own apartment and join a UBF common life apartment. He knew exactly that at this moment, nobody could say “no” or “I need to think about it.” So this was the moment when I was trapped in UBF, the watershed point in time between the love bombing phase that has only this one goal to get you there, and the guilt-tripped hamster-wheel life after that, that can take years or forever until you understand the deception and see the light and get out.

    • forestsfailyou

      I have discovered that the testimony sharers have been narrowed down for the summer conference in Springfield. Despite being born and raised in that city, (and being asked last year…) my name is not on the list. I did note however, that my former roommate’s name is on list, as well as a guy from MattC’s chapter.

  4. Darren Gruett

    Joe, thanks for sharing this. I now understand why you and Brian and Ben have said some of the things you’ve said out here. And I also deeply appreciate you sharing that verse from 2 Chronicles. As a leader in the church, as an employee at my job, as a husband to my wife, and as a father to my daughter I can tell you that I feel tremendous pressure to always have an answer to problems, and to always come up with a solution. It’s very difficult for me to admit when I don’t know something. I have been called out on this before, and I believe you sharing that verse is also a reproof, to humble myself when I don’t know something and to come to God in prayer. Maybe what you said at that conference fell on some deaf ears, but I will take it to heart. Thank you.

  5. Mark Mederich

    “Even worse, this man was ordered to come to the Chicago center for message training every Monday. Those trips were very costly, taxing his health, his finances, his family and his ministry.”

    Seemingly megalomania is a mental illness that drives a leader to crush any competition (much also like when Suddam Hussein used others-even friends-to gain power, then immediately had them taken outside & shot to eliminate threats to his new position); perhaps insecurity/instability erupt into a self-preservation mode. In the process, talent/service are wasted, to the detriment of the body of Christ.

    • Joe Schafer

      People have told me that, ever since the 1976 reform effort, Samuel Lee was constantly on edge, worried that people were plotting against him. If he saw chapter directors sitting down speaking to one another, he would often send someone to move them to different tables. Direct communication between chapter directors was frown upon; all messages needed to be sent through him. If he sensed that someone was getting too much recognition (so-and-so’s messages were as good as his, etc.) it made him irrationally upset, because he needed to be top dog.

      Aside from all the unhealthiness of that self-centered paranoia, this made it difficult for normal relationships to form in the community. Some friendships did form, but they were always on the sly, on the secretive side. If people were enjoying one another’s company, pretty soon someone would say, “Okay, enough of this *human* fellowship; let’s get back to mission!” And if people were honestly share their struggles, someone would usually break them up, because we must not enjoy godless human complaining fellowship. In retrospect, that was so odd. How could we not have human fellowship? Aren’t we all human beings? But in many ways we weren’t living as human beings. Everything and everyone became tools for mission. Even marriage was a tool for mission. Man equals mission, nothing more. That’s how it was, especially around Chicago. The younger generation might think I’m overstating it. Second gens might think I’m overstating it, because they were able (allowed) to friends. But I’m not exaggerating. That’s how I and many others experienced it.

      Samuel Lee’s death left a huge vacuum, because without him people didn’t know how to communicate. And they didn’t trust one another. There’s a lot of mistrust, especially among the leaders. Their awkwardness and poor socialization continues today. In particular, they had no healthy model for resolving conflict. The top conflict management strategies are to command obedience, shrug their shoulders, ignore the problem, go back to Bible study, or just divide and go separate ways and call it “pioneering.” How many of the UBF chapters today got started because missionaries couldn’t get along? A lot more than anyone wants to admit. And the longer they keep marching along doing this holy mission thing, refusing to talk about what really happened to them, the community gets weaker and the mistrust and wounds don’t heal. For years I begged them to stop marching, but they just kept going, and the band played on.

      I believe these stories need to be shared. If we do not tell them, how will we ever understand who we are? Without acknowledging that these things happened to us, talk of forgiveness and reconciliation is premature, nothing more than a Band-Aid.

  6. Wow a golden ticket! I feel so lucky.. well I would feel lucky if I didn’t know how long the wait is to claim the prize :(

    My first reaction is to share my gratitude for your humor Joe. This line is classic:

    “That 30-minute presentation was the longest three hours of my life.”

    THAT releases some pressure still built up in me from my decades at ubf. It is SO refreshing to hear someone say that! and to hear someone articulate exactly how I felt SO many times. This is now my #1 ubfriends most-favorite article.

    • Joe Schafer

      Your prize will arrive in one Ethics-Committee month.

      And as I said before of UBF leaders: A thousand years to us are for them like a day, because they see and live from God’s point of view.

  7. On a serious note, I’d like to explain some things for our readers. Your descriptions of this event Joe are certainly not isolated. They were not just having a bad day. This is their “standard operating procedure”. This is their MO that marks them to this day.

    As I read this, a flood of memories came back to me. One stands out: I remember seeing the glee on John Jun’s face one morning at a staff conference breakfast, around 2008. He and I were there early and not many others were around, so I chose to sit at his table. (I often did that at staff conferences, sit with Koreans)

    He was a bit startled at my inviting myself to sit down with him. But he quickly recognized me as the “internet guy”, the “Mr. UBF” who had fought to remove negative material about ubf on the internet. He commended me for giving God glory by taking down anti-ubf material. (You see, that is what I used to do–sit on my computer and fight against negative thoughts about ubf in public view).

    Jun was so happy to tell me about the actions they had taken. I can still see how happy his face was to report to me that they had taken legal action against Chris (yes our ubfriends Chris). He was so relieved that now, in 2008, no more critics remained at large in the internet. He explained how we must protect God’s flock and not let them read what Chris had published.

    At the time, this stroked my ego. But it also planted something else in me: suspicion. Although I did not properly think through what I was doing, the thought did enter my mind: This is strange. Why is a man of God so happy about destroying Chris’ life? Alas, I was still a ubf zombie and so I just suppressed this Spirit-induced thought.

    Now, in 2015, I just have this to say: When ubf leaders took legal action against Chris for his website, Chris showed them the love of Christ. He turned the other cheek. He was already beaten down by ubf and John Jun stepped on his head to crush him and his family. So please pardon me if I simply cannot call ubf a Christian organization. Please give me a bit of room if I indeed do show some bitterness toward the leaders at ubf who act like cult power-mongers.

    I am not Chris, however. I am not as good as he. If ubf takes legal action against me, it will be the last thing the organization does on American soil.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian is correct. The senior staff was not just having a bad day.

      The senior staff began when Sarah Barry was GD. For a couple of years, we slowly started to open up and talk a little about some of the traumatic things that had happened. The abortion thing was briefly discussed, and Sarah Barry acknowledged that it did happen and that she felt bad about it. The ice was slowly starting to thaw. But when John Jun took over, it froze up again. JJ surrounded himself with Koreans because he felt comfortable working with them, and he could command them more easily than Americans. He said of one top American shepherd, “He can’t become a General Director because we can’t control him.” John Jun was queasy about turning over the reins to another GD. Four years ago, he came very close to cancelling the inauguration at the last minute because he thought his successor needed “more training.” In many ways John Jun is still calling the shots. As far as I know, the ubf website still belongs to him.

      Under John Jun, the senior staff meetings disappeared for a while. When we started to meet again, they got worse and worse. One of the absolute worst meetings of all time happened late one night at a national staff conference. We all sat around a conference table, and Ron Ward ran it. In his hushed voice, he tried to lead a discussion. No one said anything, we desperately wanted to leave. The main topic for discussion (it took at least a half hour) was: When and where will we hold the next senior staff meeting? A never-ending meeting devoted to planning the next meeting. That sums it up pretty well.

    • Mark Mederich

      greatness feeling twists/damages leaders psyche/personality to point of vindictive image defense

  8. All this reminds me how out of touch the ubf leaders are here. John Jun and Paul Hong declared “Toledo ubf is wonderful” in 2009, then the ministry collapsed. Hong went to Russia and declared “Russia ubf is united!”, then an entire chapter left ubf. Hong went to India to share his messages, declaring “India ubf has so much hope!”, then India ubf was cast into turmoil, as our ubfriend AbNial attested to.

    Jun was so relieved that in 2008 ubf had silenced all their critics. But then from 2008 to 2012 ubf experienced a devastating decline in membership as long time leaders, foundational to the organization, left family by family and offering took a nose dive. Sure they could report positive spin on numbers, bolstered by new recruits and visitors from Korea, and some 2012 investment profit, but the pattern is clear: when a ubf leader declares victory, get ready for a collapse of some sort. They are just so out of touch with how people really feel, living in a fantasy land of absolute control over people’s lives in their chapter.

    • Joe Schafer

      I didn’t divulge all that was said about Paul Hong on that ride to Wisconsin. I’ll tell you in private. It wasn’t pretty.

    • Mark Mederich

      seems like image promotion, wishful thinking; yeah fantasy island:)-leader kinda looks like ricardo montalban, who’s tattoo?

      actually in seriousness it is a fantasized existence of great bible status like figure of old testament: almost like play where actors start living the role/feeling alive only in the intended drama (could make a movie about people making play but end up compelled to live role in real life): also explains the intense role/image defending mechanisms that develop (people actually feel threatened to lose the world/role they developed; come to think of it this explains a whole lot of lifestyles people develop, religious or otherwise such as political figures with bigger than life personalities..)

  9. Thank you Joe for sharing these things with us. I know the feelings and experiences you describe all too well.

    Indeed, the leitmotif of UBF (and cults in general) is this attempt to deprive people of their real genuine identity and personality, and their ability to speak what they really think and to stand up against injustice, all under the pretext of “humbleness.”

    Regarding the machinations during the 1st American reform movement 1989 and how SL outmaneuvered his critics: It was actually not the first time he did this, he had already learned from the 1st reform movement in 1976, where he applied the same tactics: Pitting of the senior members who knew about the abuse against loyalists, but even more so against junior members who did not know about the background and blindly trusted him and the UBF system, and also silencing any opposing voice by telling them they are not “humble.”

    Let’s not forget that there had been three strong reform movements, all initiated and lead by Korean members. And in all of them similar things happened as you described: Members were worried, their conscience arose, they started to bring up problems, and then they were slandered, silenced, outmaneuvered and finally expelled. These were not “internal power struggles among the Koreans,” but much of it was just as genuine as your attempts to initiate change and open talk five years ago.

    Here is a passage of the letter James Kim wrote about this struggle in 1994:

    “This was the same motive with which I came into conflict with Dr. Lee in the early ‘90s. After I sent a long outspoken letter to Dr. Lee in January 1990, my heart was filled with the regrettable and sorry feeling because of the sense of Korean morality. (Of course, there is nothing wrong about my suggested issue.) So, I called Dr. Lee, apologized and asked for his forgiveness after sending that letter. Dr. Lee responded that he forgave everything and there was no problem at all. And he suggested that I might have the time to talk with him and discuss necessary matters.

    Then he invited me to Chicago. I joyfully accepted his invitation, deeply touched by his broad-mindedness and Christ-like personality. And he encouraged and treated me with very wonderful words while I stayed in Chicago. That moved me deeply and I even shed tears. But one thing was strange to me. It was that he let me stay in a room without a telephone for seven days in Chicago. Later, I called Toledo and found out that every word and action of Dr. Lee was false. In fact, they already expelled me from the directorship in Toledo, while he confined me in Chicago.

    In Toledo, he announced through missionaries that my family and I would leave for Minneapolis in Minnesota to pioneer, since I committed terrible sins before God. (Yet, in front of me, he was totally double-tongued, and promised me that he would do his best to help me to go with American shepherd families.) I was shocked not because of the news that I was under punishment or would go into exile, but because how the servant of God could appeal to Machiavellian diplomacy like this. But I prayed again and concluded that the position, accumulated reputation and honor of Dr. Lee were significant. And the sheep of Toledo were more important. I decided that it’s o.k. to be misunderstood in order to protect the sheep. And I left a memo in Chicago and returned to Toledo. I planned that our family would leave for Minnesota quietly after talking with my co-worker. It was my candid feelings that I did not want to let our sheep and co-workers be drawn into the vortex because of my conflicts with Dr. Lee. However, the problem occurred after that.

    After I came back to Toledo, through sending three Toledo missionaries to my home, Dr. Lee threatened me with this message: “It is to accept God’s love for M. James Kim to return to Chicago and receive the training. And to refuse this direction is to refuse God’s love. In that case, you will be a Gentile of UBF, that is, you will be expelled from UBF.” I explained all the circumstances to these missionaries. But it was useless because they set their heart with the fixed ideas after they received the direction of Dr. Lee. But as for me, I was shocked once again that the equation, namely Dr. Lee’s love = God’s love and Dr. Lee’s direction = God’s direction was so deeply planted in the heart of these missionaries.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, thank you again for saying these things. They need to come out.

      Leaders, why are you still keeping these things bottled up inside? Be honest with us, with the world, with yourselves. These things did happen and were traumatic for everyone. Be honest with your children, they will receive it as love. Be honest with your flock, they need to understand who you are. They will appreciate the vulnerability and receive it as love.

      Most of all: be honest to God about what really happened. Something significant is going on here. God is at work in this messy dirty place. It would be crazy for you to continue to ignore this. Where is your leadership? Time is fleeting; don’t ignore this any longer.

  10. In ubf everyone is taught that the root of sin is unthankfulness (Rom 1:21). I don’t disagree. But I do disagree when they blast anyone for speaking up against ubf abuses as being unthankful.

    Over the last few years I’ve readjusted my thoughts and theology by saying that the root of sin is the need to be in control. It is obvious, even to those who are desperately trying trying to control UBF, that God is the only one in control. By using their position and seniority and authority in UBF to control others and the situation is to not let God be in control. THIS IS VERY SERIOUS SIN.

    UBF is declining simply because some people at the top (or some leaders even in small ubf chapters) think and feel that they must have absolute control and final say about all matters UBF within their sphere of control. As long as an autocracy or oligarchy thinks that they know what’s best for ubf, ubf will continue to decline and be decimated.

    imho a leader’s need to be in control and to control others is a most grievous sin in UBF and the primary major reason why horrific heart-breaking problems happened and will continue to happen.

    • Joe Schafer

      One of the roots of sin, according to Gen 3:5, is the temptation that “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The temptation to rise above our creatureliness to a state of objectivity where we believe that we see as God sees, judge as God judges, telling people who/what they were and are and what they are supposed to become. Even in the world to come, I do not think we can be like God in the sense of seeing things objectively. Everyone is subjective, and that’s why we need one another. That’s why we mustn’t other people’s life stories. That’s why we should call out B.S. when we see it in the church, and why we must be open to other people’s opinions of us, allowing them to call out our B.S. whenever necessary.

      What stunned me most about the senior staff is that many of them apparently didn’t care how they were perceived by the people all around them. In Toledo, one of the top American leaders (no longer in ubf) couldn’t stand Paul Hong and had essentially no relationship with him, and didn’t even talk to him for over ten years. How on earth could PH say that things were going so well in his chapter? How could JL say year after year (just look at his chapter reports; they are still around) that everyone in his chapter loved each other so much, that they had deep love relationships, as the natives keep leaving and then his chapter splits?

      Sorry for that rant, I was just having an OCD moment. Getting back to Ben’s point, he is right. The control that some leaders want to exert is not merely to determine people’s behavior, but to define and interpret the stories of their lives.

    • I’m sorry to say this but it seems to me that some people ignore any valid criticism of them because of their egocentricity, their own high opinion of themselves, and their delusion that they are in control because of their seniority and authority. This is really just plain sad. It is the exact opposite of the incarnation and condescension of Christ.

    • Darren Gruett

      “What stunned me most about the senior staff is that many of them apparently didn’t care how they were perceived by the people all around them.”

      I too have found this to be true at my own campus. A couple of years ago I sent out a survey to our members to gather suggestions for how we might improve our Friday meeting. Sadly, the response I got from the other leaders at my campus was that the Friday meeting was perfect, and that the problem was with the people, not the meeting. I took that to mean that they didn’t care about our members or their opinions, the very people we are supposed to be shepherding. Just a few months ago I also raised the issue about the fact that there were no students attending our Friday meeting, hoping that might quicken them to revisit this issue. I was shocked at their response. They said it was okay that no students attended, and that even if it took ten years before any students started coming, that was okay too.

      That’s really disheartening, because as our campus coordinator, I want to do my best to build a student ministry that is actually conducive to students. I was also really surprised since UBF’s primary focus has traditionally been students. I wonder at times who we are actually serving, others or ourselves?

    • Joe Schafer

      So true, what Darren just said. Short answer: they want the ministry to grow, and they do not want it to change. Those two goals often conflict. When forced to choose between one of the other, guess which one wins?

    • Mark Mederich

      I’m realizing it really becomes a delusional life of self-hero worship which requires thankfulness, not to God, but to selves, with automatic defense of presumed goodness/benevolence;

      the leader & complicit groupees become captive to the roles they play in the bigger than life drama (like pharaoh feels self to be “the rising sun” in ten commandments)

      reminds me of NIV 2Th2 10c-11 “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.”

      last sunday the message had some excellent parts about passover celebration related to Jesus’ Last Supper, however the usual grumbling about grumblers so intensified to coerce judases back into line (like stop betraying your benefactors);

      it really is thick/heavy oppression; fortunately the Lord finally helped me after all these years/Holy Spirit seeking to happily deflect it to prove His freedom thru Christ alone;

      but I cringed thinking what if our college age kids had been there to be damaged-potentially crushed? what about young (& old) people sitting there getting lambasted; for what?-godless delusion of importance? no thanks: yes I was captive in the past (in UBF & even before in Catholic; but thanks be to God for the Lord Jesus Christ’s powerful decimation of catastrophic bondage);

      yes such speakers/leaders are still captive to the transient utopian feeling of elite oneness, but I pray Holy Spirit decimation of their delusion of grandeur so they stop being wounding machines & regain normal life, with use of gifts for God’s glory alone; yes it is a spiritual battle against delusion & requires Spirit reprogramming

    • Mark Mederich

      it reminds me also of the godless delusion of self-importance/free to do as please that many money-grubbing college administrators & benefactors have exhibited which led to corrupted environments/bad influence/outright oppression of young students, but thanks be to God: the powerful Lord Jesus Christ is setting captives free, cleaning up cesspools of corporate corruption, increasing right influences/decreasing wrong influences…

      I experience the oppression at work also, so I suppose the Lord is moving to crush oppression in the workplace as well as in government/etc

  11. Mark Mederich

    “Later, I called Toledo and found out that every word and action of Dr. Lee was false. In fact, they already expelled me from the directorship in Toledo, while he confined me in Chicago.”

    my dear friends, let’s be honest, such conniving deceptive practice goes beyond mental illness delving into the realm of demon possession; does power so corrode the conscience? is any threat to power so motivating?? have our children been so damaged by such overriding/effervescent twisted mentality???

    the Lord Jesus Christ must save us all/set us free from such atrocities..

    • So in regard to the late James Kim and Toledo, I hope our readers can connect the dots. My breaking and entering into the Kim’s house was part of that power struggle. I wish we had email and the Internet back then…

    • Brian, I first heard about and read James Kim’s letters after your post of a confession and apology about the breaking and entering. I wish I had read them sooner. I was surprised that of all the people I asked about that incident, no one had heard about it. Even a current member of the senior staff claimed to have no knowledge about it. Yet after bringing it up, no one was interested in talking about it further. It was relegated to a thing of the past that wasn’t relevant anymore.

    • Mark Mederich

      Simple life examples can be helpful. The seat on one of our old toilets in our house was semi-broken. As a plumbers son knew it is inexpensive to buy a new seat and not hard to put it on, but I also knew it can be hard to get the old seat off without breaking the toilet. Old rusted metal bolts with metal tool by ceramic bowl. When the old seat got bad enough I used wd40 to loosen the bolts and twist them off. Of course the plastic bolts of the new seat went on in seconds. Anyway the job had to be done using certain tool that fit small space but with long enough handle to put great force to loosen rusted nut. Old broken things in life, religion, education, etc reach point of necessary replacement with workable tool and sufficient strength as well as determination to get the job done.

  12. Joe you mentioned vindication somewhere here. I have been pondering the ways of dealing with sin presented in the bible. I see three major ways: vindication, atonement and reconciliation ( which has several components including forgiveness).

    Anyone have thoughts on any of these? Merits or shortcomings of each?

    • Joe Schafer

      My only thought is that I have no interest in meting out justice in matters like this. And I continually try (often unsuccessfully) to resist the urge to vindicate myself. One of the messages of the gospel is that God is bringing justice and he will vindicate his people in the right way at the right time. But I believe it is absolutely crucial for people to tell their own stories, which for many of us has been so difficult. It’s not just that UBF gave us no platform. It’s very hard for us to open up and process these things and realize what actually happened to us. As I wrote my article yesterday, I was surprised at how, even now, it is still really difficult for me to say some of these things. Naming names is hard, but sometimes it needs to be done, because these are not nameless shadowy figures, they are real people whose lives touched ours in powerful ways. These things must be laundered in the cleansing water of the gospel, and that is partly what is happening here. But they must not be hidden, must not be forgotten.

  13. Joe, thank you for telling part 3.

    It’s good to get accounts of what has happened for people to consider.

    Your story has been important to me. It has been an eye opening and helpful example. When I began to raise issues, people told me to be patient with leaders and the organization, to be thankful, to be humble, to repentant of my own sins first, to work my way up in the organization and gain influence, to trust in Jesus, to keep unity, to do things the “right way.” But I saw in your story someone who did all of these things already, directly with the top, for years. What American today can be in the place of position, seniority, and experience you had? Your story also confirmed my own experiences with senior leaders regarding issues. I saw that even doing things the “right way” didn’t lead to the results people promised me. And I also didn’t want to repeat all that you had done only to be in the same position and getting the same silent and cold responses. Seeking honesty and reconciliation and reform were not done in a vacuum, but it seemed that way for a long time. My own thoughts and efforts were not limited to my small world in LA. Thank you for what you’ve done.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank you, Charles. I’m sure I made mistakes along the way, but yes, I did make my best effort to do things in that “right way” for a very long time.

      And thank you for what you have done. I’m always impressed and edified by your careful, thoughtful, genteel comments.

  14. First of all, Joe, thanks for your hard work and honesty. (Hey, how many times didja hear that?)

    But seriously. I can tell a lot of pain and sweat and tears went into writing that down. Because I have written things like that (not posted here) and it is tough.

    Really, I want to throw up.

    I remember telling Jim Rabchuk one time, when he asked how my message was going, that I felt like I was dying, and that every word I typed was like vomiting gravel. He responded, “Please die.” Of course, this is the kind of inhumane joke we kill each other with. In UBF this is a compliment and encouragement.

    From that time I can’t stand to hear something like it. I’m glad Jim stood up at least once. He recently challenged the idea in UBF that all people are called to be Bible teachers at a regional staff retreat. I was impressed (considering the list of casualties in Mo Valley chapters). However, every missionary was either silent or shocked. They simply had no response. A few tried to keep the conversation going but amazingly, what came out of their mouths was that they regarded “sancitification” as synonimous with “shepherd training.” Another disgusting thing.

    Joe you did well to fight. I raised my eyebrows at Jim and started to plan my departure.

    If anyone’s reading, while I was not at that conference, I have personally experienced so many things similar to what Joe mentioned. Harsh ridiculous treatment, power struggles (I’ll never forget the message I revised 18 times for a summer conference and the disappointment I felt in all the leaders, until the message finally came home to me and I shared it with joy, and was later regarded by a senior leader as disobedient). Staff conferences are more about political manuevering, or spending up all night with old friends after jam packed Bible study and presentation times, than they are about equipping shepherds and missionaries.

    Some face time is given as a token to those who complain. I remember a good speech by someone Newell about how American and Korean ideologies can be in conflict. Of course, this was a token to Korean leadership, so they can say they had listened, and not take any of it to heart.

    Missionaries are eager to let out the poison in their hearts by telling some stories of trauma they’ve experienced. Yet at the same time, they are trapped into thinking that it’s a badge of courage to have borne with it. And eventually, more pain happens, more forgetting, and so on.

    What’s most depressing about this whole thing is how so many Korean missionaries go back to holding on to the same old things. There are many who really want to serve the gospel.

    Joe, Ben, Brian, Charles, and Chris (I think we never met) I appreciate all of you.

    • Joe Schafer

      MattC, many thanks to you as well.

      When you stood up and asked your question at that staff conference panel discussion years ago, it was an important milestone for Sharon and for me and for at least a few others as well.

      This is what I remember.

      When you came to the microphone, you spoke in a very polite, thoughtful, pleasant and mild voice. You expressed your concern that it was not easy to approach ubf leaders to discuss certain things with them, and you asked for the panelists’ advice.

      I was acting as the moderator, and I do not recall if or how I responded to your question. I recall two responses, one from Henry Park and one from Jacob Lee.

      I remember Henry Park saying that, as the chapter director of Columbus UBF, any of his members could approach him any time and talk to him about any subject at all. He indicated that there were no significant barriers to open communication in his chapter.

      And I remember Jacob Lee talking about how, after living in the United States for many years, he had become just like an American. He said he was very comfortable in his American-style ministry, and he saw no significant barriers to open communication in his chapter.

      When the panel discussion was over, I briefly spoke to Sarah Barry. She said that she was *so upset* at them (her words). She commended you for asking such a thoughtful and important question, and she was upset that they had not listened to you and instead (these are my words, not hers) they just blew you off.

    • Matt, thanks to you as well. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I visited the KC chapter in October 2012. I was in the area on a business trip. I stayed for the worship service and lunch afterwards. I was disappointed that I missed you, since you were in Chicago for a leadership development workshop, if I recall correctly. Still, I appreciate how hospitable and kind Noah Rhee was at the time. But the worship service and lunch afterwards were so awkward. I left a bottle of wine at the center. I hope you had some.

    • Sarah Barry also once validated a concern I raised during a break out session during a national conference. Like the issue you raised Matt, we were talking about how to resolve difficulties Americans and missionaries. I commented that the issue cannot be resolved by a missionary simply saying, “Well, that is how we do it in Korea” or “This is how my chapter did it in Korea.” Right away, a couple missionaries that were sitting near me at the table were upset and spoke up. Then Sarah quieted them and said that my comment was valid. I appreciated and respected that. It was because of her influence that I was invited to be a staff member, with training in Chicago, and then supporting my chapter and attending staff conferences. No one thought twice about me until she did that. In fact, some people used to me tell me to leave.

      However, when I had private conversations with her regarding why I was leaving my chapter (she had called me and asked what was going on), I felt like I was talking to a different person and none of the issues were taken seriously. Again, I was encouraged to pray, trust in God to work through leaders, be humble, and be quiet. I may do those things, but it doesn’t mean to ignore the issues either. In fact, her email to me opened with a disclaimer that I should not publish the email in any form.

    • Charles, I do remember a trip you made to KC, at least I remember going out to a Korean restaurant with you and Noah and Martin. If you gave wine, I’m not surprised I never heard about it, though I don’t often drink anyways. I’m sorry you had to leave your chapter. You really worked hard for the Lord at all the conferences I saw you at, and with peace and joy.

      Joe, If I recall correctly, when I asked the question, you were thoughtful, even quizzical, because the uproar/shock/laughter in the room was only really seen by you and those on the panel. You tried to give a response but you were of course drowned out. I’m glad mother barry was concerned about the responses.

    • Matt, OH YEAH, I do remember that dinner with you and Noah and Martin! I think you had just gotten back, then? :)

  15. “I remember Henry Park saying that, as the chapter director of Columbus UBF, any of his members could approach him any time and talk to him about any subject at all.” – See more at:

    LOL. Yea of course you can talk to HP about anything. The subject will always be quickly changed or dismissed of course. Such “transparency” is why my decades long friends at Columbus ubf (who moved from Toledo to Columbus) also resigned and left in disgust after having been marginalized for far too long.

    My friends who left Columbus ubf were two of the most faithful, committed, loving, brilliant, creative, caring people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And yet after talking to HP for only a short time, they were so fed up they had to move their family away from Columbus ubf.

    Ah but the history of Columbus ubf is SO glorious.. SO marvelous.. they love Jesus so much but can’t love even such a loving family as my friends?

    If HP is so good at communicating, why can’t Columbus ubf come up with any other prayer topics than the same freaking prayer topics that ubf has had for over 50 years? better get working on new recruits to make that 100,000 member goal by 2041

    • Between 2011 and 2013, at the US/Canada staff conferences, I heard a lot about long time families and missionary children leaving, including from Columbus. Each case was attributed to the work of Satan and people being family centered. It was extremely disappointing and horrifying. When pressed about the issues, there was silence. Either you’re UBF campus mission for life or you’re of the devil. It was especially troubling because there seemed to be no consideration about the families or sense of bonds broken or appreciation for what those families had contributed throughout their years in UBF. The directors and their wives just seemed disgusted that people left and were quick to justify themselves and vilify those who left.

      I found that the group Bible study and testimony sharing times were good times to question directors and find out what was going on in a chapter.

    • Speaking of group studies and Columbus UBF and open communication, at the 2013 national staff conference I was in a group study with Henry Park’s wife. We were going around the table sharing concerns. She asked for our advice on how to stop students from going to restaurants and the movies after the Friday meeting. Most at the table nodded their heads in agreement that it was a real issue. I was both taken aback and not surprised–the same old control issues. So I asked, “Why do you want to stop them?” She replied that it would be a work of Satan, especially leading to romance. She also stated that she had not communicated her concerns to them. Why? She believed that they wouldn’t listen to her. I kindly suggested that she not try to control adults. We all enjoy nice food and a good movie from time to time, I believe, even her and Henry Park (which she didn’t deny). Then I suggested that she instead go with them to the movies and to restaurants. Rather than control, try to become their friend and speak to them honestly. She could also have a nice rest and enjoy her Friday evening. She responded, “No, I can’t do that. We don’t become their friends.”

      This example shows what staff conferences were often like for me. One frustration and embarrassment after another due to a lack of love for others.

      Around this time as well, when I last saw MG (formerly of Toledo) at a staff conference, he was awkwardly embarrassed in front of an entire break out session. Without providing details, it was revealed that MG had sinned greatly and the director had kicked him out and not spoken a word to him. This was done all the while MG was still in the room. But through that training MG repented and came back and all was well. And that was the last time I saw him.

    • Thanks for the insight Charles. We need to hear more of this. I have known MG for many years. What you describe is one of the many tricks ubf Koreans have: They hold your sin over your head to keep you silent.

      One of my greatest supporters in Toledo was MG’s wife, CG. She and I talked a lot about how we were all the “silent one’s”, bearing with all this abuse for decades. And now God chose us to be the most vocal one’s.

      How many people know who left, by the way? Maybe we can start a list. Here is mine from Toledo ubf from 1989 to 2015:

      Kims (James and Rebecah)
      Nolans ** THE “ubf ancestor of faith for USA”
      Pauls (all but JP/SP)
      Lewis (JL/LL sent to Columbus)
      Karchers ** in Detroit when leaving
      Prebbles ** in Canada when leaving
      Kims (not Akron, different Kims)

      The are all Christian FAMILIES representing well over 300 YEARS and tens of thousands of dollars of devotion to the kingdom of God and to the ubf cause. There are also a long list of single student leaders too long to mention here, such as McKowen and Beech, and my old friend Beese.

      If I missed some family, please add to this list. This is all from just ONE CHAPTER in ubf-land. These were all CHRISTIAN LEADERS and they all “married by faith”.

      In each family’s case, yes you can find their sin. But the common thread of undue religious influence and spiritual abuse by ubf ideology and ubf Koreans is UNMISTAKABLE.

    • And the response from HP and PH? Well, we will just start over.

  16. Happypinky

    Hi Joe

    Thanks a lot for sharing the report (the one with the link, I’ve read good portion of it) I’ve read the 2010 report for the first time. I really sympathized with what is being said there.
    I think your positive efforts are being counted by many youths in ubf as well as some elderly people, and I have begun to witness change in number of chapters including Chicago, with second gens, Shepherds, and even notable staff leaders (who were known to be hardcore) proposing the same ideas as you are, and many of the ideas being implemented. I think your job really resonates with youth, and we hope to carry on a positive reform.

    So thanks.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank you. I understand your answer, and I hope that this report is useful to you. But it was written to and for UBF leaders, and more than four years later I have yet to receive any official response. That is a serious problem, and it should not be overlooked. If young people take these ideas and run with them, they are not yet doing so with any encouragement or blessing from the UBF organization, so be sure to clear your reform efforts with UBF.

    • happypinky,

      Your words are salt in the wounds to me. ubf chews up people and spits out soylent green, and then gleefully says “thank you for helping us make better soylent green”.

      You take the ideas all the outcast and excommunicated ubf leaders have been suggesting for decades, through each of the 4 reform/crisis events, and then go on living such wonderful lives. You stomp on former members, give us spiritual problems, and then say “see we are doing such good Christian work, and you are so bitter!”.

      Remember soylent green

    • Happypinky, I would appreciate it if you’d elaborate on the many changes that you’ve seen in second gens and staff leaders in Chicago. Thanks.

    • Happypinky

      To David

      I don’t think I ever said I saw many changes in Chicah. But here are some things I’ve seen, during a short stay, in which case, my observations could be wrong.

      1. Preachers at least the ones I sawdon’t preach in the classical style with interesting sounds and hand motions, but are rather got better at preaching styles.

      2. The so called hardcore staff actually encouraged me to deliver report/message without reading, not because I insisted and defiled, but they found it more touching and moving.

      3. No one frowned or couphed when I told about activities that are not usually practiced in ubf, not even elderly and hardcore, but I saw lots of smiles.(maybe this does not mean anything).

      4. Some second gens, verified that MBF is understood to be broader, not just matchmaking but also extending to more liberal ways.

      5. Sheperd don’t talk in a weird

    • happypinky,

      Those things happen after every reform/crisis event. I was recruited into ubf in 1987. The reform kicked off just after this and for several years, things appeared nice. But these niceties have historically been superficial appeasements with only one purpose in mind: lay low until the R-group criticisms blow over so that we can preserve our glorious heritage.

  17. Happypinky

    5. The natives did not ness early speak in a weird orientsl way, but the way they spoke did not piss me off. Although I have ubf language allergies,

    6. The bible studies I had with key staff were quite diverse, from topical to question by question, which I actually really enjoyed. I was not told to write deep and heart moving testimonies, but rather encouraged to write down some one page reflection of what I learned. And no, none of them ended with absolute obedience, MBF and etc indoctrination.

    7. When I talked to native youth who’ve been there 2-3 years, they said, to my surprise, that ubf indeed wasn’t what I imagined what it would be in states.

    8. These are some minor observations I had. When discussion got about future of ubf, one of key leaders seemed to be flexible with everything, but maintained that bible study should be something not sacrificed.

    9. Having been to Korean ubf centers, I don’t think I could survive there long time, though. But Korean students, on a whole seemed to have good time. It seems that korean cru and navigators also have high opinions of ubf members too, which I found surprising.

    10. Some old seniorites, tried to insist that MBF is the way and truth, but at the same time, other elderly, seemed very flexible and respected my potential choice to marry outside. I see the formers case as being reflective of korean traditions.

    11. Having visited several ministries of different backgrounds, whet here korean missionary church in Europe, African missionaries, American missionaries, seems that everywhere there is too some degree of people not being able to let go of some of their cultures.
    What I loved about certain chapters in USA, is the understanding that certain practices such as MBF are cultural, and toleration of different practices.
    Overall, I was surprised by degree of cultural adjustment korean missionaries have made in the states. And I compliment them for that. As a korean, I don’t think I can go back and adjust to Korea in my age. I wouldn’t even try. Many misionaries tried in their 40 and 50, and for that I respect them.

    12. As my friend said, when I was vocally critical of ubf last year, ubf is quite a very unique organization not in bad or good sense, because it is church where different cultures are trying to work together. Korean churches, I have visited outside of ubf, are very similar in style in terms of authority of pastor, pressure, matchmaking, hierarchy, and etc. but even in America different ethnic groups mainly serve their own ethnic groups, therefore, less of cultural clash occurs. Sometimes having worked with korean pastors in my region from other churches, I can say that ubf Koreans tend to be a lot more culturally adjusted, albeit with exceptions.

    Over the course of this year, I grews less critical of ubf, and more appreciative. Maybe several years of being in diferent ministries, helped to concluded that wherever you are there always some massive problems that make you want to leave. Not that I justify what some ubf people have done.

    Recently my friends pastor from other church had a huge fight with cru members, who pretty much stole his disciples even with agreement not to do so, just because he wanted to make up some reports that this and this many people came and receive his paycheck.

    It’s interesting, how when I talk to christians from other churches and ministries, they all think their ministries are facing massive and colossal problems, and nothing is seeming to change for better and no one is seeming to do anything about it.

    To be honest, I thought this forum was a place where those who want to change things for better could be encouraged and prayed for. But, I guess I was wrong. Seems like with trying suggest new ideas and thanking people for making me think and attempt to implement some things, I’m being called a stealer of ideas. This really does not want me to engage at all on this forum

    So what exactly is the point of this forum? Why is still called ubfriends? I’m a bit confused.

    From what I understand, is it for sharing only bitterness, which I don’t minimize or deny?

    Should I only post bitter issues, and not positive as not provoke members any further? Just asking.

    • Happypinky, first I’d like to thank you for your elaboration on the changes you’ve witnessed. I don’t want to discount your experiences because these are what you’ve perceived with your own senses. I believe that God is ministering to you through the various means that you’ve mentioned and so I’m truly thankful that you are edified in many ways by ubf. I’m mulling over the things you’ve written and I’m genuinely trying to appreciate these experiences. Secondly, to address your question about the function of ubfriends, I raised similar concerns about a year ago or so. I even wrote an article about it (Tired of Talking about UBF). I thought, ‘why can’t we stop focusing on all the negative aspects of the ministry and start praising the good changes we’ve seen and also further work torward positive change?) What I can say now is that I deeply value what is being said in the comments these days. The people who have been commenting are those who have given a significant portion of their lives to God through ministry and yet were discarded when they either wanted to address issues of spiritual abuse or implement sensible changes within the ministry. No one has cared to listen to their stories or acknowledge the profound pain that they’ve gone through. I think that one of the key elements of true gospel witness is one’s ability to reflectively and empathetically listen to the other, especially when they hold significantly different views. The ministry has failed miserably in this regard and the wounded keep piling up year after year.

      In my case, the person who refers to themself as my spiritual father (and still does) recently told me that throughout the decade that I’ve known him, his aim was never to understand me as a person or understand my outlook on ministry and that furthermore, protecting his identity as a UBF missionary is far more important to him than having an honest and vulnerable dialogue with me. How do you wrap your mind around such a thing? Furthermore, how do you cope with the fact that no one in your church community will give ear when you attempt to explain your angst and pain over things like this? This forum is a place where people can come to discuss that kind of pain and disillusionment. The surface changes of the ministry have failed to suffice and edify and the real, core issues need to be discussed. We need a forum where we can work through legitimate pain rather than being demonized for expressing it. And you’d be surprised how many leaders would comment here if they were no longer interested in saving face. I’ll conclude by saying that if you are not interested in loving others through listening, then perhaps this forum is not for you.

    • Great thoughts, David. I would add these answers to Happypinky’s questions:

      “So what exactly is the point of this forum?”
      > The point of this forum is just as we state in our purpose above: We aim to promote unity in the Body of Christ through dialogue. Unity is not the same thing as uniformity.

      “Why is still called ubfriends? I’m a bit confused.”
      > Thank you for sharing your honest feeling. You are feeling confused after reading and commenting here. That’s ok. We are not here to provide clear answers to every issue. We are here to share, to listen and to learn, and probably many of us are here for many other reasons. The point is we are friends. We do not conform each other to our own agendas. Yes there are strong opinions here. Ben, Joe and I differ greatly on various points. But we value friendship and relational unity above our differences. And we are friends to ubf people–friends who are not afraid to share our honest thoughts.

      “From what I understand, is it for sharing only bitterness, which I don’t minimize or deny?”
      > No, this site is not for only sharing bitterness. But bitterness can be shared here. Right now, Joe has the microphone. At one point Ben had it. At another point I had it. Forests had the mic at one point, and so did other ubfriends. If you want the mic, just submit an article and chime in. We appreciate your input and do not deny the good things you mention. We just want to make space for anyone who wishes to comment. We are not a ministry or even an organization. Heck, we don’t even have a publication review board :) We are just three guys and a blog, welcoming whomever wants to share.

      “Should I only post bitter issues, and not positive as not provoke members any further?”
      > We think you should post what your conscience dictates. If you want to defend ubf, go ahead. If you want to criticize ubf or ubfriends, go ahead. It is an open-mic here. But that goes both ways. The only “admin” function we serve here is to remove OCD chit-chats from time to time and to ensure this stays an open-mic. If someone does not like the tone or content here, submit articles and comment.

    • Happypinky, glad you are interested in this website. I just note that a lot of your statements are qualified with “seems” and so on. In my own personal opinion, after 13 years in this ministry, I’ve seen “seems” so much from the top and bottom that I’m not too interested. I don’t discount that there are many many good people in UBF. However, this particular topic wasn’t just about being bitter–it’s a very detailed, thorough record of things that Joe Schafer tried to accomplish and his discoveries when he tried. And I remember the context around these conferences though I wasn’t at that particular one, and I have to say, it’s actually par for the course. Just a thought my friend.

    • Happypinky, I understand that you feel a bit p.o.’d from Brian’s reaction. On the other hand, I understand why Brian responded that way. Let me try to explain a bit, please bear with me.

      First, you need to really start to understand how UBF looked like under the regime of Samuel Lee and the chapter directors who were imitating him. It was like a prison of the mind. Everything was very intense, and we all were brainwashed trough this intense program all day and sometimes even all night. We feared our general director and the chapter director as “the servant of God”, as “God’s visible representative” as they liked to call themselves. If they gave us “direction,” it was like a command of God, and if they disapproved of us, that meant God had abandoned us. UBF was both our calling and the kingdom of God. Being kicked out of UBF or leaving UBF on our own meant leaving God, leaving our calling, leaving paradise, and waiting only for eternal condemnation, we could just kill ourselves. Some also believed if they ever leave UBF, God would punish them with deathly illness on this earth already – Samuel Lee himself preached things like that, very explicitly. We had no freedom at all. We could not choose where to work, with whom to hang out, whom to marry, we could not have any vacation or time off, we needed to attend every meeting, every week, every day, on the weekend several times a day. We could not even decide how to deliver our own sermons and sogams. Everything was regimented. And then we also had to bring fruit. If we could not serve 12 or at least 4 sheep, this meant we failed, and we needed to feel guilty. Before marriage, we could not spend time with our parents, other family members or friends. After marriage, we could not spend time with our own spouse or kids. Some of us lived in this prison for decades.

      Please compare that to your own situation and your own state of mind. You seem to be a pretty free person, you do what you want. You’re in UBF, and then you’re out, hopping around freely. I bet you can’t understand what living with a captive mind and soul for decades means. In fact this “ignorance” is excusable to a certain degree. I always believed I would be the last person who could end up in a cult, until suddenly I found myself trapped in one. It’s so strange, and people seem so silly to voluntarily live like that. But the manipulation was strong and had that power over us. Only if you experienced it, you can understand it. I guess you’re still young and a 2nd gen. Just speculating, maybe you can confirm; also you said you know me?

      I have a theory, perhaps it’s wrong, but I believe that the 2nd gens are not as brainwashed as we “1st gen shepherds.” And I see two reasons for this: First, it needs a certain personality type that can be easily brainwashed. Usually the introvert, sincere, diligent, scrupulous, shy, introvert, insecure people (like me) are easier to brainwash into obedience. Second, the people must be caught at the right time, when they are open to manipulation, e.g. when they are in a life crisis (in retrospect, this was exactly the moment when UBF caught me). When UBF “fishes” at the university, the students of this type in this situation get caught in their nets. However, the children of members are not “fished” like that. They are simply there and have different personality types. So they are not necessarily prone to brainwashing and manipulation to begin with. They learn to adapt, learn to live a double life, one in school with their friends, another one in the UBF center. They start to not take things so seriously, they start to learn patterns to appear obedient but still have freedom. Thirdly, the manipulation works by alternating the love-bombing in the beginning with the threat of love deprivation and losing your salvation if you don’t obey, perform and conform. However, most UBF parents would not threaten their own children like that. The UBF children know that they can do anything, their parents would still love and not expulse them – contrary to what they can easily do with other UBF members (in fact I remember how the wife of my chapter director simply expelled some of her “sheep” when they did not “grow” – which caused a serious trauma for them). So these are the reasons why I think 2nd gens are different in their state of mind – they are much more free, but also sometimes much more superficial and careless. It must be very, very difficult for a free 21st century 2nd gen to understand the state of mind in which UBF members have been held captive in the last century. But you should at least try. Please try to understand, UBF was not an ordinary church or ministry, it was much more intense, it penetrated so very deeply into the minds and souls of its members. It took away all of their golden years, their youth, the time in which people should have a romantic relationship, the quality family time when their kids were young, the time when we they should have made career and developed and used their talents apart from sitting on folding chairs. It sucked all their energy, hopes, dreams, time and money. In retrospect it was not even spiritual, and it did not even help other people in spiritual or other ways. Some of us wasted what could be 1/3 of our life time there. It is not something that you get easy over with. And the people you are meeting here are still the lucky ones who escaped and are gladly married – but there are also all those who are still caught in UBF, or who have been really thrown under the bus, whose arranged marriages were catastrophic failures, who committed suicide, who lost all faith in God and mankind etc.

      Happypinky, are you still with me?

      If I were Jesus, maybe I would use a parable to explain.

      In this parable, UBF would be a prison, with the letters “work makes you free” engraved over the door, and we were former prisoners with long beards who vegetated in that prison for many years, doing meaningless labor like breaking stones all day, until we finally escaped through a tunnel that we started to dig with our fingers when we could not stand all the harsh punishments by the brutal and strict former prison director any more. He would beat us our punish prisoners when they asked for simple things like food with some vitamins instead of always only molded bread and water. Sometimes the director (who could go by a name like “Ahab”) would even order his staff to torture people in a secret chamber to make them docile. The prisoners hear them scream, but nobody dares to talk about it. Then one day the old prison director dies, and a new friendlier prison director takes his place. Slowly, under his regime and with the absence of the feared old director, things get better. The former prisoners who have grown old are glad to hear rumors that something changed in their old prison, but they’re not sure whether behind the nice façade there might be still some hidden torture chambers, used only by a few old prison officers who were not able to adapt to the new style. Also they’re not glad to see that there are still pictures of the old prison director in the entrance hall, even a bust has recently been set up with an inscription praising him for his achievements for the betterment of the country’s criminal population. And the letters “work makes you free” are still engraved over the entrance. The former prisoners share their experiences and try to hold the new officer and his staff accountable, to admit and apologize what happened in the past, to publicly denounce the ways of the old director, and issue a code of conduct for the staff. They also sometimes hang out in a tavern “the friendly prisoners’ alehouse” right across the street from their old prison, where they share their memories. Their former tormentors see them sitting there, they sometimes look through the windows but never come to apologize. One day the son of the new, friendlier director, who never experienced the old times and the screams from the torture chamber, enters into that tavern and sees them rambling and grumbling. He immediately starts yelling at them that he is tired to hear their perpetual nagging from the other side of the street. He goes on to praise the positive changes his father made in the past months. He tells them not to share bitter memories about that prison any more. He also tells them of his new ideas for the prison, e.g. that prisoners should be fed with some salad and healthy food once in a while, not only bread and water. One of the former prisoner sitting at the bar, with a long grey beard and scorbutic teeth, who was kept for over two decades in that dark prison, starts rolling his eyes. The young man says “Why are you rolling your eyes? Isn’t this a place for friendly prisoners? Why are you so cranny and unwelcoming? If you don’t like having me around, I will be leaving.”

      How could this parable end? It’s up to us.

    • Mark Mederich

      very well described Chris

    • Joe Schafer

      Happypinky, I hope that you can read this article about utopianism in the church. It packs into few words so much of what I have been learning as I reflect back on my three decades of ubf involvement.

      What your church (and every church) needs is a culture of Wisdom.

  18. Happypinky

    Brian, I think you may be right. But God knows true intents this time. Iam okay with either way, as I don’t think too much about ubf outside of my own church.

    • “I don’t think too much about ubf outside of my own church.”

      And that, my new ubfriend, is the problem.

  19. David, this is so well articulated: “…the person who refers to themself as my spiritual father (and still does) recently told me that throughout the decade that I’ve known him, his aim was never to understand me as a person or understand my outlook on ministry and that furthermore, protecting his identity as a UBF missionary is far more important to him than having an honest and vulnerable dialogue with me. How do you wrap your mind around such a thing?” – See more at:

    I don’t even know how to comment, add to, or subtract from this!

    • Yeah, Ben, I’m still speechless and dumbfounded. I also felt very numb after his words sank in. I just don’t know what to do with that as of yet. I think similarly, Joe paints a vivid picture when he talked about that physical sensation of feeling things rotate away from God. At any rate, I appreciate the fact that you’re listening.

    • “I don’t even know how to comment, add to, or subtract from this! – See more at:

      Ditto. All I can say is that is THE EXACT CONCLUSION I came to in April 2011, after sharing my first honest conference report in 24 years. The angry phone call I got two hours later sealed the deal for me. I was expected the rebuke in a day or two. The shocking thing was that it took less than 2 hours. I share all about this in my 3rd book, “Unexpected Christianity: The Penguin Narratives”.

      ubf Koreans will do anything, including inviting guest speakers and people like our friend JA, as long as they do two things:

      1) Demonstrate loyalty to at least one ubf authority figure
      2) Promote (or not negate) the ubf spiritual heritage ideology

      Do those 2 things, and you have got a golden Wonka ticket at ubf to do anything you want. Climb the ladder like I did and become a ubf directory and you can even get ubf insurance and many other protections, such as the covering up of your sins.

  20. wow and here I am pouring out my heart and realizing that most of you have already left . . . while I have not. God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, amen and amen.

    • Matt, looks like so far you and I are the only “survivors,” or “hangers on,” depending on your perspective… Of course, Darren, Maria and Happypinky are also in. But we’re the oldest.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I don’t know what it means to be in or out of UBF. I never formally became a member, and I never told them that I am not. All I have done is ignored their requests to attend meetings and send in reports when they offer me nothing in return. It’s time to DTR. High noon has come.

  21. “… if my life was condensed into 24 ubf showed up at 9:30 pm. I don’t exaggerate when I say that there was an honest attempt to convert my life story into a “I was sinful lost, godbless before UBF. Now, everything is ok because UBF gave me christ. – See more at:

    In my case I did truly live a godless life before coming to faith in UBF. But to state the obvious, the major flaw with what forests wrote above is that it is never ever the church (ubf) that gives one Christ, but the work of the Holy Spirit. To champion ubf as the pivot focal point of one’s life journey is to call attention to ubf and to give all glory to ubf, instead of to the work of the Holy Spirit.

    By God’s grace, future editors of life testimonies at all ubf conferences may let each person tell their story with their own unique flavor, instead of the formulaic Part 1: Before UBF and Part 2: After UBF.

    • Ben, you forgot

      Part Three: After marriage

      Part Four: Phd Study

      After you graduate from all of those you get to write for the rest of your life:

      Part One thanks giving and prayer topics, Part Two the work of God in our ministry, Part Three, repent of worldy seeking and serve campus mission!

    • Gajanan Nial
      Gajanan Nial

      Part four, professor shepherd pioneering a new chapter. Part five (which would never get shared or published), trouble maker who left ubf after 10/20/30+ yrs of serving the ministry. One word: Saved by Jesus, enslaved by Ubf system, delivered by the Holy Spirit.

  22. Mark Mederich

    “One word: Saved by Jesus, enslaved by Ubf system, delivered by the Holy Spirit.” HALLELUJAH!

  23. “Despite being born and raised in that city, (and being asked last year…) my name is not on the list. I did note however, that my former roommate’s name is on list, as well as a guy from MattC’s chapter.” – See more at:

    It will definitely be denied, but this is sadly the kind of reward punishment scheme to get you to conform to their expectations of you and to get you to submit to their man made rules. If you do what they expect of you, you get a whole ton of perks. If you don’t, then this is the kind of stuff one sadly experiences.

    It is all to similar to Chris having his bride-to-be hidden away one week before the wedding, and having his wedding, which is already set, threatened to be cancelled. No one will ever dare do this today, but this same sort of sad shenanigans continues to rear its ugly head in one form or another.

    Don’t be disheartened. Don’t be angry. Don’t flinch. Stand your ground. Be joyful. God is good. This is often God’s way of helping you to love and trust and fear God, not man (Prov 29:25).

  24. Because the ubf echelon refused to listen to what we were telling them, their ministry will continue to decline.

    One evidence is a decline in offering and assets. The new 2014 numbers are published on the ECFA website: UBF financial report

    Will anyone at ubf report on the EARTH SHATTERING news? For the FIRST TIME since financial records were kept (2007) and likely the FIRST TIME in its 50+ year history, the total monetary value of ubf DECREASED.

    They are still worth over $13 million. But a decrease has never happened as far as we know.

    • This seems to coincide with the publishing of the donation link on UBF is a very financially demanding organization.

    • Pirate J

      After college I was “encouraged” to donate my ENTIRE first real paycheck to the church as a thanks to god for granting me a job. Unfortunately for the church I was also granted a LOT of student loan debt and politely declined to make an entire paycheck donation.

    • Yup, that’s a common request. I was asked that too, but didn’t obey. I figured all the other services and time I was giving to the ministry made up for not giving the entire check. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills otherwise. When the ministry tithes would decrease, the Malachi message on robbing God would come out on Sunday. It usually just ended up angering a few people–anyway, it was very unconvincing. Conferences! I started asking that messengers and other more time demanding service roles be waived from paying the conference fee. That didn’t go down well either.

    • Pirate J

      I always wondered if the organization made any profit off the fees. Some of them were more expensive than my share of a months rent!

    • That would be a good question for members to ask in the chapters. Show the numbers. I suppose if there were any profits, it would be just at the local chapter level or hosting chapter, if a regional conference. In the LA chapter, it was told to us that the price was calculated at a projected cost per head, but missionaries and shepherds paid much higher fees than students and newcomers in order to cover their costs and provide a more attractive conference fee for inviting. I never saw the actual numbers. Of course, the number of missionaries and shepherds far outnumbered students and newcomers.

    • Same here in Germany, after university or getting a better job we were reminded to give a “first fruit offering” (Lev 3:12), i.e. donate our whole first salary to UBF. And yes, we also had these Malachi extra lectures when payment moral decreased.

      We can conclude that these UBF traditions were invented by Samuel Lee in Korea, and then copied by other chapter directors.

  25. Financial abuse is a topic I’m giving some space to in my 7th book. This is something I was blind to while “in” the group. I just thought we were obeying the Bible’s plan for offering. But we were not.

    A couple thoughts on these things…

    1) I worked behind the scenes, along with my wife, in many financial matters. For local conferences, we actually helped set the price year after year. And we often helped coordinate the practical preparations with the various camping sites for the conferences. I would be the first to say if the local conferences were taking advantage of the registration, but I cannot say that. In our region, the registration money worked out very closely to actual cost. Sometimes there was a small amount leftover, such as about 1%. That money was then used for the next conference. There was no profit from these.

    2) I also worked behind the scenes at the international conferences. On paper those appeared to work like the local conferences. But there was always a big mystery at those larger conferences–who actually attended? For many years I helped create and run the database/registration software for those big conferences. HQ actually paid me to create the prototype software they currently have (the prototype later turned into a professional company) and to train the team of registration workers. So I don’t know about profit at the big conference level, but I do know the databases for ISU, MSU, etc. all had many fake names. I also know that leaders often paid for numerous “sheep” who never ended up attending, spending at times over $1,000 for fake attendants.

    3) The big money comes from offerings–weekly, special, first-fruits–all kinds of offerings that about to about $2 million per year. They spend most of that but have gained over $13 million in reserves. This is small actually, compared to other campus ministries, one of which has over $250 million. IVF has $53 million in reserves (per ECFA).

    4) The main financial abuse comes after marriage-by-faith, when families (i.e. house churches) are pressured into all kinds of unwise financial decisions for the “sake of God’s glory”.