My Own Response

cI watched two Facebook videos the other day.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-customer-walked-into-his-pizza-shop-and-changed-philadelphia-with-1-and-a-single-post-it-note

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/10/people-hear-for-first-time-video_n_6646594.html

One was about a man who left his job on wall street to open a pizza shop for $1 a slice.  One customer came in and wanted to buy a slice for anyone who might need help.  So the owner put a post-it on the wall, and the idea spread.  Those who benefitted from this kindness later found jobs and came in to donate a slice of pizza for another person who might come in hungry.

The next video is about technology helping people hear for the first time and seeing their reactions.  If this doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.

For me, this sums up why I decided to give my life to God in UBF.  I always wanted to do something meaningful with my life.  When my heart was forever changed after meeting Jesus through Bible study in UBF, it was obvious where my commitment and devotion should be.

I was born as a child of UBF missionaries, so it may look like a natural default for me to be here.   But I will attest that no child can become a committed member by default.  Children growing up in religion experience a lot of downsides of organized religion.  For me, it was tedious and unreasonable at times, but I felt that people were sincere and that it was good to be devoted to God.  I heard testimonies of changed lives and respected God’s work in them.  I saw my parents making friends with college students, opening our house to them, cooking for them, providing room and board and entertainment, and I respected, even admired them for it.

But there seemed to be no upward trend.  I wanted all the Bible students who had made friends with me to stay and keep growing like a big family, but it wasn’t always possible, and it hurt to see them go, no matter how friendly it was.  But when news of a bitter and angry separation struck, it was almost too hard to bear.  I could not imagine myself following in my parent’s footsteps because it was all too obvious that it was a big waste of time.  I saw the end before I even started.  Even worse, I couldn’t even start because I knew what to say and how to answer the questions.  There was no way I could imagine having the same life-changing experience in Jesus that I had heard so many times from other testimonies.

Eventually, God helped me to be born again as his child and unexpectedly, my life was changed forever.  I heard God’s calling to serve him on American campuses through UBF.

When I watched these two videos recently, I was reminded why I decided to commit myself fully to God in the first place.  The first video was about following your dream to do good for others.  Even though it requires an initial sacrifice you persevere with the hope that the love you show others will not be in vain.  One day, that person will show love the way they were loved and everyone can rejoice together.   It’s living selflessly to pay it forward through another life or even another generation.

The second video reminded me that I decided to give my life to share the gospel so that people could see God’s grace and hear God’s voice of love for the first time.  To use my time and talents to this end would not be easy, but it would be worth it to celebrate together at the end.

But as I grew older, I realized that people were not rejoicing together.  People were showing favor for a while, and then applying the pressure.  When a person could not handle it anymore, or accept the vision for themselves, they would leave, sometimes quietly, and sometimes not so quietly.  More fundamentally, people in the same chapter could not respect each other and get along.  And families who had sincerely accepted the same vision and decided to join in the struggle together were leaving, angry, broken and hurt.  Whatever the reason, I believe that this is not the end that God wants for us.  We emphasize the importance of one person before God.  If one person who joins is important, than one person who leaves should make us stop and examine ourselves to make sure we are right before God.

At the root of it, it’s painful to realize that the road we started on has more failures than successes, more hurt than love.  It’s painful to realize that people that we trusted are susceptible to the same sins and temptations as everyone else.  But if we are confident that we are right before God, that God is leading us, and the end will outweigh all the trouble, we can persevere.  It’s just that I think we are losing that confidence.

For the past 15 years, I have focused on building my own relationship with God, denying myself, not blaming others, giving thanks, accepting God’s sovereignty, and doing my best before God.  Wherever I could be helpful, I tried to help and serve.  Whenever I saw a need, I did my best to show God’s love.  In every trial and difficulty, I accepted it as God’s love and discipline, overcoming bitterness and hurt and thanking God for his love for me.  But the biggest breakthrough came when I learned to be honest about my real thoughts, desires and heart before God at every stage of my life.

There’s a tendency to portray the initial conversion as the answer to all life’s problems and then it’s happily ever after.  But no matter how wonderful it was to be born again into God’s kingdom through the blood of Jesus, and no matter how much that change spurred me into action for Jesus, I realized that one defining moment cannot last an entire lifetime.

A person may initially experience victory over some sin or over some area in their life, but if the root is deep, it will resurface again.  We continually face new challenges and new problems as we enter different stages of life.  What worked for me before will not work again in another situation.  What worked for me in the past will not work for another person.  Every moment, every person, has to be prayerfully guided and led by God’s own hand.  There is no magic formula. We need to be able to examine ourselves honestly before God and find individual answers from God’s words.  We also need examples from our seniors and from our community to learn how they are struggling with new issues in their lives, and how they are bringing them to God to find the answers.  We need people who can hold us up and wait patiently while we work through our issues.

Hiding the problem is not the answer.  Bringing them to the light of God’s love and grace is the way to find personal healing, set a good example, and restore the community.  It may be painful, it may be messy.  But when this happens, no one has to feel embarrassed or say, “Don’t read ubfriends.”   We can be open and honest and point to how our leaders are also making honest efforts.  I can follow their example and also continue with God’s calling in my life in clear conscience before God.

Practically, an independent advisory consisting of neutral people who we trust and who respect our ministry, can be a good place to start.  We should first try to resolve problems among ourselves, but when we cannot, both sides can give their story to an objective third party.  Alternatively, a board from a neighboring chapter with both Koreans and natives can serve as an objective third party and listen to both sides.  We can have new respect for each other and show kindness and even love.

I also wonder about the need for a general director.  Every country has its own flavor and should be allowed to develop independently and creatively.  Presently, UBF USA is hindered from addressing concerns of Americans because other directors from another country are afraid that the original spirit of UBF will be distorted.  Also, since Chicago is the International Headquarters for UBF, there are more eyes on Chicago leaders.  I believe Abraham T. Kim is caught between a rock and a hard place.  But if Chicago was no longer international headquarters but just another chapter, or headquarters only for North America, there might be greater flexibility.  At the most, I only see the need of continental directors, who oversee the spiritual needs of their continent, who meet together to discuss international matters, and participate in retreats for their own spiritual needs.

Jack Frost’s Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship might also address the heart of our interpersonal relationship problems, not just Korean and American but also Korean-Korean, American-American, and all over the world.  Our self-reliance, insecurity, sense of duty, rivalry, accusations, etc. may be stemming from the possibility that we have not fully embraced our identity as God’s sons and daughters and still remain as orphans without a real father or home.

13 comments

  1. Mark Mederich

    HALLELUJAH, THIS WHAT NEED DO MORE THAN “PLAY CHURCH”

  2. Mark Mederich

    “Children growing up in religion experience a lot of downsides of organized religion.” SUCH A DECADES OLD WASTE OF LIVES/MUST CHANGE IMMEDIATELY, OTHERWISE SPEND LIFE FIXING DAMAGE SO DON’T HAVE TIME TO HELP OTHERS ANYWAY..

    “Our self-reliance, insecurity, sense of duty, rivalry, accusations, etc. may be stemming from the possibility that we have not fully embraced our identity as God’s sons and daughters and still remain as orphans without a real father or home.” GOD FORBID WE’VE BEEN PURPOSELY PREVENTED FROM DOING SO BY CORRUPT OPERATORS..

  3. Friend, this is an excellent positive and progressive thought: “Every country has its own flavor and should be allowed to develop independently and creatively. Presently, UBF USA is hindered from addressing concerns of Americans because other directors from another country are afraid that the original spirit of UBF will be distorted. …if Chicago was no longer international headquarters but just another chapter, or headquarters only for North America, there might be greater flexibility.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/03/10/my-own-response/#sthash.IUFYWu8H.dpuf

    But sadly, as you well know, some of the old guard seem determined to never let go of their claws in nations where they hardly understand or appreciate the cultural differences while seeking to impose their own cultural preferences on them. This has been going on for way too long already.

    Abraham Nial recently shared how DK of Korea is basically calling the shots for India ubf, simply because he is the director of Korea. So he obviously sees it as his right to do so.

    Interestingly the leader in Korea (DK) is known as a director, while in the US the leader (MV) is known as a coordinator. (Sorry that this thought was expressed to me from a good friend. I would not have thought of this myself.) It seems obvious that UBF wants the leader in Korea to have a higher power status and clout over the leader of the US and in all other countries.

    Such power plays is simply keeping ubf in the back roads. This will not change until the old guard learns and decides to let it go. To put it bluntly (sorry that I don’t know how else to say it or am not willing to try): Get off your high horse. There is only One who deserves to be there and it’s not you.

    • Mark Mederich

      God shares his glory with noone; i think coordinator came to try get more acceptance from americans..

  4. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    I would like to comment, but I have very little that I can add. I really empathize with this

    “But as I grew older, I realized that people were not rejoicing together. People were showing favor for a while, and then applying the pressure. When a person could not handle it anymore, or accept the vision for themselves, they would leave, sometimes quietly, and sometimes not so quietly. More fundamentally, people in the same chapter could not respect each other and get along. And families who had sincerely accepted the same vision and decided to join in the struggle together were leaving, angry, broken and hurt. Whatever the reason, I believe that this is not the end that God wants for us.”

  5. Thanks a lot for sharing this, friend. I can understand your feelings and thoughts quite well.

  6. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    “For me, this sums up why I decided to give my life to God in UBF. I always wanted to do something meaningful with my life. When my heart was forever changed after meeting Jesus through Bible study in UBF, it was obvious where my commitment and devotion should be.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/03/10/my-own-response/#sthash.ds1lXzc8.dpuf

    I’d like to comment on this part. I’m thinking a lot these days about God, commitment and organizations and, frankly, I don’t understand anymore the connection between making that life long commitment to an organization simply because of an act of God facilitated through the people in that organization. I think at one time I did. I committed myself to 15 years in UBF without a thought of going elsewhere. This shaped my perspective on Christianity, discipleship, other organizations, relationships with people, Christian history, the greater body of Christ, and so on in a very narrow and unhealthy way. Now, I think I’d simply say that it’s obvious my commitment and devotion are to God and things Jesus commanded, such as loving one another as well as remembering the poor and the witness of him.

    I don’t mean that we should not be committed to an organization, but I do wonder about making such a commitment a life commitment. I saw this negatively many times. For example, when people would leave the chapter or ministry, very often I heard this kind of reasoning: You were born again here. It is obvious that God’s will is for you to stay in UBF forever. I heard people apply it to themselves: I was born again here so despite all that has or may happened, I have to stay here. So, some people were labeled as rejecting God’s will for leaving. And still I heard much worse things applied to people leaving, not for any reasons against God, but simply that they felt he was leading them in new ways. The worst things I heard were usually from seniors at staff conferences, describing how people, from long time members with families to their own children, were leaving. In the chapter I was in, John 15, on the vine and the branches, was also used to teach students to remain in UBF in order to grow and bear fruit.

    To me this is a huge departure from the work of the Holy Spirit and the movement of people and groups and churches that we see in the New Testament. There is mention of enough people who were not called disciples who freely moved around as the Spirit led and were very useful in the work of Paul’s preaching, for example, and the mention of welcoming traveling believers in 3 John that show me a much more flexible body with flexible members. The Macedonian call even showed Paul that he ought to be flexible with his movements and commitments for the Lord. I’ve read many great stories of believers who ended up leaving ministries and continuing to serve the Lord in very positively impacting ways.

    I hope that UBF leaders would also consider and address this kind of mentality. I heard most leaders say something to the effect of, “Of course, people can leave any time.” But the truth is that it is very complicated and oftentimes difficult in negative ways for someone to actually do so. But whatever acts of God experienced while at an organization definitely do not equate to me that someone should soldier on despite bad practices, and especially since those are not openly and properly addressed. Furthermore, that those who do stay at the organization would be respected by the organization and given real opportunity to be heard and to help work through issues.

    • “It is obvious that God’s will is for you to stay in UBF forever.”

      Yes, it is obvious for everyone who is a UBF member. The Korean missionaries have the saying that the “want to bury their bones in the mission fields” and John Jun became famous for saying (in the 1970s) that “even when Samuel Lee leaves, I will still stay in UBF”. Loyalty to God is equated with loyalty to UBF, and obedience to God is equated to obedience to UBF. The reason why people buy and follow this teaching is that it’s much easier to follow the “visible servant of God” and what he concretely tells you to do than following the invisible God and your own conscience. If you are loyal to UBF you have that immediate and pleasant feeling and confirmation of everybody around you that you are “righteous.” If you follow your own conscience, then you can have sometimes unpleasent doubts and qualms and inner struggles, you need to think much, and you often need to change your ways. Always following a fixed program and a party line is so much easier.

  7. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Presently, UBF USA is hindered from addressing concerns of Americans because other directors from another country are afraid that the original spirit of UBF will be distorted. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/03/10/my-own-response/#comment-17133

    Yes. But when concerns are squashed at the local chapter level, out of Chicago, the reason is often times very far from what you’ve mentioned here though I’m sure it is related. When I asked Abraham T. Kim about addressing the concerns of Americans, he first asked me, “How many think like this?” I replied, “Many.” He then said to “wait and keep working with Korean missionaries.” He didn’t appear to say this in a dismissive manner, but practically it did nothing to honestly address my question. I don’t see why we couldn’t have had a full on honest discussion about it.

    Now, locally, I was warned, “Be careful. You will sound racist.” A case of the pot calling the kettle black. There are too many stories of trying to root out racism, just in the chapter I was at.

  8. I wrote a blog, “Is there racism in UBF?” (http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/04/05/is-there-racism-in-your-church/) Though this is a generalization, some (not all) people “with privilege,” incline toward being condescending toward those with “less privilege.”

    In UBF it is pretty obvious who “has privilege.” They talk, act, behave and make decisions as one with privilege. Then they might be shocked or highly offended why some are not happy with their leadership.

    I’ve spoken with some whites who simply can’t see why millions of blacks are so upset with the recent “white cop killing unarmed black” situation. When I try to explain why whites have privilege they become quite offended.

    Try explaining in UBF why some/certain people have privilege and see if they can understand or are even able to listen to you empathetically.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I’ve heard the wrong answer too many times. I was actually told once, “Isn’t my favor enough?”

      I was also told by a Korean missionary that one reason a Korean missionary was chosen as the next director was so that the other Korean missionaries would listen to him because they weren’t yet ready to listen to an American director.

      The exposure of the cop killings recently has me scared and I’m half white and half Filipino. For the first time I could see it’s real and ugly face; it is dangerous if you are Jon-white. Benjamin Corey on his Formerly Fundie blog wrote about it recently too because if his adopted children.

    • The privileged are so used to having the advantage and in calling the shots, that they view themselves as being extremely magnanimous, gracious and generous, should they ever grant you “some favor.” It comes across as favor from “them,” rather than God’s favor. Unless the privileged are humbly willing to have an ongoing equitable dialogue, it will be “it is what it is.”

  9. Thanks Ben as always. You are uniquely suited for the role you are playing, challenging leadership while holding out your hand at the same time, which cannot be easy, and I am grateful.

    Thanks Charles for sharing your insight and experience. You raise important issues that should not be easily discarded and I hope they will be addressed.