A Culture of Burden


[Admin note: We received the following article here at ubfriends and were asked to share it. This speaks to the culture of burden that UBF shepherds and missionaries cultivate. The burden typically goes up on pregnant mothers. Please read, reflect and react.]

“Answer to Brian’s post June 3, 2015”

Hello, Everybody, My name is Sigrid Goff. I used to belong to Cologne UBF in Germany, then to Washington UBF until 1996 or 1997. I don’t quite remember when exactly I left.  I would like to add another item to Brian’s list of UBF’s unlawful behavior posted on June 3, 2015 and that is, child abuse and neglect.

For example, when some parents could not find a babysitter for their three pre-school age children so that the parents could attend a mandatory UBF Bible conference, they locked the children into their apartment from Friday through Sunday afternoon after instructing them to feed themselves out of the refrigerator.

My own experiences were even worse. When I was pregnant with my twins, missionaries never encouraged me to rest or take good care of myself. Instead every missionary prayed with me “to really overcome my pregnancy.”

When I asked, I never received any clarification of what they meant by this phrase. I thought it meant to put God’s work first because that was the directive in all things without exceptions.

One hot and humid Friday afternoon, after I had just finished a 40-hour workweek, the chapter director’s wife came to my apartment to urge me to go fishing with her at the University of Maryland in College Park, our fishing ground.

Being ignorant, timid, compliant, and brainwashed, I obeyed and went with her although I was feeling exhausted and nauseated.

A few days later, I gave birth to two boys prematurely. They were not expected to live, but survived anyway. However, even now as grown men, they still have many disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy, mental handicaps, and blindness.

They are the product of a culture of child neglect and abuse that was common in many UBF chapters at that time according to my observations.

When confronted, the missionaries aggressively denied any wrongdoing or undue influence, but insisted that what happened was all my fault and my own decision.

I have long since forgiven those who brainwashed me and acknowledged the good things that happened to me at UBF.

I do not find it easy, however, to care for two people with disabilities. My children are also struggling. But I am holding on to God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God accomplished part I of his plan for my children by letting them live. I am confident that he will also accomplish part II, which is healing them completely.

Thank you and God Bless!


  1. Mark Mederich

    “For example, when some parents could not find a babysitter for their three pre-school age children so that the parents could attend a mandatory UBF Bible conference, they locked the children into their apartment from Friday through Sunday afternoon after instructing them to feed themselves out of the refrigerator.”
    elites abuse for gain (which inevitably leads to loss for victim), then they blame victim: delightful isn’t it:(
    but thanks be to God that the gig is up! HALLELUJAH!
    hope your kids totally recover (if not, hope ubf realize the legal risk/much less eternal consequences they bear..)

  2. So, so, so very sorry to read this and hear about this.

  3. Even though no causal relationship can be conclusively proven between going fishing when exhausted and pregnant with premature birth, the fact that the missionaries said that it is all your fault and your own decision is downright cruel and heartless and unbecoming of a Christian and a missionary!!

  4. forestsfailyou

    Sigrid do you have a son named Jeremy?

    • Yes, I do. How do you know?

    • forestsfailyou

      Google searching. Not sure if this is the right spot for this, but I wanted to pay him a compliment for this.


      It’s well written, is he going to be a pastor?

    • Hi, Forestsfailyou,
      Thank you for looking up Jeremy and thank you for paying him a compliment. I will let him know. He does belong to Turn on the Light Bowie. Bowie is our hometown, which is located about 20 minutes from Washington, D.C. Turn on the Light is an initiative of several churches in the Bowie area that want to care and share the Good News.

      Jeremy does not know yet what he wants to be. Pastor sounds like a great idea!!!

  5. Joe Schafer

    From a 2012 Sunday message delivered at Washington UBF:

    “Shep. John and Sigrid Goff visited me yesterday and we were so happy to see each other. John was our first convert and he is serving flocks of God at Bowie.”


    As usual, there is no acknowledgment of any conflict whatsoever.

    • forestsfailyou

      “I remember meeting a missionary while University of Maryland in 1991. I engaged him in conversation about scripture and was invited to study with him 1 on 1. I took the invitation and learned that I actually had more than a few friends already involved with UBF. After studying one on one for a while with this missionary Shepherd, I was invited to attend Sunday worship. I already had a home church and made that known, but was told my home church could not offer what UBF had. The pressure to be involved became so intense I ended up writing a letter to that Shepherd telling him: “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” He then stopped calling me. He ended up leaving UBF to attend another church. I ran into that missionary one day and he told me that he didn’t believe UBF was fulfilling the great commission, so he had to leave. I think within the controlling power some had there, it was easy to become corrupt. Lord Bless UBF. May they find Freddom in Messiah. One Word: “Control Freaks make many into former or “Lost” Sheep.”

    • Joe, I was working for a multi-level marking company once. That “message” you linked to from Washington UBF reads more like a marketing propaganda message to gain money, support and new recruits. That message barely gets a 1 star on the Karcher Sermon Index.

      This person who gave this “message” has no idea what the gospel is. They use the word gospel as an adjective. They talk about gospel faith, gospel work, gospel message and gospel worker. In this person’s mind, the glorious gospel is just a secondary descriptor, not the primary motivator.

  6. Mark Mederich

    “Control Freaks make many into former or “Lost” Sheep.”

  7. Hi Sigrid, and welcome to ubfriends! Thank you for sharing this painful experience. I am glad that you now realize how horrible these abusive actions are toward you and your family.

    This has happened thousands of times at ubf chapters all over the world: “For example, when some parents could not find a babysitter for their three pre-school age children so that the parents could attend a mandatory UBF Bible conference, they locked the children into their apartment from Friday through Sunday afternoon after instructing them to feed themselves out of the refrigerator.”

    The culture at ubf chapters is one of high-pressure. As you correctly point out, the ubf culture oppresses the family and creates the perceived need to do crazy things such as you mention.

    If you ask ubf people point blank, they will deny such things. After something happens, they will blame the parents. But if it all seems to be ok, they just take the credit and glorify themselves for being such holy soldiers. This massive burden is highly un-Christian.

    Your article once again points out why I am strongly against any kind of reform at ubf. Many Christian churches can be reformed because they have the backbone of the Christian gospel. But ubf does not fit into that category. ubf has the backbone of Christianized-Confucianism mixed in with Buddhist philosophies. So ubf cannot be helped by reforms. ubf needs redemption–total revamping in order to have the backbone of the Christian gospel.

    Ever since SL decided to make SB his secretary, ubf has been on a non-Christian road. Such an acttitude toward SB reveals a male-dominated, un-Christ-like patriarchy that has persisted for decades. The patriarchy is crumbling, yes, but there is still no rebuilding of ubf on the Christian gospel, such as what Ben has done at Westloop.

    Until ubf learns from Ben and Westloop, these kinds of stories will be repeated ad nauseum.

  8. What an astute succinct comment!: “They use the word gospel as an adjective. They talk about gospel faith, gospel work, gospel message and gospel worker. In this person’s mind, the glorious gospel is just a secondary descriptor, not the primary motivator.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/06/10/a-culture-of-burden/#comment-18683

  9. Dear Sigrid, so great to hear from you this way. You remember me from Frankfurt? we met last when Mario gave his lecture about developing independet faith relationship with God – Jojada was the subject. I think also nowadays it is way too much dependency in UBF which actually often blocks developing your own faith … i did not know that your Story was this sad :( my husband and i are now on the move there – to another church. We still love P and M a lot, but we felt we could not grow there anymore cause the leadership blocked many new ideas

    • Thanks for posting, Libby. Since when have you been in UBF?

      When you say “nowadays it is way too much dependency in UBF” do you want to say that it was better/different in former times?

      I can assure you that the dependency problem (making “sheep” extremely and deliberately dependent on “shepherds”) existed from the very beginnings of UBF, and it was also extreme in German in the 1990s and earlier.

    • Hi, Libby,
      It’s good to hear from you. I remember Mario and his lecture well. I actually mentioned it to a co-worker at my work place at a high school. (I have been an educator for 25 years.) Can you send a picture of yourself?

      My children’s story is sad in a way because as Brian pointed out they are the innocent victims of a high pressure environment. To sacrifice little children including unborn ones makes me totally mad. To me this was one of the worst aspects about UBF.

      But since I have hope in God with whom everything is possible I believe that my children will be healed and lead many people to Christ.

      I wish you well. May God bless you and your family abundantly. I hope to see you again sometime maybe in Bowie, maybe in Frankfurt. Come and see us when you are in the U.S.

  10. And sorry to everyone that i have not participated in our discussions for a Long time. I have to work long hours, plus caring for a child sometimes who is not my own (ha, there we are at the subject of child care!) but i sometimes read UBFriends whenever i can to see the Topics and observe what’s going on here … Greetings from Germany

  11. Thanks Chris for your answer. Actually, i stayed in UBF only for 5 years cause my church then beacame part of CMI. It was good to be Independent from UBF but still in the course of the years, many core Problems were not really openly discussed. Since i am not Korean, i can hardly tell what was really discussed in the inner circles. One Point that disturbed me is not only the sheperd-sheep principle but more the proclamation of “Inductive Bible study” as the one and best method to understand God’s word. I often missed sober teaching that was coming Close to people’s everyday lives, considering the Background of a bible text and helping students to develop their own faith by trusting God rather then sheperds

    • Yes, around 2003 the Reform UBF chapters changed their name to CMI. I visited the reform UBF conference in Ehringerfeld and later in Guentersberge in Harz mountains around that time. Unfortunately, after they officially became UBF, they stopped reforming, they never really processed their past and scrutinized the UBF practices and theology fundamentally. So they still carry a lot of UBF garbage and potentially harmful practices with them. They are now a kind of “UBF light”, a bit friendlier, a bit more humane, but still birds of the same feather. Just like UBF, unless CMI officially stands to its past and issues an official statement of repentance, I wouldn’t recommend anybody to work with them.

      Side node: During the reform movement, our chapter director in Heidelberg (hardcore UBF) gave us the following advice regarding the reform movement: “To see if this is from God, wait 3 years, and see if they’re still around and doing world mission.” So now, more than 10 years later, they’re still around and doing world mission. He never drew consequences from that (apart from it being a very silly advice in the first place). His teaching was always that nobody could judge things, because even good things could look bad and vice versa. The only thing we could do was to trust God, which meant, trust our dear leader Samuel Lee, because we had no other way of measuring whether something was from God or not. If somebody was lying, if somebody was doing unethical things, if our conscience revolted, it all didn’t matter to him – it could still be from God. That’s also the background for his silly advice to “just wait”.

    • “after they officially became UBF”

      I meant, “after they officiall became CMI” of course.

    • Mark Mederich

      guess religion gotta keep gettin liter till spirit supercede;
      reminds me of old tv show: ‘father knows best’:)

  12. Dear Sigrid, thanks a lot for replying! i also hope we will see each other again to have Fellowship, discuss and encourage each other in our Lord. Chris, what you are mentioning is an outcome of a mentality that is so bound to hierarchies which hurt lots of our Brothers and sisters .. sad Story

    • Mark Mederich

      hierarchy makes the world go around (oops that’s money per liza minelli in cabaret; same thing I guess:)

  13. Chris, in my perception CMI still has many of those hierarchy elements in their leadership which stems from Confucian origin, which i think is really harmful, especially to the new believers. My husband Comes from a Muslim Family, has become a Christian but in the course of time percieved more thinkgs about this plugged-in Korean culture than i did, cause i have been in UBF/CMI for 17 years. Culture is a nice and interesting, enriching Thing. But when it Comes to set it above God, willingly or unwillingly, it should be a sign to alert yourself and take care! This Forum is discussing issues up and down, back and forth, whether it is useful or if there is hope for Reform in UBF or not. And it is worth all the while ! My fear is that UBF “repents” at the Points that are not the real Points. The new “fresh” believers can be harmed and maybe eventually turn back from any Kind of church congregation by experiences like in UBF. Does UBF want to win souls for the Lord or just gain numbers for their church??????