Can UBF Divide a Marriage?


After a gradual, but long time struggle with leaving UBF I wanted to review an aspect not directly addressed by many people. As a single person the struggle really comes down to staying or leaving. There is nothing more and nothing less. However, a married couple faces different and possibly new obstacles. In fact, a growing family faces the largest issues imaginable combined with the sheer longevity of commitment and service to UBF ministry. Our stories are unique, yet at the same time complimentary by experience in UBF chapters around the world. I invite people to share this aspect of their struggle to leave UBF. There are many accounts found here and there on a wide variety of existing articles and topics, but the agreement to leave between a husband and wife has not really been opened up. It would be nice to hear from more women who visit and read UBFriends. The dominant voice has always been male even though there have become some regular female participants.

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eaToday is Independence Day here in the USA. It seems to be the most somber 4th of July I can remember. Quite a few people are exhausted from the culture war that was just concluded by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision. For me, the 4th of July holds special significance, and will always invoke great celebration for me! July 4th marks my personal day of independence from UBF. Here are some thoughts to mark the day I felt like a mighty eagle soaring above the mountains.

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Two Things I Want To Say to Every Sheep

fOnce you join UBF bible study, two words will forever be seared into your mind: shepherd and sheep. Everything at UBF depends on this fundamental relationship. The UBF Heritage Slogans, known as the “spiritual legacy” of the UBF founders Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry, depends on the shepherd-sheep relationship in order to propagate the UBF ideology to successive generations. If you had the chance, what would you say to all UBF sheep right now? Here is what I would say.

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A 2nd Gen Story

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 8.32.30 AMEveryone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. –John 3:20,21

The darkness of UBF is overwhelming. Secrets hide behind nearly every smiling face that offers you so much as a plate of bulgoki. Growing up, every Sunday I went to CBF at the “center.” Even as I child, I always felt like there was something off about UBF people. I never quite felt like I was at home, or that this was my family.

Upon leaving UBF at age 8 with my family, we went to an unnamed evangelical church in the area. It was there that I entered life and finally learned to be a normal human being. For the first time in my young life, I felt like I could fit in with the other boys, the other children, and I learned about God, who Jesus was, and accepted him into my heart as my Lord and savior.

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The Sacred Secular Divide

Sacred-Secular SplitI used to consider some activities as spiritual (sacred) and others as worldly (secular).

Spiritual. I thought that carrying out 1:1 Bible studies on the UIC campus was the single greatest Christian activity under heaven, and that it gave God ecstatic chills, goose bumps and enthusiastic high-fives among the Three Divine Persons of the Godhead! So for over two decades I averaged ten 1:1 Bible studies a week, while working full time and never missing any UBF evening meetings, which was usually 4-5 every week.

Worldly. Conversely, I thought that going home to visit my aged mother in Malaysia was selfish and family-centered, and that it displeased and grieved God. By visiting mom for even a week, I would not be on campus to focus on the most important task of making disciples among college students (Mt 28:19), which was unthinkable for me. Continue reading →

My Mother

hIt seems like every other week in the comments I see people arguing about Samuel Lee. Some think the judgment is if he was a terrible, or the most terrible man who ever lived. Others think he might have had some redeeming qualities but overall he was a bad guy. Others present a stance that he was ok but made a few mistakes which people soon point out don’t matter because he was such a terrible person. A common topic I hear repeated about Dr. Samuel Lee is that he was a man who loved God but he was overbearing. To be clear I have never met Dr. Samuel Lee, I never met him and did not know who he was until several years after his death. His teachings live on through his disciples to varying degrees. I have heard he was the worst man who has ever and will ever live. I have heard is the best man who has ever and will ever live. Although I never met him he in many ways reminds me of my mother.

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On Our 20th Anniversary

rMarking anniversaries. I can’t help it! ubf conditioned me to mark each year and to write my own history. Each conference was so historical! But my wife and I noticed one glaring absence from this history-making: our wedding anniversary. We realized that even though we privately marked our wedding anniversary, our ubf community almost never celebrated such a thing. Wedding anniversaries, like all supposedly unspiritual family-centered activities at ubf, were acknowledged but not celebrated. In the ubf KOPAHN system, the number of years you have been studying the bible at ubf is far more important than the number of years you have been married. For example, I noticed that Christians I meet now often ask “How long have you been married?” ubf people ask (in Konglish no matter your native language) “How long have you been studying bible at ubf?” when they first meet someone. So today I want to share some sogamic reflections with you as my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.

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My Dad

dadI am working on my sermon next Sun with the theme of Father for Father’s day. Then I began thinking about my dad.

Love. My dad died two decades ago in the mid-90s. My predominant memory of him is that he loved me dearly. When I was little boy he wrestled and bound me tightly so that I could not extricate myself from him. He released me only when I started crying loudly. He took me weekly to watch movies, especially Westerns. He bought me many toys. Once I wanted a whistle at a store. The seller would blow each whistle to test which whistle sounded the best and the loudest. But because he did this my dad ushered me away. He refused to buy me a whistle that someone else had put their unclean mouth to. This is a seemingly miniscule event. But somehow this is embedded in my memory as a story that my dad loves me and cares for me to the smallest detail. Continue reading →

Rest Unleashed – Narrative 3 of 3

raven-yenser-2013-bw-medium-300x246The last and longest narrative in my book, Rest Unleashed: The Raven Narratives, is my story. So far, my journey has begun with considering forgiveness and the gospel of Jesus. I found a tremendous amount of rest for my mind and heart through those narratives. The most rest however came from telling my life story from my perspective. I refused to do two things when telling my life story. One, I would not spin tall tales and would speak as much as possible without any mask or pretense. Two, I would not cut out my ubf experiences and would not see such experiences as purely negative. I titled this last narrative: “Resting in my life”.

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Christians Behaving Badly Toward Their Own Family

badbehaviorRecently, I spoke to a childhood friend who expressed to me just how hurt and disheartened he, his parents and his siblings were after his brother married and converted to Christianity. They are a loving Asian family and not religious. As adults they were very close and would visit each others’ families often. But soon after his brother and his family became Christians, he became increasingly estranged, disconnected and less intimate with his own siblings and parents. Without going into details, he treated his own family quite poorly for the last two decades and counting.

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