The following testimony by Emily Wexler, member of New Jersey and Chicago UBF from 1997 to 2001, on her life in UBF during those years, has been published first on the RSQUBF web site in November 2001.
Disclaimer: The following testimony contains my personal opinion about the experiences I had in UBF. Please keep in mind that they are from my own point of view and are my sole interpretation of the events that occurred.
On September 29th, 2000 approximately nine couples were married at the UBF headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. I almost was one of the brides that got married that day. Through revelation received to me in prayer, God personally had his hand involved in my acquaintance and friendship with David Green. It is true that we had the shortest of engagements, and it took the subsequent hours and hours of prayer to finally realize that God had predestined all of this. And it’s taken David’s leaving UBF to get a better understanding of how our friendship was manipulated, and why it did not work out. I know now, that my involvement in UBF, for all of the reasons for why I left, was essential in my walk with the Lord.
I’d like to start with a memory of Little Sarah Kim [the daughter of Samuel Lee] saying to me once that I needed to have one word of God to overcome all of the hard things that I would certainly encounter. John 5:23 reads, “… that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father who sent him. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” The only comment I can really make about her alleged adultery is that I know that she will be held accountable to God in the end. God will take care of what happened. How can I take the splinter out of her eye, while I still have a plank in my own? I don’t really know anything first hand regarding that situation because it allegedly happened before I came to UBF. There was only one conversation we had at one dinner. I had read Amy’s testimony earlier and I had spoken with her on the phone about her experience, so by the time I asked Little Sarah about it, I had had time to pray and wait for the best approach. Finally, the only thing I could say to Little Sarah was, “Little Sarah, there is this website where many people are testifying to many bad things about you.” She responded erratically and acted surprised that I brought it up. So I remained silent and just watched her reactions. She became very angry and called it “a bunch of sh*t.” Then she apologized for responding that way, but she continued to justify her meeting and calling Damon. She said that as his shepherd, she needed to have a close relationship with him. I remembered that I was a little shocked that she responded this way. Her reaction to my question could have been an admission of her guilt but then again, it could also have been a product of her outrage due to her innocence. I still can’t be sure, because she denied to venomously. Regardless, although I have mixed feelings about its truthfulness, I know that we are all human and have our own sins and mistakes. I am not justifying or condemning her actions. I guess I am still in shock. I just wish that if it is true, she has genuinely repented before God, and she has repaired her relationship with God and her husband. If it’s not true I pray that God may overlook what was said about her.
Even if she did do what was testified about her, she taught me an enormous amount. My gratitude for everything that she taught me is incredibly immense. Praise God that he used all the missionaries, American shepherds and shepherdess to contribute in my walk with the Lord! I had many enormous sin problems when I came to UBF, and I continue to struggle with my temper, my pride and my selfishness. Yet, I am still grateful to M. Grace and the other missionaries for using the Word of God to help me. I will be indebted to them for bringing me to God. I would not be in the place that I am now, without their prayer and love for my life. I would not know about God or know his Words so clearly. They taught me a sense of history in the Bible that I previously had not known. But I also feel nervous and upset because, I will include in this testimony many events that happened, such as questions of spiritual authority and absolute deference to every decision, that many in UBF may see as my “ungratefulness.” But that is not true, I am very grateful to UBF. Also, I feel terrible because I do not want those who are still in UBF to read this and be offended by my testimony. If you are still in UBF please read my testimony as my personal opinion and declaration of the events that happened to me. Please do not think that I am “demon possessed,” that I “ran away” to live an immoral life, or that I am weak and abandoned God’s mission. I continue to read the Bible and pray in the morning before work, and continue to have my personal prayer time with the Lord. I have attended a ministry here in Orlando, and they have many very nice group studies Sunday morning before the service. They have a nursery where families can leave their very young children during the worship service. In addition this ministry is a missionary-sending ministry. (This church financially supports the missionaries they send out.) I have also spent time learning more about my Jewish heritage, trying to see how these two faiths can fit together to please God. I imagine that there were many things said about me after I left UBF that would hurt my reputation, which could discredit this testimony. Do not blindly believe the stories circulating in UBF without hearing my own testimony. If you’d like to hear my story, please read the following testimony and hear my own words. There is also an email address at the end of this testimony if you have any further questions. (I will keep all inquires confidential, so to insure UBFer’s anonymity.) I am nervous at the thought of putting my story “out there” where I will be subjected to criticism and possible misunderstanding. All I ask is that those who are still in UBF to keep Jesus’ compassion in mind while reading my story and learn about my experiences. I want UBF members to seriously consider their involvement and decide for themselves, if they believe UBF is right for them.
I came to UBF in New Jersey in May of 1997 when, my boyfriend at the time, Steve Lobaugh, invited me to attend one worship service. I came from a Jewish background, and I had never been to inclined to the idea of Jesus’ validity. But I had my own problems of wanting to please people, so I said okay to him. I remember the first day that I came to the New Jersey UBF center. I was so curious because there were only two other Americans there and they weren’t even students, but middle-aged men. So I wondered why Steve had brought me to a Korean Church. Another memory I have is how that the Korean missionaries were serving me too much, to the point that certainly made me feel uncomfortable (most other students I am sure can attest to this). I don’t know why I kept on going back, especially when I felt so uncomfortable in this little house, that smelled so much like Korean food. Now I really like that food, but before the smell was so foreign to me. I definitely felt out of place, because I did not think that it was an American ministry.
I don’t know why I kept on going, I guess I wanted to please Steve, but I honestly didn’t really have any relationship with God or Jesus and I didn’t feel like I had to. I refused to study bible, I complained all the time, but I said I would just attend Sunday worship service. Of course this became unacceptable. Initially, I felt coerced into bible study with M. Grace Park. But then, I think about her love, and her dedication to my spiritual life. She is really amazing, and I know that God will bless her. I wish that I felt comfortable to really talk to her about my gratitude for her and everything she did for me, but I suspect that it would be hard for her to accept that I left the UBF organization. Anyway, I know that everything she did, and everything that she sacrificed for me was amazing and I am eternally grateful for her love and teaching me about God. I know that everything she did, that I now question, she did out of a motive of love for me and for Jesus Christ. Even if she does feel pressure to build up numbers for Chicago, I know that she did sincerely care about me.
In early UBF days I began to feel more and more guilted into every function I ever attended. (I remember one night that Steve and I didn’t go to Friday’s Testimony meeting, and M. Grace called Steve and rebuked him for hours.) God sees our hearts, not our absolution to church meetings. This is unbiblical. I was guilted into attending every Sunday worship service and never miss bible study. Or I was guilt tripped for weeks. Mostly I received the kind of guilt regarding the questioning of my loyalty to God. “You must be loyal to God and give thanks to him every Sunday in New Jersey UBF.” I was vulnerable because of my desires to please people and to feel accepted. I remember attending my first church service outside of UBF and hearing that there was going to be a guest messenger, because the Pastor was on vacation with his family. I finally realized that even very good Christians go on vacation with their families and may miss one worship service from time to time. [Vacation is frowned on in UBF and impossible because every member has to attend his weekly meetings without exception, especially the UBF Sunday worship service.]
I got more involved in UBF after that first summer. I invited our mutual friend Tamiko Hennings to join UBF through studying bible with M. Grace Park. This was the fall of 1997. The three of us were the only American students, besides S. Pauline Kwon (one other Korean shepherdess). The three of us spent a lot of time together, and it worked well. Tamiko had one friend who was a leader in ICC [International Church of Christ, a cult similar to UBF], and we went to one of their meetings also. We eventually realized that their meetings were just as weird and unusual as UBF, except that they were all Americans. But one interesting thing was that when we told M. Grace that we had gone to this other church bible study, she started to get all upset, talking about how I should be indebted to UBF, how they saved my life, and how UBF is the only real bible study, etc. She then got upset and made us feel guilty, even though we just attended one bible study (that we didn’t even like). She told me that only UBFers were real Christians. She said that we shouldn’t have relationships with other Christians, because they were bad yeast, and poor examples of Christ because they have no real mission. This shows how UBF is basically exclusionary.
So Steve, Tamiko and I spent all of our time together, under the illusion of Christian fellowship. When deep down, we had huge trouble brewing. Humanly the three of us were so weak spiritually and we all made lots of mistakes. Steve and I fought all the time, and I know that God intended to use my friendship with Steve to introduce me to Christ. He and I broke our relationship because it was just not working. God was trying to show me that I needed to learn about Christ, and trust in Him, rather than my own plans. I was told to reveal all these painful actions between him, myself, and our friend, Tamiko in my weekly testimonies as evidence of my own problems. But I only spewed anger, jealousy and venomous rage. I hurt and cut them down because of my immaturity. I know now, that I fought God’s intentions tooth and nail. I only thought of my own human desires rather than His leading for me.
The following year, through our bible teacher’s directions, Tamiko, Pauline and I made a “common life.” This is UBF konglish [the type of korean english spoken in UBF] for a few shepherds/shepherdesses who share an apartment. I knew that Tamiko and I weren’t getting along (because of our human desires for Steve), and I think that she knew this also. But I believe that we were under stress to produce “fruit,” so we decided to all move into an apartment together. This did not solve our problems but greatly magnified them. This all culminated in the spring of 1999, when tensions between Tamiko and I came to the breaking point. I thought about many possibilities to try to get away from Steve and Tamiko but I couldn’t because they had become my only friends, and if I remained in UBF I would have to see them all of the time. I thought about going to another church, but M. Grace told me to stay and that we would all work it out.
Out of desperation, our director M. John Park consulted Samuel Lee in Chicago about what to do (by my requests for help). This was my first introduction to UBF’s apparent favoritism to white Americans. At first Dr. Lee told M. John that he should encourage Steve and myself to remain and let Tamiko leave. He said that because of Steve and my “adulterous” relationship we would have to get married. But that did not work because; Steve did not go along with what M. John told him. So then, Dr. Lee told M. John to save me (keep me in UBF) by any means, and let the two others go. He said to, “Let that Japanese girl go (Tamiko’s ancestry is Japanese and Irish), and if Steve wants to be with a Japanese Girl, then let him make that mistake.” I told M. John that I wanted to get away from them because I cried every day and tortured myself trying to remain friends, even through the tension and fighting.
So M. John sent me to Chicago for spring break in 1999. While I was there, I was treated as a “guest” and taken to many different Chicago landmarks. During that week, I had the opportunity to meet S. David Hull (from Western Illinois University) and he helped me memorize the 10 commandments and it was nice because I had felt that I had made a new friend. I even spent one day with S. Steve Stastinos who took me around Northwestern, and University of Chicago. I didn’t even think that it was strange that they sent us together alone, because at the time I still had many friendship with other guys at Rutgers [the State University of New Jersey]. I had not yet been indoctrinated with the theory that single men and women should not have any personal contact. Looking at it now, I wonder if they were trying to see if I liked him or if he liked me or what. (To be honest, the last thing on my mind was dating or finding a “marriage candidate.”) While I was there I was treated very well. Because of this attention, I loved it so much and thought that I wanted to move there and have a big ministry with lots of Americans. (New Jersey UBF is very largely Korean).
One very interesting event happened to me right after I returned to New Jersey from this spring break visit. It is a very good example of how missionaries in Chicago have over-reacted to simple situations. One missionary woman (who is married to a very important UBF leader), called M. Grace Park (my bible teacher in New Jersey) and accused me of sleeping with one shepherd because she heard that Sarah Kim Jeong and I were standing in the doorway of his common-life apartment talking. There was actually one other shepherd there, in addition to the three of us. I cannot emphasize the falseness of this statement enough. I would like to say that I have been out of UBF for almost 10 months now, and I haven’t slept around, or hooked up with a guy from a bar, did drugs or got drunk. I have not denounced or abandoned God either. You know why? It is because I have God in my heart, not because I have a Korean missionary who police me and “keep me in line.” There were so many times where I told my shepherd to stop treating my like a child, like I was incapable of making spiritually mature decisions on my own. Seriously, speaking to all of the singles in UBF all over the country, why can’t men and women be mature and have friendships? Why can’t God lead two people together without the “suggestions” from UBF elders? There are many books about this subject, such as “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and so on. Why all of the repressed sexuality?
Regarding singles, all of the leaders in UBF worry so much about the worst that they don’t trust students to make good decisions on their own. They don’t try to teach them and love them, and help them to have their own strength and faith. God is powerful and all knowing, can God not lead two people to each other without a Pastor setting up the match? I believe that God can do all things. I know so many Christians who dated within the boundaries of God’s love and, yes!, did not have pre-marital sex. I know stories of even second-gen’s, which just before their wedding (within the week before) were intimate. All their lives they were raised in UBF, yet they still made their own decision. All of UBF teaching did not stop them or help them. There are even many rumors of UBF elders who have had sexual impropriety but, you know what? All the guarding did not stop them. We are all alone before God. UBF needs to trust students to make genuine decisions on their own!
Married couples don’t even sit together during meetings, or talk to each other much in the center. Rather the whole church is segregated by gender. I even heard one couple’s children ask if they were getting divorced and didn’t love each other. Children don’t see their parents together loving each other and showing their children what a marriage is. I told one American Shepherdess in Chicago what a romantic idea I had about marriage. Sharing one’s sprit, hearts and mission, working side by side serving others and raising children together. She told me that marriage was a partnership, and I should stop being so overly romantic thinking that a marriage was a love affair. But didn’t God intend for marriages to be passionate and filled with constant love? God created Eve for Adam, and he was very pleased. Doesn’t that say that he was in love with Eve? I always questioned UBF marriages because they seemed to me to be like loveless business partnerships. I was told that marriage was a secret that only the married couple would know the love between them. I don’t see how a marriage couple that is so much in love, can act so indifferent to each other in front of others. The point of exposing this extremely painful experience is to show how I became so dependant on UBF and why I liked the idea of never having to make decisions. The point is to show how and why I became to dependant upon the UBF coworkers. Also why I became insistent that my only hope to have a happy marriage was to “marry by faith” [UBF term meaning in reality that UBF leaders determine the marriage partners], and why I felt that God could only use me through UBF. The point of retelling this experience is to point out why I became so dependant on UBF and isolated myself from my family. This is kind of a list of experiences I’ve had. Because of these reasons, I know now why I was so susceptible to UBF’s control over my life. In fact, I wanted them to “tell me what to do”:
- I had no one else to lean on for support when my only real friends left UBF and we ended our friendship. Because of the pain of this broken relationship, I was extremely vulnerable to thinking God would never give me love again.
- So I was vulnerable to “marriage by faith,” because every week, I was encouraged to say in my testimonies, “only a man of God (a UBF shepherd) can make a happy marriage and family.” Little did I know that because many people don’t learn about their marriage candidates very carefully, many find out these candidates are alcoholics, mental patients, adulterous, or abusive after they marry. No one told me about how many divorces happened in UBF, and that Dr. Lee even asked one person to divorce his wife because she was questioning UBF! She told me with her own mouth that her husband was counseled like this. [This was not a singular incident, by the way. Samuel Lee ordered divorces and remarriages with more loyal to UBF members many times, and many members obeyed this direction.] I did not know how Dr. Lee told couples when to have children, what their names should be given or that he instructed women missionaries in Korea to have abortions [the last known case was 1986 in the USA]! I did not know about these things that happened to other people. So I became dependant on this idea that God would not work through me directly but only through others to match me up with someone.
- Deutr. 6:5 was twisted, making me put UBF functions before my family and all other friends I was trying to make through work, and school.
- UBF is the only church I have ever been involved with, and I thought this was the norm.
- Because I was indoctrinated with the idea that UBF was the only good church and all others were weak, lazy and did not have good bible study, etc. I was hesitant to try to find a new church.
Okay, so now that you know how and why I got involved with UBF, let me talk about some of my experiences that suggests UBF needs to be reformed. (These are not in chronological order because there are so many things that I experienced and it is impossible to really organize them completely). Of course these experiences did not lead me to want to leave UBF. I was ignorant to the red flags that these experiences brought up:
- While I was still in New Jersey, most of the spiritually questionable things were the guilt-induced conversations that occurred when I didn’t want to do something, i.e. not attend meetings or Sunday worship service.
- I was given a one-day notice for a trip to Germany in the summer of 1998. Can you imagine starting a new job and getting a call the night before, saying don’t start your job tomorrow go to Germany instead by faith! Again, this made me irresponsible and appear immature to other people. If I am supposed to show the love and dependability of God, I should also be dependable in my job and in the world.
- The guilt induced conversations to offer more money at offering, under the premise; “well, you just bought a new TV, so why can’t you offer more money on Sunday?” (These two things have nothing in common. I am not contradicting the bible history of giving a tithe, or offering money for the poor, and charity. I do these things. But I do object to the pressure and guilt.)
- I became increasingly and utterly dependent upon UBF for every little decision I made, such as clothing, where I lived, what I studied, where I worked and so on. (When I was told that I was going to get married, I took my bible teacher to buy the dress, rather than my mother under the assumption, that the missionary would know what was “appropriate” for a UBF wedding, rather than the style that I wanted.)
- I was encouraged to stay at Rutgers to study for a master’s degree even though I had previously never wanted a master’s degree.
- I was increasingly separated from my family. I was told that I should pray for them and that God would help them understand. I couldn’t minister to them in person, or by spending time with them. UBF did not encourage my relationship with my family. Even on certain Sunday’s such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or my Father’s Birthday, I was never encouraged to see them or spend time with them. I was guilt tripped into always attending Sunday worship service regardless of any family plans that were made. Imagine three years of never missing worship service, absolutely even though my mom might have been sick, I was sick and so on. I was made to think that God would hate me and punish me. Of course the message was, “God is forgiving, but how can you knowingly disobey God?” The message was always, “Do you want to follow the ways of the world, or do you follow God only?” I often suggested that we should have Sunday worship service at 11am because then I could still have time to visit with my family or celebrate family birthdays, etc. I was told that it was at 3pm because this is how it is done in Chicago UBF. But I thought that it was at 3pm so that students could serve their parents on Sunday as well?
- I was made to think that I had to carry out so many one-to-ones [bible studies] and so on. This made me nervous and my bible studies unproductive. It was hard for me to focus on one sheep at a time, rather I kept thinking about the next study I could line up.
Through a lot of these experiences, I realized that in UBF the missionaries don’t understand American culture. They automatically assume that if someone has a boyfriend/girlfriend that they are sleeping together! That is just not true! They think that certain ways of dressing is adulterous and disrespectful. But I refuse to believe that I am sinning against God if I am wearing a shirt without sleeves. Does that make a woman adulterous if she decides it’s too hot to wear sleeves or to wear shorts? The bible says that we shouldn’t have this kind of legalism. Jesus came to earth to show the Pharisees how their legalism was wrong. Maybe you can tell I was rebuked a lot about my outward appearance. These situations were only a small overview of what happened to me in New Jersey before I made real relationships with Chicago UBF. The friendship between Steve Lobaugh, Tamiko Hennings and I ended that May 1999, when Tamiko moved out of the common life, left UBF and went home for the summer. Steve also went away that summer and did not return to UBF. Because of my relationships with Steve and Tamiko, I was informed that my real problem was the “marriage problem.” I was constantly told that I had to give up human love. So that was what happened. I was an emotional wreck because I was humanly defeated and extremely depressed. My two closest friends and I all destroyed each other and scattered for that summer. I am very sorry about my actions that hurt them and ruined our friendship. But while Tamiko and Steve were able to remain friends, and eventually get married in the summer of 2000, I felt completely and utterly alone. Even after the rejuvenation of spring break I could not heal from these experiences. I was told to blame a lot on them (indirectly) especially after they left UBF. I was told that they were just weak giving into their human desires for human love. But I was stronger because I decided to follow God’s mission and trust that he would find a match for me.
In order to encourage me, I was told that I may be able to participate in the dancing team for the 1999 MSU international summer bible conference. In order to be able to leave at a moments notice, I took a menial job at a bakery near my parents’ home. I had to give up a very nice summer internship at a company in New York City, because I never knew at what moment I would be called along to Chicago for the dancing team. Of course at the time, I was waiting breathlessly for the call because I desperately wanted to go to Chicago where I was treated so nicely (from my experiences that year from my previous Spring break visit in March) and had some opportunities for some summer excitement. The main problem was that I was given no notice. Now that I look back I realize that this was just an issue of control. Arrangements could have been made in advance, but instead they made me wait for a long time and then said, “Send her tomorrow.” I got the call from my bible teacher at work and was told to “leave work immediately, go home, pack and come down to Rutgers.”
- In addition, I was not told what specifically to bring with me, although I knew that there would be problems with whatever I brought. It was too tight, too revealing, to short and so on.
- My first day at dancing practice I was given an old, stretch-out, shirt to put on because I was told that what I was wearing was unacceptable and that I was trying to “cook all the shepherds” [konglish idiom for women trying to tempt men to fall in love with them]. I tried to justify myself saying that I was fully covered (they should have seen the clothes we wore at Rutgers University cheerleading practice), and that they are grown men and could take care of themselves. Of course this was rebellious talk and eventually I just gave in. I eventually became embarrassed and self-conscious about my appearance since then. I constantly worry about my actions putting all the blame on myself when I receive unwanted attention. One thing I am learning now is that we are all responsible for our own actions and that men have to control themselves too. Women don’t just “cook men,” it’s a two way street.
- For the conference, I had to register one sheep “by any means.” After one prayer meeting (this is well known), Dr. Lee told all of us to register one sheep and that we are lazy and so on. He was practically yelling at us and made me feel really self-conscious about the number of attendants. So Little Sarah and I drove to visit some of her old sheep and I even paid $100 of my own money for a sheep that was a long shot (she said she couldn’t come, and of course she didn’t change her mind). [Other members of Chicago UBF reported the same, that they paid the registration fee for sheep who did not want to come or who did not even exist, only to escape from the wrath of Samuel Lee.]
- The end of the summer at the MSU conference, I was told that Dr. Lee had a man in mind for me to marry. He mentioned the name David Green and said that it would be a good match because we are both Jewish. Now looking back it seems silly because it was like if someone said, “Suzy I think it would be good for you to marry Roger because you both have brown hair.” And yes, Dr. Lee asked me if I liked him. I hesitated and did not say anything, because I was sure that this was a test and I wasn’t sure what the “correct answer was.” So he then asked me if I had someone else in mind. I mentioned another shepherd’s name that I had met in Chicago earlier that year. He did not react too much to this and just said that I should pray and maybe God would “let me” marry the next year.
- He also gave me a direction. He told me that God would be pleased if I prepared Genesis study material faithfully each week, based upon his manuscripts. Of course this would take me a total of about 5-7 hours each Saturday during my fall semester of my senior year at Rutgers, but I knew that my constant work, school and UBF requirements were worth it, I mean wasn’t I “earning” my salvation? (UBF incidentally while always emphasizing the “grace of God” always subtly and interestingly pushes grace by works.)
So I returned to New Jersey, and during my senior year at Rutgers, I lived with S. Pauline and two of her sheep. I went fishing and found a couple of students, and a few international students to teach the bible with. During this time, S. Dave Hull and I became better friends through email, and we had a lot of mutual respect for each other. At the time, I did not think of anyone as a “marriage candidate.” I just thought that through building friendships in God, he would lead and provide a good husband in his time. I was not husband fishing, I was only 21 years old at the time and I was still in college. I thought that I might marry in the next year or two. Finally, one night I spoke with Little Sarah on the phone and she told me that I should stop emailing S. Dave because I had to let God work instead of trying to catch my own husband. I told her that we just friends and that God would lead in his own time. She told me that I had to stop because S. Dave had hope for me and I “shouldn’t lead him on.” But I insisted that I wasn’t because we were just being friendly. We didn’t even talk on the phone, we just were emailing each other. She told me that this was dangerous, especially because “God had not made any decision about my marriage yet.” I should wait until I had God’s direction to email any shepherd. Finally around the holidays, S. Dave had asked his shepherds if he could visit and worship with Rutgers UBF while he was with his family. M. John called me into his office and told me that Dr. Charles Kim [Little Sarah’s husband] had asked him if he could send S. Dave Hull to New Jersey for a visit and maybe see if S. Dave and I liked each other. M. John said that he said that it wasn’t his decision but Dr. Lee’s, and that Dr. Charles Kim should ask Dr. Lee for direction. Then a day later or so, I was told that S. Dave was not allowed to come to New Jersey but had to go to Lehigh. I wanted to ask S. Dave about that so I emailed him to find out what happened. He wrote me back and told me that he was given the direction to worship at Lehigh UBF, and that he was really sorry we couldn’t share some fellowship.
I applied to graduate school, because it was expected and also I saw it as a way to stay on the campus. I applied to Rutgers University and some other schools in the area. I also applied to Northwestern and Loyola University [in Chicago]. I was admitted to Loyola and Rutgers, but I didn’t tell either school that I would attend because I wasn’t sure what “my direction” was. So when graduation came around, I was increasingly stressful and uncertain about my future. I knew that I would be going to the conferences that summer in Europe and Russia and that I needed a flexible job. S. Pauline and I got a new apartment closer to the bible house, and I took a summer job as a research assistant. We had many guests that summer from Bonn Germany and some even stayed with S. Pauline and I.
Another example of UBF exclusionism from other churches happened during that summer. I went on a short vacation with my friend Cheryl. She and I had made plans to come back from the trip on Monday morning. I told M. John (the director of New Jersey UBF) that I couldn’t come back in time for the worship service but that I’d try. I told him that I didn’t think it was possible. While on vacation, I looked up a church in the phone book and attended their worship service and gave thanks to God and offered a thanksgiving offering. When I returned to the hotel, I called S. Pauline Kwon and reminded her about our flight details the next morning (so she could pick me up). I told her that I had attended a church service that day and I was sorry that I couldn’t return. Ten minutes after I got off the phone with her, M. John called me and began to use scripture out of context telling me that I should return to New Jersey “by any means” to attend their service. I told him that I couldn’t because I couldn’t leave Cheryl in Florida alone, and I couldn’t afford to pay an additional $500 to return a mere 12 hours early. I told him that I would return on Monday morning at 11am. But this still wasn’t good enough and he began to make me feel guiltier, so I kept insisting that I had attended a service here and that I had worshiped God on Sunday. I told him that it was okay because I was still able to worship God on Sunday. He continued to say that, “Oh you can worship God anywhere but what really matters is supporting God’s ministry in New Jersey.” This is an unbiblical teaching, because God did not say in the bible “worship God in New Jersey UBF.” He said keep the Sabbath day holy. I went to an church in an unfamiliar city in order to attend a worship service, pray and give thanks to God. Still to this day I do not understand, why to a Christian leader, what I did wrong. Finally, after hours of this, I became hysterical because I was being tortured; I finally traveled back to the airport but missed the original flight. Finally I did not return to New Jersey until 11 pm Sunday night. Because I got there so late I wasn’t even able to attend their worship service. I also had to pay $500 extra money on my credit card, and strand my friend in a city far from home. But when I got there, I was told that I was faithful, because I obeyed God’s servant. So apparently it is more important to worship God in UBF than any other church, and it is more important to obey God’s servant than remain with a friend so as not to abandon her. I was told that this act of faith would impress my friend about how faithful I was to God. But actually she saw it as me being irresponsible and cruel by stranding her in a strange city alone. When it was time for the Bonn guests to leave New Jersey and return to Germany, M. Dr. Peter “Dae-Won” Chang [the director of Bonn UBF] had been very influential with M. John Park, our chapter leader. The first “house church” [UBF term for marriage of UBF members] at Rutgers was arranged that summer between S. David Gates and S. Jeong Eun Jeong (she is now M. Sarah Gates). Also my very close friend, S. Pauline, was “encouraged” to go to Bonn as a new missionary. I was so sad because I saw before my eyes these things happening, and I was sad that Pauline was leaving the U.S. I was so surprised that Jeong Eun wanted to marry S. David Gates, because I did not even think that they were friends. But Jeong Eun and Pauline went with them all to Germany. [Pauline then was married in spring 2002 to Petrus Chang in Bonn, the son of Dr. Peter Chang].
After they left, I was alone in the apartment without any roommates or guests and I guess I started to feel alone. Honestly, thinking about the hours and days that led up to my engagement with David and the subsequent break-up, and the following saga for the issue to be really settled is so unreal. I remember the phone call I got from Little Sarah, “Do you like David Green, or do you like this other choice (for his sake it will remain anonymous)? Think and pray about it, I will call you soon.” The next day it seemed, I had to make a decision that I knew I wasn’t fully secure with, because I didn’t really know either candidate well enough to make a decision, and so I asked Little Sarah which man she thought was a better choice. So then I agreed with her recommendation and I kind of forgot about it. I received a letter from Dr. Lee who quoted revelation asking “be faithful to the point of death, for they are who receive the crown of glory.” I know that he meant UBF subconsciously. But he had said in the letter to thank me for feeding the three American students I was feeding but did not mention the Greek or the Russian girl I had studied with also. He finally said that he had something important to tell me during the upcoming European Conference.
So then it was August and time for the 2000 Summer European Conference. This time will remain in my memory for as long as I live. On the one hand I was thrilled because I was able to see Pauline and we spent the majority of the conference together. Of course, I had to deal with the clothing censorship and constant worry about how my actions might be interpreted. But Little Sarah had prepped me enough that I knew that this mission trip would have more for in store for me. I am just writing this section now almost 10 months after it happened. I wish that I could be more explicit but I feel that certain details should be told more discreetly. I will say though, that the situation was uncomfortable and strange. The night that David Green and I had the “proposal conversation” did not really feel natural. Coming home to the U.S. after the conference, I was sitting next to the one other shepherdess Tanya (Madison UBF)[This chapter later joined Reform UBF which later became known as CMI] , on the plane. Then Dr. Lee stood up and asked where is David Green? He said switch seats with Tanya. The other candidate for my marriage witnessed this whole event. I believe that Dr. Lee did this almost on purpose to “train him.” I spent this trip next to David and we spoke about all kinds of things, our past, current training, special Bible verses etc. When we ended this trip I was happy because I felt that I had made a new friend, but I didn’t think that I had found a husband. I was tired, confused, and anxious. I spoke with Little Sarah about the preparations and everything. David had asked me to remain in Chicago in the week before the Russian conference, but Little Sarah said I should go back to New Jersey. So I went. I threw my family and my friends into turmoil with this news, even bought a dress (that still hangs in a closet). The very next morning David sent me an email. But then came his hesitation. I felt very betrayed and upset. The news came from Little Sarah that I had said things that made him change his mind. An inaccurate rumor went around in UBF circles that I had said inappropriate things about sex during a conversation. I felt betrayed by this rumor. Our discussion about our pre-UBF days were within the context of “good taste” and he did not even once act as if he was offended or think that anything I said was inappropriate. David knew both Steve and Tamiko, and we spoke about my experiences with them. Both of us mentioned that our past relationships we had before we met God personally were shallow and meaningless. He and I also discussed how the experience hurt me very deeply. I mentioned that when I was in these kinds of meaningless relationships, I had never been satisfied physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Within the context of the conversation I had meant that without God in my life, I would never be satisfied in any marriage. I had wanted to share my life testimony with him out of my spiritual honesty. I wanted him to know that I was a changed woman from the time he had first met me. I told him how confident I was in God to give me a beautiful marriage that would satisfy me in every spiritual way. Even to this day, I am not sure how this conversation was taken out of context or what was said to his bible teachers that would make them think so lowly of me.
Without knowing these kinds of things, and speaking honestly and opening about our feelings, goals, desires and expectations for a future life together, how can any couple learn about their fiancés? I had heard many stories about UBF honeymoons that were not beautiful but instead awkward and embarrassing. I had heard of couples who were too ashamed to even talk about “family planning” and had honeymoon babies that were not even believed by the insurance companies to have been conceived after marriage. Other couples are so awkward with each other and know so little about intimacy they don’t even know what to do, hide from each in the bathroom, or make one of them sleep in the other bed or on the floor. One American Shepherdess told me that even her bible teacher had criticized even her choice of nightgown on her wedding night that she was buying for herself. I did not want to go to the Russian Conference, and somehow I got my wish. I packed again and got ready to go to Chicago for the next conference in Russia. This is when I received my next training from Dr. Lee. My plane landed in Chicago late, and Little Sarah’s husband, Dr. Charles was there. He didn’t tell me these plans until we where in the car leaving the airport. Then Dr. Charles gave me Dr. Lee’s training. I was to write Romans 6:1-23 500 times and my attendance for the Russian Conference was no longer necessary. He said he was very sorry about this. (My conference fee was never returned.) My heart just sank and I felt that this was punishment. I was so speechless, I felt like I would become completely hysterical if I even said one word. I sat there silently with a knot in my throat and I was just completely speechless. Initially, I didn’t see the positives in this training at all. Now I feel that this training has to be positive because I spent so long laboring over this assignment that if it didn’t help me, I could go crazy. So now I try to see the positives in it. I try to see it as a turning point in my involvement in UBF. I try to see it as a personal act of faith that he worked through Dr. Lee to help me grow spiritually.
I spent the week with Mother Barry [Sarah Barry, the present leader of UBF after the death of Samuel Lee, was given the honorary “Mother” in UBF by Samuel Lee] and a Korean Shepherdess Mary. Then I attended a few meetings with Dr. Charles’ fellowship. I also spent some time fishing [this means to win students over for bible study in UBF] at UIC [University of Illinois at Chicago]. It was at the end of this week when I returned back to New Jersey, that the invitation for me to receive more training in Chicago was brought up. I knew that I had two choices. No one was forcing me to do anything. I wondered about my future life. I had just finished college a few months ago, I felt lost and without direction. Because I had given up many internships, I did not have many job options immediately available. I did not have any friends that I could ask to move in with during my graduate school, since Pauline went Germany. What was I to do? On the one hand, if I refused the missionaries would see me as, “she has no faith,” but if I said yes, I knew I would have to give up all my security. It was very hard to decide.
On the way to the airport when I was leaving, I was talking [with Little Sarah] about my future direction and these kinds of decisions. I asked her about the upcoming weddings and how I should be happy and thankful no matter what happened in my life. After she told me which 2nd gens [children of UBF missionaries] were getting married that year, I was again surprised how young most of the women were. She reminded me how in UBF the missionaries would rather their children get married earlier than make a “mistake” out of their physical desires. In fact, many of these couples have been married on paper for years. I asked her why Maria Lee (M. Jackie Lee’s daughter) was getting married so young without this long engagement period, and if her mother helped to arranged the marriage. Little Sarah told me that after M. Jackie’s husband died she became like a crazy person and left for Korea [M. Jackie has been the long time secretary of Samuel Lee]. Understandable, because her husband just died, and she began to question UBF financial matters! Little Sarah said she abandoned her children and this made Jacob and Miriam so crazy and question UBF. She then said that Maria has the opportunity to get away from her mother’s control ever since she was brainwashed from the cult in Korea. She told me how M. Jackie joined a weird Korean cult while she was in Korea, and she learned the secret to eternal life. But she won’t tell anyone. This is obviously ridiculous. She told me how Maria was so blessed because God was saving her from her miserable mother. I was told that she was going to marry a Doctor missionary who was almost 30 years old (Maria is only 20). I was shocked that they thought this match was a good one. She told me that Maria needs to have her own family now and needs protection from her mother. I was told how Maria had to get her birth certificate from her mother to get married and that M. Jackie began to act possessed and was screaming at her not to get married to this man. Obviously, she did not approve of the match and was so frustrated out of her daughter’s disregard for her opinion. She only got upset at Maria’s engagement because she knew how Dr. Lee was trying to cut her off from her daughters. In fact, Dr. Lee refused to even invite M. Jackie to Maria’s wedding, and then had Maria call her and ask for a very large sum of money to bless her marriage. How can these young women shut out their mother like that? It is heartless and compassionless if they would choose UBF and Dr. Lee over their own mother. Even if they thought their mother was insane, they should still see her and support her. How can they not even let M. Jackie see her own grandchildren? Little Sarah told me that Miriam was living at the dorm in college and “made” a boyfriend with a Jehovah’s Witness, I guess she was accusing Miriam of an immoral life. She told me how Miriam lost God because of her mother and Jacob (who is still in high school) wants to come back to UBF but M. Jackie won’t let him. I know all of M. Jackie’s daughters, and I desperately pray for their family. I came from a broken family because my parents divorced each other out of miscommunication and anger. I hope that if any of them read this testimony they would ask themselves if God would want them to “divorce” their mother. She is the only family they have left. They lost their father; does Dr. Lee want them to lose their mother too? I am begging them to repair their relationship with their mother. Even if they do it secretly they should repair the relationship with their mother. This family should be united.
So regarding the invitation that I was given for training in Chicago, I realized that there was only one “good” choice. I uprooted everything (gave up my family, my graduate school at Rutgers, my friends and my security) and drove out to Chicago alone in my car. When I finally arrived in Chicago, I met with Mother Barry and M. Grace Lee [the wife of Samuel Lee]. Then when Little Sarah arrived, she informed me that I would be indeed staying with the Vucekovich’s at DePaul University [in Chicago]. They told me that I would be staying there until after the weddings and I finished my writing. So I went there and they were all kind. I felt like I was in exile in DePaul and I was just sent there as another form of training. Mostly, I spent my time trying to adjust, trying to finish my writing and thinking about what events led up to this, and what I had done to “deserve it.” I spent the whole time writing thinking that I was “trouble.” After I finished writing, Little Sarah came to me and congratulated me saying that no other American girl ever accepting this training, or even finished it without running away. She asked me about my life at DePaul and we prayed together. She tried to support me and suggested that I find a job. I got a job finally at a law firm in the loop [the center of Chicago]. As soon as I had started my new job, I received a phone call from one missionary. He told me that I should give my whole first paycheck as an offering to God out of thanksgiving. He did this rather than, pray and trusting in the Holy Spirit who would guide me in how much to offer. I admit that I complained to him out of desperation to pay some bills and support myself at DePaul. I had intended to give a substantial amount though. In the end I did give the whole paycheck, because I had felt that DePaul deserved the money after providing me with a free place to live in the center. While at DePaul my time was nice but a little lonely. I called my bible teacher in New Jersey and asked her if I could return to New Jersey. She told me that I could not leave without Dr. Lee’s permission/direction. Her exact words were, “I know and I miss you too. You should stay until God directs you to move again.” When I told her that I felt that the Holy Spirit was not with me in Chicago and that I thought that I should return, she told me directly that I had to stay in Chicago until Dr. Lee “let me” return.
Right around this time, I was told that Dr. Lee wanted me to attend the Sunday worship service in Chicago [at the main chapter]. So I questioned S. Mark Vucekovich, if I should attend their Sunday worship service [at the DePaul chapter] also. I was told that since I lived at DePaul UBF, I should fish sheep and serve their ministry. In order to satisfy both of them, I began attending both services on Sunday; DePaul UBF at 11am and then the main center at 3pm. At that point, I was so scared of Dr. Lee because every time I saw him I was afraid he would give me some other kind of training. So I tried to avoid him “at all costs.” Then one Sunday, Little Sarah told me that her father was so offended that I didn’t say hi to him. She said to me, “My Dad thinks that you missed worship service last week, because you didn’t go and say hi to him.” I was told that if I didn’t say hello to Dr. Lee it was like I hadn’t attended the service. So then after that worship service, I went up to Dr. Lee and said hello, he asked me to sit next to him on the pew. He then looked me over and said, “Oh, don’t you have any respect for God’s servant? Why do you wear that ugly green sweater? You do not look like a beautiful woman of God.” (I wore a sweater over my shirt and dress pants, because I was so cold in the worship room.) I told Dr. Lee that I was really sorry because I was so cold in Chicago weather. But I realized that it was always a matter of control and that no matter what I did I would always be corrected. He then said to me, “if you behave more like a beautiful and graceful woman of God, you can still have a chance to marry this year.”
Around Christmas time, I was told that Dr. Lee wanted me to be Mary in the Christmas Drama. I was both honored and nervous at the same time. Of course I complained again to Little Sarah that it was too much of a burden for me because I was at DePaul and working full-time and it would be so hard for me. I was also feeling very awkward performing such a romantic scene in UBF. Then after one week of preparations I was then replaced as Mary and sent back to the dancing team. I was upset because I had spent so long working on memorizing and learning UBF acting. It was really hard work. But then again, I felt relieved because I had really felt overburdened and uncomfortable in the drama. During one dancing practice, Dr. Lee took me aside and told me that David Green had sent him a letter saying that he had made a mistake and still wanted to marry me. Dr. Lee told me that he had rebuked David for rejecting me and he persecuted him saying that he was only Chinese-American and didn’t deserve and American wife. I was just silent and I told him again that I didn’t think that the marriage was a good idea. I told him that David had made his own choice and that it was over. I told him that I did not want to marry this year or next year and I wanted to wait until God provided that best candidate and I had peace in my heart. And I spoke only once with David. He [David] said that he had asked Little Sarah if he could talk to me. He said that he was sorry that I had to write Romans and that he partially blamed himself. He came up to me in the middle of the center and I was so nervous because I knew that everyone could see us talking and then there would be even more gossip. I was angry with him and partially blamed him for misunderstanding me during our conversation on the plane. I was upset because I thought that if he had misunderstood me he could have called me directly and asked rather than perpetuating the rumor. So I told him that I shouldn’t talk to him because we were right in the center and I didn’t want even more rumors to spread.
Just before the Christmas Worship Service, Dr. Lee informed me of a letter that David wrote to him again, asking if he could marry me. At this point, I had begun to realize that my time in UBF was at the end. I knew that God did not support this match. I just didn’t feel peaceful about it. All of the gossip and inaccurate information had been spread for a reason and I began to think that God had used that conversation to show that it wasn’t planned for David and I to marry. I knew that I would have to have peace in my heart to accept this match. There were too many events that had happened. Also my family did not support my decision. How could I disobey my parents so blatantly? One night, I came to the center to practice for dancing and was told that Dr. Lee wanted to talk to me upstairs where the orchestra was practicing. Dr. Lee told me that, “David has waited long enough and he is finally committed to God. I am pleased by his faith, so he deserves a pretty and able wife. You can marry in January, after the New Year.” I was speechless that Dr. Lee had such nerve to say that to me. Even, the whole orchestra could see us in the second row talking together, and the pained expression on my face. I just sat there silent for a few moments, racking my brain on how to tell Dr. Lee that I did not feel the Holy Spirit’s leading. But all I could say was that I didn’t want to. I told him that I had no peace in my heart about this decision. He looked at me and told me that, “You are an ugly and ungrateful girl. I thought you liked him. You are not beautiful and innocent like Mary.” He hit me on the back and asked, “Why, do you want to make me crazy in my old age?” I was just silent and did not say anything. I was really scared that he’d make me write more bible verses or send me into exile to some far away place. So I just sat there and finally I said okay, I will think about it. I did this because I knew that the only way out of the conversation was to make Dr. Lee think that I would do what he wanted. Through God’s leading, I met a new friend and possible fiancé outside of UBF. I told some leaders in UBF about this before I went home for the holidays. I had received mostly negative reactions to a match outside of UBF. When I went home for the holidays, I thought about this idea more. I knew that if I choose to marry someone outside UBF it would be very hard for him to be accepted in UBF. I also had the opportunity to hear many other testimonies of people who had left, and I consulted with other Pastors and Ministers from other churches. Most of the spiritual advice I received outside of UBF was that I should pray and follow the feelings that God gave me. One Minister told me how it was important to have personal faith and that God would accept me as I was, wherever I lived, wherever I worked, and whomever I married.
When I returned to Chicago in January, Little Sarah called me and said that it was time for me to move to join the Chicago center. I told her that I didn’t want to marry David, but she just said okay, we’ll pray about it. She inquired about my intentions regarding my friend, and I told her that I wasn’t sure about it and that we were just friends for the time being. She told me that Dr. Lee was inviting me to move into her basement where there was another common-life with some Korean shepherdesses. I knew that if I was planning to leave UBF, it was better to leave at that point, rather than after I was living next to the center for a while. I told that her that I would move that Saturday, while make plans to go home to my family instead. I am sorry that I was deceitful in these moving plans. I am sorry that I was weak and did not say good-bye to everyone in person.
It was incredibly difficult for me to understand or see the red flags that were shown. What caused me to look more critically at these things that happened to me? I have to say definitively through God’s providence and love for me! God led me to the RSQUBF web page, when I was looking for “daily bread” from the Chicago UBF website. I began to read more and more about the things that had happened: things such as financial discrepancies, the abortions, adultery and many other claims. I wondered even if these claims were not entirely true, there had to be some truth to it. I knew that there were too many unknowns about the organization, too much guilt and shaming. I knew that there were too many things that had happened in my UBF experience that no longer made me feel at home there. I knew that if God led me to a marriage candidate outside of UBF then he would never be accepted and that I would be ostracized. Amy Young and I spoke on the phone the other day about UBF legalism. The conversation again made me realize that Jesus always accepts us the way we are. UBF just has too much legalism. God will accept me whatever I wear, how much make-up I put on, and where I live. God accepts our hearts, not our appearances or our clothing. God blessed me to look a certain way and to have certain features. It is unbiblical to put a bag over my head just to make others feel more secure that I am “cooking” any shepherds.
About one month ago (July 2001), I called M. Grace Park’s cell phone. This was the first time I spoke with her since I had left Chicago UBF. I told her that I was probably going to return to New Jersey (I am living in Orlando, Florida right now) next August to start my graduate school. I told her maybe we could eat lunch together one day and pray together. A few days later she called my house when I was not there and questioned my roommate very harshly about my whereabouts. This made my roommate very angry and told M. Grace to call my cell if she wanted to talk to me. About three days, later I received a call from M. John and he told me that Dr. Lee’s has forgiven me for running away and that he would take me back. M. John told me that I could begin to make preparations to move back to Chicago. I told him that I didn’t want to and that was ridiculous. He said that Dr. Lee has a lot of love for my life and that I could get married to David Green as soon as I returned to Chicago. He said that David would “still accept” me. The only way that I could get him off the phone was to say I would think about it. He said okay, “I will call you tomorrow for your decision.” When I told them what M. John had suggested, my two friends couldn’t believe it. They reminded me how they didn’t have control over my life anymore and that I should just be strong, call him back and just say no to him. Then they said I should call Chicago to really find out what was going on. So I called Little Sarah and I asked her outright, what was going on. I told her that these marriage proposals were not appropriate. She just said that M. Grace told Dr. Lee I wanted to return to bible study. Little did I know that they were only using this because they wanted to bring me back to UBF. I also found out that they used me (without any basis of truth) to try to keep M. Esther Jung’s family through marrying off David Green. They were trying to keep him in UBF by promising him marriage to a girl who wasn’t even in UBF and wasn’t coming back.
I’ve learned a lot about myself through my involvement in UBF. I realized that after my graduation from Rutgers, I thought that I wanted to marry. I was indiscriminate really. I just wanted to marry. UBF was right in that way, I did not fully trust in God. Rather, after I was hurt and I was vulnerable, I was taught that I should trust in UBF to find me a husband. One American second generation member told me that they don’t have to date because they know that Dr. Lee will find them a husband. This is unbiblical. The bible says nothing of letting your spiritual elder find you a mate; it only stipulates that the match should be equally yoked. So I never really trusted in God while I was in UBF. I just went along with those missionaries who thought that David was a perfect match. I even went along with them even after he changed his mind again. I now know that God does, yes does, show us his will through our feelings of peace! UBF says “don’t trust your feelings, they always change,” but I’ve learned that God shows us his direction through our hearts and our feelings of peace. I did not have peace and I know that I could not have been happily married to a man that I had absolutely no feelings for, past respect and friendship.
I realize that my friendship with David was the just the culmination and breaking point that I needed to realize that God had someone else chosen for me. Dr. Lee for all of his good intentions was not right in this. David and I did not love each other in the way that engaged people should. I was not like Jesus’ mother, Mary, who stood in kitchen swooning for her Joseph. We did not have a Christian love affair. Although I hold David in the highest esteem, and know that he will make a woman extremely happy someday, that woman was not destined to be me. I knew this almost immediately but tried to ignore this essential feeling because I thought that UBF people would “just know better.” I accepted UBF’s choice for a marriage over my own choice; at that point I didn’t feel that I could make a good decision on my own. But Dr. Lee does not have more of a direct relationship with God than any of us. Just because UBF elders act authoritative doesn’t mean you should entrust your lives to them. Entrust your lives to the Lord. It’s a contradiction in UBF, on the one hand they preach that we have to overcome our desires for human love but then on the other hand, they use human relationships to try to keep you in UBF. Or they threaten to take them away if you want to leave UBF. During meetings at the main center, everyone hangs on every word that Dr. Lee speaks. Don’t rely on Dr. Lee’s or your shepherd’s love! When you do something they don’t like, they snatch away that love and attention and ignore you or shame you. The lesson that I learned was that through UBF I had to overcome this dependency for love and attention. I tried to please everyone, but I realize that I need to trust in the Lord only and follow his leading for a new mission for me.
I welcome your comments, and I know that I will possibly be attacked and/or misunderstood. But I welcome your thoughts and need for conversation.
God be with you all.