$12,896,882. That is the current net worth of UBF. For three years in a row, that number has been over $12 million. During that time, donations dropped by $395,858.

The publicly available numbers are on the ECFA website. I’m not a financial expert, so I’d be curious to hear some feedback on the numbers on the ECFA website and what they mean. In any case, the “poor, manger” ministry now has some high stakes money involved in its decisions. That probably explains how a Korean director could show me a credit card with a $20,000 limit, and imply that I could have one too. I am thankful that I refused and that my offering to UBF in the past eight years was $0, except for the few conference fees and daily devotion fees (yes UBF charges for daily devotion). I hope someone puts that $12 million to good use.

15 thoughts on “$12,896,882

  1. This $12 million also explains the UBF insurance that Directors have (or could have if they request it). So if you are a Director, and you total your car in an accident, don’t worry. You can get UBF insurance. And yes, I am an eyewitness to this actually happening.

  2. One troubling trend is that from 2008 to 2010, expenses are trending up and revenue is trending down.

  3. God could be use it for future cancer treatments on missionaries, or future convloescent care for aged missionaries, or for ransom payments for kidnapped missionaries. There could be a number of future uses for it.

  4. Hi Kevin. I agree, God has some good uses for this money. My question though, is what will UBF use it for?

  5. I was in a medium sized ubf chapter. And one thing that bothered me is the use of offering. In 12 years, I never came across helping one poor and needy person from the offering money. Never helping a ministry or a minister outside ubf in need. The only way offering money is used is for rent, leaders’ air-ticket, and eating out. In summary it is all about UBF’s need. Looking back I wonder, whether I gave my offerings to God or UBF?

  6. Hi Abraham! I was in a large ubf chapter. We often had some local agencies on our offering envelopes (but only once a year at Christmas). The amount of money was very small compared to the money tagged for “UBF world mission”. I know this because I was in charge of counting the offering every Sunday for years.

    Once I sat on the railroad tracks in Toledo listening to a homeless man. When I brought him back to the center, people were very nervous and sent him away with just an apple. Helping the poor and needy is very low on the UBF agenda. It is only done as a fake demonstration that they do help the poor. The reality is they could do SO much more.

  7. 12 million is not that much (relatively speaking). Our new local high school cost 88 million. It is a good amount for a large organization to have on hand.

  8. Kevin, I’m not following your point. UBF is a small organization by any standards. I’m not so convinced a non-profit should have $12 million laying around every year. Is that normal? Maybe so, but I’m just not convinced.

    Still, my questions are: What is UBF going to do with the money? Who in UBF gets to decide how to use this money? And by the way, what happened to the gold bars? How many were paid off when they left UBF to keep silent, as James Kim was? Does $12 million represent only the American offering, or the world-wide offering? How were all the new Bible houses in Korea paid for?

    Even as a director in UBF, I didn’t have answers to these things. Nor did I even know who to ask. And I saw how those who did start asking were treated.

  9. In case anyone is wondering, it has never been easy to say how big UBF really is. They keep exact counts of every member, but that information is not made available clearly (even for a director like I was). I did see a list once in the 90’s that had every name and every phone number for every person in UBF at the time.

    I would estimate that UBF has approximately 2,000 members in the US and Canada combined. The average number of Sunday attendants in 2006 for US and Canada was 1,761, according to a rare report I have that lists attendance for every chapter in the US and Canada.

    Since I was on registration committees, I know that the 2008 International Conference at Purdue had about 2,300 US and Canadian attendants (an additional 800 or so were invited from around the world to make the number more than 3,000).

    I don’t have S. Korea numbers, or world-wide numbers, but there have been about 2,000 Korean missionaries sent in the past 50 years. I heard once that S.Korea had about 5,000 members.

    At most, I would say UBF has about 10,000 members world-wide currently, concentrated in Korea. Certainly, there is no evidence to show UBF has more than 20,000 members world-wide.

  10. Brian, what are the positive things you are doing, these days, after UBF, to forward the gospel itself? Perhaps your comments would be useful experiences for those who have left UBF?

    I have been through it too.
    Abraham Nolan

  11. Hi Abraham, yes, those are very good questions. And those questions are why I’ve been on an 8 year journey (in hindsite this was really an 8 year process of leaving ubf in a way that did not shipwreck my faith.)

    I also apologize for not speaking up when I could have and should have when you went through this…

    The things we’re doing for the gospel’s sake: Mary and I both joined the Bible study groups at a local church (Grace Community). Our whole family attends their worship services so that the gospel may first be renewed in our hearts.

    I have taken a vow to only learn and listen the rest of this year. So at the moment, we are “moving the gospel forward” by being close to Jesus and stopping religious activity. Hope that makes sense.

  12. The problem with UBF is that it exercises accountability only bottom up, but not top down. In my chapter in Germany, there was one missionary who had the duty to report the numbers of Sunday service attends, Bible studies, and Sunday offering every week to the national chapter. These numbers were always collected, but never published by the national chapter. Also, it was never said what the collected money was spent on, neither before it was collected, nor afterwards. If you go to a regular German church you will immediately see the difference: Every Sunday it is made public how much money had been collected the week before, for what it has been spent, and what the current week’s collection is intended to be used for. That’s a huge difference. And yes, most of it is collected for charity projects, not for the church itself. This is very different in UBF.

    Also note that the fact that at least we have some number now is a direct result of the reform movement of 2002 where financial (in)accountability of UBF was one of the issues. UBF tried to get a better image in that regard and published some numbers and joined the ECFA. Before, they did not even do that. Nobody except Samuel Lee had a clue how much had been collected, and the bookkepping was magically reset to zero every new year.

  13. Btw, this reminds me of a letter written by Sarah Barry that leaked in 2002. I looked it up, it started with the words “Praise God for using Dr. Lee as a faithful steward of UBF, both spiritually and materially. After he went to heaven we found that he left UBF in good condition financially, especially in the UBF Central account. …” And then it goes on praising his decision to not use the money, but piling it up in bank accounts, even justifying by twisting a Biblical parable, and then suggests using the money as pension for loyal (i.e. non-reform) UBFers. From this one sentence we also learn two things: First, Lee himself was responsible for all the finances, as even Barry admits. And second, that there was no transparency regarding finance, since, as she says, only “after he went to heave” they found in which financial condition UBF was. Nobody would have noticed if Lee diverted moneys for other purposes. UBF has a history of financial inaacountability and misappropriation of money from the very beginnings. It was already a big issue in the open letter by the seven top shepherds from Korea in 1976.

  14. Hey Brian; Very good info here. Thanks for sharing. I want to correct one item as best as I do know it. James J. Kim from Toledo and his family never received 1 dime from UBF funds when they left the Toledo chapter. A few days after they were out of Toledo I received a phone call from James. He was frantic, because Samuel Lee had promised him funds once they were on their way to Texas. He was to have received the money through Western Union. James asked me if I could forward him any amount because they were literally broke and had no way to even feed the children or have money for gas. I sent him $200.00 cash through Western Union, the next morning.

    He was crushed when he discovered that Samuel Lee lied about giving him money to help begin a new chapter in Texas. Some time later, as an effort of reconsilliation, Samuel Lee may have sent him a small amount, but it was a one time amount and not worth the cost of the move, much less provisions for a new ministry setup.

    Also…you can verify the next fact with Bob and Sarah Nolan…I recall when the Toledo Chapter was investing in a huge residence on Glenwood. Samuel Lee had directed James Kim to “have vision” to find a center and fill every room with1:1 Bible study. We moved from the Kingsgate residence to the huge victorian on Glenwood.

    I recall we raised around $16,000.00 toward the purchase of that center, which was to be purchased by UBF in Chicago for a permanent Toledo Chapter. Samuel Lee took the funds and we ended up leasing the center. This was never told to most of the members. We believed the home was really purchased, so we made many basic rennovations to the structure decor (walls replastered, paint, wallpaper, wood refinishing and some wall teardowns). These rennovations should have never been done as the residence was not officially the property of UBF. It was owned by one family.

    When the center was given up and a move was made to Kensington street, the initial owner of the Glenwood home was beyond furious over the changes we had made (rightfully so). Poor James Kim and all Toledo members had been royally screwed by Samuel Lee. Supposedly, he was jealous because even though the center was huge, it really was totally filled with students at that time. Some of us even stayed there overnight for various reasons.

    I heard that Samuel Lee wanted to “pioneer Russia” and claimed to have sent our center money for Russian support instead of buying the Toledo center. This caused huge doubts in Toledo and several key American students resigned at that time as well as one American family unit (the Chandlers). Some months after we raised the $16,000.00, Sam requested two more fundraisers….one for his birthday; I think we raised almost $3,000.00 for that event and another $5-6k for another “Russian fund”.

    When I lived with Sarah Barry, I was in her office during a conversation with Samuel Lee after a Sunday worship service. He wanted to know how much the collections were for the day. I want to say between 40-60k. He instructed Sarry Barry to convert $40k to gold and make a deposit……Sarah Barry used to tell me that regardless of Samuel Lee’s judgement, she would not challenge his decisions. She stated that when she could see his “mistakes”, it just made her pray harder for her. She told me this was the way God intended women to be as “silent prayer warriors”…perhaps if she would have opened her mouth, many atocites (I use that word in all seriousness) would have been prevented or at the very least exposed as abuse.

    And so it goes…the UBF purse strings have never been used for specific charity work, except to donate to North Korea. All of the funds were intended to cover missionaries for their health or retirement (so I was told). It was not used for centers back in the day. Each chapter raised their own funds for those endevors…the question always was, did the money go where it was supposed to be applied. 9 times out of 10, the answer was no.

    The issue of this was glaring obvious in the Canadian chapter. Way back in the 70’s a woman missionary was told by Sam that he would send funds to support her. His support ended up being airfare for other missionaries to join her, but they all tried to work (nursing) to pay their way. It was almost unbearable poverty as some did not have work visas and few spoke french or english enough to land and keep jobs. The women who did work shared their funds with those who could not work. They were also expected to tithe a persentage of their collected income to send every week to Chicago.

    The same example was in Toledo. The Kim family had a very modest income and they supported the center with that money as well as the tithes from Toledo members. Still Sam expected his weekly cut, regardless of how poor we all were. If he did not recieve it, a phone call came to James or Hee Soon Kim. (She was the bookkeeper).

    You are correct that the New Year always began with a zero balance. If money was left over by the end of December, it was sent to Chicago. Each year began with a zero balance, regardless of the chapter budget. Ah, the poor life. Samuel Lee boasted to me that “God had all the money in the world and I never worry about anything.” He would brag about how rich the UBF was and that each chapter was able to purchase their centers…later discovered this was so untrue. Samuel C. Lee was a fraud in so many ways. Mental health issues for him were never addressed. To bad for him.

    thanks for listening.
    In Christ;
    Desiree S. Ray

  15. Desiree,

    I’m glad you shared these things. More former and current members of UBF need to speak up about what they know, so that we can ascertain the facts correctly.

    Even though the Catholic Church and Penn State organizations handled their abuse issues poorly initially by covering them up, both organizations have made some tough decisions and started holding people accountable.

    It looks like that won’t ever happen in UBF. Length of service is held in such high regard, the longtime directors are free to do whatever they want. And as time passes, people who could hold such leaders accountable are growing old, dying and forgetting.