For the most part, life in UBF went well for me. I have a rather strong character. So I lived with a “man up or leave” attitude for much of the 24 years I was part of UBF ministry. However, I found that leaving UBF is a traumatic and maddening experience.

This week I had several online discussions with various people, in and out of UBF. Based on those discussions, I am prompted to write today’s article.  I want to address a sad and serious issue that has been ignored for decades– suicides. Either the claims below are extremely elaborate hoaxes, or they are true. They simply cannot be casual lies; the reports of suicides of UBF members are something that needs discussion.

As I said, leaving UBF can mess up your mind. The silence from those who you once called shepherd and pastor is maddening. The confusion caused by your former mentors asking whether you have an “evil spirit” is soul-wrecking. The insistence of well-meaning Christians outside of UBF that former members “reconcile and forgive” is gut wrenching.

I blog in hopes to be a source of understanding, healing and reconciliation for former members of UBF. Sometimes I feel like a doctor in a battle field! I and my family are being healed and have found a healthy Christian church. But not everyone fares so well.

Here are some reports of at least six suicides that have happened to UBF people, both in the US and in Germany. If anyone has further details or would like to clarify or share, feel free to comment here or contact me.

Scripture urges compassion, kindness and love. Yet the attitude displayed by UBF leaders in regard to these suicides is baffling.

1 Corinthians 8:12 “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”

Here is a report from an ex-member in Heidelburg:

“Then something tragical happened. A UBF shepherd from my chapter had commited suicide. I had known him a little bit and had lived for some time together with him in UBF “common life.” Therefore I went to his funeral, together with D (who had been his shepherd) and one or 2 other UBF members.”

Here is a description for 4 suicides in Germany:

“I would not go so far to say that UBF caused all these suicides and depressions. But I would say that UBF is not equipped to help such people and often aggravates these problems, because UBF shepherds don’t have any education in Biblical couseling or psychology and try to “help” people by pressing them into the mold of a UBF shepherd. It may work in 1% of the cases, but for the 99% where the mold does not fit, it is desastrous.”

James Kim’s letter mentions some suicides in the US:
(Note: I knew James Kim and his wife Rebeka B. Kim)

“D. Lee announced in one of the Chicago meetings that missionary J. Shim was demonstrating to him so that she could pressure him to solve her marriage problem. He boasted that he would not barge even one inch by such an act. His attitude was almost scoffing at her. How can one individual scoff at another when one was struggling with the matter of hope and despair related with one’s life and death? Just before her suicide, she met with D. Lee and had a big argument with him. People could hear her yelling from the outside of the office of D. Lee on the top of her voice like this: “You are the one who ruined my life.” When she finally committed suicide, how was his response? Again it was 100% M. J. Shim’s sin and only the Great Shepherd, D. Lee suffered endlessly in helping this stubborn and sinful woman. Because Chicago UBF refused to serve her funeral, a Korean church performed the ceremony. I don’t see any mercy of God here, but heartlessness and escaping the responsibility of a fallen man.”

Joe C.’s testmonies, regarding what happened in Chicago:

I won’t post any excerpts from Joe C.’s reports. My heart is too burdened and too sorrowful to read these accounts again. Reading them once is enough. So I will let readers here read at their own caution:

Jesus’ compassion

We can build any kind of spiritual heritage or empire if we work hard enough… But to be like Jesus we need compassion for people. I dedicate today’s post for all those who struggle with the trauma of leaving elitist, ultra-control groups.

Mark 1:41  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”


4 thoughts on “Suicides

  1. There were also many cases of UBFers (both sheep and shepherds) who made suicide attempts or “went insane” in some way.

    I think most of these cases have in common that these people were mentally instable in some way or another (which is not amazing because UBF os particularly attractive to insecure and lonely students with low self esteem and those in crisis mode), and they were disappointed about their own performance in spiritual life and/or university life.

    It’s hard to say if or how much of their problems were induced by UBF, but in many cases the problems were surely aggravated by feeding them with UBFism instead of giving them proper counseling. Their mental problems were not seen as an illness, but as a spiritual weakness or caused by a demon. So they were not handed over to doctors or experts, but it was believed that if sheep just accept Jesus and make UBF bible study, or if shepherds just continue to write sogams and cowork in UBF and feed sheep, their personal difficulties would disappear. UBF “shepherds” do not have any education in “counseling”, they neither understand the problems of such sheep nor can they help them in any appropriate way.

    Also, we know how UBF instills an idea of “greatness” about the life of UBF members. If they can’t reach that “greatness”, and if they feel abandoned by God, or believe they commited sins that God can’t forgive, it’s very easy to develop suicidal thoughts. It even happened to me when I had a blockade in my university study and at the same time was kicked out from UBF for not being obedient enough.

  2. Well said, Chris. Anyone who has gone through the shunning/exit process of UBF understands what you are saying. The UBF solution to all life’s problems is to do more one-to-one or to do more fishing or write more sogams. This unbalanced view is leads to an inward focus and rejection of conscience.

    This week I realized that UBF’s refusal of counseling is really no different from the JW’s refusal of blood transfusions.

  3. Yeah, when I watched video or read about JW family who refused of doing blood tranfusion for their own lovely child in face of the death, I realized that I could undestand them quite well. And I was close to their action in my own faith and obedience decisions. It was painful but so sobering experience.