There is a term I heard numerous times spoken by senior Korean missionaries in UBF: the fertilizer generation.
Who is the fertilizer generation? They are the first wave of Bible students who accepted Jesus and found God’s calling in UBF just after the first Korean missionaries came to America or to other nations. Primarily they are those who committed to UBF ideology in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and grew through the early 1990’s. But their commitment was not deemed “good enough” and they “fell away” from the faith. In reality, they were ground up and spit out, while UBF leaders re-focused on new, young, “leadership material”.
I never heard an official explanation of what the term “fertilizer generation” meant but I did hear Samuel Lee reference the term one time when I had breakfast with Sarah Barry. But it seems obvious now: When the Korean UBF missionaries came to North America, they didn’t quite know what they were doing. That is why they almost lost their mission entirely in Winnepeg, Canada. Nobody in UBF will talk about any facts about Winnepeg UBF: just that it failed somehow. There are many mysterious stories about those early days. Many people were simply written out of UBF history.
If I look back at some of the events I witnessed (either firsthand or by knowing the people involved), I think the meaning of the fertilizer generation is clear: an experiment meant only as soil to grow something else. I was so focused on my own life at the time, I either ignored things or didn’t have the capacity to do anything about it.
Some people in UBF wonder why ex-UBF people don’t display “love and affection” or “kind words” toward UBF. Well perhaps this is why. I “grew up” in UBF where these things actually happened in the 1980’s and 1990’s:
– one family tried to take a family vacation, they were rebuked for going on vacation, when their car broke down on the way, they were told that God was angry with them and had ruined their plans; no family dared to take a family vacation for quite a few years
– several families were rebuked publicly for having a Christmas tree
– several young leaders were rebuked for wanting to go trick-or-treating with their children
– several families were rebuked for buying a TV and for being lazy and indulging in entertainment
– one brother smashed a Christian music tape of another brother, because it was deemed too worldly
– Bible students were told that computer technology was not spiritual and it was inappropriate to answer Bible study question sheets on a computer; printing out your testimony or Bible verses on paper was considered cheating
– one brother was called Satan for visiting his brother’s wedding
– one brother was asked to drop his pants in private to show obedience, then left the ministry
– one brother was asked to drop his pants to display whether he was circumcised or not
– one leader was arrested on campus for public exposure (not sure if any actual charges)
– one brother was a homosexual and allowed to be a children’s ministry leader, but later “excommunicated” after it was clearly known that he was homosexual
– one sister was a border-line homosexual and coerced to marry a brother who was not told about her situation
– one leader suddenly announced he had a mistress and 2 children at a Friday meeting, then left
– some Christmas messages graphically used the words “pee” and “poop” when describing baby Jesus’ humanity
– when one Christmas offering didn’t reach the required goal, leaders were rebuked and made to offer more, even though more than $12,000 was already offered by a rather small number of people
– attendance records for Bible study and Sunday service were tracked on large bulletin boards in the main Sunday service room, so it was easy to see who missed
– some leaders were well-informed as to who missed their offering each Sunday, as well as having a detailed report of all people who offered and how much they offered. Offerings were tracked so often that leaders knew whether someone had increased or decreased their offering over time
– when one brother received a letter with a newspaper article mentioning possible problems with UBF, a leader took the letter away and would not give it back
There are dozens if not hundreds of more events like this, but I’ll stop here. I think you get the point. These kinds of actions, and worse, are how UBF was built. It is not a small matter. It is not a matter of “just forgive and move on.” It is a matter of conscience.
I write these things on this blog, not for now, but for the future. In a few years, when the next wave of leaders exit UBF, they will have something and someone to help them.