A Personal Testimony of Spiritual and Psychological Abuse in UBF
First, I have to explain why UBF was attractive to me at the time I joined, which was in the late 1990s. I was in my first week of college. About half of my friends had moved away for college. I had also broken up with my girlfriend a couple weeks earlier. It was difficult for me to make friends, so losing these friends had a magnified impact. UBF appealed to me because it seemed to provide an instant set of friends. I was also searching spiritually during that time. After being an agnostic for a few years, I had come back to faith in God and was looking for spiritual guidance. Lastly, I was nursing an as yet undiagnosed, but long-standing problem with depression and anxiety. I longed for something to help the pain and for someone to acknowledge my suffering.
Thus the stage was set for me to make the worst decision of my life. On the Wednesday of my first week of school at UMBC (the University of Maryland, Baltimore County) I was studying linear algebra alone on a bench in one of the academic buildings. I was biding my time until an evening ballroom dancing class. Looking away from my work I spied a middle-aged Korean man walking the upstairs corridor carrying a briefcase. A minute later, I saw the same man approaching me. “Can I sit next to you?” he asked. I assented and he explained that he came from an organization called the University Bible Fellowship, or UBF. During the ensuing conversation I mentioned that I had been reading Matthew’s gospel on my own. He seemed to take great interest in everything I said and offered to study the Bible with me.
During the conversation he also handed me a simple pamphlet with a hand-drawn picture of a shepherd on the front. Now I know what you’re thinking, readers. “Don’t do it! Red flags should be going off in your head left and right.” But they weren’t. I was young and inexperienced and honestly the thought that I was being invited into a cult never crossed my mind. I accepted his invitation to meet with him the next week for a one-hour Bible study of the so-called “one-to-one” format. The man, who called himself Peter [Hong] but handed me a business card with his first name reading “Sung-Il,” also asked for my phone number. I believe I declined to give it, instead offering an email address.
First study session
The next week, I faithfully met this stranger at a designated site on campus. He produced two Bibles, both New International Versions. His was well-worn and had markings on it with colored pencil. We read part of the first chapter of the book of Genesis, taking turns reading the verses. Next came out the question paper. I read question number one, stammered out some sort of answer, and then listened to Peter give a forceful answer in his broken English. I no longer remember the content of the discussion, but suffice to say that that didn’t matter. Here I had a person who was paying attention to me. Also, the man had a strange way about him. He spoke with authority as if he knew that what he was saying about God was certain. In a world of questions, he seemed to be providing definitive answers.
So I agreed to meet Peter again. The next few times I met him we went over different passages of Genesis in sequential order. We got up to the ninth chapter and then skipped to the twelfth chapter. Between meetings, I would go over the passage and answer the questions on my own sheet. I also read treatises he gave me on the passages. I did not at the time know that these treatises were UBF messages penned by the revered founder of UBF, Samuel Lee. (Now something must be explained. Korean UBF people have two names – their real Korean names, and their English UBF names. Often former UBF members refer to UBF leader Samuel Lee by his real name Chang Woo Lee.) These messages are the same ones that are read verbatim at UBF pulpits on Sundays.
Sunday services and testimonies
After a few weeks, I was asked to attend a UBF Sunday Worship Service. Everyone at the service seemed to know about me already and they were mostly very friendly and welcoming. The service was held at what Peter called “the Bible Center,” but which was really his living room. As I would learn over the next five years, every UBF service follows a preset format. In fact, only a couple months after starting to attend these services, I was called upon to lead them, which basically meant standing at the podium, conducting the flow of the service and giving a short prayer. Around the time I accepted this job as “presider” I unwittingly gave my first “testimony.” Namely, I was invited to write and deliver a speech relating how a particular Bible passage applied to my life. Peter did not vet the speech beforehand, which I would later discover was a rare exception. The actual text of this speech can be read here. From then onward, I wrote a testimony every week and shared it with Peter or a small group. On special occasions I would speak to the entire congregation at the service.
The Baltimore II UBF Chapter
UBF is organized geographically into chapters. I was in the Baltimore II UBF chapter, which preys more-or-less exclusively on the students of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). The chapter leader is Peter (my UBF teacher). The other UBF Koreans are Peter’s wife Anna, and the family of Andrew and Joanna. Peter and Anna had three college age children. The main American members were Dane, David, Don, and myself. There were usually about 15 faithful members total.
Reaction of family and friends
My family was always suspicious toward my involvement in UBF. The first thing they asked me was, “Have you checked this group out?” I remember having some serious discussions with mom about what it was that I was getting into. Because of their concern, I went to the campus ministry office to see if they knew anything about UBF. Unfortunately, UMBC has no campus minister and there was never anyone in the office. Whenever I went to a big UBF meeting, my mom would always say, “Remember to think for yourself.”
When I tried to get my friends involved in UBF, I was met with cold opposition. One friend said he wouldn’t join because “it seems strange.” I’m sure my sudden change into a religious fanatic had bewildered them. When it became clear that they wouldn’t join UBF, I distanced myself from them.
The process of finding new UBF students is called “fishing ministry.” Non-Korean members who participate in fishing are given the title “shepherd.” In turn, the initiates are called “sheep.” I began fishing ministry after about six months of being in UBF. At first I did this with the most senior American shepherd, Dane. Typically, we would look for someone who was alone, and we would explain that we were from UBF and were looking for persons interested in studying the Bible. Most people gave a flat no, and we would leave without inquiring further. Some people would say, “I already go to church” or “I went to Sunday school.” Acting like spiritual know-it-alls, we would engage these persons in a conversation and quote the Bible in an attempt to show them that their current religious activities are insufficient. Then we would explain that God has a special plan for them to study the Bible one-to-one and become a Bible teacher. We would talk to anywhere between one and ten people in a period from 15 to 120 minutes. We had to report our progress at the end of the week.
Being a shepherd
After a year or two in UBF I became a full-fledged shepherd which means I began to “feed” a sheep. I did my best to teach this freshman guy everything I had been taught by Peter about Genesis. Unlike myself, this sheep’s personality was not pliant so I had little success and he stopped studying after a few weeks. I may have had one or two other sheep during the next year who studied a couple times and that was all. Toward the end of my third year in UBF I fished a sheep by the name of John, who stayed with me for a year and a half. I believe Peter deliberately put a lot of pressure on John so he would drop out. John was of Asian descent and UBF prefers Caucasians.
Deeper into the mire
The first summer after joining, I attended my first UBF conference. The next summer, I had my first experiences with the dreaded “message training” and “drama training,” which I will explain below. After a few years in UBF, I began living in a “common life” apartment, only to leave a few months later when my roommate left UBF. Soon after that I graduated from UMBC.
At the encouragement of UBF, I applied to PhD programs in my field. (It just so happens that UBF highly prizes advanced degrees, especially in technical and medical professions. 1) It was made clear that I was to stay with the Baltimore II UBF even after graduation. Hence, I chose to attend the best grad program in the local area, namely UM, College Park. After beginning “PhD training,” I went on a “mission journey” to Germany, became a “fellowship leader” and began attending the “leaders’ meeting.”
Strange and cultish aspects of UBF
I could write an endless number of pages on the weird practices and beliefs of UBF. Those which touched me in a personal way are described below, in alphabetical order. The remaining salient aspects of UBF are detailed in my treatise on UBFism.
Arranged marriage or “marriage by faith” is the only accepted way of marriage in UBF. I actually witnessed an arranged marriage involving Dane, the most senior shepherd in the chapter. Dane knew full well that he was going to be married to a UBF Korean of the leaders’ choosing whom he had hardly met before. Dane’s only “prayer topic” was that she would be an English major (so they could perhaps communicate).
Aspersions cast on people who leave UBF
It was preached in UBF messages (sermons) that people who left UBF got into car accidents and died or became quadriplegic. Those who left UBF were shunned completely. Every manner of aspersion was cast upon them. Peter made up a complicated scheme to explain the leaving of one of his students after five years. The central component was that the student who left was playing the “female role” in a homosexual relationship with another UBF member. 2 Peter also liked to relate a story about Brent, who would have been the Abraham of Faith of the chapter had he stayed in UBF. According to Peter, he didn’t want to marry the woman UBF chose for him. Instead, he wanted to marry a “very theen” woman whom he met at the pool. He left UBF and they got married. After a year, the woman became “three times fat.” This was seen as God’s judgment on Brent for having wanted his “own way.”
Being put on the spot
Peter liked to put people on the spot and grill them with hard, personal questions in front of everybody. He also liked to ask people to make commitments on the spot in a public setting. Once at the UBF service I was asked by Peter to attend the UBF conference in Germany. I had to give him my decision immediately, in front of everyone. (Yes, I went and no, UBF did not pay for it.) On another occasion, I was sharing a life testimony and explained that I did not like being forced to do things the “Korean way.” Peter interrupted and made me reread the sentence to say, “I don’t like doing things God’s way.”
Bible study with an agenda
The meaning and purpose of Bible study is to discuss what the Bible says and what it means. UBF does not care about such things. Rather, UBF is interested in how they can twist around what is in the Bible to make it seem to fit their agenda. Often this involves reading things into the Bible that aren’t there. At every one-to-one UBF study meeting, the shepherd has a predetermined idea of what the sheep should learn. There will be just enough discussion to make it seem like actual Bible study as opposed to one-way indoctrination, but even the discussion will tend to be one-sided.
Dating is not allowed
Any kind of acknowledgment of sexuality was seen as sinful. Those who entered UBF in a romantic relationship were quickly pushed to give it up. One time very early in my UBF studies, Peter asked me, “What is your sin? Maybe looking at girls’ hips?” I said yes.
Members who are invited to join UBF are told all they have to do is attend a one-hour Bible study once a week. They are not told upfront that they will be required to do so many other things as time goes on. One time I asked Peter about this and he said, “If I had told you you would have to do all these things at the beginning, would you have joined?” I replied in the negative.
Difficulties in communication
UBF leaders do not listen with the goal of understanding. Rather, they listen to hear what they want to hear. Honest, two-way conversation rarely happens in UBF. This is not a result of cultural differences, as UBF would like everyone to think. UBF actually discourages its members from forming close relationships with their peers. Everything is channeled into the dysfunctional authoritarian shepherd/sheep relationship. For instance, if a question arises about something learned, the member should take the issue up with his/her shepherd as opposed to asking a peer about it. One time, Dane, a more senior shepherd, sat down to talk with me about the history of the “ministry” and somehow the Korean leaders found out about it. I was severely castigated by Peter’s wife – “Shepherd Dane is not your shepherd!”
Every time a UBF holiday or major conference was upcoming, I would have to participate in a play, called a “drama,” scripted and directed by one of the UBF Koreans. The purpose of these plays was to entertain the audience at important UBF meetings, and to break down the personality of the actors. The manner in which we portrayed our characters in these plays was most unconventional and unnatural. I remember always being in a psychological state of dissociation when acting in UBF dramas. One time toward the end of my stay in UBF, I was told to write a script for a holiday drama. However, when we met to practice the drama, another UBF Korean showed up with a script of his own. “Ha! We never intended to use your script,” he told me, “it was just training.”
Eternal salvation depends on leader’s approval
Most UBF members are kept in constant doubt of their salvation. Salvation appeared to be tied to the leaders’ approval rather than to one’s internalization of Christian principles.
Every meeting was mandatory
I often had to skip family events, including my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, to attend UBF meetings. If you didn’t attend a meeting, there would be some sort of phone call or follow-up to find out why. Those who missed meetings were looked down upon and criticized by the leaders as “unfaithful to God.”
Hierarchy of power
Called “spiritual order” by UBFers. There is a clear pecking order among long-standing members and even new recruits. Generally seniority rules, although sometimes those who are particularly well-trained rise above their juniors. Members who are lower on the hierarchy are expected to be thankful towards the higher-ups. Higher-ups are encouraged to rebuke those below them, but the other way around is not allowed.
Jealousy and rivalries
There was a bitter rivalry between Peter’s wife and the UBF Korean wife of Dane. Peter assented, “They are worse than unbelievers.” Peter himself was intensely resentful of Jacob Lee, leader of the UBF in Washington, DC.3
Made-up “sins” and “problems”
If you did not have problems in your life before coming to UBF, UBF would make up fake problems for you to struggle with. Typical made-up “sins” and “problems” include “laziness,” “pride,” “selfishness,” “pleasure seeking,” “easygoing life,” “job problem,” “marriage problem,” and having one’s “own idea,” “own plan,” or “own way.”
Mental problems seen as spiritual problems
UBF attracts a disproportionate amount of people with mental problems. These medical conditions are seen as being strictly spiritual difficulties. One of Peter’s sheep took medication for ADHD. Peter ordered him to stop taking his medication and supposedly “cured” him. Two other sheep were depressed and heard voices at times. Peter rebuked them because he thought they were “demon-possessed.”
With message training, you start out writing your own sermon, what UBFers call a “message.” Always, by the time I got to deliver it to an audience, my work underwent so many revisions at Peter’s direction that it was no longer my message, but Peter’s message spoken by proxy. A great deal of spiritual manipulation takes place during message training. For the 2003 spring Bible academy, I did my first training session with a different UBF Korean called Andrew. Unlike Peter, Andrew encouraged me to emphasize God’s grace in my life over performance at UBF tasks. However, I finished the message training with Peter and had to completely rewrite and rethink the message according to his desires. Then, just after I delivered the message which he had vetted, Peter denounced me in front of everyone at the service. “Please pray for Shep-a-dah Frank,” he exclaimed, “I am very discouraged that he does not accept his own message!” (Note: a sample UBF message and commentary are available here.)
UBF prayers are full of numbers. All the leaders have quotas they have to meet in terms of the number of initiates they indoctrinate per week. Each fellowship or chapter has numerical goals for their membership and these are prayed for regularly. Also, there are number goals such as “10,000 house churches in America.” Especially mindless were the prayers for 523 campuses in USA and 250 in Canada. These numbers are nowhere near correct, but they are taken very seriously. Once we went to a conference and discovered that Chicago was praying for 253 campuses in Canada. So from then on Peter corrected us and we prayed for 253.
People’s names were changed
One time Peter suddenly changed the names of two Korean women in the chapter. Jaewon became Joanna and Gail changed to Susanna. I have no idea why or if they had any input into what their names would be.
UBF members are paranoid about negative views of their organization. Events such as being thrown out of the library for “fishing” there were seen as “persecution.” The most common “persecutions” were at the hands of family members who disagreed with UBF. Family members were seen as enemies of God and enemies of the “ministry.”
Peter’s out of control ego
At every meeting he had to have the first and last word. His opinion was always seen as superior to others’. His tone toward others was often mocking, especially toward his own family. One instance where Peter was publicly humiliating his son was especially chilling – “Very sorry, Shep. Dane and Shep. Frank, but I want to brainwasheemyson! He must be brainwasheed into Jejzurz,” Peter exclaimed.
Black and Asian people were not seen as desirable UBF candidates because “they have their own culture.” One of my “sheep” was Asian. I was told by Peter’s wife to get a white “sheep” next time.
There was always some sort of intrigue going on in our chapter. Peter and his wife were huge gossip mongers. Peter regularly told me about the personal problems of his other UBF students. For example, one time he told me that his student had confided in him that he was afraid his penis was too small. “Ha! It is not effecteev,” Peter mocked.
The belief that no one outside of UBF is “saved”
At one Friday meeting, Peter asked everybody what percentage of people would go to heaven. I answered ten percent. Another person answered five percent. Peter then corrected everybody, saying, “Only one or two percent.” He also said that no one that goes to sporting events at Camden Yards, the Baltimore ballpark, is saved.
The leader is always right
During my time in UBF, there was a feeling that I would face God’s condemnation if I didn’t do things Peter’s way. It took me four years in UBF to realize that he was not right all the time.
The UBF voice
A good portion of UBF people, including Americans, talk in a halting, exaggerated manner, often mispronouncing words and omitting articles. For example, the perennial phrase of “fishing ministry:” “Would you like to study Bible?” UBFers are more likely to use the UBF voice when delivering an important message or testimony than in normal conversation.
Everyone in UBF is addressed by a title. The lowest level title is “brother” or “sister” and is reserved for new recruits. Next is “shepherd” or “shepherdess” (often abbreviated S., Sh., Shp. or Shps.). This title is used for those who recruit “sheep.” The most exalted title is “missionary,” (abbreviated M., Mis. or Misn.). All Korean UBF adults are called “missionary.” Those who have doctoral degress get an additional title “doctor.” The original leader of UBF was called “Missionary Doctor Samuel Lee” (even though his degrees are fake). The UBF cofounder Sara Barry has a special title, “Reverend Mother.”
Your leader makes major and minor life decisions for you
From what you study, to how you spend your time, to when and whom you marry, UBF leaders expect access to all areas of your life. UBF members are not generally free to make their own decisions. I remember Peter spent many hours “advising” one of my peers through looking for a job after he graduated.
I don’t want to try to imagine anything more difficult than leaving the cult. It was a year-long process of questioning the UBF system and the leader’s authority. I was giving voice to some of my doubts, mainly in my own head, although sometimes I made my doubts public. I committed myself to finding out the truth even if it was different than what the group taught. I was reading Christian books such as Healing for Damaged Emotions and Healing Grace by David Seamands and Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen. I really wished I could get away from UBF for long enough to clear my thoughts. Some times I would go on long drives at night to get away and think. Actually, I took a vacation for a couple days. With the help of those books, I came to the conclusion that I was definitely overburdened by UBF and by my school work.
Attempts to confront the leaders
Twice I attempted to confront UBF leaders about things I did not feel comfortable with. Foolishly, I went directly to Peter first. As soon as he got the sense of where the discussion was going, he turned the tables and began lambasting me. “You are worse than worm crawling in dirt,” he said. I tried to respond by saying that I had accepted Jesus into my life through Mark 10:45 and I believed I was saved. Peter said no. “Do you remember when we were at conference and I gave you direction to drink orange juice and eat all different kinds of food? You did not obey!” (Peter did not even know or care that at his direction I had actually begun drinking orange juice and that I was trying many different kinds of food I didn’t like.) Peter succeeded in convincing me that I was an unrepentant sinner in need of salvation. The ensuing few months were some of the most terrible times in my life because of the guilt and confusion I felt.
A second time, I went to talk to Dane about the way things were being handled in the chapter. I began by saying that I was concerned about the lack of grace in UBF and some apparent misunderstandings between the leadership and the members. I was hoping we could engineer some change in our chapter. However, as soon as Dane got wind that I was trying to address a problem, he took over the conversation and began defending and praising Peter, even though I had not mentioned Peter in a negative light.
Private doubts and confusion
Some entries in my journal from my last few months in UBF illustrate the mental and physical strain I was under.
* June 18: “It bothers me that they will pray for me to feed 12 sheep or do something, but not for me to stand firm in the gospel.”
* June 20: “I have a general not happy, uncomfortable feeling, like I need a long long time of rest and recovery from brutal abuse. There is a pressure in my chest that is like a million-pound burden.”
* July 3: “My life is really out of balance.”
* July 7: “There is a destructive air of a secret society about it. There is more focus about UBF than about Jesus. Our ministry doesn’t strive to live by the entire New Testament, just by certain UBF customs.”
* July 9: “Weighed 111 lb.”
* August 16: “Tried to go to sleep around 2am, but found that mind was very active and prone to uncontrollable negative thinking, especially worrying about spiritual life or doubts.”
Once toward the end of my stay in UBF, Peter decided I would deliver a message based on the healing of the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8. Peter asked me to name the “demon” that was in my “heart,” implying that he believed I was demon-possessed. I was at first shocked that he would suggest such a thing, but I eventually capitulated and concluded that my “demon” was perfectionism. I wrote a twelve-page (single spaced) testimony detailing my problem of perfectionism, both spiritually and practically. Then, Peter told me my demon was not perfectionism but my “own idea” and “own way,” but he would not explain what he meant by this. (After leaving UBF, I realized he meant that I was demon-possessed because I did not obey him “absolutely” and think like a robot the way he wanted me to.)
Despite Peter’s attempts to plant doubt in me, I eventually returned to the theme of taking grace seriously. So I tried to take it easier at UBF. I still came to all the events and did everything that was asked of me, but no more. I was glad to give up leading a fellowship. I also dropped out of the PhD program, as I was paralyzed by my spiritual confusion.
At the very end, I called in sick to one of the meetings and spent a few days without any group contact. One of the things I decided during that time was that Peter was not qualified to be the leader of any church group. I was reading in the New Testament about the qualifications of church leaders and one was, “He must not be overbearing” (see Titus 1:7). Peter is definitely overbearing and I think any member of Baltimore II would privately assent to that. I also took a quick glance at the online testimonies of some former UBFers, but was unsure of how much to believe because I had been told that these websites were Satan’s lies.
Finally, one day I visited a park with my mother. We discussed my thoughts that something was really wrong with this group. At this point, I did not think that Peter would have done anything to hurt me intentionally. I just thought there was a big misunderstanding between us. In any case, I decided to end my association with the group once and for all. That evening I called Peter and told him I would not be coming back. He began telling me that without UBF, I would lose my salvation. Then, he asked me, “Do you think Bible study caused you to give up your PhD?” I knew this was a trick to make me feel guilty, but I was confident that my decision to leave UBF was entirely for spiritual reasons, not because of its effect on my studies. So I told him I had nothing more to say to him, and hung up. I have not had contact with any UBF member since that day. My total time in UBF was five years, one and a half months.
Life after UBF
Assessing the damage
The day after I left UBF, I began to see a pattern of deliberate deception and manipulation in what I had previously classed as misunderstandings between Peter and myself. Put in simpler terms, I realized I was in a cult. Around this time, I also accepted the fact that I was in need of help for depression and anxiety. I had been having anxiety attacks and dizzy spells from time to time during the past three years. As a result of the mental tension I was undergoing, I developed chronic myofascial pain in most of my body. So I began to take medication and go to psychotherapy. Also, I decided to stay away from school for the time being. I would not have tried to go for a PhD had it not been UBF’s desire.
During the half-year immediately following my cult exit, I was in a dense fog of depression. My visit to the Wellspring retreat center in Ohio did offer a ray of hope. There I learned about Lifton’s eight points of thought reform, and saw how each of them was used in UBF. I also appreciated the caring nature of the staff there. Unfortunately, when I got home from Wellspring, I didn’t know what to do with my time. Since I was not working, I spent most of my time at home either stewing or reading about cults, psychology, and spiritual things. For recreation, I played video games and squash. Although it was a dark time for me, I remember having some feeling of wonder because I felt like I was in a time warp – as if I had just woken up from a five-year coma.
Rebuilding a life
It eventually became clear to me that my medications were not helping my depression. At the suggestion of my psychotherapist, I entered myself into psychiatric hospitalization. I spent a week in the inpatient ward and a month attending the outpatient program. Many positive things came out of my stay in the hospital. I was set up with an excellent doctor and therapist, was started on medication that helped me sleep, and it was made clear to me that I needed to get out of the house regularly. I began two volunteer jobs. Volunteering helped me re-accommodate myself to being out and about in the non-cult world.
About a year after leaving UBF I started working in a paid position in a field completely different from what I studied and worked at while in the group. Also, a new set of medications began to take hold. I was seeing exciting glimpses of what life could be like without being weighed down all the time. I also began to make new friends from my contacts in volunteering and work.
My UBF experience had the effect of deepening my connection to the spiritual. When I left UBF I was very in touch with my spiritual side and I felt that leaving UBF was definitely what God wanted me to do. I have been through a few spiritual phases since leaving UBF.
* The first phase was the “I’m still afraid to go to church” phase. This lasted a few months and I kept my spiritual life strong by praying and reading Christian literature. During this time, I would have classed myself as a conservative Evangelical.
* The next couple months were my church-finding phase. I studied up on just about every Christian denomination known to man and attended church at a few of them.
* Third was my moderate, United Methodist phase. I found a church home at the University United Methodist Church in College Park, MD. I decided to stay there because of their excellent assistant minister and the high quality of people in their campus ministry. I participated in group Bible studies on campus (led by the minister), assisted with sound and video at worship services, and sang in the contemporary Christian choir. This phase lasted a year and a half.
* Currently I am being drawn into ever more progressive ways of thinking. Some great books disintegrated what was remaining of my conservatism. They included Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by Bishop Spong, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally by Marcus Borg, and Why the Jews Rejected Jesus by David Klinghoffer. I became convinced that the Bible is the fallible work of humans and that uncertainty is the mark of religious maturity. I no longer hold to most of the traditional Christian doctrines about Jesus, but Jesus’ teachings still form a significant part of my moral foundations.
My decision to leave UBF stands as the best decision of my life and I am very grateful for it. Given the grave nature of what I went through, it would have been easy to give up on life. However, I decided to face directly every challenge life has thrown at me and have done surprisingly well. Depression and anxiety no longer rule my life. I feel good about myself and am encouraged that wherever I go, people seem to like me and think that I am a really good person. I have learned to think for myself and to say “no” when necessary. I am finally re-entering the field in which I was educated. There still remains some work left to be done in my recovery, most of it related to dating and relationships. In all, there is a bright future for me and indeed anyone with the will and perseverance to get themselves out of UBF.
1. Note that UBF does not prize theological degrees. Rather, theological education is discouraged. Almost no UBF member has any formal theological training. (On very rare occasions, some UBF chapters will bring a guest speaker from a Bible college in an attempt to gain legitimacy within Christian circles.)
2. Apparently, Peter got this idea from a “Bible study” session with the UBFer before he left. They were discussing a passage that Peter believes says homosexuality is sinful. When Peter shared this view, the student pounded his fist on the table and got up. Peter then put his hands on him and yelled, “Confess! You have evil homosexual demons in your heart.” Peter related, “I was ready to fight him.” Then, one day the UBFer who was about to leave invited the other UBFer over to dinner. Peter claimed that by cooking dinner he was acting like a woman, and suggested that the two of them may have been gay lovers.
3. According to Peter, when he came to the USA in the early 1990s, he went to Washington UBF and was told by Jacob Lee that his job would be to drive students to and from services. Peter wanted to be able to “pioneer” his own chapter. So he successfully appealed to Chang Woo Lee and was granted the Baltimore II chapter in the mid-1990s. Peter considers himself spiritually superior to Jacob Lee. Once he said that the only UBF chapters that were worth their salt were Chicago and LA. So he refused to “cowork” with other UBF chapters in the region. Especially, we looked down on all of the Washington and Baltimore I UBFers as second-class because they had “so many missionaries” and not many “sheep.” Because they were not “fruitful,” we assumed they had a spiritual “problem.”