Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a former UIC student

(This story was located at

Lindy Ox
Are You Hep to the Jive?

Posts: 118
From:Westmont, IL
Registered: Jul 2000

If the students are from UBF - University Bible Fellowship - then run away. It's a cult. I know, because I joined them and they did everything they could to brainwash me. Luckily, I questioned them. And when I realized they were a cult, I left and they followed me. Even though I moved 3 times, they still found out where I lived and knocked on my door. They thought I was going to go to hell unless they did something to bring me back. Finally, I said, "I will pray to God and I will let God tell me what to do." What could they say to that? They finally left me alone. I got so mad that I went to the school and protested UBF from becoming a student organization. The school researched the organization and denied them a charter.

A lot of people have posted about what they should teach to their children. Well, you better teach them something about cults, because when they get to college they are going to be confronted by people who are in them. I remember one teacher at a campus meeting who said, "Be careful of a person who says he has all the answers." I guess you can say that about any religion. Cults thrive on the weak minded. Please give your children the tools to think for themselves and question people. If God didn't want us to judge, he wouldn't have given us brains. We have to judge people and see where they are coming from.


Are You Hep to the Jive?

Posts: 284
From:Toronto, Ontario
Registered: Feb 2002

"If the students are from UBF - University Bible Fellowship - then run away. It's a cult. I know, because I joined them and they did everything they could to brainwash me. Luckily, I questioned them. And when I realized they were a cult, I left and they followed me."

LindyOx, I am curious - what exactly types of things did they try to do to brainwash you? Was it just propagandization, or did they have other sorts of tactics? ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lindy Ox
Are You Hep to the Jive?

Posts: 118
From:Westmont, IL
Registered: Jul 2000

First, it was propagandization. Unfortunately, I asked them if I could study the Bible. I had been in a summer Bible group in my step grandmother's church in Evanston that was Presbyterian (I am Catholic). I was looking to continue my Bible study at IIT and I just happened to bump into one of the UBF students. They didn't approach me like the other students where they just go up to you as a stranger and say, "Do you want to study the Bible?" That approach really angered a lot of students.

It was like a normal Bible study, but then it started getting strange. They would to passages on how Jesus called for change and that you should leave your family for Jesus. They also made a big deal on how UBF had a very big following in South Korea (it doesn't). UBF originated in South Korea when their minister, Dr. Samual Lee, became a Presbyterian minister. He later got kicked out of the Presbyterian church and he fled to the US and formed UBF.

The also do a "love bomb", where all the members try to help you. I had UBF members become my doctors and help me with medical problems. They also try to make you feel like you are accepted. But then they try to control you. For instance, when I was attending church, my sponsor said that she "volunteered me to speak to the church." I had to stand up at the podium and tell the parish what Jesus and UBF meant to me. This, after only being a member for 4 months. Luckily, I had been in Toastmasters and I was able to speak in public. But I was mad as Hell at my sponsor for doing that to me.

The breaking point was the Easter Retreat. For a weekend you go off some where and that's where they do the major brain washing. Well, I was in Air Force ROTC and we had an Arnold Air Society major show on that weekend. I told my sponsor that I couldn't make the Easter Retreat and she threatened me with never teaching me the Bible. I said fine. That shocked and surprised her. I was able to leave them without a forethought.

Two weeks past and things started getting weird. My sponsor would call me on the phone and cry. She begged me to come back, but I said that I didn't want to. Next, I got calls and a knock on my door from UBF members asking me to come back. I refused. They began calling me every day. Finally, I thought of the answer, "I am praying to God and I will do what God wants me to do. If God wants me to come back to UBF, I will do what he wants." Even though I moved 3 times, I was harassed every step of the way. Finally, after 2 months of this, I had enough. I went to the Dean of Students at IIT and complained. I heard that UBF wanted Student organization status on campus. I protested and told the student committe not to do it. I told them about my experiences with UBF. UBF was denied student organization status. They stopped harassing me after that.

Because of UBF, I became an agnostic for 10 years. I hated organized religion and I felt that all religions where corrupt and bad. Every religion has some form of dogma and that's where I had problems.

How I went from an agnostic back to being a Christian and Catholic is a long story. Heck, I am even thinking of becoming a priest. Go figure!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More German UBF experiences

(Translation of an article by Joachim Keden in “Sogenannte Jugendsekten und die okkulte Welle” [“So-called youth cults and the occult wave”] published by Aussaat Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1989)

(See also and

1. Report by a former Korean woman missionary of the UBF
(in extracts, translated by Cheong, Yoo Seong)

To those still wanting to lure me into the UBF and to those wanting to help me to resist:

I had to spend the last days full of fear and scared, after R. and L. (the names are known to the editor), both belonging to the UBF, suddenly visited me (on Dec. 28th) and repeatedly harassed and threatened on the phone (between Dec. 29th 1984 and Jan. 1. 1985). I have therefore decided to write down my request so that you can help me if anything happens to me by the UBF. I ask you for help, e.g. to inform my family and the police, if that will happen! I hereby express definitely that it is my absolutely determined decision to neither come back to UBF – for instance no participation any more at the Bible course or conversation – nor allow any search for contact with me, particularly if I am alone. My only desire is to get away from the UBF definitely and thus to be able to be free completely.

I have nothing else left than fear of the UBF which has held me and wants to hold me against my will; once I have been locked in in my room because I wanted to dissociate myself from the UBF. After that I even was displaced and held from my Dortmund dormitory to Cologne till I could escape in the night. That is another reason why I still fear, that the UBF people could come again and kidnap me ...

Now I would like to outline briefly my previous relation to the UBF and furthermore give reasons for my fear; expressing my point of view and my opinion at the same time:

a) My relation to UBF

– Getting to know: May 1975 (I was in the 12th class in high school at that time)

– Activities: After the getting to know with the exception of the period Sept. 1978-1980, in various activities like participation in the Sunday service, Bible course (both study and leading courses), visit service, seminaries, Christmas programs, donation collection etc.

– I came to Germany in Oct. 1982 as a missionary in the context of the UBF invitation program for students as missionaries

b) Reasons for my skepticism against the UBF or for my disapproval

– Another person affected, who has been invited to Canada recently in the context of the missionary program and is now working in a textile factory in Canada, wrote in her letter: “To be able to dedicate myself fully for the fulfillment of the Gospel, I am now determinedly decided to give up human relations with my family. For example, I will send no more money, but donate everything to the UBF.”

– Although at first I was just as determined, I slowly started to question myself: Why shall the UBF members donate everything while sometimes they must get financial support even from home? My skepticism became larger and larger. Did the founders and leaders of the UBF maybe want to extend only their organization and their influence on the pretext of religion and especially based on their demand for absolute obedience, as it is the case for the Unification Church [Moonies]? Aren’t they maybe “religious businessmen”? Primarily, what concerns the mission program for the students, it seemed to me as if it weren’t all about the matter of faith but all about means for their propaganda. Eventually, the UBF seemed to me like a cult.

– The demand for absolute obedience shows clearly particularly in the ‘marriage rule’ within the UBF. Often the UBF conveys and arranges the marriage among the members. However, I haven’t seldom seen such couples who were forced to marry against their will. To me the criterion of this ‘marriage rule’ didn’t seem to be the will of God, but loyalty to the UBF. ...

– I believe the task of mission shall be fulfilled after only after a free decision. Obedience to me therefore means succession of Jesus in faiths, trust and love.

A Bible course for instance can lead to real faith only if the possibility to freely express your opinion is given. A Bible course performed in a fixed organizational frame only leading to a previously planned conclusion according to a predefined target, in which in the name of Jesus His words are misinterpreted arbitrarily and the weaker ones are suppressed by the stronger ones.

I wasn’t a victim of a direct physical use of violence or financial exploitation, however, that spiritual violence was for me more terrible than physical. The know-all attitude and arrogance of UBF, believing that only they have the right faith and others should repent and accept the faith of UBF, was nothing else but ‘religious violence’ for me. I have just suffered from this unbearable ‘religious violence.’

2. Report of a female student seeking advice, in excerpts

I., 25 years old (name known to the editor), studied Roman Catholic theology in Bonn. When she read in her Bible in the “Hofgartenwiese“ (a park in Bonn), she was addressed by a young Korean woman, who has lived in Germany for long time, regarding her religious opinions. The conversation ended with an invitation for dinner with M. (recruiter, the editor) in the UBF center in the Pfarrer-Martini-Str. 26 in Bonn.

“I ran through a so-called 1:1 Bible study with M., to which I had been invited. There Bible sections are worked through using a questionnaire with predefined questions. This Bible study takes place once a week and is characterized by a strong teacher/pupil relationship. It has fixed beginning and closing rituals (prayer). The individual lessons last for 1½ hours each and have to be prepared before and after so that some hours must be invested every week. The Bible sections aren’t gone through according to different topics but verse by verse. Individual persons are picked out apparently arbitrarily to fix certain attitudes of faith on them. There is no openness for other possibilities of interpretation. The Bible studies shall serve the personal faith. Additionally, a service takes place in the Pfarrer-Martini-Street every Sunday at 15.00 pm. No sacraments are given during the services, i.e. no Holy Communion held either.

I noticed that a classification of Christians was made, i.e. everyone who doesn’t think in a similar way like UBF or comes to the same consequences as the members (e.g. unconditional priority of the mission before all other necessities like studies, family etc.) isn’t a ‘good’ Christian. ...

Since the group maintains centers in many countries of the earth, a letter chain exists. The letters are put up in the Bonn center. It frightened me a little when I was mentioned in letters from other countries which called to pray for me so that I would become a sheep ‘willing to learn.’ ...

After half a year I ended my Bible study at the UBF. There were several reasons for it. The frame of the interpretation at the Bible studies had been put too narrow for me. In addition, I couldn’t understand the behavior of M. and S. towards their little children: The parents left the children alone during the mission for a very long time every day. Even the baby often was alone in the apartment for hours. For me this behavior couldn’t be brought together with the Christian faith. When I asked M. and S. about it, they only said that Jesus will already look after the children and therefore nothing can happen, since the children are ‘in his hand.’”

3. Report of a female student who was a former follower of UBF

Another female student had similar experiences, too:

“Soon I started a Bible study with E. (recruiter, the editor). This meant that I committed the Gospel of John to my mind with a defined questionnaire alone with her verse by verse. At home I prepared the lessons, later talking everything over with E. once again. In the Sunday services I heard Bible interpretations of the leader of the center who let himself be called a missionary. Besides this there were “sogams,” a kind of personal testimonies with confession of sins and promise to change. The services closed with prayers for the success of the recruiting of UBF prospects (called “sheep”), for another 12 missionaries (“campus shepherds”) and for the success of the 10 year schedule to evangelize the USSR ...

But E. put pressure on me, to finally deliver – at first written and then also verbal – “sogams” during the service. I did my best to work something out, but, E., my personal “shepherdess,” didn’t agree with that. I finally managed to delay the “sogam-sharing” using various evasions and excuses. I wanted to gain time because first objections and doubts concerning the group and it’s biblical teaching contents and methods came to me. It lasted for a month till I – thanks to the help of well informed fellow students – could break loose from the group.

4. Chronology of the destruction of a personality
– From the viewpoint of a friend –

“Over one and a half years have passed since one of my best friends had been addressed by a UBF missionary, and this happened at a time, when my friend was in an emotional depression during his studies, since his examination work didn’t make proper progress. The missionary invited him ‘completely without obligation and casual’ to tea and Bible studies in the local UBF center.

By the offer to be able to finish his master thesis there with a computer he was lured to spend as much time as possible in the UBF center daily. At the same time, the contact to me reduced more and more. When my friend invited me for a dinner on the occasion of his forthcoming move in a kind of common life with his “new friends” about one year ago, I learned about his membership in the UBF. I assessed the group at that time as one of religious eccentrics, whose effusive Far Eastern kindness didn’t seem dangerous to me.

But then I noticed regarding my friend, that he had acquired for himself a strangely clipped way of speaking with an extremely sharp and sustained pronunciation of the letter ‘R’, particularly in the word ‘Lord/e’ frequently repeated. Having pointed out this change by me, he could, however, in the ordinary conversation immediately find his way back to his normal mode of expression. After a few minutes every conversation came back to religious topics or the Bible again and again and he increased, as also in prayer, in this strange way of speaking which also is practiced by all other UBF members I know.

Only when I heard that my friend, who usually was always a little mean regarding finances, had assigned his complete savings account to the leader of the UBF center because of “gratitude for the good completion of his examination,” it was beginning to dawn on me that the UBF could be a cult, however not a completely unselfish organization.

All my efforts from then on to enlighten him on the character of UBF – which appeared cultic to me to be more and more clearly – and on his own situation, were coming too late. My friend admitted having found means to turn his intellect off, which hindered him regarding his faith and blinded him, as he said.

The clipped language at first being only an expression of an outward identification with the group, now it reflected a completely reduced way of thinking. This was shown as well by a put on, compulsive permanent smile and an absent facial expression. To him himself this metamorphosis is a mark of a purification and calling to God. He himself has got rid of every privacy and intimacy by his allegedly voluntary detailed “sogams” in front of the group.

I have got the impression that my friend seems to have gone through a kind of brainwashing, which has destroyed the personality and individuality of my friend, to possibly make him to an extremely available tool. Also the in my eyes low in protein and high in carbohydrate diet of which he talks, in combination with little sleep (he seldom sleeps more than five hours per night according to his own words) leave noticeable physical and emotional marks concerning his general health state. My friend obviously is exposed to heaviest inner stress and his state of mind worries me a lot. For example he seems to be accessible to my arguments for short moments, however recognizes the ‘temptation’ in a flash and increases again in an apparent illusion which can increase in extreme situations to real attacks. Since the UBF membership all his high put, hopeful professional plans of my friend are abandoned. Furthermore, because of his desolate and unstable constitution, he seems to be hardly capable any more of an independent lifestyle, due to the dependence from the UBF community. Apparently it is forbidden to him to speak alone with me. The decline of the personality of my friend goes on. It is terrible for me having too see this all without doing anything.“

Tom Brown (former Chicago UBF)

Tom Brown’s Story (1984)

A report taken from “Churches that Abuse” by Ronald M. Enroth (Zondervan, 1992), Chapter 5

Tom Brown’s [name changed] story of his involvement in the Korea-based University Bible Fellowship (UBF) typifies the victimization of young, idealistic college students on campuses across the country. In their intense desire to seek and serve the true God, they are taken advantage of by sometimes sincere individuals who exploit their ideals to achieve personal goals and fulfillment. Fortunately for Tom, he was not left with a “shipwrecked faith” as so many others have been.

Tom Brown’s story of his involvement in the Korea-based University Bible Fellowship (UBF) typifies the victimization of young, idealistic college students on campuses across the country. In their intense desire to seek and serve the true God, they are taken advantage of by sometimes sincere individuals who exploit their ideals to achieve personal goals and fulfillment. Fortunately for Tom, he was not left with a “shipwrecked faith” as so many others have been.

Tom’s involvement with UBF began in 1979, during his junior year at Northwestern University. His fraternity roommate of the previous year had been studying with UBF missionary “Sweety” Rhee. When the roommate did not return to school, Sweety turned her attention to Tom. Although at first he hesitated to accept her invitation to attend a UBF worship service, Tom felt that God may have been answering his prayer for a God Bible study to attend. So he accepted the invitation. He was impressed by the earnestness that UBF members displayed, as well as their spiritual intensity, which he found very refreshing. Most of the congregation happened to be Korean missionaries who had come to evangelize on American college campuses.

During his years at Northwestern, Tom had been struggling to grow as a Christian and sincerely desired to find a Bible study in which he could participate and minister to other college students like himself. UBF seemed to be an answer to prayer. Sweety “took very good care” of Tom during this initial phase, teaching him to write “sogams” – personal confessions based on Bible passages selected by the leader – calling him every week, walking him home, and buying him dinner.

Tom now realizes that he was “love bombed” by Sweety during this phase, particularly since Sweety was derogatively know as a “no-sheep missionary” among the other UBF Korean staff. Tom was her only student in an organization where individually teaching the Bible to many students is the chief goal. Along with the “love bombing” came initial subtle manipulations of Tom’s time and behavior, as well as mystical stories of God’s providence and judgment toward the Fellowship. All of this left a deep impression on Tom.

Over time, Sweety learned all about Tom, including his desire to earn a PhD degree and become a nationally recognized expert in his field of study. It was at this point that “Sweety told me that I should give up my own plans because they were a result of sinful selfishness. She said that I should serve Jesus instead.” Having set the barb of guilt, Sweety waited until Tom “made the decision to cut off my own future direction and wait for God’s new direction for my life.” Tom suffered a good deal due to that drastic decision. “Sometimes I cried because of my sense of loss and frustration.”

After his first four months with UBF, Tom met the leader, Samuel Lee, a short man who spoke broken English. Lee began doing things that made Tom feel special. In turn, Tom responded to the attention and recognition, and, for the group’s Spring Conference of 1980, he was asked by Lee to deliver a message. At this point, Tom’s intense indoctrination began.

“Message training” is one of the ways UBF leaders “help” students to deepen their commitment to the group. Tom began by studying 1 Corinthians 15 with Samuel Lee. He was required to memorize and recite the passage for Lee each time they met. Tom was then to write his own message on the passage using Lee’s previously written message as a guide. After several revisions, essentially Tom had Samuel Lee’s own message to deliver at the Spring Conference. The point was that he had had the opportunity to “struggle with the Word of God and learn from Samuel Lee” as all the Korean missionaries already knew. What Tom and the other Americans did not know at the time was that the Korean missionaries considered Americans to be spiritually inferior to them. “Many of the Korean UBF members call Korea ‘Mt. Zion’ and refer to non-Koreans as ‘Gentiles.’”

As Tom acknowledges, his behavior and perceptions were already changing by the time of the conference. He had manipulated a number of his friends to attend, and, when one balked at the registration fee, Tom told him that payment was a sign of his “commitment to God” and a measure of his “spiritual desire.” By the end of the conference, Tom was praying that God would establish him as a Bible teacher for American college students, all past aspirations of doctoral work having been put aside as fleshly, human pride.

Further indoctrination was carried out when Tom and several other American UBF students were invited by Lee to accompany him on his annual “world mission report” journey to Korea. Tom began preparing on his own for the trip by sleeping on the floor, knowing that Koreans did not sleep in beds. He was quite disappointed when Lee and his entourage stayed in hotels – and slept on the beds. He was also instructed to write an autobiography of his life, which would be the basis for the testimony he would give in Korea.

Although his parents were terribly concerned about his making the trip, given the civil unrest in Korea at the time, Tom put aside their fears as evidence of their lack of faith. During the flight and the first day after their arrival, Lee made the students share their autobiographies, after which he would comment about their characters and basic problems. They were then told to condense their writings down to a six-page testimony. It was at this point that Lee began comparing Tom to the apostle Paul; hence one of Tom’s UBF nicknames, Tom Paul.

While in Korea, Lee focused his attention on Tom’s “training.” He made Tom team leader over the other students, encouraged him to focus more on the other students than on his own testimony, and yet continually had him revise and rewrite his testimony, which by this time was retitled, “True Greatness.” Tom explains the point of the title: “I had lived my life up to this time seeking human greatness for myself. My decision now was to live as a great servant of God like the apostle Paul.”

Lee also began to drive wedges between Tom and his parents, telling Tom that they didn’t want him to become a man of God but only a dutiful son. By the end of the journey, Tom had a great vision to become the apostle Paul for the 21st century – through UBF, of course.

Upon returning to Illinois, Tom commuted one hundred miles each day to minister to his sheep in Chicago. Because it was summer break, he lived at home with his parents and worked for his father, but was committing all of his extra time to UBF and the Summer Conference. Sweety put great pressure on him to leave his home to minister full-time in Chicago, and, after a few weeks, he told his parents that he was leaving. His parents, not understanding the power of UBF influence on Tom, spoke to him about his responsibility to make money for his senior year. After Tom responded that he must also do the work of God, his father gave him an ultimatum. Tom packed and left the next day, fully believing that to stay would mean going against God’s will. He reasoned that this was part of the persecution one must expect when serving God. Further, his action insured that his “human relationship” with his parents was severed. As Tom says, “Now I was only a servant of God.”

After his move, Tom suffered a great deal over his emotional separation from his family. Several of the women missionaries at the UBF center consoled him. According to Tom, many male students in UBF develop a kind of maternal dependency on the women missionaries, related perhaps to the sexually repressive atmosphere of the organization.

He also began to have an attraction for Lee’s teenaged daughter, Sarah. At this point, another form of spiritual discipline became an integral part of Tom’s indoctrination. “Sweety hit the roof. She harshly rebuked me over and over for my ‘sinful desires’ for Sarah. Whenever I opened my mouth to protest, she rebuked me more.” This response, according to UBF philosophy, was actually demonstrating love for the American students who were lost in their “fleshly desires.” Sweety was eventually rebuked – by Samuel Lee – for badgering and rebuking Sarah.

Tom, not able to control his feelings for Sarah, entered into a pit of guilt, shame, and depression. Sweety continued to berate him. He became physically ill. Lee entered into “no-mercy message training” with him. He was given the passage Mark 8:27-38, on Peter’s confession of Christ, to prepare for the Summer Conference. Tom was required to write and rewrite the message many times. Each time, Lee would rebuke him more and give him additional rewriting directions. As Tom says, “This served to completely break down my ego. After a week of this training, I felt like I was at the bottom of a deep pit of my sins and weaknesses. No one could help me. I felt I had betrayed God in my sinful life. All I had were sins and sinful desires.” He was now ready for additional training.

Preparation for Summer Conference usually reached fever pitch the three weeks prior to the event. It was during these times that extensive spiritual manipulation and indoctrination occurred. Lee would meet nightly with all the UBF staff, accusing some of “playing Satan” and actually saying that he had prayed they would die if they did not repent. He rebuked some, praised others, and made the “no-sheep” missionaries get together to repent, ridiculing the students’ personal problems. He led them all in shouting prayers of repentance that sometimes lasted for hours. These prayers, when spoken correctly in a group of people, could communicate a great deal without one’s ever having to speak directly and substantively. Lee would often pray, “Our Father, have mercy on Shepherd Tom Paul (Tom’s nickname). He has no spirit.” That kind of ambiguous prayer left the victim in a state of confusion and guilt, especially, “when you ask God to forgive someone of something of which they are not aware.” Tom himself was to use this same technique later on in his “ministry” with UBF.

After struggling a great deal over whether to complete his college studies, Tom decided to finish out his last year. However, since up to this time his parents had supplemented his income, he was now forced to make up the difference by working as a park grounds keeper. This was heavy work for a man of only 121 pounds. It was at this point, after the rigors of the Summer Conference, that Lee entered Tom into “eating training” and “international stomach training.” That meant he was forced to eat far beyond his capacity and to “eat all kinds of foods so that I could become a missionary.” Lee would make comments about his picky eating habits and encourage Tom to “overcome” himself by eating foods he knew were too much for his digestive system. Although he did gain fifteen pounds, he suffered greatly. “I ate so much food at dinner that my fraternity brothers could not believe it.”

Believing that equipment failures at the park were God’s message to him about his unbelief in providence – an emphasis on suffering typical of UBF – Tom quit his job and wrote home demanding that his parents support his schooling. His parents did not budge.

In the fall, after completing his “eating training,” Tom embarked on “hair training,” supposedly to give him a more pleasing appearance. He was given a permanent and was not allowed to cut his hair. He also had it curled before every worship service. According to Tom, “My hair grew longer than everyone in my fraternity except the house hippie.” His appearance was further altered by his wearing of suits (the pants of which always had to have belt loops according to Lee – one of Lee’s idiosyncratic and unexplainable quirks).

“Voice training” was next, in order to make Tom’s speaking voice more powerful, especially since he was beginning to preside over many meetings. Lee would alternately tell Tom after each of these meetings that he “did not have enough spirit” or that he was “grandstanding” and that “he needed to repent.” The inner conflict and confusion left Tom baffled – and open to further “training.”

At this point, Tom was in his last year of school. He refused to return home for Thanksgiving since it was purely a “human” celebration and not one of God’s concerns. He had given up all extracurricular activities and had thrown away his entire collection of classical and Christian music and most of his books, and he sold his guitar. This last sacrifice was the result of his decline into poverty – he needed the money to survive. He was tithing twenty percent of his income (which increased to forty percent upon graduation) and was pledging $50 per month to the UBF world mission offering. Sweety often had to supplement his “offering” because Tom’s income was so minimal. Failure to meet the monthly offering resulted in severe rebuke. Tom himself, at Lee’s direction, would shout and pound on tables in his rebuke of a student’s “bad attitude toward the offering.”

In the spring of 1981, his last quarter at Northwestern, Tom moved into an apartment with his UBF sheep, Mark, partly due to perceived persecution on the part of his fraternity brothers, who, at this point, were sure that he was in a cult. Tom also believed that the “spiritual environment” of the fraternity house was too decadent.

Lee began “testing” Tom in different ways to determine the extent of his commitment – and indoctrination. Once, he was told that he was to leave Northwestern to go and pioneer the UBF work at Harvard University. He was ready to go the next day. Lee also would say things in order to see others’ reactions and thereby assess their “spiritual condition.” At one point, he told a missionary to give Tom his new car. The “test” got to the point of Tom nearly driving away before Lee was satisfied with the missionary’s loyalty.

Upon graduation, Tom visited his parents who again debated his involvement in UBF. His mother expressly stated, to no avail, her view that he was in a destructive group. Tom was unaffected by her concern and her emotional distress. “I told her that I did not want their human [as opposed to spiritual] love, and that human love had made me very sick in my soul.” The next day he returned to Chicago to begin life as an “intern” in UBF.

The main emphases of UBF intern training are service and learning “faith.” In preparing for leadership positions, interns must learn to serve others and to obey their leaders. The training may last several years, and may involve even more severe spiritual and psychological abuse. Tom had heard that interns in Korea may be beaten by their shepherds in order to break them of their stubbornness and independent spirits. In the United States, during weekly meetings, the American leaders are required to share their sogams on the passage they had been studying the week before. They use Samuel Lee’s messages as the basis of their sogams. Their “sharing” gives the Korean leaders an opportunity to “check their spiritual condition.” By the 1981 Summer Conference, Tom’s internship experience had intensified. He was rebuked by Lee as having “life security” and “marriage” problems, accusations not hard to understand when one considers that Tom was living in poverty, often skipping meals, and, because of his experience with Sarah, afraid to even talk with any young women. “All through the conference Lee rebuked me and prayed for me to repent. When I told him ‘I am a great sinner,’ he said, ‘No, you are only a small sinner.’” Tom slept only four hours in four days and finally had to have Lee dictate the message he was to deliver. It took him almost two weeks to recover from the humiliations he had suffered.

Tom then entered into “driving training” and “humanity training.” Because of a car he received as a result of someone’s UBF-arranged marriage (dating is considered sinful indulgence and a lack of trust in God for one’s future), he became chauffeur for the Chicago chapter of UBF. This he found hard to do, but he was told “to do it for the glory of God.” Also, because of his supposed legalistic character and lack of human compassion, he was told to “listen closely to many life testimonies and sogams, read books, and see certain movies.” (The “certain movies” were intended to inform members about society, the nature of people, and so on. These movies included “Ben Hur,” simply because it was a favorite of the leader, “Ordinary People,” and “ET,” which supposedly depicted the alienation and plight of the American teenager!) He thus learned to understand people – for the sake of manipulating them.

Tom began finding that he was adopting the same methods that had been used on him in order to “train” his sheep. He would make people stay up all night to repent, hit them with sticks for not remembering passages, force them to run distances to “restore their spirits,” and squash “rebellion” in the same way that his own abilities to think independently had been squashed. “At that time, I was working out many of my personal frustrations on those who were under my authority.”

Lee decided to deal with Tom’s “marriage problem” once and for all. He forced him to deliver a sogam entitled “Not a Dog but a Shepherd” to the entire congregation of the Spring Conference of 1982. Supposedly, he was “like a dog barking around a hen house.” After delivering that message before hundreds, Tom was numb for almost two weeks. “My feelings were totally burned away.”

Two weeks after that, Lee allowed Tom to go to Michigan State University as part of the pioneering team (which also included Sweety Rhee and her husband, who had joined Sweety in the USA after living in Korea for some time). Without the “protective environment of Chicago” and no more strong people to depend upon, Tom began to have a difficult time and began “losing his direction as a campus pioneer.” The MSU Summer Conference, designed both as a training conference for younger leaders and as an opportunity for evangelism, was “long on rebuking and short on sleep,” and Lee dictated another message for him to deliver. Tom began to wonder if he was being used.

Tom got a full-time job as a maintenance man for a group of apartments and worked for two months prior to the beginning of the fall quarter. He gave up full-time campus pioneering for the time being. By the time Spring Conference rolled around, his life had become somewhat smoother, but he had actually run away from the dissonance his doubts had caused, and was again struggling to keep up his “ministry.” Samuel Lee then “decided that he should light a fire under me.” Tom was told by one of Lee’s messengers that “if I did not have seven one-to-one Bible studies each week, I would have to come to Chicago for additional training.”

Tom went out every day to invite students to study the Bible with him. After two weeks, he had twelve Bible students. He also was successful in recruiting three women students, unusual in that UBF has proportionately more men than women (the goal being to raise up male leaders). Sweety strongly disapproved, but Tom had declared that “by faith I would be the ‘father of all American women.’” And Samuel Lee had approved. Summer Conference of 1983 was pivotal for Tom. He was to prepare a message on Luke 5:1-11, the calling of the first disciples, and, for the first time, Samuel Lee did not want to check it before delivery. As Tom says, “It was sink or swim.” Because of car problems and the need to get visas, he and his passengers arrived almost a day late to the conference site in Canada. Lee was livid. Tom was asked to write a sixty-page sogam of apology for disappointing all those who had prayed so much for him over the last year. Lee told him that “the most important thing was for us as God’s servants to participate in God’s history. There was no excuse for being late.” Tom was told, “You should have left three foreigners behind in a different country and hitchhiked to the conference in order to arrive on time.” He wrote all night to prepare his message. Fortunately, Lee thought that he was able to deliver it “with one main point and with spirit.” Tom was spared for the final round.

In September, Tom was told by Lee that he should have a new car for his ministry since his old one was out of commission. Lee personally promised him four thousand dollars and UBF would also contribute five hundred dollars. However, he was told to ask his father for an additional four thousand dollars because “a young man like you should have a new car.” His parents, of course, refused, saying that UBF should be responsible. After several rounds of pointless negotiation, Tom began to get the idea that he was being tested again. Lee told him, “You are very sharp.”

Tom was to use any means available to extract the four thousand dollars from his parents. Lee did not care how it was done. After several attempts, Tom began to realize that “Not only was I beginning to attempt to exert control over my parents, but I was also beginning to actively try to control the students at the MSU chapter. I used my position and the Bible to get them to make ‘decisions of faith’ that would conform them to the image of a servant of God that I held. I even began to rewrite messages that students were to deliver, just as Samuel Lee had rewritten mine. Those students who accepted my direction in writing were ‘good.’ Those who did not were ‘rebellious.’” Tom had become a little Samuel Lee, and he was appalled.

On April 1, 1984, after four years in Samuel Lee’s University Bible Fellowship, Tom was convinced to leave through the efforts of his parents and several other concerned persons.

Michael Keenan (former Washington UBF)

(Article from The Johns Hopkins Newsletter.)

Cult-like evangelist group targeted recent JHU undergrads

University Bible Fellowship had a small contingency on Hopkins’ campus, yet it drastically changed the course of one student’s life.

By Lindsay Saxe
December 07, 2001

Michael Keenan, class of ’91, was not unlike thousands of other young men and women who venture off college at the still vulnerable, still immature age of 18. And like so many of his peers, Keenan sought support from a campus organization to quell the anxiety and fears he had as a young adult – a young adult who lacked a definitive direction in life (as so many of us do) and who still questioned his morals and values. Keenan turned to a group called University Bible Fellowship (UBF), a Christian evangelical organization, to provide the comfort and friendship he so desperately needed to cope with his self-doubt and insecurity. The result of his membership, he later realized, was ten years of manipulation and control that forever changed the course of his life.

Keenan first met members of UBF in 1990, when he attended a meeting for an alcohol counseling group. In a building on Homewood campus formerly known as “the white house,” Keenan met a girl involved with the group who later introduced him to her Bible teacher. The Bible teacher, it turns out, was a doctoral candidate at the Hopkins Medical School. UBF, Keenan found out, was a Bible-study evangelical group that practiced on a plethora of college campuses throughout the world.

After several encounters with the teacher, Keenan recalls, “I liked him, trusted him and felt that [with him] it was going to be more than just a forced march through Bible study.”

And he was right. For a while, his teacher would make him dinner and have congenial discussions with him about his problems and concerns. His teacher made him feel comfortable with the group and its members, and as a result, he became engrossed in the group’s activities and gatherings.

According to University chaplain, Sharon Kugler, this is typical of groups such as UBF and the Boston Church of Christ who want to attract college students. The group focuses on “love bombing” potential members – that is, making them feel like they finally have a home away from home. However, what students tend not to recognize is that therein lies a hidden agenda. Many young people dive head-first into such organizations without first taking a critical look at what the motivations lie behind the outpouring of kindness.

Kugler first became aware of UBF’s existence on the Homewood campus almost eleven years ago, when Keenan along with several other affected students crossed her path. Kugler recalls students coming to her complaining of harassment by UBF’s members. Various incidents occurred where young, Jewish men were harangued because they wore yarmulkes. UBF student members would threateningly tell them they would go to hell for their spiritual beliefs. Other students complained that group members told them to ignore all basic principles previously taught to them by their parents or spiritual advisors.

By the time Kugler met Keenan, he had already become a steadfast believer in UBF’s mission. Kugler said, “He demonstrated characteristics pretty typical of someone involved in such a group: he owed loyalty to the group, and everyone else [not involved] was wrong.”

Disturbed by the various complaints and her meetings with Keenan, Kugler decided to research UBF and find out what it was all about. The group did not have any official standing on campus, as they were neither registered with the Student Activities Commission (SAC) nor the Campus Ministry. Up until then, the religious groups that existed were acknowledged through informal agreements with the Campus Ministry, so it was tough to nail down their exact practices or members. Kugler said, “One of the first things I did was find out who counted themselves as religious no.” Kugler then called Keenan back in to discuss UBF’s standing. Keenan remembers telling Keenan that she “in good conscious could not recognize it as a religious organization.”

Nevertheless, Keenan was not swayed from his adamant devotion to UBF’s mission. His transformation began, soon after his induction into UBF, when the general attitude of the group’s leaders began to change. Keenan said the turning point was, “probably a few months into [my] involvement when the bible teacher told me not to call him at home. He basically began to shut down all of the personal aspects of our relationship. He just started saying, ‘Do what I tell you to do and don’t ask questions.’” The teachers, according to Keenan, told him to follow their interpretation of the bible, and not to burden them with his problems anymore.

Soon, Keenan lost all interaction with people outside of UBF, including his friends and family. In an interesting analogy, Keenan likend his membership to a drug addiction. He said that, “Emotionally, you stop growing. They tell you not to question things, and you don’t. You are supposed to defer all questions to God’s will. You stop confronting, stop asking, and assume it is all God’s will.”

Kugler had a similar characterization. For groups like UBF, critical thinking was a detriment to their continuing existence. Kugler said, “They pick a part of the scripture that suits their purpose, and fits their agenda. That kind of practice co-ops sacred texts.”

The purpose of which, is to obtain unconditional devotion from their disciples. Students like Keenan, who have completely alienated family and friends, are then encouraged to go out, recruit new members, and follow the path dictated by the group’s leaders. The group, Kugler said practiced, “the dumbing-down of scriptural texts as opposed to making it the enlightening pursuit it can be.”

In fact, this was the sum of Keenan’s experience with UBF. Over the nearly ten years Keenan spent with the group, he claims his every decision was influenced by UBF’s mission. Group members and leaders went so far as to tell him who he should marry and what career path he should follow. Consequently, one of Keenan’s fellow members became his wife, and he said, “they cut off all career paths I would have followed. My whole life had to be focused around the group.”

About a year and a half ago, Keenan and his wife finally hit their breaking point. UBF dictated that even your kids were less important than the group’s mission. Keenan and his wife witnessed other members leaving their young children at home alone in order to attend meetings. As he recalled, “All sorts of weird things took place. People would just leave their kids in cribs or in cars to get to meetings.” Neglecting children was encouraged, because members who demonstrated that kind of devotion to UBF’s mission were rewarded by its leaders.

At that point, Keenan and his wife decided to end their involvement. Having recently had kids, they could not justify that kind of gross abuse no matter what the mission at hand. They were encouraged by others outside the group who felt that its practices were bizarre and questionable. People who had been to UBF meetings, or had been members and later quit, compared it to a cult with various ulterior motives.

For both Kugler and Keenan, it was a learning experience. However, Keenan had submitted nearly ten years of his life to UBF’s control – hence, it was a costly lesson to learn. Kugler recalled a meeting she had with Keenan just recently where she asked him whether or not she could have changed his mind about the group back in 1990, and he told her no. Kugler said, “It was one of those rare moments in ministry when someone you tried to help comes back and you finally hear the end of the story.”

For Keenan, it is imperative that college students like him hear his story, so that they are wary of the people and organizations who solicit their membership. If you aren’t careful, Keenan said, “You will go along like you’re on cruise control, becoming numb to the people and events surrounding you. I went [like that] for ten years.”

Despite their large presence on campuses in California and other states out west, UBF never gained a substantial following here at Hopkins. Kugler credits that to the Campus Ministry’s decision not to formally recognize UBF’s status as a student religious group.

Kugler, along with other members of the Campus Ministry teach Resident Advisors as well as Campus Security personelle the tell-tale signs of destructive religious behavior. She said that, “The best counteraction is letting people know what’s okay, and that their worth is not linked to allegiance to a group.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

More German UBF recruits' experiences

[From a translation of a report published in the book “Sekten – Die neuen Heilsbringer” (“Cults – the New Bringers of Salvation”), A Handbook,
by Heide-Marie Cammans, Düsseldorf 1998, p. 97-111

(See also

Jutta is sitting in the consultation room with me. Her brother, a senior student, is a member of the UBF. The young woman asks for help: “My brother isn’t himself any more ... He has changed completely, a wall is standing between us. We cannot have any sensible conversation any more. He has abandoned all hobbies, his friends don’t understand him any more either. He hardly comes home and is constantly speaking in verses from the Bible. He makes an exhausted, anxious and afflicted impression...” Jutta asks whether UBF is a cult.

S. has been visited and evangelized by a missionary in his room in the student dormitory. He became a member of the movement. However, after years of the membership he managed to leave, supported by his relatives. After his leaving the cult, his mother wrote the following “record of sorrow,” as she calls it:

“Although I, as a mother of an affected person, collecting my thoughts for this report, do clearly feel how everything touches and burdens me very much even in retrospect, I still would like to help in bringing light into the ‘darkness,’ because it was this ‘darkness’ that actually made it possible that our son fell into the hands of UBF.

Perhaps I should mention the following before I start to report:

Our son is a highly sensitive, intelligent boy, equipped with all advantages that parents can be proud of, always wanting to do the best and trying to make this come true with perseverance and engagement, and who perhaps possesses an excess of readiness to suffer and sacrifice, with high moral and ethical standards and aspiration level, always searching for trueness and genuineness.

This introduction isn’t meant to praise our son, but to call attention to similar cases!

He also requires the aspiration level he has set to himself from others, for instance when searching for friends. Therefore it is a matter of course that he does not find too many friends. Because of his strongly introverted way it also isn’t easy for him to approach other people by himself; however, already in his school time he has strictly and instinctively sorted among those who approached him.

Maybe the following should also be mentioned:

We are and originate from a family that is – as I believe – living faith, hardly making words about it, we are feeling comfort and security in God, perceiving this as a rock on which we stand, as a shield and as a signpost in times of decisions. We have trusting, loving relationships with each other, and are able to talk with each other quite well. Everyone is helping the other. Caused by frequent moves to always different towns, we have never settled down in any particular ‘church.’ But this was not the only reason: Searching for ‘contents,’ for refreshment and reinforcement, we have ‘forced us’ to listen to a wide variety of sermons time and again – these were without exception disappointments again and again, so that you can get sad of it. Only a pale taste, a hollow feeling, remained. You may understand this as an accusation against our churches as well.

Such a young person then starts with his university studies in a foreign town, being there without contact persons, everything being new. Living in the dormitory can make it even more clear that you are alone: Although there are many contacts and you talk much, you don’t really speak with each other, most of all you smoke and drink much, consideration for others is a foreign word for many. You feel an increasing disappointment about our ‘elite,’ that does not abound here as much as some may believe. So in this situation my son was looking for ‘his people.’ His way led him through the official Protestant and Roman Catholic student church, through various evangelical churches in the town; he took a look at church split-offs, yes, he even did not miss informative evenings of student fraternities – always open to everything –, being also encouraged by me to not give up the search for suitable people. Besides, he had to get along with the course of his university studies, driven by the ambition not to waste too much time: Difficult times for every freshman, certainly accompanied by spiritual depressions.

What could be more suitable in such a mood than a ‘senior student’ knocking at the room door, smiling friendly (this friendly smile later turned out to be a stereotypical permanent grin), offering help and inspiring confidence, at the same time subtly checking the ‘situation’ in respect of faith and Bible. The kind invitation for supper then feels like an additional warm rain on the soul. Hereupon the offer follows to make one-to-one Bible study. You feel amazed by this engagement and flattered at the same time, being taken seriously and important hereby. Who would suspect at this time already that this wasn’t the expression of the duty of a Christian human being, but the first step of a of a relentlessly pursued strategy that is used everywhere UBF is operating, actually aiming on nothing else than the glorification and exercising of human power, a fundamentalist principle.

My son spoke about that at home, without mentioning a name of the organization in the beginning, which would have meant nothing to me anyway. He told about this ‘international student church,’ and that it was part of the ‘Evangelical Alliance.’ And here the problem starts showing up where I almost start to be ashamed! I was not cautious because the word ‘international’ fitted in our open-minded world view anyway, and hearing ‘Evangelical Alliance’ I calmly thought of ‘harmless’ and ‘being well taken care of,’ more hearing ‘evangelical’ than ‘alliance.’ I so to speak leant back inwardly, calmed down, though again and again somewhat startled about the colossal engagement of these people, who mainly consisted of Koreans as I learned only in the course of time. But being a tolerant person, not even the slightest ‘alert-light’ flashed up in me. On the contrary, I heard of the kindness of these people again and again. The meetings then very quickly became regular, mostly in the already existing family of the ‘shepherd,’ who has the task of searching new ‘sheep’ – and moreover to take control of them, the course of all these activities being strictly supervised by Mr. Abraham Lee, the head of this organization in Germany. Granted, so far you might still say: ‘So what?’

The meetings were on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m., and this always was a time problem for a student living away from home and being torn between family, friends, and these new obligations on the weekends. Yes, for a reliable person, these were obligations! However, this was only the beginning of a terrible inner turmoil. Because the meetings became more and more frequent, slowly of course, but in the end daily, then several times daily, the first early in the morning at 6 a.m.!! Excuses because of exam, study, family or illness weren’t valid and interpreted in a so tremendously skillful way as having no proper faith and that Satan being at work, so that you needed to intensify your engagement even more. They tried to ‘check’ the family, whether we could be made suitable sheep as well: However, our two year younger daughter came back from such an event, where several chapters from different towns had met – being completely ignorant I had even asked her to go with them, and she also did it for the sake of her brother –, completely disconcerted and conjuring me with tears to never wanting to be confronted with that again. This was in the very early stage, so that I dismissed it as resulting from the anyway different temper of our children.

Many of all these things our son spoke about caused something like an inner objection in me. Much of it seemed to me exaggerated, one-sided, so much taken out of context without seeing the whole. I just had a bad gut feeling without really being able to put it in concrete terms. I have always let him know, always told him what I feel and think about this. However, I wanted to break nothing, seeing how seriously he was doing all these things, so I did it in a restrained, yet clear way. What worried me the most was to see that he couldn’t laugh any more, didn’t feel joy any more, showed no emotions. For me the concept of being a Christian has always been connected with a kind of calmness leading to inner joy and cheerfulness, freeing people of guilt and giving strength to tackle the things of life, so to speak as a shield against human threats. But this idea doesn't fit into the UBF concept of increasing their power! I shortly met the Korean missionary, later also his wife. The danger is increased by dismissing much of the things you don't understand by explaining it as caused by the strange Asian way and also a result of language problems, which are indeed substantial. You easily get impressed by the demonstrated ‘selflessness.’ Actually, even a feeling arises of wanting to help them. On the other hand I felt such a strong inner resistance at this encounter, even today I feel a total inner antagonism. Particularly I remember the encounter with the wife of the missionary as an event never experienced before: Afterwards I felt as if somebody had tried to subdue me with a negative suggestion, a feeling of threat, like having been put under a spell. I had to work hard on it mentally for more than three weeks in order to get rid of it. However, I had the chance to put everything into perspective, because I wasn’t exposed to her permanent influence every day. I also told my son about this outwardly not visible event, that it was difficult for me to cope with it, and that I only had the urgent wish to shut myself off thoroughly from these people and to refuse every influence. He knew these feelings from his own experiences, and through our dialog taking place anyway time to time, he has been confirmed and gained clarity about his inner feelings and his own ability to criticize.

Since our family now was considered ‘unsuitable’ as a mission target, the separation was preprogrammed. But UBF overlooked the fact that they had not been able to dispel a rest of doubt in their ‘sheep’ (which had even become a ‘shepherd’ meanwhile), partially also due to the continuing dialog with the family at home, which UBF of course would have liked to completely cut off. Nevertheless my son had already come to a point where he had adopted the typical monotonous UBF way of expression and increasingly wasn’t expressing himself in his own words any more, but mostly answering with verses from the Bible. The UBF time schedule was set up so tightly that fellowshipping with other people or in other circles outside of UBF was impossible. Furthermore, a kind of surveillance was employed, and his physical strength was dwindling. Every objection was countered in the way described above, counteracted with enormous feelings of guilt. Our son more and more rarely came home, something that we of course – suspecting nothing dangerous – attributed to a normal development and his increasing engagement in his university studies. I hardly noticed how the time passed by, even more since I was working myself. Our son, who had always been a healthy ‘Hercules,’ became more and more pale and skinny, made an almost sick impression, was completely overtired and exhausted, and ate without appetite. He poked at the most beautiful favorite food, unenthusiastically. His formerly excellent grades became worse and worse – no wonder! It is amazing that he still was able to pass everything without problems. Only today I know that UBF people hardly graduate, because they think they have a higher calling, namely evangelizing in all the world.

I am grateful to another mother from the deepest soul, who added the icing on the cake of my diffuse gut feeling and woke me up from my dozing sleep. She is the mother of a friend of my son. Because of another personal problem, she came across an article representation about UBF, this Korean organization. Reading the word ‘Korean,’ she remembered stories about a student group and my son. I have to add that my son as well as I had already unavailingly tried to somewhere obtain articles about cults and the content of their teachings, UBF themselves obstinately denying that they are a cult. After some hesitation, one day the woman called me, asking me whether she shall send this information to me. She did it. I can hardly express with words here, how with a clap of thunder my diffuse feelings suddenly assume a definite form, how this so far inconceivable now was confirmed. I could see the gruesome personality change of my son so clearly now and asked God to free him from this bondage, this error. I was only rarely seeing my son, and then always spinning around between cooking pot and washing machine, since the time of his visit was so extremely restricted. I tried to find out the actual state on the telephone in order not to clumsily destroy anything, because it was crystal clear to me that trying to help him out was like engaging in a tightrope walk. It was just as crystal clear for me that I would do my utmost to help my son. I suddenly felt like a carnivore mother defending her young against attack from the outside, releasing all available energy. I collected as much information as I could find about the whole area of cults, read for weeks and whole nights, and traveled to the student pastor of my son’s university in order to find out about possible alternatives. In order to take some of the tenseness of these things away, I imagined that I was the seeker, trying to also see it as a chance for me. Through all these efforts I was more and more reassures what needed to be done. This manipulation with the means of fear and guilt sooner or later turns every human being into a compliant instrument.

Only after I had become completely clear about all consequences, I opened myself with all knowledge and all connected feelings to my son, who still had a rest of doubt that was his rescue. He so urgently needed this impetus from outside! As he said, inwardly he had been on the leave already so often, but UBF had made it actually impossible. Here, the question arises again how this can be biblical and Christian. He then very soon underwent the corresponding talk there and was able to dissociate from UBF. He deliberated a long time about the right diplomacy in order to keep the evil as small as possible for everyone. After this, for a long time he was visited and invited again and again, and confronted again and again, despite his absolute clarification of his position. Even the gift tactics was continued for a while, as if they had not heard anything. For instance, they liked to put cooked meal in the refrigerator as a surprise, when you are coming home. Being a decent guy you don’t want to offend such ‘nice’ people, you don’t want to hurt them. You almost have to use a dose of impudence in order to escape the spider web woven again and again, and you urgently need people who are supporting you. We got such support from the cult information in Essen. Today I can say in conclusion that our son has survived this time without harm and that he has found a good alternative that is applicable in life in a quite normal Protestant church that doesn’t manipulate and doesn’t use coercion. I still could say so much about this, however I think that meanwhile sufficient informative material on UBF is available. I hereby primarily wanted to make clear how it is actually possible to get caught in such claws, and that the best prevention is good information. Based on good information, you can interpret indications much faster and better than based on bad gut feelings. And should it already have ‘happened,’ I hereby would like to encourage you insistently to use all strength to dissociate from UBF and to help doing so. It is worthwhile to be a free person again with free decision and your own conscience. It is unbiblical and surely not wanted by God that people have power over us. What else is going on in UBF?”


In the meantime, Thomas, the brother of Jutta (see above), has dissociated himself from UBF, too. He writes:

“I have experienced many beautiful things, but also terrible things that caused me to leave the UBF.

My university studies slowly but surely came close to their end, and I had to prepare for the final examinations. In this time I was faced with many changes: My best friend, with whom I could discuss almost everything confidentially, had moved to another town a while ago, so that our contact was restricted to the writing of letters. I myself lived in new surroundings for a short time only, in which I had to find connection to others at first. At this time I was missing sound social contacts, and so I was open for something new in my life. In this situation, one day two UBF members, a Korean man and a German woman, paid me a visit. Both were very friendly towards me and invited me cordially and also very firmly to study the Bible together with them. I was impressed by the obstinacy with which particularly the Korean invited me because of my initial reluctance. So I made an appointment for the Bible study together with him. I began to study John’s gospel. For this purpose, a predefined questionnaire had to be worked through in writing every time. I initially answered only the questions in writing and didn’t write the so-called personal testimonies [‘sogams’] yet. Because my ‘Bible teacher’ (or ‘shepherd’) explicitly asked me to write these statements again and again, I began to write these as well. Besides the weekly Bible study, I now attended the UBF Sunday services as well and additionally took part in a conference. Through this I got the opportunity to hear many ‘personal testimonies,’ and learned to write these testimonies myself better and better. I was impressed by the preaching of the word of God and of the faith of many students with whom I became acquainted there. I felt the desire to get to know God better and to become a disciple and follower of Jesus. I have had this wish already since around my sixteenth year of life, but until then I hadn’t got any concrete instructions regarding a life of faith. I received these instructions now to a strong extent, through which my life changed completely. I noticed how God dragged me to himself, and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. At the same time, I very strongly became depending on the security and the recognition of the others in the UBF. I was ready to correspond to the demands for self denial and obedience, and more and more cut off my old, still existing contacts. The relationship with my family became more and more strained, since I now started to divide the world into a ‘black’ (not redeemed) and a ‘white’ (redeemed) realm. I tried to keep away from the black one if possible. About one year after I had started with the Bible study, I was ‘raised as a co-worker,’ i.e., I became a ‘shepherd’ and was addressed as such, too. In UBF you are ‘raised as a co-worker,’ which means that you don’t actively decide to co-work yourself, but that one meets an expectation of the group, permanently expressed in loud spoken ‘prayers.’ The group decides when a Bible student has the spiritual maturity to become a ‘Bible teacher’ and ‘shepherd’ himself.

After I had been incorporated to the circle of co-workers, my date book became filled with UBF events more and more: Early morning prayer, invitation hour, 1:1 Bible study, meetings, group Bible study, Sunday service, staff meeting, choir rehearsal, conferences, Bible academies and much more. Of course all other things had to come short. I noticed some unusual features of the UBF: Though claiming to obey the word of God in all things, still e.g. no Holy Communion was celebrated. The concept of marriage also seemed somewhat strange to me. Everybody assumed that the leader of the group has to show your partner to you. This would mean that people in all other churches don’t marry according to Christian standards or the partners would not have found each other according to the way of God. I also thought by myself, if UBF was really such an exemplary group, you should be able to read something positive about UBF sometimes. However, I had to realize that almost only negative things were written about the group, these of course being called slanderous representations in UBF circles. The demands of my ‘shepherd’ towards me got harder and harder and many a decision taken by me independently wasn’t accepted. Sometimes I felt like in a prison and experienced a tremendously heavy mental pressure. Again and again, I then tried to seek the fault with me and blamed e.g. lacking obedience or missing self denial of my part for this. I got stronger and stronger doubts whether it really was the calling of God to remain in this group, despite all appearing difficulties. It became clear to me that I had to take a decision in accordance with my conscience in front of God. So I announced my decision that I wouldn’t co-work in UBF any longer, although I knew I would fall into a great emptiness now. After I had made my decision, some UBF co-workers tried to win me back for the group. My decision not longer to stay in the UBF was equated with a loss of the right faith in God.

In retrospect, I consider the intensive Bible study in UBF as meaningful. Even the writing of personal statements may be helpful, as long as it is done with the right motive and voluntarily. I consider raising this to a legalistic demand unfounded and extremely questionable regarding spiritual welfare. It has to be stated that the same books of the Bible are treated again and again and this is done in a very one-sided way. I consider the UBF an eccentric Christian fellowship applying practices that aren’t compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Cammans comments:

I have got exactly this same impression – as expressed in the reports by the mother of S. and also by Thomas – when I visited the Sunday service of the UBF in Cologne. Although the passages were quoted verbatim from the Bible, the interpretation and application seemed to be very controlled to me, i.e. suited to create anxious and submissive believers.

Thomas hits the nail on the head by saying that the methods of the UBF aren’t compatible with the Gospel. The young people in the service seemed to be very compliant to me, they made a well-behaved impression, sometimes showing very childlike reactions, their facial expression, their posture were similar, their clothing really conservative, giving a standardized impression. I have learned to assess the quality of a movement by also evaluating whether the individuality of the members is developed. In UBF the development of the personality of the members seemed to be restricted to me, if not even declining.

The two listed examples speak a clear language in this respect.

I myself clearly perceived the authority of the German leader, Mr. Lee. Although I behaved completely adequately to the situation of a Sunday service, simply sitting there and attentively watching the event, trying to join in the singing where possible, very modestly participating in the following Bible conversation in smaller groups, much more wanting to hear and to feel instead of saying something, and not at all something critical, he separated me after the official service and made me unmistakably understand that I was not welcome here. The reason given by Mr. Lee: I had behaved improperly, since you are not allowed to ask any questions at your first visit in a movement. He dismissed my motive of wanting to form my own opinion on the movement by the visit as being false. He didn’t enter into any conversation with me and refused the desired information (verbally and written) about UBF.

Dangers of UBF (summary)

* Persuasive – partially psychologically aggressive – recruiting;
* through one-to-one Bible study (“shepherd/sheep”-relationship) sheep can develop a dependency of UBF very easily;
* UBF’s goal of involving members radically in terms of religion, time and social relations, causes a high pressure. As a result, necessarily, e.g. the university study is neglected, the contacts to the former social environment, parents, friends are cut off or strongly reduced;
* the determination of marriage partners by UBF;
* the expectance of complete readiness to be used by UBF in other countries and towns;
* hindrance of the development of the personality;
* persons willing to leave have to reckon with being hindered to do so by mental pressure.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mother of a German UBF recruit

Translation of a report by a mother
published in the documentation service 8/1991 p. 234-237
of the German Protestant Centre for Religious and Ideological Issues (EZW)
Experiences with the University Bible Fellowship (UBF)
Personal Report by a Mother

(The »documentation service« already hat reported on UBF in detail in 1989. However, the publisher of the book »So Called Youth Cults and the Occult Wave,« pastor Joachim Keden, quoting from a series of reports by affected persons, imparted a more problematic view of this group. The report by a mother who accompanied the way of her daughter into the UBF and out of it, published in the following, will be supplemented by a statement of Pastor Keden in the informative part. The personal memoranda of the mother make clear which efforts she undertook to get information struggling in her attempt to evaluate the group and trying to help her daughter to dissociate from this fundamentalist group.)

Our daughter, a student, had got in contact with the UBF through a meeting with a friend, and she was a supporter of the UBF group in Cologne for any length of time.

I would like to introduce our daughter briefly: Having become a believer as a child, she was active in the Christian youth ministry since then. She had contact to the Protestant City Mission at home. She went to »Campus Crusade for Christ« during her studies with friends. She became acquainted with a female student on a “Crusade” summer conference. This student told her about a Korean Christian group calling itself »University Bible Fellowship / UBF.« Our daughter accepted the invitation to join the group meeting.

According to the reports I considered these Koreans as being kind people. Our daughter was enthusiastic about the hospitality experienced there, of the personal care and of the way how the Bible was read in the group. She started with a 1:1 Bible study with her friend from UBF and later with a Korean in Cologne. She was completely fascinated by her prospect of being allowed to live her Christianity in this group.

Our daughter used to report to me on both “Crusade” and later UBF. She invited me repeatedly to come for the events. But being a mother of an adult daughter I was convinced that I should let her go quite safely her own way.

Never having dealt with cults before, I only became skeptical when our daughter said: “My friend continues her studies in Cologne from now on. UBF is her church, where she wants to live completely now.” This girl lived from then on with a Korean family in Cologne who belonged to the UBF. Our daughter wanted to go to Cologne now, too.

At this time I noticed an emotional change going on in her, which showed itself by her suddenly limiting the contact to us parents, seemingly being very nervous, restless and irritated. She looked bad and only spoke about the Bible, about UBF and about the mission of the world. After her decision to move to Cologne to attend UBF, I asked her to be allowed to come along with her one time. She consented and I went on a Sunday together with her and got to know the UBF group. To my astonishment, a Korean didn’t leave my side any more on this day from morning till evening. I had the feeling to be “tailed.” It was the advantage of this “tailing” that the young man thought to have to entertain me. He told me about the stages of his life, about his task as a missionary at UBF and about his studies which are only necessary because he would get no resident permit and no job as Korean in Germany. He had completed a full vocational training in Korea. But being a missionary of UBF he could live here in the Federal Republic only as a student. He told about the marriages within the group and about his own marriage with a group member.

I have been feasted by different student family at noon and in the evening. The hospitality was overwhelming for me at first, too. I learned soon, though, that the hospitality was part of the program at UBF. They feed the guests like “children of a king.” My permanent companion also told me how the situation of the own children of one family looked like. These parents had accommodated one of her children with foster parents in Germany and one of her children in Korea with the grandmother because they had to be available for the mission at UBF. With the other family another female student lived together in the narrow, small apartment in the child’s room of this family. As far as I am informed, she still lives there today.

In connection with this I suddenly remembered a book of a woman who was a former Jehovah’s witness. She had written the book after she had left the cult to warn others and protect them from joining it.

I also went to the service of the UBF group in the Sunday afternoon and noticed that besides some young Germans only young Koreans sat around next to me. The sermon of Abraham Lee and the prayers of his helpers confused me very much. The primitive word-order and the superficial train of thought touched me strangely. I felt myself as if someone wanted to pull my leg. Besides that, the service was performed with much singing. As playing a part UBF members who were introduced as “sheep,” “prayer servants” and “shepherds” participated. The way I see it the program was aligned with a special emotional experience. After the service there were after-meetings and also a kind of continuation of the service in prayer form in little circles. The individual service participants had already made notes to themselves during the sermon. After my observation this after-meeting was merely a questioning of the thoughts the listeners had and represented an attempt to achieve an additional alignment of the individual persons to orientate the thoughts of the sermon by praise and reproaches at the desired aims of this cult. I am still convinced today that the young people present didn’t see through this skillful manipulation at all.

The personal care that UBF prospects receive by 1:1 Bible study continues in my opinion in the service so that in UBF no-one stays without address. Nobody lives anonymously in this group. You know the names of each other and address one another with the trusting informal German pronoun “Du.” I can understand that this very friendly atmosphere arouses spontaneous enthusiasm with young people who often suffer from contact poverty or find themselves having few contacts at the universities. I also think that our churches could learn something from UBF in this area.

But the observations during the service, the conversation with the Koreans, the experiences in the UBF families and the changes going on in the behaviour of our daughter made me mistrustful and promoted the thought that something couldn’t be all right at UBF.

Having arrived at home again, I tried to find interlocutors to learn something about UBF. I went to the city missionary, spoke on the phone to “Crusade” and was passed on from there to »Idea« in Wetzlar. I finally got addresses of the »Protestant Student Mission« in Marburg and some keywords which scared me up: Brainwashing, personality change, mental manipulation... I was frightened up to the innermost part. Now I called with friends and acquaintances and asked for help. I finally learned something from the “church commissioner for cults and worldview issues.” I even got the address of a former member and learned exact details on the methods of UBF. The information of the other cult representatives were also interesting. One helped me along only after repeated requests; others discouraged me. This all was very frustrating. But then, I finally received written documents, from which followed in my opinion that UBF has to be classified as a cult. After obstinate search and long telephone calls across Germany, many conversations with dear, helpful people, I finally looked through the muddle of information: For me UBF is a cult.

To me this group seems to “track” our religious youth at the universities. This young generation which is in searching age is open to all new and to many ideals. Nowadays many young people find themselves faced with for much swindle and implausibility in state and politics. Some also are resigned and have only negative thoughts with respect to their own life. These searching people are the ideal contact person for cults, which want to acquire them for their shady missions, like formerly the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” did. The dangerousness of the UBF in my opinion is an intended mutation of mind. It is achieved by a brainwashing method which is exercised by the 1:1 Bible studies, the practice of “Sogam sharing,” the writing of life testimonies and life confessions and the re-education by praise and reproaches. After my insight specific control also takes place from man to man or from woman to woman by telephone calls, letters and visits. I gather from the reports of my daughter that there are also psychologically elaborated trainings at weekends which result in an intense manipulation. This appears to me almost like an attempt to perform an intellectual and spiritual incapacitation with the participants.

I was alarmed by the in my opinion wrong assessment of UBF at many official places... I can understand that after a superficial first glance the UBF members leave a good impression of their group. But after intensive occupation with the written material which is handed out by the UBF, with the methods of this group and the reports of persons affected, a completely different picture arises.

Our daughter has found out of this group again with the help of many people (professors, doctors, boy friends, girl friends, former religion teacher, commissaries for cult problems and their documentation, city missionary, many who prayed for her and many coincidental helpers). We see God’s leadership and mercy therein. We are grateful for it.

We however see other parents, whose adult children are not finding out. These people urgently need help. It also is all about to protect other young people from the step into this group. For this reason I have written this report...

A mother

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mike E. (former Los Angeles UBF)

[From the reformubf discussion board, ca. 2001]

Mike E.:

I left UBF in September because I felt it was not a good environment to be in and I was losing my spiritual desire quickly. However, I do pray for reform, but more so I feel that since the whole foundation of UBF is built upon shepherding, the foundation is wrong and therefore you can't reform anything unless you get rid of the foundation. Therefore I am in favor of abolishing UBF and having the people move into healthy churches built upon JEsus Christ. If they want to stay involved in campus ministry they should get connected with CAmpus Crusade, Youth WIth A Mission and maybe Navigators (though I heard they are a bit controlling because they practice shepherding). I firmly believe Christians don't need shepherds, the Lord is their shepherd. Mentors or elders are good to learn from, but ultimately one's direction in life must be sought out from God through prayer otherwise one can never say they are following JEsus. That person who does not have God as their shepherd will never grow into a deep relationship with GOd. Rather, they will be legalistic, follow man and never experience the depth of a personal fellowship and guidance of Jesus Christ.

I really don't have hope in reform. I came from the Downey chapter and I know that Isaac Kim and the others who are senior shepherds will never think they are doing anything wrong because they are so set in their ways. This may seem fatalistic, but I call it realism. We must help those stuff in that cult to get into healthy churches so they can have a true relationship with God, not just drissles of fellowship with him here and there and from time to time.

A Brother in the fight for the Lord, Mike.



We don't hear much about the LA chapter. What is their attitude towards reform? Are their any American shepherds that acknowledge some of the problems and are sympathetic to reform? Thanks.

Mike E.:

Jeff and other curious readers,

Like most UBF chapters, reform is not spoken of openly. I was fearful to share my opinions with even my common life brothers. If anyone is sympathetic to reform they have not spoken because of fear. I know that one person was sympathetic towards reform, however, both he and I left the same week without even knowing the one was leaving. Now we fellowship at the same church and our lives are being led by God. I see a couple of my old common life brothers on campus and about three missionaries and they are not sympathetic towards reform. But I hang out with them and show them what it is like to have freedom to worship God and praise him through our life. I hope they all leave UBF and find healthy churches. I pray that when many leave LA UBF, Missionary Isaac and other senior missionaries and shepherds might open their eyes to see GOd is not blessing the work of UBF and they may learn to live in the freedom of Christ and serve God.

Joe Chung:

I'm sorry to be nosy, and you don't have to answer this, but are you the American Shepherd who posted the following messages? [Old postings with justifications of UBF]

If you are the same American Shepherd, what happened between August and September that made you want to leave UBF?

Mike E.:

Yes, Joe I was the American Shepherd who posted those posts. What probably happened was I was trying really hard to justify UBF because it was the first church I went to and I was there almost four years. But obviously there was a problem in my heart concerning the ministry if I was visiting this site and try to justify the ministry. Probably not that much changed in my attitude between August and September, but since I have been out for about six months my eyes have been opened up a lot and I see things way differently.

Joe Chung:

Mike, were there any particular incidents in the LA chapter that made you decide to leave? I know you wrote that it was just not a good environment. I know personally about trying hard in vain to justify UBF practices.

Mike E.:

Joe, there were several incidents that prompted me to leave and the main reason that I wrote the environment was not good was because it would be lengthy to explain the incidents. However, since you asked, I feel the time is right to examine things and share what happened exactly.

I came to UBF in the spring of 98 and was born again at the Easter Conference that year. I delievered my first message that Fall and I stayed at the Bible center over winter break for intensive Genesis common life training. Then I moved into common life permanently. I was zealous for GOd, I had two sheep who came to the service and were both born again at the Easter Conference in 99. UBF was the first church I attended besides going to Catholic church a few times, so this was how I defined Christianity and I truly felt so thankful GOd had lead me to a ministry where the people were all totally committed to JEsus (I thought other Christians were weak and worldly because they didn't teach the Bible all the time). In Spring of 2000 both the sheep that I was raising up ran away. This made me lose a lot of desire and it was hard because one of them went back to the world. I generally lost a lot of zeal at this point. I was also struggling a lot with lust and so I was very depressed as a Christian, but again UBF was all I knew and I felt that I would never leave UBF. In the summer of 2000 I went to Russia with the American journey team, and this allowed me to gain some spiritual strength because I was all excited for a while, but again I was living an unsatisfied Christian life and I was continually defeated by my sin and depressed. As you know in 2000 there was the world wide reform movement and internet sites like this one and RSQUBF went up. At the end of the year 2000 and 2001 I found out about these sites, and in curiousity I visited them. But it was hard to admit UBF was wrong and for some reason I really didn't want to admit UBF was wrong.

So now back to the original story. After that brief (or not so brief) introduction it is easier to understand that there must have been some problem in UBF land at this point. I had lost a lot of desire to do anything but out of fear I could not say that, so I went through the motions. This made me very frustrated and I was constantly wondering about UBF and my relationship with others, especially my shepherd, was very strained. I became difficult (that _expression cracks me up so I had to put it in here). My shepherd tried to train me to make me easy to guide, for he said I was heavy and stone faced all the time. I stayed at the center for training because I was sick of getting up legalistically for daily bread even though I only got four or five hours of sleep (and I slept the most of all the brothers)! During message training I was rebuked for playing basketball instead of practicing my message - that was a wise rebuke - crush the spirit of the messenger an hour before he delivers the message. This was one incident. Mostly messsage training was the time when I would have the hardest time because I would have to deal with my shepherd and he would always try to figure out what my problem was and rebuke me. Another time we had a bbq at the new house we moved into and the church was invited after the service, so we needed people to stay behund and cook, but one brother's shepherd told him he had to come to the first service, and I was mad because I knew this was not right -it was pure legalism. At the Spring Conference 2001, a new sheep came. He was Christian, and he was saying "Amen" (which is okay to say in UBF), but he was also saying "Preach on brother" and "That's right" and stuff like that. If I was delivering a message that would encourage me, but my shepherd got up and told him to be quiet three times and I almost got off the stage (I was presider) and told my shepherd that this person was a child of GOd praising GOd and he was like a Pharisee or the disciples when they stopped the little children coming to JEsus. I wanted to tell him it is better to have a millstone tied around his neck than be doing what he was doing. SO this showed me how controlling the environment was and not flexible to the worship of GOd. Everything is so set and this creates legalism and a controlling spirit. The last incident was the summer of 2001. We had a summer WEdnesday night program and the messenger was in my team of four brothers who had Bible study with my shepherd. We were the mature young brothers and we received way too honor for being as young in spirit as we were. This caused all of us to struggle with pride and competition among one another but that is just a side note to this story. The messenger didn't call my shepherd when he was preparing the message, so my shepherd's wife helped this brother finish the message at the last second. After the service two of the brothers in our four brother group bible study team had singing practice, but right after the service my shepherd pulled all of us to the back room and started to rebuke the messenger for not preparing properly and calling him. Now this guy who prepared the message worked so hard and didn't sleep much for three days, yet he was rebuked for sleeping too much and not working hard enough. So knowing this I was pretty pissed off, but I was also mad at the fact the whole choir was waiting for us because we had to be there while he was rebuking someone else. SO I asked if we could go to singing practice. He said "no" and I said "why not?" (obviously I responded with attitude because I was angered). SO since I talked back he asked what was in my mind, and I said "The word of God" and he said "no, a demon". And then he rebuked me and like always eventually I had to apologize to him (I had spoken against him when I thought he was wrong a few times, but to no avail, each time he humiliated me and made me apologize to him while not even recognizing that he was wrong in the least bit). This great and humble shepherd of mine said he never wanted to lord over anybody, but regardless of his desire that's what he did and that's what he is continuing to do. So these few events helped trigger my decision to leave along with a lot of stuff I read on this page and rsqubf. The real problem was that when I frustrated by these things, instead of coming to God I hardened my heart, and I really don't know if I should blame myself or the spiritual abuse because I was beat up pretty bad mentally and going through a lot of psychological turmoil. But I started drinking in my depression instead of going to meeting and I knew that if I didn't leave soon my Christian faith would be destroyed because I was gaining more and more desire to go back to the world and live a carefree life. SO I left UBF and it took a while before I recovered but GOd is so good. He has blessed me now. Also no one should say you have to be in top spiritual condition before you leave UBF so that you can pray and make the right decision, because that will never happen, that is just a thought of the devil to keep you in his hold and under the bondage of man in UBF. Anyhow, GOd is good, he has restored my spiritual desire and first love and I pray deeply, drink the word and want to live for JEsus. I still am quite a sinner, but GOd is helping me to overcome myself by his power not my own futile struggle the UBF way. There is so much freedom in Christ. GOd wants to give us life to full. He wants to guide our lives and bless us abundantly, but UBF does not allow GOd's Spirit to guide us and live life to the full in Christ and experience his freedom. Freedom to worship GOd. Thank GOd he lead me out of that terrible environment into a healthy pasture where I can feed on the word and drink deep of the freedom and love of JEsus. Praise GOd. This is my story of why I left UBF, Joe.

Jim S. (father of former Triton member)

NBC Channel 5 Chicago Special Report on Triton UBF 1997

(Also see

(There have been several reports on UBF by Chicago local TV stations, after parents of students complained about the spiritual abuse in UBF. Here is a short 1997 NBC Channel 5 Chicago report on Triton UBF, led by Teddy Hembekids, a loyal follower of Samuel Lee. Unfortunately we could not get any record of the more detailed report on Chicago UBF which was also broadcasted by NBC.)

Transcript of the report:

Dangerous Devotion?

Cults have earned a lurid, far-out reputation after a serious of catastrophic events, most recently the suicide deaths of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult.

But tonight one family is claiming: Religious groups don’t have to be that extreme to be dangerous.

Mark Suppelsa is here with a special report.

Mark Suppelsa: One particular religious group answers by asking tonight: “What’s so dangerous about studying the Bible?” A western [Chicago] suburban family says, they thought their son was joining a simple Bible study group he had met on the college campus. But they now angrily claim: It changed their lives.

A star athlete, his high school wrestling awards decorate the family’s basement walls. His parents won’t show you his picture, but will say, he was a loving, all-American boy, until he hooked up with one religious group.

Jim S. (father): “This is a dangerous group. What they did to my son, nobody should be allowed to do that, in the United States of America.”

Teddy Hembekides (UBF pastor): “I’m not a dangerous man, and my group is not dangerous.”

He’s Teddy Hembekides, pastor at this River Grove branch of the “University Bible Fellowship,” or UBF, the house, where Jim and Sandy S. say they have lost the son they used to know.

Jim S.: “He never came home. I mean, he did came home, but he never really came home.”

Sandy S. (mother): “He’s changed, and I just feel there’s a wall between us sometimes. There is that – that ripping away, that they did.”

On the Internet, Teddy Hembekides is listed as director of the “Triton College UBF.” In fact, the college in River Grove has no association with this group, Triton calling this “deception.” The S. [family] claim UBF deceived their son, into thinking it was a simple Bible study, when eventually it demanded total commitment.

Jim S.: “He had cut off from all of his friends, cut off from us in all respects, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.”

Hembekides says there is no deception: “My conscience – I say that I have never taught anyone to leave the family or hate the family, especially not that family.”

But the S. [family] say, their biggest problem came later, when after a few years their son finally started talking to them about leaving the group.

Jim S.: “My son says to my daughter, he says: ‘I’m thinking about leaving this group.’ And she says: ‘Well, leave.’ He says: ‘You don’t understand. You just don’t get up there and leave a group like this.’ And she says: ‘Yeah, you do, and if you’re in any church and you think something isn’t right, you just get up and you leave.’ And he says: ‘No, you don’t understand.’”

Reporter: “They are free to go?”

Hembekides: “Of course.”

Reporter: “Without any harassment on your part?”

Hembekides: “There is no harassment. Why should there be any harassment? We try our best to live by the Bible teaching, by the words of Christ Jesus and by the life style that is spelled out to us in the Bible.”

The S. [family] say, their son, now 25, left the group permanently in December of 1995, saying one sign his involvement changed their relations: He now lives with his grandparents. Their son refused our request for an interview.