Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Jim S. (father of former Triton member)

NBC Channel 5 Chicago Special Report on Triton UBF 1997

(Also see http://mysite.verizon.net/vzep458t/ubfinfo/nbc5triton1997.en.htm.)

(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.