Friday, July 20, 2007

Donna A. (former Cincinnati UBF)

Testimony of Donna A.

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[This testimony was written in September 2003 by Donna A., former member of Cincinnati UBF from 1987 to 1989. It was written mainly as an answer to a discussion in May 2002 on the discussion forum of RSQUBF.]

I am not a frequent visitor of this forum, but it was brought to my attention that I was referred to in a few different messages in this forum, so I decided to go ahead and explain some of the events that immediately led up to my decision to leave UBF almost 15 years ago. With this in mind I guess this message is actually a response to a couple of archived messages posted on the RSQUBF discussion forum.

In 1991, Samuel Lee supposedly referred to me in a UBF newsletter [1991 UBF News] as the “brainwashed vegetable woman.” I was UBF “married” to Chris K. back in January 1989 and decided to leave UBF shortly thereafter when I realized how horribly corrupt UBF was and how scriptures were being twisted. Since Samuel Lee chose to discuss my situation in a public forum, and since Chris Kelly chooses to continue to refer to me in his testimony on the UBF website and supposedly in his “sogams” in UBF meetings (and many people know who he UBF married back in 1989 and therefore I am not exactly anonymous), I will use this public forum to address these issues and to discuss what really happened in my exiting UBF.

Samuel Lee apparently referred to me as the “brainwashed vegetable woman” after my parents decided to take drastic and desperate action to show me the “other side of the story”, the side of the story that nobody in UBF would admit to or otherwise was unaware of (which was the situation in my case). My family eventually decided to take me involuntarily (at least initially) to a family member’s house (not a deprogramming center – which is what UBFers insist exist but does not) to discuss issues that they felt were of a serious nature. My family was concerned because they saw that psychological abuse was insidious in this group. They believed that I was being coerced and unduly influenced into doing things that I would not normally do. I won’t go into the details of such for brevity’s sake. They took these drastic and desperate measures only after numerous attempts at calmly talking to me about what their concerns were. Because of the UBF mindset that I was in at the time, I would not even listen to, much less consider such concerns. The reason for this had to do with the mind control techniques that were and still seem to be utilized to keep people in UBF. Through UBF teachings, one comes to believe that people outside of UBF are less than spiritual and anyone who questions what is going on in UBF are enemies of God. What is sad about that situation is the fact that my family had to take such drastic measures in the first place. My parents were also Christians.

I won’t go into a lot of details of the numerous events that led up to me “marrying” Chris K., but I will give a few. In our situation (and I suspect in most “marriage my faith” arrangements) there was a lot of deceptive, behind-the-scenes discussions going on amongst the leaders that I wasn’t aware of and I suspect that Chris wasn’t aware of. I’m sure that there was a lot more discussions amongst leaders that I was never made aware of. Hind sight is 20-20 as they say. I can see now what I couldn’t see then how the whole situation was orchestrated for me marrying someone from Chicago. At that time there was a big push by Samuel Lee for “shepherdesses” from other chapters in other cities to marry “shepherds” from Chicago (which was also the cause of much division amongst the chapters who did not want to send all of their women to Chicago. I might add that I was totally unaware of Samuel Lee’s push for this, and I was totally unaware of the divisions that were taking place at that time). Now I can see how they prepped me and primed me to go to Chicago all along, without me realizing what was happening. At the time I saw it as an honor to be re-named “Sarah” by Cincinnati’s leader (and Samuel Lee?). But now I see how them changing my name to “Sarah” was so that I would imitate (according to UBF’s twisted application of scripture in Genesis) Abraham and Sarah leaving their people and their father’s household and going to the land that was shown them. It was a deceptive means of getting me to be more agreeable to the idea of leaving Cincinnati to marry someone that I did not know and go to Chicago.

I was quite nervous about marrying someone that I had only met on 3 separate occasions. Obviously when my parents discovered this they were more than nervous. This was one more change in me that they had become increasingly concerned about. My parents desperately wanted to talk to me about the dire concerns that they had about the changes that they saw in me (not the kind of changes that one sees when one accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, but personality changes that had gradually taken place over a period of time, and they saw the dangers of me turning over my decision making or entrusting others with very important life decisions such as marriage to those who did not necessarily have my best interests at heart). My parents were serious about talking to me about their concerns to the point of hiring an expert in cults to talk to me about what cults are and how they operated. As they wouldn’t force me to stay and listen to this person my family let me go the same day that they had this person talk to me. It was at this point that the UBF leaders (the leader in Cincinnati and Samuel Lee) decided that I needed to be married immediately as they saw that me being married would be a deterrent in my parents trying to talk to me. Since the leaders didn’t want them talking to me again for fear of what might happen (I might then decide to leave as a result of what I heard), the immediate push for my marriage began. I was told by the leader in Cincinnati that “You can’t live like this (with my parents trying to take me away to tell me what their concerns were and about what they discovered about UBF), you would have to commit suicide to rid yourself of continually looking over your shoulder to get away from your parents and the ‘deprogrammers’!” The leader in Cincinnati also said “You know, I didn’t want to marry (my wife), but I just trusted God with my marriage.” What is interesting about this statement is that less than 24 hours later he restated this by saying, “You know, I didn’t want to marry (my wife), but I just trusted Samuel Lee with my marriage.” I didn’t see the precarious switching of words at the time, substituting Samuel Lee’s name for God. I just decided that I was going to trust “God’s servants” with my marriage. (But later I saw how an arranged marriage was a way for Samuel Lee to gain more control over me.) But it was this statement, and under enormous pressure and deception that sent me down a most regrettable path. I went to Chicago in a hurry, met with Sara Barry for several hours in which I was told about what happens to people once they become deprogrammed (I was told that they become “vegetables” and the deprogrammers would inject one with drugs etc). I was told of a story of a Moonie who was deprogrammed and he then turned into a “vegetable” and then committed suicide after he decided to leave the Moonies. (I heard the other side of this particular story after I left, and in reality this story did not happen the way that it was related to me by the leaders in UBF). So naturally I was scared to death of “deprogrammers.” None of what was told to me by the UBF leaders about “deprogramming” was true (I’ll mention that later). Under the pressure, I underwent a UBF arranged marriage within two days after arriving in Chicago. After I left UBF, I discovered that our situation that involved a “shotgun” style wedding was really not the first time that this had happened in UBF when parents became concerned about the inevitability of an arranged marriage. It’s a shame that something as sacred as marriage would be treated with no regard to the individuals and the families concerned. There is no room for a man and a woman to discern and decide for themselves according to what they believe is God’s will for them in terms of who they should marry and when it should take place. Instead, one is to just trust the self-proclaimed “servants of God” with one’s marriage. This kind of insidious deception and manipulation that takes place in UBF marriages is not unusual according to the countless stories of others who have told me of similar situations that they have went through. One is to trust “God’s servants” in UBF with their marriage, but yet nowhere in scripture does it even remotely appear that God is associated with deception and manipulation. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

There were a lot of illegal practices that were done regarding our “marriage.” At the time in the state of Illinois, one had to have HIV testing with results before the ceremony. The couple then was to take the (hopefully) negative blood tests to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license. Our blood tests were done by a UBF doctor 2 days after the ceremony and the UBF doctor gave us a piece of paper to take to the courthouse to apply for the marriage license that said our results were negative before the test results even came back from the lab! Everything about the ceremony was put together by the leaders. Do I have to mention that my family was not present for the wedding nor was Chris’s?

We went to Boston for a “honeymoon” in the middle of a freezing winter because a UBF chapter was there. After the honeymoon we went to Cincinnati to empty out my apartment. I went to my job site to smooth things over (after having been AWOL due to the shotgun wedding – I normally am not one to be AWOL from my job). My family decided to take me away forcibly as I was leaving my job site. Chris was with me at the time. This is the ordeal that Samuel Lee grossly misrepresents in his report that is sited in an earlier message posted on this bulletin board. It is written that in Samuel Lee’s report in the UBF newsletter 1991, on page 12 he writes:

“... One time, in broad daylight, deprogrammers kidnapped Chris Kelly’s wife while the newlyweds were enjoying their honeymoon. They pinned Chris Kelly to the wall and took his wife away. After a month, they tried to seduce Chris Kelly to come to his wife and sleep and talk, maybe to argue about religion. Their strategy was that if Chris came, they wanted to imprison him in a deprogramming center and brainwash him and make him a vegetable man. Chris knew that. So he didn’t go. He didn’t argue with the brainwashed vegetable woman. ...”

These are very interesting statements coming from a man that I never seen or heard from again after the UBF wedding. Let me clear up this story that was turned upside down by Samuel Lee. First of all it was not “deprogrammers”, it was my family who took me away due to the concerns that were mentioned earlier. Next, Chris was never pinned to a wall. My cousin who was smaller than Chris K. simply blocked Chris’s path so that he would not be able to get to me and my brother who was taking me away. Chris was never ever pinned or touched. “Deprogrammers” did not try to seduce Chris K. to come to sleep with me and talk or to argue about religion. Two former members who were not “deprogrammers,” came with me to the apartment in Chicago to help me gather my things and to help me take back my car that Chris had been driving for a month (these former members did not try to seduce Chris to come to sleep with me and talk or to argue about religion either). I and these two other former members did not have any plan to imprison Chris or take him to a “deprogramming center” (which doesn’t exist). When Chris and another UBF member who was there saw that I had arrived at the apartment with two former members, the other member went and got Sara Barry to come to the apartment immediately. Chris would certainly not have a discussion alone with me, I suppose due to his fears that perhaps he would become a “brainwashed vegetable” as was promised to me by Sara Barry if I ever came in contact with a “deprogrammer” prior to our wedding. It was then that I and the other two former members had a short discussion about our concerns with UBF with Sara Barry (the other two didn’t stick around). When reading the above passage that Samuel Lee supposedly wrote back in 1991, it becomes apparent that Samuel Lee was using the same scare tactic on Chris and the other readers of his statement that was used on me immediately before our UBF wedding.

Again, it was a sad state of affairs that my family had to take such drastic measures. Even though I do not condone or recommend taking people away involuntarily, for me, in my particular situation, I’m glad that my family took the measures that they did. They really took tremendous risks and made some really tough decisions out of their love, care, and concern for my welfare. It was the lesser of two “evils” so to speak. Maybe some people wonder, “well she was taken away against her will, isn’t that like brainwashing?” (Samuel Lee obviously tried to use that argument). Yes, it’s true that I was taken away against my will for a few days. But during that time I was encouraged to think on my own. If one wonders what was discussed during that intervention, there was nothing mysterious about it. Much of what was discussed is material that is similar to what is being discussed on this website. Biblical errors were discussed.

If the readers of this are familiar with the elements of a mind control environment, these are things that were not present during the intervention that would have been present if it would have been a mind control environment: I was not coerced or even strongly encouraged to engage in the kind of confessions like sogams where one is to bare one’s soul only to have that information used against one such as when they decide to leave (confessions which are totally different in nature to the kind of confessions that are seen in many mainstream churches). I was not taught or led to believe that the intervention specialists were God’s mouthpieces or were God’s servants and I should entrust them with my life and make decisions for me. I was not taught or led to believe that they were “elite” or on the cutting edge of Christianity and therefore I should follow with them so as to not be a “class B” Christian. I was not led into a “black and white” mindset that makes the sweeping statements that other Christians or other outsiders were humanistic, hedonistic, luke-warm, satanic etc etc. so as to not want to hear what outsiders had to say. I was encouraged to think and was not criticized for using my God-given “human thinking.” I was encouraged to “test the spirits.” In fact I was encouraged to question the intervention specialists. They asked me not to take their word but to research what they were saying by going out and finding my own materials on the subject matter. What they were telling me was not expected to be revered as though it were a “sacred science” above all other viewpoints or questioning or reasoning. As a result of what the intervention specialists had to say, I didn’t find myself wanting to cut off all of my outside relationships. I was certainly not injected with anything or drugged. I was not tied down. I was not deprived of protein or of healthy food as I was told would happen by the UBF leaders if I ever met up with “deprogrammers.” Their goal was not even for me to leave UBF if I wanted to stay. Their goal was simply to provide all of the information, to give me both sides of the story which most people do not have due to the deceptive nature of the organization as a whole. From there, it was my decision as to whether or not I wanted to remain in UBF or to leave. After hearing all of the information, and after researching it on my own, I made a decision that I didn’t want to be a part of that organization anymore. I did not find that the intervention specialists were using mind control tactics that were described by Robert Jay Lifton in his book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism,” or any of the other experts on cults and mind control such as Edward Schein or Margaret Singer other than perhaps me being physically isolated during the intervention. Robert Lifton and other mind control experts state that all elements/criteria of mind control have to be present in order for mind control to be present in a group. One element is not sufficient to bring about such control. I found all eight of the mind control elements that Robert Jay Lifton discusses were present in UBF however. All of this happened nearly 15 years ago. There are no intervention specialists around now, and I still believe what I discovered about UBF 15 years ago; that they were, and seemingly still are, an organization that uses deceptive practices to recruit individuals and use mind control techniques to keep people in the group.

When I left the intervention that only lasted a few days (not a month as the UBF leaders say, and some of those days were voluntary), I received voluntary counseling to deal with the aftermath of cult abuse. I was encouraged to make my own tough decisions. I wanted to talk with Chris K. about what I discovered about UBF, and I had numerous discussions with him on the phone. Chris would not agree to even meet with me alone in person ( in a neutral environment) after he learned that I wasn’t coming back to UBF. He would get angry when I would try to discuss what I learned. I told him over and over again that I was still a Christian and that Christ was my Lord and Savior even though I decided to leave UBF. Chris to this day apparently does not believe that I still have faith in God. At the time of the posting of this message, Chris K. states on the UBF website in his testimony that the “deprogrammers destroyed her young faith.” He states this despite me telling him that was not the case. The only other alternative is that he could be saying that my faith in Samuel Lee was broken, which I doubt if he is saying that (that however, was the case).

It is written that Chris referred to me later in a sogam “She wasn’t that pretty anyway.” If this is the case, I never dreamed when I was in UBF that I would be talked about like this by Samuel Lee or Chris. I was warned by people who had left UBF that my character might be slandered or assassinated. When I was warned of the possibility of this happening I was still skeptical thinking “No, they won’t do this to me, after all I studied the Bible with these people.” Obviously I was wrong. No one ever leaves UBF for a good reason in the eyes of the members or leaders. So the only way they know how to explain why anyone would leave is to insult and slander those that leave. Perhaps Chris K. expressed his true feelings when he allegedly said “She wasn’t that pretty anyway” in a sogam just a couple of years ago. If that was the case, then my question is why did he go along with the marriage? After all, who marries someone they aren’t attracted to? My guess is that in reality, deep down he probably felt the same way that I did. My guess is that he was coerced the way that I was. When one is involved in a UBF arranged marriage, one does not really marry a person. One marries an organization. UBF. Many people never really know what their UBF husband or wife actually felt or thought about marrying them, or even the timing. Only the leaders really know. There oftentimes is very little communication between those getting married, as was the case with us. The leaders maintain control that way and that comes in really handy when the leadership attempts to keep one person in UBF when the other person has left UBF. Unfortunately, I was totally unaware of this when I was first approached with what they referred to as “marriage by faith.” I was deceived. Isn’t it the very nature of deception to not know that you are being deceived at the very moment it is happening? When a problem comes about when one person no longer wants to be a part of UBF and the other one still does, one can see how the marriage could eventually topple on the shaky foundation that it was built on. Since control on the part of the UBF leadership exists in who and when a person marries, one can expect that UBF leadership control would be present in the UBF marriage relationships.

Chris K. eventually filed for divorce after I made a motion for annulment. I counter-filed for annulment. For him to agree to an annulment would be for him to admit all of the illegal activities that took place. The judge in Cooke County who presided declared the marriage legally annulled due to the illegal nature of the wedding (someone in UBF also forged my signature on the marriage license that we had not turned in to the courthouse prior to us going on the honeymoon due to the rush and pressure we were under to get married, it was only sometime later that I became aware that someone from UBF turned in a marriage license to the courthouse, I guess they wanted the marriage to look as legitimate as possible, despite the fact that it wasn’t). Also, under Illinois law, grounds for annulment exist if the marriage was done under duress or coercion, which was the case in my situation. Marriage annulment basically means that the marriage was never considered legitimate in the first place.

The events described above took place nearly 15 years ago at this point. I am not bitter at those who remain in UBF. I see most of the people as victims of Samuel Lee including Chris K. and the majority of the leaders themselves even though they cannot see it due to the deception and manipulation. Even though Samuel Lee is since deceased, it seems as though the current leaders are carrying out the same methods of control that they were taught. I find it heartbreaking that so many people apparently have gone through what Chris K. and I went through in UBF. I consider myself lucky that my family saw to it that I was given an opportunity to hear the other side of the story before any more abuse was hurled my way. I am thankful that I received a second chance before spending any more time in UBF. I hope that someday that Chris K. sees that it was never me or my family who was the cause of hurt or harm. Rather, it was Samuel Lee who used Chris and I as pawns to boost his own feelings of power and control. My hope and prayer is that there can one day be healing and reconciliation between all of those involved in the countless stories of hurt and heartache that has taken place as a result of the unchecked authority of the leadership of UBF.