Comedian Esther Ku, known for her appearances on shows like MTV’s “Girl Code,” “Last Comic Standing,” and “The Jack and Triumph Show,” has embarked on an extraordinary journey through her 43-part TikTok series titled “I Grew Up In A Cult.” In this captivating series, Esther Ku takes her viewers on a rollercoaster ride through her childhood within the evangelical Christian church known as the University Bible Fellowship (UBF).
With humor as her ally, she exposes the behind the scenes of a Korean evangelical ministry that targets American college students.
Esther Ku’s parents were missionaries from South Korea, who brought their devout faith and fervor for evangelism to North America. In the working class town of River Grove, Illinois, they pioneered the UBF chapter at Triton Community College.
This set the stage for Ku’s unusual upbringing within UBF. A Korean missionary named Samuel Lee and an American missionary named Sarah Berry from Mississippi started UBF in the seventies. Together they brought their version of the gospel to Chicago because they thought Americans had become too materialistic.
@estherkuku UBF changed your name if it wasn’t in the Bible. #churchgirl #msu #lakegeneva #signsofacult #youreinacult ♬ Paris – 斌杨Remix
The Bizarre World of UBF
The heart of Esther Ku’s Tik Tok series lies in her depiction of the strange practices within the University Bible Fellowship. The cult used love-bombing techniques to draw in recruits, a tactic that involved overwhelming newcomers with affection and attention to create a sense of belonging. Esther shares anecdotes about the extent to which members went to make newcomers feel cherished and special.
The cult’s isolation techniques are another key aspect of her narrative. Members were encouraged to cut ties with friends and family outside the group, leaving them trapped within a tightly controlled environment. Esther’s humorous yet poignant storytelling brings these extraordinary circumstances to life.
Weddings on October 8th with Popeye’s Meals
One of the most peculiar elements of Esther Ku’s story is the recurring theme of arranged marriages within UBF. On October 8th, the birthday of the cult’s leader, Samuel Lee, multiple couples would get married, resulting in everyone sharing the same wedding anniversary.
As a cherry on top, the wedding receptions would consistently feature Popeye’s meals, adding an absurd twist to the cult’s traditions. Ku recounts how she was groomed for an arranged marriage by constantly serving others. Couples were often given a week’s notice of whom they would marry.
Escaping the Cult at Seventeen
@estherkuku When missionary work usurps common sense. #lunchmoney #nightmareonelmstreet #thieves #housechurch #missionarykid ♬ original sound – Esther Ku
Esther Ku’s life takes a dramatic turn as she recounts her escape from the cult at the age of seventeen. Thanks to her involvement in band at school, she was able to discern that her classmates were not evil like the cult told her they were.
Her courage and determination to break free marked the beginning of her journey toward personal freedom and self-discovery, eventually leading her to a career in comedy.
A Million Views and Counting
Ku’s viral Tik Tok series, “I Grew Up In A Cult,” has captivated over a million viewers and continues to draw attention from a growing audience.
Her posts are filled with photographs and visuals that offer viewers a glimpse into the world of UBF, complete with its customs and rituals.
@estherkuku Be careful who’s invitation you accept for a weekend getaway. #easterweekend #font #koreangirl #baitandswitch #wisconsin ♬ Paris – 斌杨Remix
Cult Lingo and Requirements
As part of the UBF community, Esther Ku humorously discusses the cult’s unique lingo, where Bible teachers are referred to as “Shepherds” and “Shepherdesses,” while Bible students are blatantly called “sheep” to their faces.
Her stories detail the peculiar tasks she had to perform, from dances to music to cleaning the infamous red Berber carpet, all as part of her volunteer work as a missionary kid.
Esther Ku’s TikTok series, “I Grew Up In A Cult,” is a unique blend of humor and vulnerable moments. Through her storytelling, she not only entertains but also educates, shedding light on the dangers of cult involvement and offering crucial insights into how to protect oneself from the allure of such groups.
Her use of humor to recount her bizarre childhood in UBF has resonated with many viewers, who have expressed their fascination and amusement, likening it to a Netflix documentary.
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