Revive Our Hearts Radio

Plans to Give You Hope and a Future

Leslie Basham: Christopher Yuan visited the nurse at the prison where he was incarcerated. The nurse wrote down, “Bad news,” on a slip of paper and slid it to him.

Christopher Yuan: I saw three letters and a symbol, and it read, “HIV+.”

Leslie: Today we’ll hear about those three letters and a symbol that so greatly affected Christopher’s life.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, September 3, 2015.

If you’re with young children, you’ll want to know that today’s program deals with mature themes. As we return to the conversation, here’s something to listen for: The piano playing and vocals you hear in the background were recorded by our guest, Christopher Yuan.

Here’s Nancy continuing the series, Out of a Far Country.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, if you’ve been with us over the last several days, I know that you’ve been really touched by the story of Angela Yuan and her son, Christopher, who’ve co-authored a book telling just a very touching story. It’s a story of God and His grace. It’s called, Out of a Far Country.

It’s really the story of two prodigals, we’ve been saying. A prodigal mom (three for that matter—prodigal dad, who came to faith in this journey as well), and then Christopher. For those who haven’t been with us, I'm just catching up a little bit. Christopher had been actively involved for a number of years in a lifestyle of drugs, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality—very, very far from the Lord.

But God had been getting his mother’s attention. Angela, you’ve shared that story with us over the past several days. It brought you to faith, and it brought your husband to faith, it had been restoring your marriage that had been hopelessly broken. It had been changing you, while you’d been praying for God to change your son. Now, after years of waiting, God was starting to change your son’s heart and draw him home.

You’ve told this story in this book, Out of a Far Country. The subtitle is: “A Gay Son’s Journey to God, and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.” And, boy, thank you for writing this. I know it’s got to be hard to retell some of this and to rethink back over some of the details of a Christless life, but I love the way you put the spotlight on the grace of God. I love the way that His hope shines through your hopelessness at different parts of this journey.

So, Angela and Christopher, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing with our listeners.

Christopher: Thanks for having us.

Angela Yuan: Yes, Nancy, thank you.

Nancy: I know there are a lot of moms and grandmoms and dads and maybe some sons and daughters who want to get a hold of this book. You can get it through our resource center. Just give us a call. Make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts so that this ministry and continue to reach others.

And I know, Angela, you and your husband have listened to the program over the years, have been impacted by it. You have been partners financially with our ministry. Thank you so much. And so, because of your giving and your prayers and your heart, we’re able to air programs like this.

So I know others would like to give. When you do, we’ll send you a copy of Christopher and Angela’s book. Just ask for it when you give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. We’ll give you that number again at the end of the program. You can also go online to ReviveOurHearts.com, and we’ve got some pictures that you can’t see over the radio broadcast, but, that are documenting parts of this story that are so precious. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, some of those pictures are worth thousands of words in telling of God’s redeeming grace. [See yesterday's transcript to view the pictures.]

Now, when we left off at the end of the last program, Angela, you’d been praying fervently for years. Christopher, you were not at all responsive, but then God got your attention. You landed in jail, landed in prison ultimately with a six-year sentence related to the drug charges—and, actually, it could have been a lot worse than that, couldn’t it have?

Christopher: Yes, yes.

Nancy: But then I love this providence of God how you came across a Gideon New Testament at the top of a garbage can piled high with garbage in the Atlanta . . .

Christopher: City Detention Center.

Nancy: So in the jail you started to . . . you were just being drawn . . . I think maybe it was because you were bored, too. You were looking for things to do. You didn’t have the high life anymore.

Christopher: No.

Nancy: And you read through the Gospel of Mark. You started reading and seeking the Lord, and He was seeking you. You were now on this journey to God bringing your heart home to Christ and ultimately to your family.

But you were also going through this trial.

Christopher: Yes.

Nancy: Getting this prison sentence, and, God’s drawing you, but the circumstances are pretty bleak, and can it get any worse? And then comes this moment when you find it can get worse.

Christopher: Yes, and that’s often the case. Sometimes we see God working and sometimes things get worse before they get better. And that was the case here.

I was reading Scripture and finding just this new life within me that was coming through, and yet really convicted of my rebellion against God, against my parents, against the government.

Nancy: Can I say even that is the work of God’s Spirit, because in the last program you were telling us you thought you were fine. You wondered what you were doing in prison with those criminals.

Christopher: I was able to justify drug dealing, doing promiscuity. I was able to justify all of that. And so you’re right, it was really . . .

Nancy: . . . the conviction of God’s Spirit.

Christopher: Yes, conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me that I was rebelling against God.

Nancy: And the power of the Word in opening your eyes. I think it’s just amazing as I think about both of you how God used the Scripture to bring you to faith. It wasn’t any great plan or speaker.

Christopher: Yes. Often people would ask, “Who brought you to faith? Who shared the gospel with you? What ministry was it? Was it a prison ministry?” They were asking my mother. It’s the thread that goes through our lives and our journey of faith, of faith to God. It was the Word of God. It was the Bible. It was Scripture.

The effectiveness of any ministry, the effectiveness of any method of evangelism is not how good it sounds or how well the administration is. It’s the power of the gospel. It’s the Word of God.

Because I was in and out of different jails and prisons, I don’t think I was able to really delve deep into any of the ministries that were present there—the prison ministries and the people coming in, the volunteers. The only thing that was constant throughout my time in jail was the Word of God. Throughout everywhere I went, even though I couldn’t bring anything with me, even though I couldn’t even bring the clothes on my back with me, shoes, nothing; everywhere I went, there I could at least find a Bible from the chaplain.

So I was reading Scripture, and it just was convicting me. I was finding that things were looking more and more bleak because I was a sinner, and I did not think I was a sinner before.

Well, things did get worse. One day about two weeks into my time in jail, I was called into the nurse’s office. They always do a health check when they bring people into jail. They called me in by myself, and I knew that that was not the norm. Usually when they go do a nurse call or bring people to the hospital, it’s always a group of people together, to save time. But I knew something was up when they just called me.

They handcuffed me, brought me to the hospital, and I sat there in the nurse’s office. I just knew something was not right because she was just nervous. She was almost sweating, and didn’t know what to say. She actually couldn’t even tell me, and she wrote something on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk to me.

I looked down at this piece of paper, and I saw three letters and a symbol, and it read “HIV+.”

So I went back to my cell, was taken back to the cell block, just devastated.

Nancy: Had you ever before thought that you might have HIV?

Christopher: Well, the funny thing, I think before, while I was high and living the high life, I think maybe I was, could have been exposed to it. I even had a partner who had been HIV Positive, but he didn’t tell me. But the interesting thing is how the enemy can take something so destructive and make it look almost good. I thought, Well, I now am in the inner circle. It sometimes can be viewed as a badge of honor.

In many countries outside the Western World, there’s a large stigma around being HIV Positive. But there’s almost a sense in the male gay community, there’s a reverse stigma that it’s a badge of honor. You’re kind of in the inner circle. There are even groups of people that are looking purposely to get infected. So I didn’t see it as a bad thing.

But now in jail, having had about two weeks of being sober where I could think clearly, and getting this news, it was reality really hitting me like a ton of bricks.

So I went back to the cell blocks. I knew I could not share this with anyone there. I called home. The phone is in the middle of the cell block with people, men, standing behind me to use the phone. I told my mother, and I couldn’t shed a tear. On the other line, my mother was trying, I think she was trying to stay strong, but I knew that it was really difficult for her to hear that her son was HIV Positive.

Nancy: So, Angela, you get this call. You’ve been praying, “Lord, do whatever it takes . . .”

Angela: But not that.

Nancy: But not that.

Angela: That was always something I was afraid Christopher might have one day, and now . . . So when I got the news, I thought I was in a nightmare. I was hoping when I woke up it wouldn't be real, that it wasn't true.

When Christopher got his sentence, it was six years. I didn’t feel that was so bad because I thought, God is working in him. Whatever it takes, even for him in jail. But when I received the news of Christopher’s HIV status, that was like a death sentence. It couldn't be worse. I heard of the terrible, terrible, situation when someone dies from HIV. We didn't know if he’s going to be alive, if he can get out of prison alive. We didn’t know how many days, how many months he will live, and the pain when he would go through that period of AIDS.

Nancy: So this is all flashing in front of your mind.

Angela: Yes. These were all the pictures flashing in my mind. Then suddenly, in my mind, music starts playing the song, “It Is Well with My Soul.” I remember walking into my prayer closet and I knelt down. I had a towel under the tile to wipe my tears when I cry out to the Lord, and I would stop crying. So I would wipe all my tears, and I would picture Jesus holding a jar to catch my tears.

And the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.” That was in the middle of the night, and it just keep playing, it just keep playing. And I said, “Yes, Jesus, it is well with my soul.”

Christopher singing:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows role;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
"It is well; it is well with my soul."

It is well, with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Nancy: It’s just an amazing thing to think how, in the midst of such dark, painful, unexplainable, seemingly hopeless circumstances, it really can be well with our souls because we have Christ.

Angela: Yes.

Nancy: And as long as we have Him, there is hope. Even if the circumstances do not have a happy ending here on earth, we know there is hope for us beyond this life. And that hope God was giving you in the midst of those circumstances, Angela. He was also in the process of bringing you, Christopher.

You were in this journey of seeking the Lord, and He was seeking you when you weren’t seeking Him. Now you’re reeling from this news that you’re HIV Positive, what happens next?

Christopher: Well, I received a sentence of six years. Certainly, I was facing ten years to life. I was moved from the jail then and was on my way to prison where I would start doing my time, those six years. Before they do that, you’re in this transition place, sort of a holding cell, waiting for the bus or plane to arrive to get on the plane. I was put into a brand new cell. I laid down there; there was no one else in the cell. They hold you there. You’re locked down 24/7. They’re supposed to let you out for an hour, but most of the time you’re in the cell for twenty-four hours.

They moved me to this cell. I just plopped myself down in this cell, just devastated, just having received this news that I was sentenced to six years, and then having received news that I was HIV Positive. I laid down and looked at the metal bunk above me. There’s just graffiti and vulgarity, gang signs, and amid all of that, I saw something scribbled. It read, “If you’re bored, read Jeremiah 29:11.”

Nancy, I had no idea what Jeremiah 29:11 was. I was just coming to the Lord. I just had that New Testament Gideon’s Bible. It had Psalms. I thought this was a Bible verse, so I get up. I just looked across in the cell—this brand new cell—and there was just a small locker.

I opened it up. I saw plates and just trash and cups and stuff. I just kind of pilfered through it, and I saw a book in the back. It was a Bible—not just the New Testament, but the whole Bible.

I pulled it out. I had to go to the Table of Contents to find where Jeremiah was. I opened it up and I read: "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (NIV).

It goes on to say how God would call you back from where He has put you into exile. It could have been any verse that whoever had scribbled up on that metal bunk, any verse in the whole Bible. Yet God knew that of all the verses at my most hopeless moment I needed to hear, it was that. He used those words to tell me that, “I still have a plan for you. No matter what you’ve done in the past, no matter where you’ve gone, no matter who you think you are, I have a plan for you.”

That’s what I needed to hear at that moment because I had no hope, no future, and yet God said I had a hope and a future. Even though that’s what I needed to hear, I still had no clue what that meant, no clue what that future was going to be.

So I just clung to that promise, clung to that faith, having no clue what that meant, but I believe at that moment, God gave me all I needed to have to get through that one moment, that one day. Then the next morning He gave me enough strength to get me through that next day.

Nancy:

Christopher: Well, I did. I think, just as Chuck Colson says, he thanks God for jail and prison. I thank God for jail and prison. I needed that, to be taken out of the world. I see that as my retreat . . . as my mom had her retreat for six weeks, my prison time was mine.

Nancy: Yours was a little longer.

Christopher: I think the reason mine was three years was because I’m so hard-headed. It took longer for God to get through to me. But it was so amazing because I didn’t have to worry about cooking. I didn’t have to worry about paying bills. I didn’t have to worry about a job. I had all this time on my hands to read through the Word of God. And it was really just amazing.

God was showing me the idols that I had in my life—so clearly. Where God says, “You shall have no idols in your life,” I thought, “Well, what are my idols?” And it was so obvious immediately—well, drugs. That’s my idol. That was my idol, as I was addicted to it. I did it every day. And yet amazingly, over some time, that hold that drugs had on my life was gone.

Nancy: But interestingly, it didn’t happen overnight. It seems like it was a more gradual transformation over a period of, like, months?

Christopher: I would even say maybe over a year or year-and-a-half. It was very gradual. I think we all have different transformations. My mother’s was just instantaneous, almost at one moment in May 1993, my mother was 180 degrees turned. But for me, it was very gradual. It took time for me to know God first, to know what He’s done, who He is, know His character, and then know me, know how I needed a Savior and the idols in my life. And that took a long time.

I think that last stronghold, for me, was my sexuality.

Nancy: And that was an even longer process and journey that God took you through. And I want to have time for you to share how the Scripture and the Lord and the power of God began to change your thinking about sexuality. We can’t do that on today’s program, so I want to ask if you and your mom would come back for one more program, and hear (it’s not the end of the story because the story’s still being written in both of your lives and in mine as well) but there’s another chapter here about God’s deliverance in terms of your sexuality, but also your restoration to your family.

So I hope our listeners will be back with us for the next edition of Revive Our Hearts. Let me just encourage you again to get a copy of the book that Angela and Christopher have co-authored. It’s called, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.

I know you’ve been touched by listening to this story, and that you’ll want to read more about it in their book. But you may also want to get a copy of this book to share with a friend. I have—with a friend who is dealing with a prodigal child, a child involved in the gay lifestyle, or some other lifestyle, but they’re far from God. We’ll be glad to send you a copy of Angela’s and Christopher’s story, Out of a Far Country.

If you contact our ministry, give us a call or visit us online, and make a donation of any amount to support this ministry, and we’ll send you this book as a way of saying, “Thank you,” for your partnership in this ministry.

The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can find some of the pictures there that are associated with this testimony that we’ve been hearing this week—just beautiful, priceless pictures [see yesterday's transcript for pictures].

You can also make a donation, you can get a copy of this book, you can print out copies of the transcript to pass on to others, or email it to others who may need the hope in their situation that we’ve been hearing about from Angela and Christopher.

Be sure to join us again on the next Revive Our Hearts as we continue to hear from Angela Yuan and Christopher Yuan.

Leslie: Tomorrow we come to the point where Christopher has a big revelation.

Christopher: As I was reading Scripture, I realized I had put my identity in the wrong thing. My identity is not gay, it is not homosexuality, it's not even heterosexual, for that matter. My identity as a child of God must be in Jesus Christ alone.

Leslie: Please be back next time for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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