Out of a Far Country, with Christopher & Angela YuanPraying for a Rebellious Child
Leslie Basham: Angela Yuan’s son was being expelled from dental school. Her response was surprising.
Angela Yuan: It is not important for Christopher to become a dentist. What’s more important is for Christopher to become a follower of Christ.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, June 6. Today’s program includes some mature themes, so you may want to get your younger children busy away from the radio. Here’s Nancy.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I love, love, love hearing stories of God’s amazing grace, His redeeming love, and the fact that He can take the most helpless, hopeless, tragic situation, and He can make something beautiful out of it. We’re hearing that today from a guest in our studio, Christopher Yuan. He’s a teacher, he’s a speaker, he’s an author. God is using him in significant ways in ministry today, and we’ll talk more about that as we come to the end of this series.
I actually met his mother, Angela Yuan, years ago at a Revive Our Hearts conference, but now we’re having a chance to connect again, as you all tell the story of two prodigals, mother and son—and husband, who’s also with us today here in our ministry center. He’s not on the mic, but he’s a big part of this story as well, and of how God is just so powerful and so able to draw hearts.
Angela, when we started this story a couple of days ago on the broadcast, you told us you were an atheist, you had a difficult family upbringing yourself, you were looking for love in all the wrong places. And God has been in the process, as you’ve been telling this story, of drawing you to Himself.
Part of what brought your journey of faith to a head was when your son, Christopher, came home from dental school and said, “I’m gay, and I’m choosing that lifestyle over my family.” What seemed like such a horrible, horrible, painful moment for you as a mom turned out to be the beginning of your salvation story, as you had nowhere to turn but to the Lord.
We’re talking about that story this week. Thank you for being willing to tell it, thank you for letting God’s grace shine through you and reliving some of these painful parts of your journey so that others can find life. Thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts.
Christopher Yuan: Thank you for having us back.
Angela: Yes, thank you, Nancy.
Nancy: There’s more to the story than we’re going to be able to tell on the broadcast this week, so that’s why I want to tell our listeners about a book you’ve written called Out of a Far Country. When you think of that phrase, “a far country,” your mind probably goes to the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, the parable that Jesus told about the younger brother who left home and wasted his family’s inheritance on riotous living and, perhaps immorality, we don’t know for sure. Ultimately, he came to his senses, came to the end of himself, and came back to his father. Jesus told that story to tell us that there’s a Father in heaven who wants to redeem our messed-up lives and bring us out of that far country.
Enough of me talking, I want to hear more about your story, as I know our listeners do. When we finished our last program, Angela, you were in the process of coming to a spiritual awakening—as you were on a train, headed to say goodbye to Christopher, as you’re ready to take your life.
But instead, God gave you new life in Christ as you came to realize His love. You thought you were going to say goodbye to Christopher, but in fact, you went to tell him that you loved him, which was amazing that you could say that.
He wasn’t really ready to hear it. He was going further and further into drugs and the gay lifestyle. But you were in the process of coming to faith. When you got to Louisville, your husband didn’t know where you were—you were kind of on the run when you started that trip.
But you ended up staying and really started to immerse yourself in the Scripture and in God’s ways, and you got this sudden new interest in reading the Bible. That was a whole new life for you, wasn’t it?
Angela: Exactly. Nancy, I mentioned to you I was not a Christian, or a believer in any religion. But after I got off the train ride, I went to see a woman. She was a retired pastor’s wife. She started to disciple me. Then she brought me to a Bible bookstore. That was the first time I was in one. I never realized there was some place called a Bible bookstore. I got a Bible.
Nancy: You’d never owned one before.
Angela: I never owned one before and had never read the Bible before. So when I began to read the Bible, I thought God was telling my story. I know it’s God’s story, but everything in there felt like, “Wow, this is me, and God is talking about me. I feel like God is talking to me.”
I also mentioned I did not like to read books. I don't even remember reading a book from cover to cover. But I started reading the Bible the first thing when I got up in the morning, and I didn’t put it down until almost eleven or twelve o’clock at the end of the day, except when I went to have my lunch or dinner.
Nancy: You had this whole new hunger for God and His Word.
Angela: That was a miracle to me, and I couldn’t believe it. Usually I would fall asleep after one or two hours after starting to read a book. But the more I read the Bible, the more I wanted to read more.
So I went to the Bible bookstore again to get more Christian books. I would read Christian book after Christian book. I had a whole box of Christian books. So I would read the Bible, then Christian books. I just totally immersed myself into the Bible those six weeks.
Nancy: So God was giving you a whole new life. This one prodigal mother had come home. You were experiencing God’s love in a whole new way, but there were still a lot of issues that didn’t get changed overnight. You were in the process of your marriage falling apart, and your son was falling apart. You had an older prodigal son and now a younger prodigal son.
Christopher, you were unfazed at all the Christian things your mom was getting into. It wasn’t touching you at this point. In what direction was your life headed?
Christopher: Well, I kept doing my own thing. I really enjoyed, at that time, my new freedom, my friends in the gay community. While in dental school, I was going out and partying on the weekends and going out to the clubs.
Unfortunately, I got involved in drugs and was in and out of relationships. I was experimenting with drugs, but I didn’t have a lot of money as a student. So I came up with this idea that maybe I could sell a little bit of drugs to pay for my own habit.
That’s how it began. Unfortunately, it grew to the point where I was selling a lot of drugs and making quite a bit of money, where I could travel a lot on the weekends. That just drew my emphasis away from school, and I would be absent on Fridays or Mondays because I would have long weekends.
This went on for several years, to the point that finally the school had enough. They didn’t know that I was drug dealing. Several of the students knew because I had sold drugs to some of the students and even to a professor, but finally the administration had enough, and they expelled me from dental school.
Nancy: And you were close to the end . . .
Christopher: I was only about four months away from receiving my doctorate.
Nancy: Didn’t I read you ordered your cap and gown?
Christopher: I ordered my cap and gown, the invitations had gone out. I had finished part one and part two of the National Boards for dentistry. So I was already headed in that direction, to become a dentist and to go on and be successful, but I finally was expelled from dental school.
Nancy: Did they call you or did you get a note . . . how did they tell you?
Christopher: I was already having problems with the school. This wasn’t something just out of the blue. I was kind of on probation. I had been suspended once because of my grades and for not being very serious about my schooling. So it didn’t come as a complete surprise, but it was a surprise in the sense that I didn’t think they’d actually expel me. I thought they’d just let me through.
So I told my parents, and my parents flew down from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. My dad is also a dentist, and he knew the Dean very well. In my mind, I thought my parents were going to fight to keep me in school, maybe pull some strings, maybe say we’re going to sue the school. I only had four months left. So if they did something, with only have four months left, I would still just graduate. But that’s not what happened.
Nancy: So, Angela, you remember what did happen? Let me back up. In the meantime, you were back in Chicago, and you had really been praying for Christopher. In fact, you had a special place in your house that you had made into a prayer closet. Tell us about that.
Angela: When I got home, and it was a brand-new home. We’d just finished the construction. We have a small shower in the master bedroom. Somehow I went in there and thought, “Wow, this is a good prayer closet." It’s a shower that we’re not using, and the contractor built a stoop for me to sit on to wash my feet. So I converted the stoop to a table. I put my Bible and some lighting in there, and so that was my prayer closet.
Nancy: You’ve got to see this prayer closet. If you go to the True Woman blog, we’ve got some pictures there. Christopher, you’ve seen it. Describe what it looks like.
Christopher: It’s all tiled, and my mother would write out her prayers. You actually can’t see much of the tile because it’s covered in post-it notes with her prayers. She has her Bible there and pens and highlighters and her commentary. My mom will just stay there for hours every morning.
She’ll go there first thing in the morning. She’ll walk into the bathroom and go right into the prayer closet. My mother has a habit of kneeling to study. She’ll kneel and study for hours, open the Bible, read, and then pray and then read some more, and then pray—write another prayer.
Nancy: And of course, all this time a big item on her prayer list, maybe number one, was praying for her son, Christopher. You didn’t even know it and really didn’t care. God had been working so much in your heart, Angela, that by this time when you came down with your husband for this meeting with the Dean to try to, what Christopher thought was to get him back in school, you had come to a place where you weren’t going to enable him to live a sinful lifestyle. You said something to the Dean that Christopher didn’t expect.
Angela: Yes, I have to say that when I was praying and studying the Word, I realized God was working in my children. It was not just, “I have to do something.” And I also saw the picture that I should stay away and let God work.
Nancy: . . . not interfere . . .
Angela: . . . not interfere with what God was going to do in my son’s life. I thought, “This is God’s doing. I have to trust God because I’ve been praying. So maybe this is His way to catch Christopher’s attention, to get expelled.” In my mind, I don’t think anything was more important than to have my son Christopher know God.
Nancy: And that’s what you told the Dean, isn’t it?
Angela: Yes, I told the Dean, “It is not important for Christopher to become a dentist. What's more important is for Christopher to become a follower of Christ.” And Christopher was there.
Nancy: What did you think, Christopher, when you heard your mom say that? You thought she was going to come to your defense!
Christopher: I was furious! That was not at all what I expected. I expected the entire time that my parents would just tell the school, “You cannot expel my son,” and I would just continue on and graduate. But it’s amazing, looking through Scripture, how God uses hardship, how God uses difficult circumstances to bring us to Him, but I didn’t see that.
Nancy: So your mom says to the Dean, “Do what you think is right,” is that essentially what you said, Angela?
Angela: Yes, we said, “Whatever you’re doing is right, and we’ll be on your side.”
Nancy: So you were backing the Dean, and they stuck by their decision.
Christopher: They didn’t change. They were expecting a fight. I think going into the Dean’s office, there was tension. They were expecting my parents to fight and to say, “Why are you doing this? You have no right to expel my son.” But they did not expect that my parents would say, “We are going to support whatever decision you make, and we trust that you will make the right decision.”
Nancy: You know, what’s really interesting, I’m thinking again about the story of the prodigal son, and that dad. There’s no indication he went after his son into that far country. He had to want to and probably could have and would have had some influence, but he waited for his son to come to the end of himself.
I think what you’ve just described is a picture of that. How often do well-meaning parents rescue their children from the cross, from the very circumstances God is wanting to use to bring those children to the end of themselves?
I know it’s not always the same answer in every situation, and that’s why parents have to be so prayerful and discerning. But in this case you stepped back. You said, “We’re not going to interfere with what God is doing.”
Imagine if you had interfered, he would have finished dental school, become a dentist, but he wouldn’t be a follower of Christ.
Christopher: My heart would have probably been even harder. Love sometimes has to be tough love. Scripture’s so clear about that, that God chastises those whom He loves. And if He’s not chastising us . . . we often need those crucible moments to be refined.
Nancy: So you were furious at the moment, but you look back now and you realize how much God loved you and how much your parents loved you, to be willing to let you get thrown out of med school.
Christopher: Yes . . . but my parents were hoping that was rock bottom.
Angela: Yes, I was hoping that this was the rock bottom. Please!
Christopher: And they were hoping things would turn around as a result of this.
Nancy: And from all of appearances, they didn’t.
Christopher: They did not. Things got worse, much worse. So instead of me waking up and finding out I needed to change, I just picked up and moved further away from Chicago. I moved from Louisville to Atlanta, Georgia. I already had some friends there; I had people I was selling drugs with, doing a lot of partying there.
My drug business just exploded. I became not just a drug dealer, but a supplier. I was supplying drugs to dealers in over a dozen states. I was very active in the gay community, very popular.
I felt like I was larger than life. Unfortunately, I was living a very promiscuous life as well—just further and further and further away from God.
Nancy: Kind of becoming your own god.
Christopher: I was becoming my own god. I love where it says in Romans 1 that “I was believing the lie, that I was worshiping the creature, myself, rather than the Creator” (see v. 24). So the whole time all this was going on, over a couple years, things just got worse and worse and worse.
My parents had hoped that things would get better, and they were praying and praying and things did just did not get any better.
Nancy: They were not only praying, but Angela, you were sending notes to Christopher. Tell us about those.
Angela: Yes, I went to the Bible bookstore—that was my favorite store by then. I would buy dozens of Christian cards and would send Christopher notes a couple of times a week, even though, I have to admit, I thought Christopher might not read them. I thought, “That’s okay, at least I want to show him that I’m thinking about him, and I really want him to know Jesus Christ.”
Christopher: She would sign every card, “Love you forever.”
Nancy: But they weren’t making any impact on you at that point. What would you do with the notes?
Christopher: I would toss them in the trash. I look back now, and it was planting seeds, but back then it was not what I wanted.
Nancy: And when they would try to call?
Christopher: I would not answer. My mother would leave long voice mail messages, and I would delete them.
Angela: Sometime I would even play Christian songs on the phone. I didn’t have much to say. He would not have a conversation with me, so I just played Christian songs.
Nancy: So the relationship was as broken as it could be. You tell a story about one Christmas Eve when, Angela, you bought a ticket for him to come home.
Angela: At that time I sent tickets to him and I thought, ‘He will come home.” I went to the airport to pick him up, and there was no Christopher. I thought maybe he overslept and missed a flight.
Because the ticket cost a couple hundred dollars, I didn’t think he would waste it. So in a couple hours i went to pick him up again . . . no Christopher. I realized he was not coming home for Christmas, nor the New Year.
Nancy: But you did not give up knocking on heaven’s door.
Nancy: You kept praying.
Angela: Yes, for seven years.
Nancy: Without any evidence that God was hearing or answering those prayers. What kept you praying?
Angela: I think it’s just God’s Word. Every time I read God’s Word, He never gives up on us. I also have the picture of the persistent widow, knocking on God’s door. Maybe I’m not the first in the line, so I want to get up early in the morning and knock on His door, praying, crying, fasting . . .
Christopher: My mom fasted every Monday for seven years.
Nancy: Even an extended fast at one point.
Christopher: She once began fasting and felt that, “I’m going to fast until God tells me to stop,” and she fasted for thirty-nine days.
Nancy: And from all appearances, you were impervious to all of this, and it was having no effect.
Christopher: Things got worse in my life.
Nancy: Worse than your parents even knew.
Nancy: But God gave you the faith and the grace, Angela, to keep knocking on heaven’s door, and you even prayed that God would help you not to give up, right?
Angela: Yes. I just believed God’s promise, and I trusted that He will do whatever He says. Also, I have to say I have Christian sisters in my Bible study, and they helped me to pray together and study God’s Word together and not to give up.
Sometimes I felt like, “Oh, I don’t know when . . .” My sister would say, “Just pray and don’t give up.” So a lot of times I remembered those words. It really helped me to continue.
Christopher: I think often my mom would try to reach out. Not hearing anything for years is probably the worst any parent could experience. It’s really easy to be consumed and dwell on that. But I think during that period my mother would consciously make a decision every morning to go into that prayer closet, to open up her Bible. That was her way of taking the focus away from me, and the storms and the tragedy, and put the focus back upon the face of Jesus.
Even today, on her bathroom mirror my mother has, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” because that was the first thing in the morning. She wanted to get her focus back on track and put it back on Jesus.
Nancy: I heard you say recently you chose not to focus on the hopelessness but to focus on the promises of God.
We’re going to continue this story. God was working in Christopher’s life even though he didn’t realize it at this point. We all want to hear about that, but I think this today has been such a ministry to some moms and some grandmoms who are tired of praying, tired of crying out, tired of not seeing the answers. I think your story, Angela, just says to them, “Hang on to the Lord. Wait for the Lord. Be of good courage. Don’t give up. Keep praying.”
My life is the result, humanly speaking, of a praying great-grandmother—my Greek yiayia—whom I never knew but who laid hold of the Lord and prayed for my dad’s salvation.
I don’t think she even lived to see him come to faith. But I look at the power of those years of her praying on her knees, through the night, as the testimony has been told. I know there are some moms out there who need to be encouraged. Keep, keep, keep seeking the Lord.
The book that you’ve co-authored tells that story in more detail than we can on Revive Our Hearts this week. It’s called Out of a Far Country, and we would be so glad to send this to anyone who calls and makes a donation of any size to the ministry.
We’d like to send a copy of this book as our way of saying “thank you,” but also as a ministry to your life. I know it will encourage you in clinging to the promises of God even when you’re in the midst of hopeless circumstances.
So give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or go online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let us know you’d like to make a donation to the ministry, and we’ll be glad to send this book to you.
Be sure and join us the next time for Revive Our Hearts because God is the “Hound of Heaven." He was pursuing Christopher through his mom’s prayers. It's hard to escape those, impossible, as it proved.
We want you to hear the rest of the story when we come back on Revive Our Hearts.
Revive our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
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