Revive Our Hearts Radio

Standing in the Gap for a Child

Leslie Basham: For seven years, Christopher Yuan’s mom prayed that God would change his life, no matter what it would take. The answer came through a knock on his door.

Christopher Yuan: I opened my door and on my front doorstep were twelve federal drug enforcement agents, Atlanta police, and their two big German shepherd dogs.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, September 2, 2015. 

If you have young children with you, you’ll need to know that today’s program deals with some mature themes. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking this week with Christopher Yuan and his mother, Angela Yuan. They’ve co-authored a book that’s a powerful testimony of God’s pursuing love and grace. It’s called Out of a Far Country. It’s really the story of two prodigals, a mother and a son and a husband who also came to faith in Christ in this journey. But the subtitle is: “A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.”

Angela and Christopher, I have to imagine that it is not all that easy to relive all of this story—there’s a lot of pain involved. Angela, you told me after the last program that it’s emotional for you to rethink all of this—relive it and tell it. But thank you for being willing not only to live the story, but to tell it to others, because I know it is going to bring hope to a lot of other prodigal moms and dads and sons and daughters. So thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts this week to share your story.

Angela Yuan: Thank you, Nancy, for having us.

Nancy: I have to tell you I gave a copy of your book, Out of a Far Country, to a dear friend of mine not too long ago who has a prodigal son, actually a couple of prodigal children. And she was so moved by the story. Then it turned out not too long after that you were speaking, sharing your testimony, in her church. She and her husband got to meet you and talk with you.

She told me later what a great encouragement that was—reading the book, hearing your story, and being with you. She’s got a son who is still in the far country. She and her husband have sought the Lord, they’ve prayed, they’ve tried to love, and they’ve not seen yet God bringing that young man’s heart home.

She said to me that when she and her husband got in the car after being with you, that they looked at each other and said, “We have such a peace at this very moment.” And when she tried to explain it to me, it wasn’t peace about when their son would come home or how the journey, the script would be written. There are no guarantees that the story will have a picture-perfect ending or storybook ending. But she said, "We had peace that God is in control, that He is good, and we can trust Him in the midst of this journey."

And so, that’s a very dear friend of mine whose life has been so blessed by your story. I know many of our listeners will be, not only as they are listening to it here on Revive Our Hearts, but as they get a copy of your book which tells more than we can tell on this program this week. So if you’d like to have a copy of this book, if you’d like to make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, just give us a call, 1–800–569–5959. Let us know that you’d like to make a donation, and we will send you a copy of this book, Out of a Far Country. Or you can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com.

We talked yesterday, Angela, about your prayer closet. It’s a converted shower in your house that you made into a prayer closet. And there’s a great photo of that picture that you can find on our website and some other pictures of this story. Unfortunately our radio listeners can’t see those pictures. But go on our website and you can see those.

And you talked yesterday about how you kept pursuing the Lord on behalf of your son. God had pursued you, had brought you to Himself. And now you were not going to let go of God. You prayed for years with no contact, virtually. He wasn’t returning your calls. He was throwing your letters away. He was not listening to your voicemail messages, but you kept knocking on Heaven’s door. I’ve heard you share about some prayers that you wrote out during that period. How did you use those written prayers?

Angela: I like to write down the prayers. Even though daily prayer will be different, but I have some stand up prayers. Those are the prayers that really helped me—kept me going. I would like to read one of the prayers just to show you how those prayers helped me not to give up.

I would say: Lord, I will stand in the gap for Christopher. I will stand until the victory is won—until Christopher’s heart changes. I will stand in the gap every day, and there I will fervently pray. And Lord, just one favor. Don’t let me waver. If things get quite rough, which they may, I will never give up on that son, nor will You. Though the enemy seeks to destroy, I will not quit as I intercede, though it may take years. I give You my fears and tears as I trust every moment, I plead.

Those prayers really helped me to show my heart, and I realized my weakness. I just asked God, don’t let me give up that son.

Nancy: And you prayed that over and over again.

Angela: Over and over every single day.

Nancy: Now, Angela, I think there are some women, some moms and grandmoms, maybe some dads listening who want to make that their prayer. So if you go to our website, we’ve got that prayer written out [above in red]. You may just want to print it out and take it to your prayer closet—wherever it is that you seek the Lord, and maybe put it by your nightstand. Pray it before you go to bed at night or when you get up in the morning. I believe there are many of our listeners who want to make those words you prayed so many years ago their prayer. And that’s why we have it available on our website. Another thing you prayed during that season was, “Lord . . .”

Angela: “Do whatever it takes to bring this prodigal son to You.” I think it’s important to realize that our children need Jesus Christ. We make sure it’s not prayed for our son to come back home to this earthly home.

Nancy: Because even if they did come home to you but didn’t come to the Lord, the objective still hasn’t been fulfilled. You wanted to see his heart. And you were willing to step back and let God bring him to the end of himself. I kept thinking about that prodigal son in Luke 15 and how he got to where he was just hopelessly messed up, confused, empty, lost everything, but that’s what it took. And how hard that must be for a mom or a dad to stand back.

Christopher: I think often we look at the prodigal son parable and we talk about how loving the father was. I’m just reminded of how strong that father was to not go and save the son.

Nancy: Rescue his son. Right.

Christopher: To not go into the far country. I’m sure he had an idea of all the things that his son was probably getting into and wanted probably every moment to run after his son and to deliver his son.

Nancy: Make his way easier.

Christopher: But that’s the strength of that father.

Nancy: And of your mother.

Christopher: Of my parents and my mom—that they cannot save me. They could maybe for a moment, and they could maybe get rid of some of the circumstances, but that would not ultimately . . .

Nancy: . . . bring you to Christ.

Christopher: Yes. And it would not ultimately be good for me either.

Nancy: Well, at this point, you’re in Atlanta. You’re living a high lifestyle—partying, drugs, sex, homosexuality, clubs. I mean, you tell your story in detail in the book, but in a way that is appropriate because we don’t want to exalt sin. But it was in the far, far, far country. At this point you’re reading this and you’re thinking, This is going to take a miracle. There’s nothing your mom could do—your dad—much as they loved you.

Christopher: I wanted nothing to do with God. Absolutely. I just thought. I was happy that my parents had found this new relationship with each other and were beginning this religious experience. Their life was kind of turning around. But I just thought, Well, that’s good for you. You know, very relativistic and post-modern. Good for you. Not for me. I didn’t want anything to do with that. It was not part of my life.

So I just kept going in the opposite direction. I was having a load of fun with my friends, living the big life, making lots of money. Yet I found myself gradually becoming more and more addicted to sin, more and more addicted to the drugs, more and more addicted to the sexual promiscuity. And this whole time, my parents had absolutely no idea what was going on, but they knew that I needed to know Jesus. They knew that I did not know God. That was what was most important. 

Nancy: The answer to your mom’s prayers and that miracle that was needed came in a way that probably nobody would have scripted.

Christopher: Never.

Nancy: Tell us how that happened.

Christopher: Well, it came simply with a bang on my door. I opened my door, and on my front door step were twelve federal drug enforcement agents, Atlanta police, and their two big German shepherd dogs. I just received a large shipment of drugs. I think they had found out from other people that I had gotten a shipment of drugs in. They opened up my door, and behind me were my drugs on my kitchen counter. So they came in, they confiscated all my money and my drugs. I was charged with a street value equivalent of 9.1 tons of marijuana, and that was ten years to life in the federal prison.  I was facing ten years to life.

Nancy: So they arrested you on the spot?

Christopher: They arrested me on the spot.

Nancy: They took all your paperwork. I don’t know why you kept all those notes, but you had.

Christopher: I had, unfortunately.

Nancy: You kept meticulous records.

Christopher: I just thought everyone kept records. Being raised in a dental office, my parents just kept all these great records and their receipts. I just thought everyone did.

Nancy: And you had done that with all your drug dealing.

Christopher: I did . . . all my visits, all my plane tickets. I kept all that—my phone bills, my credit card bills. They just laughed. They said, “Were you expecting to file income tax? Why did you have these records?” It was just a treasure trove for these agents.

Nancy: So they booked you right away?

Christopher: They booked me right away. I never thought that I would get caught or arrested. And there I found myself in jail. I sat there in jail. I went to the payphone, and I began calling my friends.

Nancy: These were people you had been doing drugs and sex with?

Christopher: These were my best friends—these people that said, “If you ever need anything, just give me a call.” But that was when I had something they needed. And now when (I think this was the beginning of when they had caller-ID) they saw Atlanta City Detention Center, nobody picked up my phone.

And what is so interesting now, years later, I realized that my mother had prayed before that—long before—that not only would God do whatever it takes, but she knew that if I had these friends around, I would find no need for God and no need for my parents. She prayed specifically that somehow, someway God would cause all of my friends to desert me. And on that day, not a single person answered my collect call. So I always warn mothers, beware of what you pray for because they may come true.

Nancy: Yes, and don’t be afraid to pray for that kind of thing to happen.

Christopher: But don’t be afraid to pray for whatever it takes because you never know what God will use, because sometimes it is tragedy or difficulty in your child’s life that will finally bring them to rock bottom. So in jail, nobody answered my phone call. So finally I thought, Well, maybe I’ll just call home. I didn’t want to call home because in my mind I was still imagining my parents before Christ. They would just give me an ear full, tell me, “You deserve to be there. What did you do?” I remember what my mom first said as she answered the phone.

Nancy: You called collect?

Christopher: I called collect, and she said, “Son, are you okay?” No condemnation. She didn’t yell at me. I’m reminded now of what the apostle Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s not our reprimanding words. It’s not reminding us of our sins, but it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And I think parents need to realize that it is the balancing of the tough love, not enabling. But it’s also, it’s in those situations, where it’s not hounding our children and keep reminding them. But it is sometimes it’s just allowing the kindness of God, and that is what leads us to repentance.

Nancy: Of course part of the kindness of God there was getting you arrested, although it didn’t seem very kind at the moment.

Christopher: Yes, it didn’t. But that was part of God’s love and God’s kindness.

Nancy: Angela, I think it sounds like you were able to have a genuine concern for him, one, because you did. But also you were trusting that God was the one who was working in his life, and you didn’t have to make it happen.

Angela: Yes, yes. Actually, God was doing all the bad work for me. He put Christopher in the prison. We were kind of worried where he was going to be or where he was because we couldn’t find him. So I said, "Wow. At least he was in a safe place, and we knew where he was now."

Nancy: He hadn’t called home in years. So when you got that call, you find out he’s been busted; he’s in jail. Was that good news or bad news for you? What were you thinking?

Angela: I have to say it was mixed. It was bad news that he ended up in prison.

Christopher: No parent wants to hear that.

Angela: Yes, and especially being Chinese. My husband is a dentist, and we are well known in the community. How shameful it was. So it was bad news to find out my son was in prison. But again . . .

Nancy: And that was kind of a silly question for me to ask, in a way, because there is no way that was good news. But on the other hand, you saw that there was something good in this.

Angela: Yes. First of all, physically, at least I know where he is because we could never find him. We knew where he was and also, it was a safe place. And most of all, at that moment, I was certain this was the way God answered my prayers.

Nancy: In fact, you stopped to thank the Lord for the blessings of this. Tell us how you wrote that thank you down.

Angela: Yes. Right away it was on my heart.  I wrote, “I just praise You God! I just praise You!”

Nancy: Yes. Because you knew He was at work.

Angela: Yes. He is at work. Somehow I just knew God got a hold of Christopher’s attention. That’s what I wanted. So after I hung up the phone, even though as painful as it was, as shameful as he was, I said, “I want to praise You. I want to remember that.” So on the side of the telephone there was a calculator. I ripped off a piece of calculator tape, and I just wrote on the date. It was December 9, 1998. I wrote it down, “Praise You, God. This is my praising list.” I said, “Christopher is in a safe place, and he called home for the first time.”

Nancy: So as difficult as this circumstance was, you saw two things in it that you could give thanks for, and you wrote those down on that piece of adding machine paper. Then as the days unfolded, you kept adding to that list.

Angela: Yes. And then we asked Christopher, because I know God softened his heart by putting this young man in prison. I said, “Christopher, could you call home every day?” Even though he didn’t realize it, it was a very expensive phone call. Every time he called home, the first minute was eight dollars.

Nancy: Wow! Not a small price after those years of not having phone calls.

Angela: Exactly. That’s right. We said, “Call home every day.” So every time he called home, he was telling us something, and I thought, I see God is working. So I kept writing all the blessings.

Nancy: And you kept adding pieces of adding machine tape, paper. And you’ve got that list right here in the studio. Hold it up there. That is a long list of adding machine paper with hand written praises on both sides. I think it’s taller than you are.

Angela: Much taller than I am.

Nancy: You were keeping a record.

Christopher: I’m just reminded of the hymn, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One.”

Nancy: And you’ve got a list there of God’s faithfulness.

Angela: Those lists just got better and better. They were real, real blessings.

Nancy: Yes. And finally God was starting to get Christopher’s attention. He had you. You’d lost your friends, your money, your job dealing drugs, if that’s a job, I don’t know. And you’re in this detention center.

Christopher: Yes. Three days after, I was walking around the cell block. And you know, I still in my mind thought, I’m not a criminal. I didn’t do anything wrong. And I mean God was still working . . .

Nancy: You thought, I’m not a criminal?! 

Christopher: Well, because, I’m a good kid.

Nancy: You thought you were a good kid?

Christopher: I was raised in a good home. I’m not like all the other people who are homeless or living in the projects, stuff like that. So in my mind I’m like, “I’m really a good kid.”

Nancy: So your thinking was really twisted.

Christopher: It was really twisted.  I mean, that’s what drugs will do to you. So it was three days after that, I was trying to stay away from the riff-raff—the bad guys. “This is just probably a mistake, and I’ll get out soon.” I was walking around the cell block. I mean, God was softening my heart, but my heart was so hard that there was a lot of softening to do.

Walking around, and you know, Nancy, I passed by this garbage can. It was just disgusting, things just flowing out of it, flies circling around. I looked at that and I thought, That’s my life. I’m raised in an upper-middle class suburb of Chicago. My father has two doctorates. I was four months away from becoming a doctor myself. I had it made. Everything in my life was going the right direction, and yet it just took this turn and now I found myself in jail among common criminals—just trash.

So I was just going over all my life and how horrible it was now and the place I was in. I was about to walk past this garbage can, and I looked on top of the trash—right on top of it—I found a Gideon’s New Testament.

Nancy: That somebody had thrown away.

Christopher: Someone had just thrown it away. Someone must have just thrown it away because nothing was on top of it. It was just sitting right there. I walked right by it, and I picked it up and I brought it back to my cell. I started reading God’s Word. I read through the entire gospel of Mark that first night.

That was just the beginning of God working. I thought I was rebelling. I remember before I was sentenced, I read Psalm 51, and I just felt like those were my words. The words that David wrote were my words. I almost felt like reading that to the judge. I felt all this conviction and weight and thinking, There’s nothing good about this. What is there good about this? I felt so broken about my sin and rebellion, and things were just not looking like they were getting any better. I felt there couldn’t be anything worse.

Nancy: And it did get worse.

Christopher: Yes.

Nancy: But it was getting better, too, because God was in the process of drawing your heart, answering the years of prayers your mom and your dad had prayed for you. God was at work, but He was still using those circumstances to bring you to the end of yourself. When we come back on Revive Our Hearts, we’re going to let you tell the next chapter of that story.

But again, I just think this story has got to bring such hope to moms and dads and grandparents of prodigals to know that there is hope as long as God is on His throne. But He may be using those negative circumstances, the consequences of your children’s choices to bring them to the end of themselves.

And the full story, which will bring so much hope, I really believe has been written in a book you and your mom co-authored called Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.

We want to send you a copy of that book. We’ll be happy to do that. Just make a donation of any amount that God puts on your heart to help the ministry here at Revive Our Hearts. We’ll be glad to send it to you. The number to call is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can make a donation. You can order a copy of the book.

You can also see the picture of this adding machine tape with all these praise things that Angela you had written down. It’s just a striking picture and a reminder, moms, in the midst of—moms and dads and brothers and sisters and anybody who is caring for, or praying for someone that you love who is in the far country—it’s a reminder in the process not to be overwhelmed by the situation, not to focus on the hopelessness, but to focus on the promises of God. And in the process to give thanks even when you can’t see the outcome or the answer to your prayers.

And God is at work. I hate to break in at this point of the story, but we have to. And I know you’ll want to join us on the next edition of Revive Our Hearts.

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

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