Christopher Yuan always knew he was different. He was more sensitive than other students and gifted in music. Because of this he was mocked and called “effeminate.”
The author and Moody Bible Institute professor could recall when his first gay feelings emerged. He was nine, looking at pornographic magazines at a friend’s house.
“I was confused and afraid of those feelings,” said Yuan during his chapel speech last week. “Without guidance on sexuality, those magazines gave me a distorted view of sex.”
At 16 he had his first gay encounter and told no one. He kept his sexuality from his friends and family through high school, college and even while in the Marine Corps. reserve. But when Yuan began attending dental school in Kentucky, he came out of the closet and began living openly as a gay man.
This devastated his Chinese parents. Their culture saw homosexuality as deeply shameful and their son as rebellious. His mother, Angela Yuan, told him that news of his death would have been better than him being gay. On top of that her marriage was falling apart.
With a family torn apart, Angela bought a one way ticket to Kentucky and got a tract on homosexuality from a priest and set out to see her son one last time. She was going to commit suicide. While she sat on the train she read the tract and learned of God’s love, forgiveness and sacrifice. She gave her life to Christ.
“She boarded that train expecting to end her life and in reality, she did,” said Yuan, explaining that his mother had been crucified with Christ and that he now lived in her. Several months later, Yuan’s father also came to Christ. His parents then made it their mission to love their son and lead him to the Lord.
Angela began a non-stop campaign of sending Yuan Christian greeting cards with messages of love and forgiveness scribbled from top to bottom. She prayed ferociously day and night in her prayer closet and at prayer meetings for her son to come to Christ no matter what.
Yuan didn’t even want to look at them. He threw them in the trash.
His life soon began to unravel. His dental school expelled him. He had been spending all his spare time searching for love in gay clubs, doing drugs and selling drugs to friends, classmates and even one of his teachers. It was his search for intimacy and happiness that drove him.
Atlanta, became his new home where he spiraled even more out of control. He began supplying drugs for dealers in more than 12 states. Yuan dove deeper into the gay scene and having more than one anonymous sexual partner a day was commonplace.
“In my world I was god,” said Yuan.
The sex, drugs and money lifestyle came crashing down with the police slamming on his door. Police and German Shepherds poured through. They found the equivalent of nine tons of marijuana. Facing up to life in prison, Yuan called every friend he could think of, with no reply. He swallowed his pride and called his parents for the first time in years. They met him with love, acceptance and forgiveness. They were overjoyed that their son was finally in a safe place, even if it was prison.
As Yuan paced around the prison he passed a bin overflowing with garbage. In it he saw his life – something filled with and overflowing with garbage. He fished a book out of the trash. It was a Gideon New Testament. With a six-year sentence to kill, he began to pore over the Scriptures and they slowly began to work in his heart.
“What we have in our Bibles is not just ink on paper, what we have is the very breath of God, it is living and powerful,” said Yuan.
His world came crashing down again as he was shackled and shuffled into the nurses office. She could barely look him in the eyes or speak. Instead, she slid a piece of paper across the table. It read, “HIV positive.”
“The days that followed were dark,” said Yuan. In his cell he spied instructions to read Jeremiah 29:11 scrawled on the wall. He flipped to it and read that God had good plans for his life. Plans to prosper him, not to harm him. It encouraged him to have hope.
Yuan then began to deal with what he thought was the core of who he was: homosexuality. As he read through the Scripture, it seemed to condemn same-sex behavior. Faced with God’s truth, Yuan had a decision to make: let his sexuality define him, or let his identity in Christ, who lives through him, be the defining part of him.
“God does not say, ‘be homosexual for I am homosexual,’ or, ‘be heterosexual for I am heterosexual,’ he says, ‘be holy for I am holy,’” said Yuan.
Yuan chose to live a holy life – not trying to become heterosexual, but abstaining from homosexual behavior. The same-sex feelings have faded greatly, said Yuan, but he has not turned straight nor does he believe it necessary to live a godly life. He seeks to redefine the definition of “change.”
“Change is not the absence of struggles,” said Yuan. “But change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles.”
He still struggles with some homosexual thoughts and feelings but chooses not to indulge in them or let them define his life.
While still in prison Yuan applied to Moody Bible Institute with references from the prison chaplain, a guard and an inmate. Yuan was accepted and his sentence was reduced. He was released from prison in 2001, and attended Moody. His parents were shocked but overjoyed that their prayers had been answered. Yuan now teaches at Moody and travels internationally with his mother, telling their story of love and forgiveness.
To learn more about Yuan and his family’s journey, visit christopheryuan.com where his and Angela’s book “Out of a Far Country: a Gay Son’s Journey to God, a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope” is available.
See Lifestyles for a talkback story with Christopher Yuan.