When Moody Bible Institute professor and author Christopher Yuan was 9 years old, he began having same-sex attractions after discovering pornographic magazines at a friend’s house.
Following his exposure to pornography, Yuan said he experienced confusion and fear about his attraction to males.
In a recent testimony given at the Real Life Ministries megachurch in Idaho on Aug 29, Yuan was joined by his parents and said the family’s faith journey was not an easy process and included painful experiences.
He shared that over time, their whole family became Christians by accepting and surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ.
“At 9, those [pornographic] magazines gave me a distorted view of sex, and they soon became my master,” Yuan told the audience at the evangelical church’s Post Falls campus. “With pornography fueling my desires, I had my first encounter when I was 16 years old. But I kept my [same-sex] feelings hidden through high school, college, even in the Marine Corps Reserve.”
Since discovering their Christian faith, Yuan co-authored with his mother a 2011 memoir titled Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, which has sold over 100,000 copies and is available in seven languages.
In Yuan’s grade-school years, he said that he did not fit in with the other boys as a Chinese American in Chicago.
“I looked different. I acted differently and I had different interests. God gave me the gifts of music sensitivity,” he said. “Satan cannot take away God-given gifts, but he can twist the perception of them. And from a young age, I was viewed and ridiculed for being effeminate.”
No longer keeping sexuality a secret
After a few years, in his early 20s, Yuan no longer kept his sexuality a secret.
On May 15, 1993, he came home from Louisville, Kentucky, after completing his first year in dental school. He made an unexpected announcement to his parents.
“I am gay,” Yuan recalled telling them.
During that time, Angela and Leon Yuan, who were college sweethearts that met in 1964, had many unresolved marital issues and were in the early stages of filing for divorce after 28 years of marriage. Leon Yuan was a dentist and Angela Yuan was a stay-at-home mom.
The Yuans — who considered themselves non-Christian at that time — had different reactions to their son coming out as gay.
Leon Yuan told the audience that he blamed his wife and accused her of “making” their son gay.
He believed he would find his own happiness if the entire family went their separate ways by splitting up.
“You would never think that three simple words, ‘I am gay,’ could cause so much pain,” Angela Yuan said. “I actually thought I could threaten Christopher with an ultimatum to choose the family or homosexuality, but Christoper already brought into the lie that he couldn’t change — that he was born gay.”
In response to his parents' reactions, Christopher Yuan packed his bags and left with indescribable emotions.
“[It would have probably been] worse than receiving news of Christopher’s death,” the mother recounted. “He could have cut me with a knife. It would have hurt less. I was at the end of my rope.”
As the marriage was seemingly coming to an end and her son leaving the family, Angela Yuan said it felt like her world was coming to an end.
“I had no more reason to live, so I [was] determined to do the unthinkable. … I was going to end my life,” she remembered. “I thought that death was the only answer to all my problems.”
'Opened the eyes of my heart'
Even though she did not believe in God, the mother decided to meet with a Christian minister who gave her a pamphlet on homosexuality. Then, she bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to Louisville, where she planned to say her final farewell to her son.
On the train, Angela Yuan only brought with her a purse and the pamphlet from the minister. She began to read the pamphlet, which explained the plan of Christian salvation. The document said, “All people are sinners, but God loves them despite their sin.” While reading the pamphlet, she said, God “opened the eyes of my heart.”
“I realized that just as God loves me, in spite of my sin, I could love Christopher in spite of him leaving as a gay man,” she said.
After she arrived in Louisville, the mother called a number on the back of the pamphlet, which connected her to a Christian woman. For the next six weeks, the woman met with Angela Yuan and guided her in the process of immersing in the Bible.
“I went to Louisville expecting to end my life, and in reality, I did,” she added, noting that her favorite Bible verse is Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
After six weeks, Leon Yuan received a phone call from the woman who discipled his estranged wife. The woman told him that “Angela surrendered her life to Christ, and she has been saved.”
Leon Yuan, however, was not pleased with the news of her newfound faith.
“I told her, ‘This is not good news.’ This was my worst nightmare because from now on, Angela has God on her side,” Leon Yuan said. “But, what I realized is [Angela’s] transformation was not a Sunday-only change but in every aspect of her life. … What she had was not religion but an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Little did I know, God was also working on me.”
Shortly after, Leon Yuan decided to attend church with his wife. One of their mutual friends also invited them to a Bible study. And as a result, they said they both grew in their understanding of God's Word.
“I also surrendered my life to Jesus,” the father told the audience. “God became the glue that brought my marriage [back] together by drawing both of us to Himself. This was God’s way for preparing us for the difficult years ahead.”
Although the couple reconciled and became Christians, they still did not have a relationship with their son.
At that time, Christopher Yuan, who was pursuing his doctorate level studies, spent most of his leisure time frequenting gay clubs. He also spent time seeking intimacy and happiness through various dating relationships.
Although he found some satisfaction from dating, he still encountered feelings of unfulfillment.
Eventually, Christopher Yuan began doing drugs to find happiness. To afford his drug habits, he also started selling drugs to friends, classmates and even a professor.
“To be clear, not all gays and lesbians do drugs, not all gay men are promiscuous, of course. Some are and some are not, but that is part of my story,” Christopher Yuan recounted. “I actually thought I could live this double life: graduate student by day and promiscuous drug dealer by night.”
Despite thinking he could continue selling and using drugs while going to school, three months before he was supposed to receive his doctorate, he was expelled from the school.
After news of the expulsion reached his parents, they took a flight from Chicago to Louisville.
Yuan thought his expulsion would not last because his dentist father was close friends with the school's dean. However, that was not the case.
Angry at his parents, who supported the school’s decision to expel him, Yuan decided he would move further away from them to Atlanta, Georgia.
Christopher Yuan delved further into the drug scene in his new home and became a supplier through other dealers in over a dozen states, he said.
'In my world, I had become God'
“It was nothing for me to have multiple anonymous sexual encounters each and every day because, according to the world, I had it all: money, fame, drugs and sex,” Yuan said. “I had exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And I began worshipping and serving the creature, rather than the Creator because, in my world, I had become God.”
The parents began to pray for their son.
“It was more than obvious that [Christopher] was totally unreachable and completely hopeless, but my wife and I committed. … Not focusing on the hopelessness, but on the promises of God, along with 100 prayer warriors from our church. We all cried out to God for our son Christopher,” Leon Yuan recalled.
In addition to saying the prayer, “‘Lord do whatever it takes to bring this prodigal son to You,’” Angela Yuan also fasted every Monday for eight years.
She also conducted a 39-day fast. And each morning, she would spend hours in her prayer closet.
“God answered my prayers by saying ‘wait and be still,’” she said.
One day, 12 federal drug enforcement officers knocked on Christopher Yuan’s door. They confiscated all his money and drugs, including 9.1 tons of marijuana. With that amount, he could have faced up to 10 years to life in prison. He received six years in a federal detention center in Atlanta.
While at the center, he made phone calls to friends but soon realized all the friends he knew had abandoned him.
In an act of last resort, Christopher Yuan called his mother fully expecting her to yell at him.
However, to his surprise, his mother’s reaction to his imprisonment was to ask if he was OK.
Christopher Yuan later found a Bible near the garbage in the detention center and he began to read it.
Shortly after, he received the shocking news that he is HIV positive.
After spending time devastated over the news, Yuan found himself picking up his Bible to read.
The more he read, he said, the more the Holy Spirit convicted him of his “many idols, including homosexuality.”
Christopher Yuan said over a gradual process, he eventually found his Christain faith. He said he “chose Jesus over homosexuality.”
“I went through every verse, every chapter, every page of Scripture. … And a decision had to be made: either abandon God and His word by letting sexual attractions dictate not only who I was but also how I lived or abandon pursuing a monogamous same-sex relationship by freeing myself [and] not allowing my desires to control who I am [by living] as a follower of Jesus Christ,” Christopher Yuan concluded. “My decision was clear and obvious. I followed Jesus.”
After finding Christ, Christopher Yuan applied to attend Moody Bible Institute in 2001. He graduated in 2005, receiving a master’s degree in biblical exegesis in 2007 and a doctorate of ministry in 2014.
Christopher Yuan’s new identity in Christ compelled him to live in “obedience” to God despite his same-sex attraction. And his obedience has “radically changed life,” according to his profile on Moody Bible Institute’s website.
Yuan is now a sought-after speaker and author who has taught Bible classes at Moody Bible Institute for over a decade. He is also the author of Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. The book was named by Outreach Magazine as the 2020 Book of the Year for Social Issues.