Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, Walterbrook Press, 2011)

In the 1990s, Christopher Yuan was a gay man who worked hard and played harder.  After an experience
with the drug Ecstasy, Yuan quickly became one of the top drug dealers in the major gay clubs of the Southeast, living the glamorous lifestyle marked by cars, clothes and the adoration of his new family in the homosexual community.  As spectacular as the story of his life in the 90s is, it is not the subject of this book.

Yuan’s world eventually came crashing down.  Arrested for conspiracy and intent to distribute illegal drugs and later sentenced to six years in prison, Yuan was abandoned by all but a very few of his supposed “friends”.
To add insult to injury, Yuan learned, while wearing the tell-tale orange jumpsuit of the Atlanta Detention Center, that he was HIV positive, likely the result of one of his sexual encounters of the previous several
years.  As dramatic as the story of his Yuan’s fall is, it is not the subject of this book.

In recent years, Yuan, now a Christian speaker and HIV/AIDS activist, has garnered a fair amount of notoriety for his frequent speaking engagements in which he talks about HIV and issues surrounding sexuality and
Christianity.  For this he has been both praised and roundly (and often angrily) criticized.  Though one of this book’s thirty two chapters is entitled “Holy Sexuality” (a chapter that offers a view of sexuality that
will challenge the ingrained beliefs of many on both sides of the Christianity/homosexuality debate) neither HIV nor questions of Christian faith and sexuality are the subjects of this book.

What is Out of a Far Country about?  It is a modern-day prodigal son story, about a son who rebels against his parents and effectively abandons his natural family in favor of living life on his own terms.  It is about an awkward boy whose struggle to fit it and to make sense of his attractions led him on a journey into manhood
defined by rises, falls and, ultimately, redemption.  It’s about a God who says to us “I created you in my image and, for that reason and that reason alone, I love you.  Period.”  It’s a story that demonstrates that God’s ways are not our ways and that God uses whomever He wills, however He wills and does so perfectly.  Yuan’s journey from outcast kid to drug dealer to HIV statistic to Christ follower is, at bottom, simply a story of
God’s unconditional love for even “the least” of us (a category into which we all fall).

In addition, Out of a Far Country, is about a mother’s struggle.  In alternating chapters running roughly chronologically with Christopher’s story, his mother, Angela, tells her own story of redemption
through the trials of a rebellious son, a lifeless marriage, and lifelong scars that haunted her inmost being.  From her childhood in Shanghai and Taiwan to her life in the United States with husband, Leon, Angela describes for us her journey from atheist to Christian, from staunch anti-religionist to powerful prayer warrior, from suicidal mother to child of God.  Hers is a story not only of redemption but also of the power of a praying parent who asks God not to bail her son out of whatever situation he might be in, not to allow him to remain in
a school threatening to expel him, not to spare him from prison, but to do “whatever it takes” to bring her son to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was a bold prayer.  It was an instructive prayer.  It was an effective prayer.

At bottom, Out of a Far Country is a story of hope.  No matter how far from God we may think we are, God pursues us in the most unlikely ways and in the most unlikely places, in a swank Atlanta apartment, in
a prison bunk—even in a trash can.  Read the book.  You’ll understand.


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