Drugs, sex and prison: How a HIV diagnosis led a prodigal son home
Image source: All photos courtesy of Dr Christopher Yuan
Living a double life as a dentistry graduate student by day and promiscuous drug addict by night, Dr Christopher Yuan was peddling drugs – even to his professor – to support his habit.
“Three months before I was supposed to receive my dentistry doctorate, the school administration expelled me,” said the US-based author and veteran speaker on faith and sexuality, sharing his life story at a recent Zoom conference.
Hosted by Generations of Virtue, the online session was attended by more than 300 participants across the world.
He continued: “I thought my parents were going to fight to keep me in school. My father was a dentist and he knew the dean really well.”
As it turned out, they didn’t, leaving Christopher feeling betrayed.
“To my surprise, my mother looked at the dean and she said: ‘It’s not important that Christopher becomes a dentist. What’s more important is that Christopher becomes a Christ follower.’”
Recalling how he did not grow up in a Christian household, Christopher said his parents only came to know Christ much later on.
Describing their marriage as a disaster, Christopher shared that his parents began the paperwork for divorce after 27 years of being together. That was also when he decided to come out of the closet to his family, revealing that he had been pursuing sexual relationships with men.
Devastated by what was happening at home, Christopher’s mum decided to end her life, but a divine encounter with God stopped her in her tracks.
She had bought a one-way train ticket to say goodbye to Christopher, but felt the need to see a minister first. On the train, she started reading the pamphlet the minister had given her – and that’s when she heard the Good News and decided to accept Christ.
Shortly after, his dad also came to the faith, a decision that saved their marriage and completely changed their lives.
However, this only caused a wider rift between Christopher and his parents. So repelled was he that he threw away the Bible that his dad gave him when he left home.
“The funny thing was that they weren’t preaching at me,” he recalled. “But just the fact that God had radically transformed their lives and how they radiated Christ – that was offensive to me.”
After that incident, it was clear to Christopher’s parents that it would take nothing short of a miracle to bring their prodigal son back home. And so they prayed fervently for him over the next few years.
The miracle finally came – with a bang on the door.
“On my front doorsteps were 12 federal drug enforcement agents,” said Christopher. “They confiscated all my money and drugs, and I was facing 10 years to life in federal prison.”
But his story would not end there.
One day in jail, he was passing by a garbage can when he thought to himself: This is my life.
“I come from an upper-middle class family. My father has two doctorates. I was only three months away from receiving my own doctorate. And now I find myself among common criminals.”
He was just about to walk away when he found a copy of a Gideon’s New Testament sitting on top of the trash. It wasn’t like he thought he could find the answers he needed in that book, but he still picked it up anyway.
“I was simply thinking: I’ve got an enormous amount of time on my hands, so I better pass it somehow,” admitted Christopher.
That was how he read through the gospel of Mark for the first time. And with that, a seedling of hope had been planted in Christopher’s life – a timely gift as he would receive a piece of shocking news in a few days.
To Christopher’s horror, he tested positive for HIV.
Describing how it felt like he had been given the death sentence, Christopher remembered coming across a note that someone had scribbled on the ceiling of his bunk bed one night.
If you’re feeling bored, read Jeremiah 29:11.
After looking it up in the Bible, he was astounded.
“God was using the words penned by a prophet thousands of years ago to a rebellious nation to tell me that, regardless of who I was and what I had done in my past, He still had a plan for me,” he recounted.
Even though Christopher had no clue what this plan was, knowing this gave him strength to get through the dark days one step at a time.
And that triggered a transformation process. Christopher slowly started to get over his addiction to drugs. While he initially found it hard to let go of his sexuality, it was the Holy Spirit that finally convicted him.
Coming to a crossroad, Christopher realised he could choose not to allow his sexual attractions to dictate who he was and how he lived. Instead, he decided to follow Jesus.
“I didn’t leave pursuing same-sex relationships because my parents told me it was sinful or convinced me it was bad,” he said. “I left it because my parents showed me something better. And His name is Jesus.”
Explaining how he became aware of sin as he read the Bible, Christopher said: “What we have in the Bible is not just words on paper. What we have is the very breath of God.
“It is living and powerful and sharper than any double-edged sword, able to cut through the hardest of hearts.”
As he began to live in obedience to the Word of God, God began revealing His plans for Christopher’s life.
Sensing a call towards full-time ministry, Christopher sent an application to Moody Bible Institute while still in prison. It was the only Bible college he had heard of at that point in time.
Amazingly, he was accepted and would go on to be a professor there for over 10 years, later graduating with a doctorate of ministry from Bethel Seminary.
An established speaker and author today, Christopher has written 3 books: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, Giving a Voice to the Voiceless, and his latest book, Holy Sexuality And The Gospel, which was named the 2019 book of the year for social issues by Outreach Magazine.
To anyone who feels hopeless about their situation, Christopher has these words to say:
“Being HIV-positive, I know that this virus will lead to an earlier death. Medication has much improved and, for now, I am healthy. But with the state of things in the world now with COVID-19, I know how fragile my life is.
“But honestly, I’m no different than any of you. All our days are numbered.”
While it took getting HIV for Christopher to realise that he must live with a sense of urgency, he encouraged others to make the most of their days on earth.
“Our purpose here on earth is not to chase after worldly things such as success, money or even happiness. Our one and only purpose is to know Jesus and make him known,” he said, quoting Matthew 6:33.
“In the midst of our trials, we must not dwell on our circumstances as much as they might seem to overwhelm us,” he concluded. “Because in the radiance of God’s glorious future, nothing compares to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Dr Christopher Yuan has taught at Moody Bible Institute for over 10 years and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached 5 continents. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005, Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007 with a Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis and received his doctorate of ministry from Bethel Seminary in 2014.
Based in Singapore? Click here if you’d like to order a copy of Dr Yuan’s books.
THINK + TALK
- Are you struggling with an overwhelming circumstance in your life? What does it mean to trust in God’s plan for your life?
- Knowing that life is fragile, how can you make the most of your days on earth?
- What sins in your life might the Holy Spirit by convicting you to flee from?