Book Review: Out of a Far Country

in: Blog, For Writers & Readers

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Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. By Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan. Forward by Kay Warren.

But while he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

About the Book

On May 15, 1993, Christopher Yuan informed his parents that he was gay. Then he left them to travel in a “far country” for five years, pursuing a gay lifestyle and dealing drugs until he was arrested and sentenced to a six-year term in prison. Out of a Far Country is the story of a family’s struggle to come to terms with a son’s self-destruction and a mother’s search for hope. Even more, it is a story about God’s tireless pursuit of two prodigals—mother and son—and the Father’s love that redeemed them both.

At 240 pages, the book is a quick read, paced like a novel and told in narrative form. Christopher and his mother, Angela, alternate chapters so that each effectively tells the unfolding story from his or her personal viewpoint. Over a half-dozen photographs make the characters more real and took me deeper into the their story. At the back of the book, a study guide offers discussion questions for a six-week small group study.

Although Christopher describes in brutal detail his journey in the far country, the main thrust of the book is not to condemn gay lifestyle or drug trafficking. Rather, it is a vivid testimony of how God can bring good out of the worst circumstances. What might have been a dark and desperate tale is transformed into a beautiful story of hope and redemption as God pursues both mother and son and gives them what they both desperately crave: a sense of belonging and reassurance of unconditional love.

Angela

Early in the story, Angela struggles with her pride and shame over what she perceives as her failure as a mother. When she can at last admit to herself that she is a sinner and no better than her wayward son, she writes of her elation:

“With each step I took I was more convinced of my sin. But amazingly, it was freeing. I felt the acceptance of being loved by God despite my sin.…I didn’t have all the answers, and I never would. But it was okay, because I no longer had to be perfect.…It was all I could do to keep from shouting, ‘I’m a sinner! I’m a sinner!'” (pp. 31-32)

Once she accepts Christ, Angela also learns to accept and love her son despite his troubling lifestyle. Her one desperate prayer becomes “that God would do whatever it took to bring my son to him—not to us, not out of drugs, not out of homosexuality … but to the Father” (p. 159).

Christopher

While Christopher is in prison, he receives the news that he is HIV+, and his world turns bleak. He wonders if he will even survive his prison sentence. Then he notices a cryptic message scratched on the metal above his bunk: If you’re bored, read Jeremiah 29:11. Searching out the text, Christopher recognizes God’s voice speaking to him:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Christopher accepts Christ into his life as Lord and becomes deeply involved in prison ministry. Studying the Bible eventually leads him to redefine his core identity as a child of God rather than as a gay man. Instead of allowing his feelings and addictions to frame his life, he decides that living in Christ means to choose holiness and obedience to God in every circumstance:

“I had always thought that the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality. But actually the opposite of homosexuality is holiness” (p. 187).

My Recommendation

I picked up this book after hearing Christopher speak at the Writing for the Soul writers conference in February 2013. I was moved by his story, but when I read the book, it was Angela’s testimony that had the greater impact on me. When she gave her life to Christ, she gave Him everything she had, including her beloved son. If there is a flaw in this narrative, it is in the conspicuous absence of Angela’s elder son, Steven. She speaks of both sons living in rebellion, but Steven rarely enters the narrative. This is Christopher’s story, after all, and the emphasis is rightly on him. I can’t help but wonder, however, about Steven’s “far country” and his part in the family dynamic.

In summary, I heartily recommend this book, especially to those experiencing heartache over a “lost” family member. It is finely written, unflinchingly honest, and biblically sound in its message of hope and redemption to be found in Christ.

To Order the Book

Out of a Far Country, by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan. (2011). WaterBrook Press: Colorado Springs. 240 pages.

ISBN 978-0-307-72935-4

Purchase this book through amazon.com or christianbook.com.

Paperback: $11.99-$13.49. Also available as an eBook: $13.99.

To learn more about Christopher and his ministry, visit christopheryuan.com.

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