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Jan13WedFaith helps Christopher Langridge and his family keep their balance in the face of an incurable disease. January 13, 2016 by Kristen Gray
"I need to get back on the ice, Mom. It's where I belong.” For 15-year-old Christopher Langridge, speed skating had become a way of life. But in the two weeks before he was to represent Ontario at the 2015 Canada East Short Track Championship in Fredericton early last year, the disease that Christopher has lived with since birth threatened to keep him from competing.
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- Faith & Friends
Speed skating is both an exhilarating and a perilous sport. One minute, you're gliding smoothly along an open stretch of ice; the next, you're leaning into a turn with just the right balance to avoid tumbling onto the cold hard surface.
The Langridge family knows all about the joys and challenges of speed skating, and life.
Christopher's parents, Debby and Jeff, met as teenagers at The Salvation Army's Jackson's Point Camp in Ontario, where they worked as camp counsellors. Both had been raised in Christian homes and it wasn't long before they figured out that getting married and raising a family of their own was what God had in store for them.
But after experiencing a miscarriage, Debby's doctor discovered she was at risk of going into premature labour in the fifth month of her second pregnancy. He ordered her to spend the remaining weeks in bed, with the hope of delaying labour and delivery as long as possible. Christopher Ryan Langridge was born seven weeks early on the morning of October 14, 2000.
Although he was tiny, Christopher's lungs were reasonably well developed, and he was quickly weaned off oxygen support. After spending just two weeks in the neonatal ICU, he appeared to be doing well and the Langridges were thrilled to finally take their baby home.
Unfortunately, their joy was short-lived. Christopher's parents soon found themselves back at the hospital watching him undergo a battery of tests as the doctors tried to figure out what was causing his “failure to thrive.” Then, in early January 2001, a dreaded call came: Christopher had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
A Plan and a Purpose
In the midst of learning about all the things that would be critical for Christopher's daily survival—digestive enzymes, chest-clapping therapy, respiratory equipment—the couple also found themselves coming to grips with the news that their child had a potentially fatal disease.
“My questions for God were unending,” says Debby. “Why had our baby survived despite the difficult pregnancy? Why had God brought us through all of that just to bring us to this heartbreak? I couldn't comprehend why He had allowed this to happen.”
During this time, both parents recall how grateful they were for the support of their Salvation Army church family and friends in Kitchener, Ont. Nevertheless, Debby remained angry at God and struggled to accept the news, until a meeting with her pastor, Lt-Colonel Lee Graves, helped the young mother move forward in faith. “I came out of that with an understanding that sometimes, we simply don't understand,” Debby says. “Faith is about trusting, and we always believed God had a plan and a purpose for Christopher.”
What Really Matters
Within a few years, the couple began to think about growing their little family and decided to adopt. On September 25, 2007, six-year-old Christopher welcomed 16-month-old baby brother Avery into the family.
Looking for a way to involve Christopher in physical activity, Debby and Jeff enrolled him in skating lessons at their local arena. They quickly discovered he had a natural ability on the ice, and Christopher soon expressed an interest in speed skating. Before long, the entire family had taken up the sport and today, when they're not at church for Sunday worship, band practice or discipleship classes, they're likely to be at the rink, where both Avery and Christopher regularly compete at their respective levels.
Christopher has spent much of the last year travelling across the province competing, and representing Ontario in amateur speed-skating competitions in Quebec and Saskatchewan. Perhaps the best part of all this, say his parents, is that the sport he loves and excels at helps to keep Christopher's lungs functioning better than many battling cystic fibrosis.
Still, Christopher lives with a daily regimen of treatments and is at constant risk of infection. There are times when his health interferes with his passion for speed skating, as was the case last March as he prepared to travel to Fredericton for the championships.
His parents worried that his blood oxygen levels were not what they should be in order for him to skate.
While he was allowed to compete, it's times such as these when Christopher draws from his own experiences a few years earlier, when he admits he was “mad at God for giving me this disease.” But with a wisdom well beyond his 15 years, Christopher goes on to explain that “it's OK to have moments when you question your faith, but they can only be moments, because you can't stay in that place.”
“None of us are promised tomorrow,” Debby adds. “So what matters is how we live today.”
Captain Kristen Gray is the pastor at The Salvation Army Brantford Community Church in Ontario.