Dysfunctional is the non-fiction account of Rick Langlais’ life story. The reader follows the founder and president of Saskatoon’s Hands On Street Ministries through an early childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood filled with extreme violence, abuse, drugs, and alcohol. When Rick encounters God and experiences Christ’s forgiveness, he is empowered to reach out to others who are suffering as he did, using his life as a living witness to the power of God to rescue anyone, no matter how difficult their situation.
The book deals with heartbreaking issues and presents graphic details, but the difficult content serves to underscore the miracle of salvation that takes place in Rick’s heart. Dysfunctional: The Rick Langlais Story gives God the glory for his work in one man’s life. Rick’s message that “God is bigger than the bogeyman” can be a strong reminder for those of us who are struggling with difficult situations and temptations, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Although more like a novel than a devotional, educational, or theological text, Dysfunctional’s strength lies in its non-fiction genre: it’s a wonderful testimony to the real work of Christ in the world. From a technical perspective, however, the writing is not always polished, and is often repetitive. This limitation is due to the circumstances of its creation: the words and memories are those of Rick Langlais as told to Andrew Fehr, pastor of Faith River Christian Fellowship (MB), Saskatoon. Fehr stayed quite true to the orality of the story as heard from Langlais.
The first 10 chapters (accounting for more than half the book) are perhaps a little extensive, dealing with Rick’s life before Christ. He often uses many different anecdotes to make the same point. The heavy subject material takes energy to process, but lends the reader a proportionately greater sense of joy once Rick encounters Christ for the first time and begins to follow him.
The purpose of the text is first and foremost to share Rick’s story. Stylistic considerations have taken a back seat, which unfortunately may be a barrier for some readers. However, in light of the goal of giving God the glory for changing lives, the book is a success and, if accepted for what it is, an inspiration.
The story has no definite conclusion, as Rick’s life and ministry continue beyond the end of the text. He acknowledges that some may not agree with or be comfortable with his life story or his way of running his ministry, but asks his readers to be open-minded. I recommend reading this book to gain an understanding of how God is at work today in Saskatoon, and to be encouraged to reach out to others in ways true to our own life stories and personalities. As you sit down with Langlais and Fehr, be aware however that the subject matter is disturbing at times, and be open to patiently “listening” as Rick recounts his journey.
I was reminded of Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God may have a challenge waiting for each one of us in this story as he continues his work in our lives.