Violence, abuse, and addiction were all Rick Langlais knew until he met Jesus in adulthood through the loving intervention of Ralph Gliege, then pastor of West Portal (MB) Church. For the past two decades, Langlais has provided drop-in space, clothing, and food – and love – through Hands On Street Ministry in Saskatoon. Now he’s also become a sought-after speaker on Saskatchewan reserves and in adult-learning classrooms.
Langlais collaborated with his pastor, Andrew Fehr of Faith River Christian Fellowship (MB), on his biography, Dysfunctional: The Rick Langlais Story, published in 2011. The gritty details of his early life may shock average church-goers, but “have been experienced by too many First Nations people,” says University of Saskatchewan sociology professor and First Nations specialist Bryan Puk, who uses Langlais’ book in his class. “More importantly, he gives people hope that no matter how bleak a personal situation may feel at the moment, problems can be overcome.”
Since its publication, Langlais has received more than a dozen invitations to speak in schools and on reserves, often in the wake of traumatic events like suicides. “I go and speak when I’m invited,” says Langlais, whose ministry is “100 percent faith-funded.” “If this is going to work,” he says, “it’s because of God.”
At one reserve, some 50–60 youth signed their names, committing to Langlais that they would not commit suicide before he returned to speak in June.
“Rick is a good person to demonstrate that you can dig yourself out of a hole and get on with your life,” says GED teacher Mary Stocker, who has twice invited Langlais to address her 30 adult learners, mostly from the nearby Mistawasis and Muskeg Lake reserves, at Leask (Sask.) Storefront School. “Some cried at the beginning, but found it inspirational.”
In parting, Langlais hands out autographed copies of his book, each signed with a personal message. “The youth really responded to him,” says Christina Gamble of Witchikin First Nation, who invited him to speak twice based on word-of-mouth recommendation. “He gave the youth encouragement that you can turn your life around, but you can’t do it by yourself.”
Langlais’ faith in Christ is central to his story, but “Rick walks the walk, which means that people can see his Christian sincerity,” says Puk.
“I’m inspired by the way Rick works in Saskatoon; it’s too bad more people couldn’t do these things,” Stocker says.
Puk agrees: “Rick is looked up to as a role model not only by the children but the elders as well.”