Enable JavaScript to ensure website accessibility

Randy Lange – Live Deeply

I’m Randy Lange. This is how I’m living deeply. 

“I knew Rick was gone. As soon as I hung up from my sister-in-law’s call, I looked at my wife Christy and said so. And I was right. Rick was my identical twin brother, 48 years old. It was evening, around 7, on November 11, 1999, when his wife called me. Rick had been driving his DeLorean on Chapman Highway and gotten into an accident, she said, so we needed to go to the hospital right away. Once we arrived, we learned Rick had no brain function. His car had slammed into a piece of jagged concrete in the roadway, setting off a catastrophic chain of events. He was tall, like me, so the impact thrust him forward, his head smashing up and into the roll bar. He never had a chance. Sad doesn’t begin to describe it. I had no idea what life going forward was going to look like- Rick was my best buddy. We grew up in Iowa doing chores together around our family farm, both were briefly walk-ons for the men’s basketball team at Iowa State, and even shared the same profession. We trained to become veterinarians and opened Lange Animal Hospital here in Knoxville in the late ‘70s. By the time Rick passed away, the practice had already been a success for more than 20 years. (I went on to run it for a total of 43 before selling it.) It was extremely hard losing my business partner, but what I missed most was losing the part of me he gave me that I took for granted every day, like calling him up when I was watching a ballgame or pranking clients who couldn’t tell us apart. One time early on, he actually took my place in a job interview and landed me the position! So yeah, I was crushed to lose him. But, you know, God also gave me a sense of calm throughout the whole ordeal- although I think I could have been a better support system for my family in retrospect. Fortunately, my family had a strong faith, and God led us through this unexpected, tragic situation victoriously. God also provided for our animal hospital, as we had just hired a young veterinarian a few weeks earlier who was able to step in and keep services going at a high level. I saw it all as evidence of God’s hand ordaining even this unthinkable tragedy.     

Getting through the loss of Rick helped me better learn something I already knew: that God can be trusted, no matter the situation. Sometimes you know something to be true, but your faith doesn’t really grow until you actually feel that truth in a more practical way. That’s what God was doing in my life through losing Rick. Now this will sound sort of weird, but I was already helping teach kids this truth at the time! A few years earlier, our daughter Jessica needed surgery at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. She was only 9. As I nervously roamed the halls while the surgeon operated on her, I noticed about one in three children’s rooms had no adult there. I couldn’t believe it! The nurses explained to me that these kids were ‘drop-offs.’ In most cases, they were from single-parent homes where mom had to work to pay the bills or simply had other kids to look after, too. After learning that, I understood. Still, I hated looking into their eyes and seeing fear- the fear that comes from facing a scary situation alone. I thought, ‘What if we could put a weighty, plush animal in these kids’ arms? A friend to embrace- who lets them know it’s going to be okay?’ And that was the birth of the Josh & Friends Project- I used my golden retriever Josh as the inspiration. Josh would be more than just a plush animal; he’d also be the hero of a companion book to comfort these kids. Now you have to understand, I was never a writer- I still don’t consider myself one. But I felt very deeply that God was calling me to do this. So, with a lot of help from a wonderful editing/illustrating/publishing team, I wrote ‘I’ll Be O.K.’ Thanks to a very generous corporate sponsor (On a whim, I called up the top executive to pitch him for funding- I NEVER do stuff like that!), the Josh kits came to life: plush animal, book, and carrying kennel. We were even able to start a relationship with the Children’s Miracle Network, which featured the Josh kit prominently for many years. Over 25 years, we’ve been able to place the Josh kits in about 90,000 kids’ arms, even expanding it to include kids of deployed military parents. The second book (in what’s now a series) was G.I. Josh.

One of the most memorable ‘thank you’ notes I’ve ever received came from a dad whose daughter received a Josh kit from their local American Legion post. He was a big, burly guy -looked like a lumberjack- with a tender heart; he wrote the note by hand. His daughter wanted a dog so badly but couldn’t have one because of her health issues. The Josh puppy was the only dog she was allowed to have, he told me, and meant everything to her. So when she passed, they felt he had to be placed beside her. This dad actually put it better in his note: ‘She kept him at her side. Because of this, we left him with her as she sleeps.’ Wow. I cry every time I think of that family. And I’ve heard so many similar stories about Josh’s impact: the nurse who told me Josh brightened a little boy’s hospital stay & softened his tense mom’s rough edges, the dietitian whose nephew died after his eighth open heart surgery & whose mom chose to bury Josh with him, the family who told me a nurse convinced their scared daughter of things that needed to be done by performing them on Josh first. There’s something ‘magic’ about the human-animal bond. What a blessing to be called to share it like this! Now that I’m retired, I’ve been able to start devoting more time to the Josh & Friends Project again. This is what I want to spend my retirement doing. One of the books I’ve written, ‘O Holy Night’, uses Jeshua (Hebrew for Joshua) and the other animals present the night of the baby Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem to share the story of this special event. I have written six books, and all are written and beautifully illustrated to touch a child’s heart in a unique way and to point them to the hope of Jesus. Some of my books are currently available online (multiple sites- check around as prices vary tremendously). It was such an honor to travel coast-to-coast for many years and help so many children while promoting my books and my project, Josh & Friends. I am once again seeking partners to help reach significant numbers of children in the future- please pray that God would provide the appropriate partner(s) to make this venture a reality.

First and foremost, though, my retirement is devoted to Christy. She has battled a brain tumor for the past two years. We’ve traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas regularly for checkups and treatment. She is doing well at this time- she is everything to me, and we appreciate all your prayers and support in the past. We also ask that you continue to lift us up in the future. I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone- there are parts of this journey that are just so difficult. But I’ll also tell you that God has used it to bring us closer together. Even in this trial, we see His goodness- He keeps growing us in our embrace of and confidence in the truth that we can trust Him no matter what. And I love the kindnesses He shows along the way, too. For instance, there was a time when we weren’t sure how we were going to leave MD Anderson in the middle of treatment and make it to Chattanooga in time for our daughter’s wedding. Sure enough, a family friend (who’d flown me all over the country to Josh & Friends events) offered his private jet and got us there for the celebration, then back to Houston in time to continue treatments. The doctors at MD Anderson also adjusted their treatment protocol specifically so we could sneak out for our daughter’s special day. God didn’t have to provide that, but He delighted to do so!  

Another special blessing is a book I just finished, which is a true story about a pig Rick & I literally saved from death on the farm we grew up on in Iowa. A pack of feral dogs attacked her and many other piglets and she barely survived, only because we found her in the nick of time and Dad allowed us to try to save her. Only a breath or two from death, she ultimately survived, and we nursed her back to health with the joyful assistance of our three very large farm dogs, who literally cared for and raised her. She grew up thinking she was not a pig, but, in fact, a dog. Her entire life, she ran loose on our farm and was Brownie, Lange dog #4, ultimately a 500-pound sow who acted like your typical farm dog- albeit, in fact, a very atypical farm dog with funny feet, a curly tail, and a very unusual bark! The comparison to God’s adoption of us is obvious. He assures each of us we’re His, no matter how typical or atypical we are- He loves us no matter what. And like Brownie, we may need help at times from someone we don’t even know, and we may turn out totally different from who we thought we’d be. But God knows how to take care of each of us and use us, even with our unusual gifts and sometimes special abilities. We simply have to trust that His plan is the right plan and follow His will for our life. Just like Brownie did. And she ended up becoming man’s best friend- pretty special in my book!” 

Read stories of people living deeper on mission: