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Apple Valley congregation embraces member family

Members of Shepherd of the Valley Luheran came to the rescue of Doug Lange

After the evening meal with his family on a November evening, Doug Lange headed back outside to put the finishing touches on the project he had been working on all day. No one is exactly sure what happened next.
The 44-year-old member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota, had been installing Christmas lights on the exterior of his house. Somehow, he ended up falling from the roof, sustaining a serious head injury.
His wife, Jolayne, called 911. Doug was rushed to Regency Hospital, where the doctors diagnosed swelling of the brain. Part of Doug’s skull was removed to accommodate the swelling and he seemed to improve. But then he experienced oxygen deprivation to his brain and his recovery seemed to plateau.
Lange is a husband and father, and, for the past 14 years has been a participating member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran.
“Doug was involved with men’s ministries. He was an offering counter. Doug was a really committed member who loved the church,” said Paul Harring-ton, the lead pastor at Shepherd of the Valley.
Chris Smith, another pastor on staff at the large south suburban ELCA congregation, described Doug as a dedicated, faithful, devoted family man. Doug always brought his daughter with him to church and was a member of the men’s ministry since its beginning.
“He was always eager to serve. He helped with the men’s breakfast for nine years as a server, and then helped clean up afterwards,” Smith said.
Said Smith, “We are always hoping and praying for a recovery.” Harrington added, “Doug is always on the prayer list of the congregation.”
While the congregation of Shepherd of the Valley recognizes the power of their prayers, they have tried to show their support in other ways as well. In the space of two hours the congregation raised nearly $25,000 in support for the Lange family, along with matching support from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
“A lot of people knew Doug and, because of their relationship with him, they wanted to help. But it is also part of the tradition of the congregation to be benevolent,” Harrington explained.
The fund-raiser was a positive and emotional event for the Lange family as well. The family was not only surprised by the money raised, but also by the spirit — and number — of the people who helped during the event.
“The whole experience was overwhelming for my daughter and me,” Jolayne remembered. “It was much more than we had expected, and I think financially it was more than anyone expected.”
The funds were raised during a spaghetti dinner and silent auction on March 25, but that’s not the only way the congregation’s members have shown their support.
“[The spaghetti dinner] was great. Everything from the auction was bought and people bid generously,” Smith said.
Recently the congregation asked the Lange family if there was anything they could do to help. The Langes had never had any landscaping in their yard, so a group of about 25 spent part of a Saturday afternoon working on the property.
“It was beautifully executed, and the family was very thankful,” Harrington said.
Shepherd of the Valley’s lead pastor believes the congregation has responded so strongly because of personal ties and a tradition of benevolence. But he’s also convinced congregation members are living out their faith.
“We are called not just to be hearers of the Word, but doers also. I like to think that everything here is in the context of serving Christ in the world. I hope everything we do falls under that umbrella,” Harrington declared.
“Genuine love is ex-pressed in concrete terms,” he added.
Doug Lange is now at Galtier Plaza, a long-term care facility where he is in a “persistent vegetative state.” He makes minimal responses, reacting to pain and pleasure and receives periodical medical evaluations.
But the members of Shepherd of the Valley have not forgotten him. He’s still very much a part of the flock.
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Cosgrove served as a summer writing intern at Metro Lutheran. He has returned for classes at Grand View College, Des Moines, Iowa.