When Mark and Angie Lingenfelter were expecting their third child, they anticipated a normal healthy girl.
None of Angie's prenatal tests or sonograms indicated otherwise. But just as a mother counts all the baby's fingers and toes, Angie noticed their baby's cleft palate.
As difficult as it was for the Roaring Spring couple to know that the roof of their daughter's mouth was deformed, more bad news would follow within the next couple of weeks when the newborn underwent treatment and examinations at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Pastor Mark Lingenfelter spends time with his daughter, Faith, at their Roaring Spring home. His book, “Chasing After Faith,” (photo at left) tells of the struggles and triumphs the family experienced during the five years Faith had surgeries to repair birth defects. It retails for $9.95 and is available at online booksellers, Christian bookstores and bmhbooks.com.
Faith is now a healthy, energetic 6-year-old, but in her few short years she has experienced several surgeries and life-threatening situations.
Getting to know others who were enduring similar experiences led Mark, senior pastor at Leamersville Grace Brethren Church, Duncansville, to write a book about his family's difficult times and how their faith encouraged them.
"Through it all, we learned a lot about ourselves and the experiences of others," he said.
Mark said he wanted to share those experiences because "so many people are hurting."
He said during difficult times, people make choices and he believes they can become bitter and angry or learn to trust God who has a sovereign plan.
His began to write "Chasing After Faith," when their daughter was 5, the age she underwent surgery to repair a congenital problem known as atrial septal defect. The procedure would close a hole in the upper two chambers of her heart that often leads to death in young adulthood if it is not repaired.
By that time being in the hospital was nothing new for Faith. She had operations at age 1 and 3 for her cleft palate and had a life-threatening bout with pneumonia soon after her birth.
"We almost lost her at two weeks," Mark said.
Faith also has a birth defect called pelvic kidney or a kidney that is not in its proper place. Mark said one kidney works a little harder to make up for the problem, but no surgery is required at this time.
Through their trying times, Mark's book not only tells how the family experienced God's faithfulness but he challenges the reader to consider how God cares for him or her, too.
Each chapter tells a story about Faith from the unusual way she got her name to her healthy state. With each chapter, Mark relates biblical principles that anyone can apply to his or her own life and provides Scripture and questions for personal reflection or small-group Bible studies.
One of those principles is thankfulness.
In Chapter 3, "Giving Thanks for Faith," Mark tells how he and Angie are thankful for the medical care Faith received and the support of family and friends. It was their family who brought them comfort and clothes for an unexpected stay in Pittsburgh when Faith's exam at Children's Hospital turned into her being admitted.
During that experience and other hospital trips, family also cared for their two other children, Hannah and Elijah, and friends prayed.
In the discussion questions at the end of the chapter, Mark refers to Philippians 4:4-8 where people are challenged to rejoice in all circumstances.
"We have a natural bent to be negative," he said. "We tend to think on problems and shortcomings. People miss out when they don't look around and be thankful."
That's not to say that the family did not have its difficult moments.
Kim Replogle of Martinsburg said Mark's ability to be open about his thoughts and emotions makes the book genuine.
Replogle said before moving to the area, she worked with developmentally challenged adults at The Arc of Monroe County in Rochester, N.Y., and was acquainted with parents whose children had special needs. She said the parents often feel it is political incorrect to admit that they get angry or scream out to God.
"Here's a pastor who admits it's hard. [Yet,] he finds joy in every challenge and becomes closer to God," Replogle said. "The book is very encouraging."
Replogle said she has recommended the book to former co-workers so they can pass it on to parents whose children use their services. And although families with children that have medical or special needs can relate to the story, the book has wide appeal, she said.
"It's very sweet and very real," she said of "Chasing After Faith." "It's a quick read. I wanted to go on the the next page, the next chapter, the next devotional."
Jake Snyder of Roaring Spring found the book to be touching.
"Only a Grinch could read it and not cry," said Snyder, an assistant pastor at Leamersville Grace Brethren Church.
He said the reader's tears "would be tears of joy because the family got through the crisis with joy and growth."
Snyder said, "Faith is a child who is so full of love because she is loved. She is our personal ambassador at church. She greets people and introduces people to each other."
He said the book helps the reader to understand the family because of Mark's writing.
"He combines words as tools to paint a picture for you," Snyder said.
The book was published by BMH Books in Winona Lake, Ind.
"It is one of the top selling books of the publishing company," Snyder said.