The Engels Family

    If there was ever a time that my words have felt insufficient, it is now.

    Cancer is ugly. But as we entered the house to document the Engels family, we have never witnessed something so beautiful.

    Rich and I love the Engels family. And I don’t use the word “love” lightly or flippantly. In moving from Fort Lauderdale to Chattanooga about eight years ago, they became dear friends and church family to hundreds of people here. Rich and I became close to Kenny while we served with the youth group at our church for several years, and Kenny travelled back down to Ft. Lauderdale to perform our marriage ceremony. We could not have been more blessed, encouraged, or challenged by him.

    Once married, we attended home group at the Engels for a couple of years before Alana’s arrival made it too difficult to make the 45 minute drive to their home every Monday night. It was at their home group that we fell in love with Christi and the girls. We were in awe of their incredible family, and the love, joy, and peace that permeated their home.

    Now, in the face of the strongest trial of their lives, the Engels family is still displaying the same love, joy, and peace that they were when the waters were still and the storm was no where to be seen. With daunting news from the doctors about the cancer in her brain and lung, Christi is still believing God, trusting Him, and relying on His strength…and it could not be more beautiful, convicting, or comforting to us.

    Without further ado, let us introduce to you the most amazing family you will EVER meet. Kenny and Christi and their four beautiful girls, Riley, Avery, Sydney, and Chloe. Rich and I were blessed and honored to be let in on a slice of their day for some photos on Sunday afternoon. Here are just a few that we love.








    Beautiful, valiant Christi..























    As we struggle with what we can do for them, I can’t help but think that they have helped us far more during this time than we could possibly offer back. Just by being themselves and giving God the glory even through their trial. So, we pray.

    I want to conclude this post with a moving poem that Kenny wrote for his wife four years ago after she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing treatments. As they go through their storm, these words have never rung so true…

    A mountain looms.
    Ominous and Stoic.
    Though the soothing melody of the valley brook
    warms the heart to stay.
    There will be those that venture beyond
    the comforts of pasture
    because the mountain calls.
    Or is it
    that they are called to the mountain?
    is terrain Unstable
    Jagged and Rough
    Swelling with struggles, stumbles and strain
    Body taxed
    Teeth clinched
    Cries of war
    A quest within a journey
    to master and not be mastered

    Yet what is it I see?
    Such beauty approaches
    Sure to be swallowed by such harshness
    Yet like an eagle taking flight
    She steps to the darkness with such ease
    Seeming to float over the undulating incline
    Watching her body move
    It is apparent that she is not in a battle
    But in a dance
    And that she is not bowing to the mountain
    But the mountain has become her stage
    Like the feet of a deer
    She absorbs the lows
    And embraces the highs
    It is effortless, yes
    But more a picture of the miraculous
    Knowing the adversity of the elements
    And yet displaying such peace.

    Arms outstretched and head lifted high
    The rhythm of her feet draw you in
    And reveals that she does not dance alone
    The speed, the placement, the stability
    Indicate that her feet are responding
    Simply shadowing the footwork of a masterful lead
    And she climbs on
    Unaware that there is an audience that watches
    Amazed and inspired
    As they witness something so graceful
    And so full of Grace

    He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and will make me walk on my high hills
    Habakkuk 3:19

    • Lisa Hickman - I couldn’t agree more, the Engels family is absolutely amazing. You guys did a fabulous job capturing them. What a precious family that we will continue to pray for. Thanks for posting and sharing!

    • Stephanie Blackiston - Crying my eyes out over the poem. WOW!!
      The pictures are beautiful.
      Christi truly is the picture of grace. I have thought that since I watched her with her newborn way before cancer entered their lives and now even more.

      What a beautiful glimpse of Jesus we get from this family! May all who see them see Jesus high and lifted up.

    • Meghan - Beautiful photos of amazingly precious moments! I haven’t met the Engels but I can see all those qualities that you described in these images. We will be praying for this family.

    • Leslie Janous - Such a lovely family yet a heart-wrenching story…my thoughts and prayers are with them. Beautiful as always Rich.

    • Willa Ibach - Thank you, on behalf of the Body, for doing this. What a gift and precious treasure these photos will be for the Engles no matter what the outcome is, you have recorded the beginning of this journey for them. It is so tempting to tell God what we think He should do here. But I will plead instead and pray that He be glorified. Thank you for celebrating His work through the Engles publicly.

    • Beth - Words cannot describe the emotion felt looking at these pictures. You have so beautifully captured this amazing family and the cherished love they have for one another. Thank you for sharing these images of hope, faith, love and courage all wrapped in grace!

    • Melinda Nicodemus - I am crying for this family. As a mother I can’t even imagine what she is going through. I will be praying for her complete healing. Beautiful pictures as always.

    • -brittany- - I can barely see to type…oh wow…Even if you did not know the Engels you could see true genuine love here. Beautiful beautiful beautiful!

    • tim - wow. you really captured some special moments here, rich.

    • Josh & Stephanie Craft - What a glimpse of the strength and peace the Lord has instilled in their hearts. Beautiful is the Lord’s work in the sweet and precious Engels family!

    • Jackie Engels - I too am a photographer and have photographed Kenny since he was a baby. Your pictures are absolutely wonderful. You captured my nephew and his family beautifully.
      Christi is a wonderful and gentle woman who loves her family and the Lord dearly.
      Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs of a wonderful, loving family.

      Kenny’s Aunt Jackie

    • ~brittany~ - Thank you for sharing this family! This has to be one of the toughest shoots to do but by far among the most treasured. May God Bless them as they continue their journey. ~britt~

    • Jimmy Moncrief - WOW! Words can’t describe how amazing these photos are. You guys did an amazing job. “Amazing” being a major understatement.

    • David Smith - Love these pics. You can’t help but love this family when you see these images. I can tell they are some very special people.

    • stacy - what an incredible family. Wonderful pictures. I will keep this family in my prayers. Thank you for sharing.

    • Robin Gamba - Thank you for bring us these beauiful moments in time! Words cant express the gratitude I have to the Engles family. LIVING God’s Word! BEING Jesus’s Light! GIVING Hope of God’s Love!

    • Meredith - What a beautiful testimony. I don’t even know this smiling family but I am inspired and drawn to tears. I have been there on the rugged mountains…I remember it. It wasn’t quite as high of a mountain but hard just the same. I wish I could meet this family. So full of life. I pray that someday my family glows Christ like that.

    • Kristy Engels - You have given them such an amazing gift. As Kenny’s cousin, and somebody who has worked with professional photographers for 15 years, you have done an incredible job capturing the love that this family has. I cried my eyes out knowing how valuable these photos will be to them for years to come. Thank you so much.

    • Amy hunt - Am praying for you and your family. May Jesus’ presence continue to fill your lives with His love, strength and protection.

    • Renee - Thank God for giving us His Word to comfort us.

      “My light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark.”

      Psalm 112:4,7

      4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
      for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

      7 He will have no fear of bad news;
      his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

      I’m not alone in loving this family till it hurts. They are so precious in so many ways ~ what a blessing it is they ended up in our very own church body!

    • Eliana Cruz - What a BEAUTIFUL family, I Miss and love yall so much I Wish all my best.

    • carly - I can’t get enough of this session or this family. Love, love, love them.

    • Mike Meyer - Kenny & Christi: His love is so evident in your family and these images perfectly capture the tender connection between you. I miss you guys and being around the absolute simplicity of your contagious faith. Kenny, your poem is beautiful and understandably so based on the inspiration of one amazing women! All of our love is with you guys ~ Mike + Gi

    • Bridget Brown - I am in awe of what you captured
      Kenny and his family are an inspiration of hope to me that life can be better and to never stop trying, ever since I found out a few weeks ago about Christi, I have not ceased praying I wake up in the middle of the night and say a prayer, I cry for the pain i know she must be going through and cry for the joy that WILL come in the morning. God will HEAL her unfortunately he may take her home to do so and that pains me as well, I believe he heart and soul that GOd still has a job for her and I pray it is not her time. You captured the essence of the love and spirit that God calls us too. Thank YOU THANK SO MUCH!!! It is rare for those of us to get to see a private moment such as these. What a beautiful poem. I hope that when Joseph and I get married later this year that God blesses our marriage in the same way that he has blessed you guys, trials and all. The ride wouldn’t be any fun if it was all smooth sailing.
      Love you Engels family

    • Nicole - As tears stream down my face,I am in awe of this family, the beautiful images of this family, and the faith that remains in their hearts.

    • Dayna - In JESUS’ name, cancer, DIE! Let every single sick cell be obliterated by the POWER of JESUS! Fire of God, DESTROY the enemy in this temple of your presence, Christi Engels. LIFE come to Christi, to her brain, to her lungs, to every single cell in her holy body. Christi WILL FULFILL the purpose of her life–to work with her husband, to raise her daughters and to lead many to Jesus. LIFE, LIFE, LIFE come! Christi, BE HEALED in JESUS’ name.

    • anne park - What priceless photos to capture the hearts of this sweet family!
      My heart breaks for the trial they are enduring, but am so thankful for the Body of Christ to uphold them.
      “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!
      anne park (rebekah dine’s mom)

    • Judith Rust - Such beautful photos of the most wonderful family. Praying for you all!!

    • Aurora Heitman - Thank you for sharing. its been many years since I have seen Kenny and Christi. But when your in the Lord’s family, it doesn’t matter. My heart hurts for them. Been praying!

    • Michelle - Dear Engels, I have prayed for you all and will continue to pray. The laughter that is shown in the pictures is impressive and it shows that a family can love and over come any thing. May god bless each of you.

    • Coventry - Your pictures made me cry. Kenny’s poem~ beautiful. Thanks Rich.

    • Meadors - How blessed we are for being allowed a small glimpse of this beautiful, graceful dance between Christi and the One who loves her more than we can fathom.. May God continue to be glorified in this. The pictures are wonderful and will be greatly treasured. The emotion I feel toward this family during this time is great. Even with the short glimpse I have seen, God has spoken to my heart about time away from him and taking for granted the gifts he has given.

    • Sondra - I was visiting your church with a friend the week you found out the cancer had returned. My heart was both moved and broken the entire service! I have never met you, but I just want you to know I have continued to keep you and your beautiful family in my prayers all the way here in SC! The pictures are absolutely wonderful :) May God’s healing hand be laid upon you!

    • Lori Brooks - These photos are amazing. This family is full of joy and love for one another. One of the things that has always struck me and inspired me about Christi is that she always sees the positive in life. She’s been blessed with an amazing family and the support and love that Kenny shows is unyielding. I pray constantly for the Engels and love them dearly. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

    • The Engels Family – Part 2 » Rich Smith Photography - […] those of you who were touched by our recent blog post about the amazing Engels family, please spend another few moments with us. We have more photos to […]

    • Jennifer Lunsford - Stay strong in the faith my fellow believers. My mom was diagnosed with level four lung cancer and given six months to live. In that very same month, I delivered a stillborn baby, and lost a nephew to a fire…. That was three years ago, my mom is still alive and cancer is gone (did I mention, she never had treatment) I have a beautiful baby girl that soothed my aching heart and hundreds of people are receiving scholarships because of my nephew’s death. God is good, praise Him and know He is with you!

    • Missy Goddard - Praying for you every day. What a beautiful testimony of His beauty and grace….To God be the Glory…xo

    • Linda - ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. Brought me to tears several times – especially the photo of husband and wife, where he is holding her in his arms. Praying for the healing touch of Jesus.