Jeremy Camp Interview

May 02, 2003 08:06 PM EDT

Robin: Can you tell us your story?

Jeremy: I met Melissa three years ago. A friend had asked me to lead worship at a Bible study...

And how old are you now?

I just turned 25. As I started leading worship, I didn't think anything of her when I first met her. I was just like, "Hey, nice to meet you." She told me her name was Melissa. She was a pretty girl, but it's not like I was all, "Oh my goodness..." But I started doing worship, and I remember once in the midst of this worship time, I looked up, and she caught my gaze. And I was literally taken aback by what I saw. She had her eyes closed, and her hands were raised, and she was smiling. I could see such a joy on her face. I could see almost like a glow on her face. I could tell in that moment that she was totally worshiping the Lord -- she had laid all distractions aside and that really stood out to me.

So I started thinking that I wanted to get to know this girl. That was what attracted me to her, was her heart. I could tell she was worshiping Jesus. So we started hanging out, and it was pretty amazing to see how outgoing she was, how bold she was in her faith. If she was talking to someone, she would just start talking to them about Jesus, just randomly. And not in an awkward way -- it would just come up in her conversation. She would do that all the time, and I'd be like, "Oh my goodness, I love this girl!"

So I had fallen completely in love with her, but she wouldn't tell me she loved me. She always said, "I'm not going to tell [the guy] I love him until I marry him." And I'm thinking, "But I love you!" (Laughs.) And then it all ended. (Laughs.) I remember, I was all crushed, I had to go home. I actually flew home to Indiana for a couple of weeks, I was so crushed. Because I thought she was the one. But I went home and dealt with that and then I flew back to San Diego.

Things were said, you know, I told her I knew it was over and we weren't going to be with each other and that was okay. Six months later, I got a phone call from a friend. He said, "Jeremy, I just wanted to let you know that Melissa has cancer. They had to remove it, they don't know what's going to happen, and it doesn't look good. So I immediately went down there to see her, and when I first walked in, it was so amazing. She was smiling, she just had this beaming, excited expression on her face. I was pretty shocked, because she had just found out she could possibly die from cancer and all of this really harsh stuff. And I don't know how I'd react to that. But she goes, "I was just realizing that I could die from this cancer, but if one person were to accept Jesus because of this, it would all be worth it to me."

I remember this very humbling feeling coming over me. I don't know what I would do if I were in that situation, or what I would say.

That night, after I heard her saying that, I drove away. My heart was being all stirred up. I was kind of randomly throwing things out to the Lord, and one of the things I said was, "Lord, if she tells me she loves me, then I'll marry her." I got a call a couple of weeks later; she said, "I need to talk to you." I went to visit her at her house, because she was home at that time. She basically said, "I've been praying for you for months, God has really laid you on my heart. And I need to let you know that I love you."

I was thinking, "Oh my goodness!" So I kinda just left. (Laughs.) I was so scared. "Oh, I can't handle this." Literally, I was like, "I can't tell you right now, this is all so weird." She said, "That's fine. Even if you don't love me, I want you to know that I love you."

So I went away and prayed for a couple of days, and I came back to visit her. I knew she was having a hard day because she was getting ready to lose her hair because of the chemo. I gave her a hug, and God was like, "Tell her you love her, too." I knew what that meant -- God was saying, "I want you to marry her." I wanted to, too, but it was like God was saying, "This is what I want from you; I'm going to bless this." So I said, "I love you, too."

We got a ring the next day. Got engaged. All through our engagement, it was just beautiful to see her spirit. She would go to cancer wards and she would share with chemo patients about God's love and God's faithfulness. It was pretty intense. She would encourage me so much while she was in pain. She'd always be like, "Are you okay?" She was always concerned about me! Her attitude was amazing, it was such a blessing throughout the whole thing. Whew.

As time went on, things were looking a little bit better. We got married. At the end of our honeymoon, she noticed some complications in her stomach, so we went to the hospital. I remember the doctor was reading some tests, and he pulled me aside and said, "The cancer is back. It's spreading rapidly." I looked down and said, "What does that mean?" (Struggles for the words...)

That's pretty much it, once it reaches that point.

Yeah. He said, "It means she has, at most, a few months to live." I was so devastated, I just fell on my knees and started praying. And anyway, we spent a lot of time after that just praying and praying and seeking the Lord.

I remember when we reached the end, we were in the hospital. Like I told you, she always loved worship, so we had worship music playing in the background. She had not been responding for a couple of days. It's kind of hard when your wife doesn't respond to you at all. You don't even know if she's hearing you. It's just hard... (Pauses.) Man, it's been a long day...

I'm sorry.

No, it's fine. It just kinda hits you sometimes... (Pauses.)

I know that feeling. My dad passed away last year. From cancer. There are those moments sometimes when it's like, "How can this be real? Did this really happen?!"

Yeah. That's exactly what it's like.

Even after all this time, there are times when it all hits me, and for a moment, I panic.

Yeah! I share about this so much, but sometimes you just stop and it hits you how intense all this is, you know?

I remember being on the ground, praying, "God, please spare her life. Please spare her life." And I heard her sister say, "She's with Jesus now." I remember saying to God, "Okay, I'm done. Take me. I'm done with this. I don't want to be here anymore. I can't." And He said, "I want you to stand up and worship Me right now." I was like, "How can I worship You at a time like this? Lord, how can You ask me that?" And He basically said, "Out of obedience, I want you to worship Me. I want to know that no matter what you go through in your life, you still consider Me worthy of praise."

So I stood up, and started worshiping. And it was hard. I had no strength at all, I remember my dad helped me stand up. It was so amazing to see, at that time, the whole room -- her family and my family -- just standing around her, worshiping the Lord, praising His name. How powerful that moment was -- to really understand that as we were worshiping Him, she was with Him. We were all worshiping corporately, and she was doing it in His presence. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow.

Just to see what God has done through that, it has way surpassed her desire for "just one person..." Thousands of people have been touched by her story. And I know, I know that it's nothing I've done. I mean, I really know that, because I feel so inadequate so many times to stand up in front of people and tell this story.

Do you tell the story every night?

Mostly. Just because, even if it's not a new area for me to play in, even though people there might have heard it before, if one person is there who has just lost somebody or needed to hear it, then cool. If everyone else gets tired of hearing it, then I'm sorry, but it's what God's called me to do. I'm going to share this.

How long -- not how long did it take to get over it, because I don't think you ever really do. But how long was it before you could be happy again?

(Pauses to think.) It took a good year, honestly. I had joy always, because "the joy of the Lord is my strength." I mean, that is the truth. But to be happy, where I was capable of enjoying what God was doing in my life, that was later. My whole faith was shattered there for a while. I didn't want to perform, but God said, "Nope, I'm going to use this. I'll show you." And it brought me joy -- I started seeing people being touched more and more. I started seeing situations happen where God was using this in a radical way. And soon I was like, "Oh, thank you Lord. I'm so happy to be a part of what God is doing."

So it was a while. I mean, I wasn't depressed for a whole year. I had to come to a point where I was able to say, "Okay, God." I had these times after it happened where I would be like, "Why? Why?!" I remember banging on my bed one time, "Why?!" Finally I came to a point where I was like, "Okay, Lord. It's okay." It was a human process I had to go through, but it's just been an awesome healing time. I just finally rested in knowing that God was on the throne the whole time.

Yeah, you wonder sometimes. But He doesn't take days off.

Yeah. I never knew how I would react to something like this. Would I be angry at God? Would I stop trusting Him?

I don't think you can know until you go through it.

Yeah. Exactly. And I think God gives a special grace to a person who's going through that. Yeah, I really agree. I never thought I'd be able to handle something like this. I'd pray, "God, I know you're going to heal her, because I can't handle this." That's exactly how I felt. And of course when it happened, I was like, "I can't do this. I can't handle it." But God just kept being faithful. And as time went on, His faithfulness became more and more [evident].

How long ago did she die?

It was two years and two months ago. So how are you doing now? Are you okay?

Yeah, I think it took me about a year, too. I wasn't in a deep depression, either, but I just... wasn't myself.

Mm-hmm. Exactly.

It was just a year ago January. So It's just been in the last few months that I've finally decided, "Okay, I'm not going to know why, ever, in this life. I'm just not." You know, God's still in control here, He still has a plan, and I hope I'm still in it... Maybe there was a reason He took him now, or maybe He just allowed it to happen now. We can't possibly know. One day we will, and one day we'll see him again, and that's enough.

Awesome, dude.

Before we go, I wanted to ask when you'll be recording again.

Actually, I just did a worship album, and I'm so excited about that. It's coming out either fall or winter, this year. So excited about that, dude.

By Robin Parrish