I Still Believe: A Memoir
By Jeremy Camp and David Thomas.
Thomas Nelson, 2020.
Paperback, 256 pages, $18.99.

Reviewed by Isaiah Flair.

Towards the end of the film I Still Believe, Jeremy Camp is distraught over the death of his wife, Melissa, whom he had hoped would be healed. He is struggling to reconcile his faith with the loss of his wife, but then finds a note that she left for him. The note talks about how he can share her story—their story—with the world, and inspire people with the Christian songs that he writes. At the end, Melissa’s note to Jeremy says, “And when you are ready…pick up your guitar.”

It is the most poignant line in a brilliantly written movie. The book on which the movie is based, also called I Still Believe, begins with the same line: Pick up your guitar.

It is a fitting beginning for this inspiring true story about faith and adversity, because author Jeremy Camp is a successful Christian singer-songwriter. The book centers on his time with his first wife, Melissa, who died from cancer just three and a half months after they got married.

Jeremy Camp’s father taught him how to play guitar, and for Jeremy, it was love at first chord. Everything about playing the guitar felt very natural to him, and he became good at it very quickly. While he played some rock songs, he played Christian songs as well. And then he wrote one. His first song, the genesis of his future career as a Christian singer-songwriter, was called, “Set Me Free.”

The next summer, he went to a Christian camp and was struck by a sense that other students seemed to have a stronger relationship with Christ than he had. That helped inspire him to recommit to God, and to lead a better and healthier life from that point forward. About this commitment, he writes that at that point, “I stood completely on the side of truth, no longer trying to pull against what I knew was right.”

When he returned home, he read the Bible on a deeper level than he ever had before. In time, that led to his understanding that he needed to go to Bible college, which would forever change his life in profound ways. He had the support of his family when he left their hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, in 1996 to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College in California. There he found the college worship services to be very inspirational, as his experience at the Christian summer camp had been. Soon, he was asked to help lead worship, and he began to sing at local churches as well. His songwriting continued to blossom, and he felt his relationship with Christ growing stronger as it did. 

Jeremy also found a musical mentor in Jean-Luc Lajoie of the band The Kry. And then, while attending a Bible study at Palomar College, Jeremy met Melissa Henning, a young woman whose name would one day be Melissa Camp. Jeremy and Melissa were strongly drawn towards each other, and they met more and more often, talking about their faith journeys and their families. After about a month, Jeremy Camp knew a new thing: he was in love with Melissa Henning and wanted to tell her. 

When together at her parents’ house, he did. Melissa wasn’t quite ready to say it back, knowing that doing so would be a big commitment, and Jeremy went home trying to figure out how he might have done things differently. The following weeks were awkward. Jeremy and Melissa, having many mutual friends, still saw each other from time to time, but the dynamic felt complicated to both of them.

It was at that time that Jeremy learned that Melissa had developed a significant though noncancerous cyst, and was convalescing at her family home. Jeremy went to see her there, as part of a group of friends. It looked like they would only ever be friends, and Jeremy reached the point of accepting that. 

Then more news came: the cyst that had afflicted Melissa previously had returned, and this time, it was cancerous. On hearing that, Jeremy got in his car and drove to the hospital to support her, as her friend. When he got to her room, she greeted him warmly, and said something that he found deeply inspirational. She said that if she lost her battle with cancer and died, but that if somehow just one person accepted Christ because of that, it would have been worth it.

Jeremy was very moved by Melissa’s depth of faith and commitment to Christ. Faced with the prospect of dying, her primary focus was still bringing others to God. Taped to her bedside were the lyrics to a Ginny Owens song, “If You Want Me To.”

Take me on the pathway that leads me home to You

And I will walk through the valley if You want me to”

That evening, Jeremy decided that if Melissa ever told him that she loved him, he would marry her. When he returned to visit Melissa at the hospital again, she showed him her journal, which detailed the times that she had prayed for him while they were apart. She then turned to him and said, “When I saw you that day at the hospital, after all the months of praying, I knew that I loved you.”

Jeremy talked with a good friend about his relationship with Melissa. The friend counseled Jeremy to walk in faith, saying, “Go where the Lord has led you and then trust Him for the rest.” Jeremy decided to do exactly that. The next time he spoke with Melissa, he asked her to marry him and decided to set October 21 as their wedding date.

Meanwhile, Melissa was undergoing chemotherapy. Yet even in the midst of her physical struggles, her faith remained strong and served as a beacon for everyone around her. She and Jeremy felt more bonded than ever by their shared faith, and were fortified by the understanding that they were meant to walk in faith together.

One day, Melissa got a phone call from a doctor. The doctor recommended that Melissa have an operation as soon as possible. Because of the nature of the operation, it would have left her unable to bear children.

Jeremy and Melissa met with the doctor. Jeremy told the doctor that people around the country would be praying for them. Jeremy and Melissa knew that they needed a miracle.

They got one. When Jeremy was walking down a hallway of the hospital, Melissa’s mother ran to him and said, “It’s gone! The cancer is gone!” That meant that the operation that had been planned was canceled. 

That October 21, Melissa Henning became Melissa Camp, as she and Jeremy became husband and wife. The couple honeymooned in Hawaii, and Jeremy spent some time reflecting on 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith.” The verse inspired one of his most successful songs, which he wrote then and there—“Walk By Faith.” He played the song for Melissa, and she loved it. She called it beautiful.

Sadly, a few days later, Melissa started feeling pain again. The couple flew from Hawaii to Indiana, and Melissa’s health took a turn for the worse. Jeremy took Melissa to the doctor, who, with genuine compassion, told Jeremy that Melissa’s cancer had returned. Jeremy asked what could be done, but the doctor said that there was nothing that could be done. The doctor said that Melissa only had a little time to live. 

Though Melissa’s pain grew, her faith never wavered. She prayed for her nurse, and her father did as well. The nurse made the decision to accept Christ as her Savior, calling to mind what Melissa had said so long before, that if just one person accepted Christ because of what she went through, it would have been worth it. “This is just the beginning,” Jeremy told Melissa. “There will be many more.”

Melissa died, surrounded by her loving husband and family, on Monday, February 5, 2001. In the wake of Melissa’s death, Jeremy felt that God was calling to him with four words, “Pick up your guitar.”

Yet Jeremy found that very hard to do because he felt very alone. He and Melissa had dreamed of working together in ministry and having a family together. He felt lost and overwhelmed by despair. But then, as hard as it was, he did pick up his guitar. And he began to play. As he did, the words started to come, so he wrote them down, including the words that one day the world would hear:

I Still Believe in Your faithfulness

I Still Believe in Your truth”

Although he didn’t know it at the time, those words would help others who felt lost and needed hope and encouragement to restore their faith. The song, “I Still Believe,” was written in just ten minutes. It has been changing lives for years.

I Still Believe will inspire others walking their own faith journey and wondering what they may be able to do for others. The book is rich with details about Jeremy Camp’s early life, and how his family provided him with a strong foundation that he values and appreciates to this day. He credits his family with always being there for him in every way that he needed. The book also addresses how the Camp family weathered poverty and literally bare kitchen cupboards, but managed to make it through those tough times with the help of charitable Christians who would leave bags of groceries on the Camp family’s front porch, solely to do good for others.

Impressively, the book also addresses how Jeremy Camp carries on that value of Christian charity, actively reaching out to help others in need, materially as well as spiritually. He says that he views himself as a minister in the truest sense, and writes how he got an amazing partner in his ministry in the person of his second wife Adrienne.

Adrienne is also a singer, and she and Jeremy met after a show. They began to talk, and over time, Jeremy found himself very impressed by her kindness and gentle spirit. Across many conversations, he realized that he was falling in love again, and finally felt ready to do so. When the proposal happened, it was a simple one, beginning with a “Will you” from Jeremy and ending with a “Yes” from Adrienne. 

They married on December 15, 2003. The following year, they were blessed with a baby daughter, Bella, who is now a talented singer-songwriter herself. A year and a half after that, the Camp family was blessed with another baby daughter, Arie. In time, their son Egan became yet another welcome addition to the family.

I Still Believe is a book that will resonate with many readers because of how it connects the personal stories about Jeremy Camp’s life to universal themes about faith and adversity. The book has a deep message about the fortification of faith through community, relationships, and family. There is also a very valuable focus on living out faith in both material and spiritual ways and helping others to grow in their faith as well. Jeremy Camp does that to this day through his admirable embrace of Christian charity, and by sharing his faith through songs, books, and movies.

Isaiah Flair is a content creator and marketing strategist who lives in the Pacific Northwest, between the evergreen forests and the sea.

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