College student Jeremy Camp was on stage when he first laid eyes on Melissa Henning. "I looked up and there she was singing with her hands raised in the air. [I could tell] that there was something different about her," he recalls.
Sparks flew between the two and they started dating. Then, months later, devastating news hit. Melissa had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
"I remember walking into the hospital," Jeremy says. "She had just found out she had cancer and she was smiling. I was like, 'Why is she smiling?' Then, Melissa said, 'I am doing okay, because I have been thinking, if I were to die from this cancer and just one life comes to know Jesus through it, it will all be worth it.'"
Later, Jeremy went back to his car and wept. The strong and unshaken faith Melissa had in God rocked him to his core and changed his whole perspective.
It was not like Jeremy did not know about God. He had given his life to Jesus as a young boy. He had been raised in a Christian home. His father was a preacher and later, Jeremy himself would become an ordained minister. He had a passion for sharing the Gospel [story of Jesus saving us from our sins].
Jeremy also had a love for music. He played the guitar and sang and would lead worship services. It was during one of these sessions, in 1999, that Jeremy first saw Melissa.
They had only been together for a few weeks when they broke it off. "I was devastated because I thought she was 'the one,'" Jeremy says. He told her he loved her. Melissa replied, "I don't feel the same way."
Months went by and Jeremy started to think that things between them were over for good. Then he got a phone call saying Melissa was in the hospital.
Her words of faith in the hospital had an enormous impact on the singer. "That, to me, is the crux of the story, of who she was and what she would say. You can tell that she had a comfort and a peace from God in her heart. She had such a love for Jesus."
Later Melissa told Jeremy that she loved him too. Their romance was rekindled, Melissa went into remission and a month later, on October 21, 2000, they were married. However, during the couple's honeymoon to Hawaii, she started having bad stomach pains.
Heart-breaking news awaited them on their return. The cancer was back. There was nothing the doctors could do. It was all over her body. She had months, maybe weeks, to live.
Their promising future together was gone in a blink. However, the couple drew strength and peace from God. "I was willing to walk through the fire," Jeremy remembers. "It's not because I'm some great awesome guy. No, I think it was just a God thing. He gave me the strength."
When Melissa heard the news, all she wanted to do was to sing worship songs to Jesus. "He is worthy to be praised no matter what we are going through," Jeremy says.
A few months later, on February 5, 21-year-old Melissa went to be with her Maker.
Jeremy shares, "I was on my knees and I remember her sister saying, 'She is with Jesus now.' A grief fell over me that I can't describe."
Jeremy had so many questions for God. "Do you really hear me, God? Do you really care about every situation? God, are you near?"
God answered Jeremy with the prompt to pick up his guitar. Through the pain, the grief, and the darkness that Jeremy felt, he went on to write his most famous song, I Still Believe, in about ten minutes.
The best-known lines from the song are, "I still believe in Your faithfulness. I still believe in Your truth. I still believe in Your Holy Word. Even when I don't see, I still believe."
"Everyone goes through pain," Jeremy says. "Pain is universal. For me, I experienced that pain. What got me through it was my relationship with Jesus."
In 2011, Jeremy released a memoir called I Still Believe. Recently, the movie of the couple's tragic love-story was released in theatres.
Of the movie Jeremy says: "I hope to show that in times like that you run to Jesus cos He's the only source of hope and life. It doesn't mean things won't be hard but then, He never said you would never go through trials. He said He would be with us through the trials."
In a beautiful twist, when Jeremy met his second wife Adrienne Liesching, in 2002, he learnt that she had become a Christian as a result of Melissa's story.
Today, they have three children and minister to people who have never heard of Jesus, honouring Melissa's legacy and her wish for people to be touched by God through her death.
Jeremy's music has topped the Billboard charts and sold more than five million albums worldwide. Four of his albums have gone gold and he has been nominated for three American Music Awards as well as a Grammy Award.
"My encouragement [to Christians in hard times is]... do not lose heart, because our affliction is just momentary and what God is preparing for us, what He has in store for us, it will blow us away," Jeremy smiles. "Imagine ... no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain. One day, we will forever be with Jesus."•