The new worship album by America's JEREMY CAMP wasn't born in a marketing meeting but evolved in a time of stark personal tragedy. Tony Cummings reports.
American singer, songwriter and worship leader Jeremy Camp didn't know when he was leading worship and watching his first young wife die of cancer in 2001 that the songs birthed from that experience would touch others. Camp has included some of these songs on 'Carried Me: The Worship Project'. He says, "The songs are ones that have meant so much to me in my life. Each of them has a special place in my heart because I remember singing them at different times - good times and bad times."
Jeremy burst onto the American scene when he was signed to Tooth & Nail/BEC Records. His record label boss Brandon Ebel said at the time of the release of Jeremy's 'Stay' album, "I have never been this excited about a new artist since the OC Supertones." Ebel's instincts proved reliable. 'Stay', with the catchy blend of rock and progressive pop and finely crafted songs, proved a major hit on US Christian radio. Now the 26 year old singer, from Lafayette, Indiana, who attended Bible college in Murrieta, California and cut his teeth leading worship all over Southern California, is set to expand his audience further with the breathtaking 'Carried Me' album. With the release of that album Jeremy's testimony about the loss of his young wife Melissa has come into the spotlight. He recently told CCM magazine, "I would read about how God healed in the Gospels and I would throw my Bible across the room. I questioned whether God is a loving God. In frustration I would say, 'I don't want to share in your faithfulness because I don't think you are faithful.' So many times I would pound on my bed because I wanted to punch something. The hardest part was trying to understand why she had to suffer. We would watch her cringe and cry because of the pain."
Melissa passed away on 5th February, 2001, and Camp felt broken and betrayed. He confesses, "God gave us this hope that we would have children and then everything was taken away. We literally had thousands of people around the world pray for her. We all believed she would be healed. I truly thought we had confirmation. When she died, I just didn't get it." During those difficult times, Camp talked to countless people in search of answers. One pastor asked if he'd prayed, believed and done everything he could, which, of course, he had. The pastor then remarked that Camp could take heart because if God took her despite all his pleas, he definitely had a reason. Camp reflects, "It really made sense. I found rest in knowing that God sees the beginning and the end and there really was a reason why."
Jeremy now finds himself on the other side, as people traumatised by cancer come to him looking for answers. His response? "You literally have to take it a day at a time. You say, 'God, I don't know how I'm going to get through tomorrow or even the next hour, but I need the strength.' You have to rest in the fact that God is a big God and he's in control. God didn't make this happen and it's not punishment for anything. It's simply something God has a reason to allow."
During the autumn of 2002 Jeremy undertook a major tour of the States, Festival Con Dios, along with the Newsboys and Benjamin Gate. The latter's lead singer Adrienne Liesching had sprained her ankle early in the tour and was limping around on crutches. Camp introduced himself to offer encouragement. "We talked about what God was doing and I saw her grow spiritually on the tour. Pretty soon, I was looking around for her and wanting to see her all the time. I eventually started liking her, which was something I really couldn't deal with at that point. I had all these guilty feelings because of Melissa."
For a time, Camp tried to distance himself but soon realised he had to
move forward with his personal life. He continues, "After the tour, we
started talking a lot and getting to know each other really well. I
started feeling that God brought her into my life. Early last year, we
'knew', and we got engaged in April." But it wasn't all roses, as the
couple faced some unique challenges in their relationship. For one,
Melissa's story makes up the major part of Camp's testimony and,
despite all the circumstances, even the most spiritually strong female
might feel insecure hearing her boyfriend praise his last wife each
night. "When we first started (dating), it was difficult for her to
hear how amazing Melissa was," admits Camp. "Adrienne said, 'Melissa
was so amazing, and I don't feel that I'm that amazing woman of God.'
I just assured her that she is. I love Adrienne, and her heart has
been an encouragement to me. Really, it's not even an issue. She loves
what God is doing through my past experiences."