“During that time in our lives, Janette and I had each been walking with the Lord for approximately 30 years. We knew we could trust Him, however, we were really praying for healing for Melissa,” says Mark Henning, a former Charis Fellowship pastor. Mark is the father of Melissa Camp, who is the subject of the recent film I Still Believe, which documents her journey being married to Christian music star, Jeremy Camp, and her battle with cancer.
As a young woman, Melissa Henning Camp began to experience stomachaches which ultimately lead to a terminal diagnosis of cancer. Melissa had three surgeries. The first one was to supposedly remove a cyst which had grown on her ovary.
“We had prayed about this process. Unfortunately, her symptom was misdiagnosed,” recalls Mark. “The procedure used wound up ‘spreading or seeding’ Melissa’s abdominal cavity with fluid which was cancerous. We thought this first surgery was the end of her stomach problems.”
Months later, the stomach problem returned and on May 1, a different doctor performed a second surgery which was to remove what was believed to be the ‘cyst’ growing back. After the surgery, the doctor gave the news to the family of Melissa’s cancer diagnosis.
“To show you Melissa’s heart, when she awoke from her surgery and was told by Janette (her mother) that she had cancer, Melissa boldly and joyfully told Janette – ‘Oh Mom, that is so great, God is going to do amazing things!’” remembers Mark. “This spiritual response is not something you can teach, rather, it is an insightful reflection of the heart for Jesus which Melissa had and has!”
There was intense emotional pain for Mark and Janette and physical pain for Melissa, which the Hennings describe as gut-wrenching anguish. However, they knew Jesus could be trusted in the outworking of His plan for each life. The Hennings recall times of “just being numb and wondering what was to happen.”
At the age of 21, Melissa went home to be with the Lord on February 5, 2001.
Melissa’s death was an incredibly huge hit for the Henning family. For Mark and Janette’s other three children, Melissa was their rock and stabilizing influence in each of their lives. Her premature death has presented issues that they are still working through.
For Mark, he was serving on the pastoral staff of a church in San Diego. As he reflects back on those days, he recounts this:
“Looking back, I realize that I focused upon ‘ministry’ and to a large extent was not as aware of the impact Melissa’s homegoing was having on Janette and our other children. This is shared in the hope that some reader(s) may avoid being insensitive to what other family members may be feeling in crisis times. As a husband and father, I could have engaged our family members both individually and collectively with more needed communication. Our children would have benefited if we talked about how you can trust the Lord when life has presented you with a tragedy.”
Melissa’s life is a picture of what it truly means to trust fully in the Lord.
After Melissa’s homegoing, Janette wrote the details of Melissa’s journey and transcribed Melissa’s journal entries. The Hennings prayed about Janette using these memories and articles to write a book when the time was right.
The Erwin brothers, the creators of the hit movie ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ heard of Melissa and Jeremy’s story and wanted to make a film about it. They, in turn, opened the doors for Janette to publish her book.
Janette’s book, Melissa, If One Life, was released in May of 2020 and is available on Amazon.
The Hennings pray that Janette’s book will be another tool the Lord uses to share Melissa’s fearless story, provide hope to those who are hurting, and ultimately lead readers to a relationship with Christ.
[Connect:] Send Mark an encouraging note here.