How Christian Singer Jeremy Camp's Wife's Death at 21 Nearly Cost Him His Faith in God

Jeremy Camp opens up about how a tragic loss tested, but helped renew his faith in God

Just as his music career was about to take off, Jeremy Camp suffered a life-changing loss.

Less than four months after marrying the woman he expected to spend his life with, Melissa Henning, she died from ovarian cancer at age 21. Camp was 23 at the time of her death.

“It’s the most painful part of my life,” says Camp, now 42. “I believed that she was going to be healed and we would have this long story together.”

The Indiana native says he was struck by the “purity in her heart for God” when he met Henning in 1999 at a Bible study. Their connection began in friendship, but their romantic feelings for each other led to a whirlwind courtship, buoyed by their love and faith.

Jeremy camp with first wife, Melissa
Jeremy Camp with first wife, Melissa. Lionsgate

Up until Henning’s death in 2001, Camp had always been confident in his Christian faith — he at one point considered going into ministry, and realized his passion for music when he started writing accompaniments for worship with his father Tom and for his own. After Henning’s death, Camp tried to find strength in what she’d told him from her hospital bed.

For much more on Jeremy Camp and his incredible story of love after loss, check out the latest issue of PEOPLE.

“She said, ‘If one life is changed by what I go through, it’s all worth it,'” he recalls of his late wife’s hope that just one person would be inspired to accept faith into their life.

Camp, struggling with his pain and frustration in God, wrote it into the song, “I Still Believe,” which is also the title of the new film starring Riverdale’s KJ Apa, based on Camp’s 2013 memoir.

Jeremy camp 2019 publicity imagefine to use
Josh Dell

“There is hope at the end of hardship,” Camp says. “Instead of turning my back and being an angry, bitter person at God, it made me stronger.”

Camp slowly opened up about Henning during his concerts, one of which his now-wife, Adrienne, 38, a South African-born Christian singer-songwriter, attended.

She has said that she had gone through a challenging time and hearing Camp talk about Henning’s story “changed my life.”

Camp and Adrienne connected on tour two years after Henning’s death. They married in 2003 and now have three children: Bella, 15, Arie, 13, and Egan, 8 — all three of whom are gifted musically, boasts their proud father.

i still believe
Michael Kubeiy/Lionsgate

Camp, a very successful Christian musician, has sold nearly 5 million albums. His latest is The Story’s Not Over.

“My heart is ready to explode. I’m so grateful,” Camp says of life now. The whole family loves the movie, as well, which they saw together.

“I’ve got a reminder of what I went through and how there’s so much hope and redemption at the end of it,” says Camp. And he’ll always hold a special place in his heart for Henning.

“I know she’s in heaven and this is making her so happy,” he says.

I Still Believe is now playing and will be available on VOD March 27.

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