"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."
- "I Still Believe" by Jeremy Camp
There are some Christian musicians whose lyrics appear to say all the right things but somehow, in some intangible way, the words seem hollow and out of touch with the real world.
Not Jeremy Camp.
If there's one thing that stands out about the singer-songwriter - who will perform a sold-out concert with Toledo's Sanctus Real Friday in Perrysburg - it's the way his music and lyrics are so passionate, open, and honest that listeners can feel the pain, hope, and joy that inspired every line.
One of the fastest-rising stars in contemporary Christian music, Camp's debut disc, "Stay," was released in September, 2002, and has sold more than 300,000 copies.
It also earned Camp two Dove Awards, for "best new artist" and "male vocalist of the year," beating such established stars as Steven Curtis Chapman and Mark Schulz.
"Stay" is an album that captures the 26-year-old musician, backed by a guitar-powered rock band, pouring his heart out to God.
Songs such as "One Day at a Time," "I Still Believe," and "Take My Life" reveal the heart, mind, and soul of a person who is going through struggles but remains firm in his belief that God is in control, even if the answers are beyond his human understanding.
"Listen to my CD because that's where my heart is," Camp said in a recent interview from a tour stop in Indianapolis.
His is a strong heart, but also a heavy one, having had to deal with the loss of his beloved wife, Melissa, in February, 2001, to cancer just months after they were married.
Camp, a native of Lafayette, Ind., said he met Melissa when he was playing in a worship band at a Bible college in San Diego.
They started dating but four months into the relationship, Melissa broke it off, Camp said, saying she felt that she needed to spend more time with God.
During their separation, the 20-year-old woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Melissa was upbeat despite the dark news, but Camp said he was upset and confused. And yet, he said, "I knew that she was the one for me."
It was unclear at the time whether Melissa's cancer was life-threatening, "but I loved her and I didn't care either way," Camp said.
He proposed, they got married, and the newlyweds had an "awesome" honeymoon. But upon their return to Southern California, doctors told Melissa the disease was terminal and she had only weeks or months to live.
"I had times when I'd be reading the Bible, and it would be talking about Jesus healing other people, and I'd be angry," Camp said. "I asked God some difficult questions. 'Why didn't you heal my wife?'
"But it always came back to the sovereignty of God. He'd show me verses. I'd pick up the Bible and read about trusting in Him. I held onto it and slowly but surely, He healed me. He's done an amazing work. Now I'm able to help thousands of people through my music."
He said Melissa once told him that if her death leads one person to Christ, then her suffering would be worth it.
Asked if there was a particular Bible verse that helped him through that tough time, Camp said: "Actually, Acts 20:24 was a big scripture of mine," then recited the New King James version from memory: "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
In a journal published on his Web site, www.jeremycamp.com, Camp also cites Proverbs 3:5-6 as another Bible verse that gave him something to hang onto during his struggles.
"Through the loss of my wife and many confusing times, Jesus was always there by my side," he writes. "Proverbs 3:5-6 you all know what it says: 'Trust in the Lord with all of you heart and lean not on your own understanding,
but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your steps.' This Scripture and many more have become more real to me, that is for sure. Don't ever forget to press on no matter what, because he will not give us anything we can not handle."
Camp's second CD for BEC Recordings, "Carried Me: The Worship Project," was released in February.
Although they were released 17 months apart, both "Stay" and "Carried Me" were recorded at the same time, Camp said.
"Stay" features Camp's original Christian-rock songs, while "Carried Me" consists of his interpretations of 12 popular praise-and-worship tunes.
"I had a lot of fans, even before I got signed [to BEC], who said, 'Hey, you need to do a worship album.' So 'Carried Me' is sort of a fan album.
"But I decided to put out 'Stay' and just kind of present my songs and what God is doing in my life," Camp said.
The disc did not make a big splash when first released, but it eventually caught fire.
"All of a sudden, it just kind of happened," Camp said.
"It kind of snowballed and then got bigger and bigger quickly. It was surprising, but I feel very, very blessed."
He said the two Dove Award were also an unexpected blessing, although he felt odd to be honored for making music that God inspired him to create.
"It's encouraging, for sure, and I feel very blessed. But it's a weird concept to receive glory for something that you know wasn't you," Camp said.
He was just putting the finishing touches on his third disc, "Restored," which is scheduled for release Nov. 16.
"It's just been really exciting," he said.
"Over the past couple years, God's done a lot in my life. He's taught me a lot of things. 'Restored' is kind of the next chapter in my life."
The big news in Camp's life is that he fell in love a second time, with Adrienne Liesching, the former singer for South African Christian rock band the Benjamin Gate.
The couple were married Dec. 15, 2003, and the Camps, who moved back to Indiana to be near Jeremy's family, are expecting their first child next month.
"I am so grateful to God for giving me a new life, and a child. The whole theme of the album is that God restored me."
On tour with Camp this month and next is Sanctus Real, the Toledo band that recently released its critically acclaimed second disc, "Fight the Tide," on the Sparrow Records label.
The band's latest single, "Everything About You," has held the No. 1 spot for four straight weeks on the Christian rock charts.
Also performing Friday will be Seven Places, a four-person band from southern Oregon whose name represents "the seven places Jesus bled from to save us from our sins," said lead singer Seth Gilbert. The group has released one disc on the BEC label, "Lonely for the Last Time."
Jeremy Camp will be in concert at 7 p.m. Friday at CedarCreek Church, 29129 Lime City Rd., Perrysburg, with Sanctus Real and Seven Places opening.
The concert is sold out.
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