Jennifer’s Legacy

The College Years

These memories and letters are a sampling of the many we received from people touched by Jennifer during her college years at Tennessee Tech. They held us up and brought us comfort after her death.

Letter from a member of Collegeside Church of Christ, Cookeville, TN

I was at Collegeside last night for service and just want to tell you what happened. The audience consisted of more than half Tennessee Tech students. Tears were flowing as several of the guys came forward and read to the audience notes given to them about Jennifer’s impact on their lives. The entire service was dedicated to Jennifer and how her wish for us would be to stand firm in the Lord and to obey and bring others to Christ. Older members of the congregation were crying and comforting these college students. Some who got up to speak could not finish and had to have help from their brothers.

What an impression this young girl has made on this congregation as an intern for the teenagers. One member who also is the chorus teacher at the local high school said many days he looked up and saw Jennifer at the high school, searching for “her girls” to support and encourage.

I praise God for Jennifer and the light she brought to this community.

Teens and Jennifer from Cookeville

Memory from a parent of one of the teenagers

I want you to know how special Jennifer was to your Youth Group. Last fall I had the opportunity as a parent to go to the Girls’ Retreat with my daughter. She was only 13, and had been telling us all about Jennifer and Caroline (the other intern). I sat in the class Jennifer taught and was amazed. She taught them that their lives were like butterflies. They lived on earth in a cocoon, but one day they would shed this cocoon and fly like the butterfly. She was always sending Megan cards of encouragement. Please know we cherish the years we had her because of how she taught our children! Fly like a butterfly, Jennifer!

Memory from the Youth Minister at Collegeside, Jennifer’s supervisor

Jennifer really had a heart for God and teens. While preparing for a girls’ retreat, I was planning to let the guys raid the girls. Jen stood up to my decision, saying that the guys coming would destroy the focus of the weekend. Because of her courage Caroline said it was the best retreat of the year. Jennifer touched my life in the six months I knew her. Although she was an “intern” and I held the title “minister”, she taught me so much more than I ever taught her. Your daughter made a difference with our teens, our college students, and our church family. As her parents you should be so proud of her. She continues to be a light to me.

Note from a teenager at Collegeside

I will pray that in my life I learn to touch people in the way Jennifer did, and if my light shines even half as bright, I will bring many to Christ.

Jessica, Jennifer’s younger cousin shared her memories from recent family gatherings.

Cousins and Jennifer

I remember one Christmas at the cabins when Jennifer and I were dancing. We must have danced for an hour. She also fixed my hair and painted my fingernails. Last year at Thanksgiving Jennifer, Josh, and I went hiking on trails and explored everything. I got close to her probably only two years ago and I was hoping to see each other more. I wish I could have seen her get married. But now it’s not possible.

A letter from Elizabeth, a counselor with Jennifer at Camp Kanakuk in the summer of 2001

I met Jennifer the day that we were assigned to our TP (teepee instead of a cabin). I was a little apprehensive of being with two people I didn’t know, but from the very beginning we knew God had placed us together. There was such a bond there that I had never experienced in my previous sessions at camp. Right after, we met we sat down and began to share our testimonies and prayed together; it was as if we had known each other so much longer than just a few minutes. It was a God-sent unity and those four terms were incredible, not because we had wonderful campers but because we had each other. When you work so closely with someone as we did, you get to see their heart and who they really are when they are tired and worn out.

Our campers would gather around Jennifer’s bed to hear “Josh stories”; she told us how they met and started dating and how you guys were waiting to kiss. It was so incredible to hear her strength and her integrity in the way she lived her life. She brought so much honesty to devotionals, and she loved our girls so much. She never put on a face – she was always real in the way she approached life. I was challenged and blessed by her honesty and the way she lived.

Sunday night I was in church singing and I just kept on thinking that she was in God’s presence singing those songs to Him and how amazing that must be for her. She was so faithful in her life; I can’t understand why, but God must have said to her “well done my good and faithful servant. You have been so faithful with the life that I have given you, and you have accomplished what I sent you to do … Come and share in my happiness . . . Come Home.”

Those last words rang so true to me; she really lived such a full life of service. It helped to know how others saw her; it was the same whether with teenagers on a church activity, with the college students in the dorm or on campus, with campers in Missouri and Colorado during summer break. Several weeks after Jennifer’s death we received a scrapbook in the mail from Liz and Danielle, her co-counselors at camp. It was filled with pictures and letters from her campers telling us how she impacted their lives. What a blessing!

Counting the joy in knowing Jennifer touched lives by her example in ways we never imagined.

JoyMartell

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