Jenna is by far one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met–on both the inside and out. Little did I know that the first time I met her would also be the last this side of heaven.
A mutual friend had called me just days before to ask if I’d be willing to do a shoot with Jenna before she started chemo and lost all her hair–she had just been diagnosed with a rather rare form of stomach cancer and she had difficult months ahead of her. When she and her mother and our mutual friend arrived at our apartment, I was stunned by Jenna’s beauty and gentle grace. Lovely, but unassuming, Jenna happily answered our questions about her life growing up overseas, her Global Studies courses, and her time in Beirut. She was passionate about global peacekeeping and international relations because she was passionate about Jesus. Jenna impressed me as the kind of person who would change the world.
In the months that followed, I watched Jenna and her family bravely face the ravages of cancer with faith and hope coupled with raw transparency and vulnerability. We all prayed, and we watched God answer those prayers with alternating miracles and silence. In less than a year, God took Jenna to be with her long-awaited Groom.
I’ve never been to a funeral quite like Jenna’s. In a hollow dome on a mountainside in southern Spain, friends and family and siblings-in-Christ gathered to worship God, even in shock and mourning. Jenna’s life was so closely intertwined with Jesus’ that it was impossible to celebrate one without celebrating the other. Even at such a tender age, Jenna left behind a legacy of faith impacting the scores of young people who watched her life and death. I, for one, will never forget the impact of those brief hours I spent with Jenna on the coast of Málaga. That photo shoot was as much a gift to me as it was to her family. God is good.