I am sharing this with you in honor of my friend. She leaves behind an incredible legacy. For all of those who followed her story, prayed for her and loved and encouraged her family, even from afar, this letter is from Summer to you.
“I Win” – the story
written by Summer Kempfer
This story begins when I was 24 years old. I had graduated from Auburn University and I moved to a small town in Colorado, called Steamboat Springs. I met a really cute guy named Jeremy Kempfer from Wisconsin. Within 3 months we were pregnant out of wedlock. Taylor Duncan Kempfer was born on September 9, 2000. Jeremy proposed in the hospital room on September 10. I said YES!! I had to return to work after Taylor was born. We met a couple named Jodie and Chris Spradlin. They were youth pastors at a local church in town. Sweet southern couple! Perfect to keep my newborn. Jodie, along with her two kids, at the time, and others from the church, would pray over baby Taylor. Their simple mission was to see me saved. I noticed a difference in Jodie. There was “something” about her that I desired and was attracted to. She knew my baggage and still approved of me. Jodie lost her leg when she was 16 years old, from a drunk driver. Although this young mom was handicapped, her attitude and love for life was far from handicapped.
After a few months of prayer, and Jodie keeping Taylor, Jeremy, baby Taylor, and I ended up at Euzoa Bible Church one Saturday night for their contemporary service. From the minute I walked through those doors something happened to me. I had never seen “church” like this before. The music, the people, the message…it was all so happy and fun! I was completely convinced that night that there was more to life and at 25 years old, I was missing “something.” I was raised in a Catholic Church, went to Catholic school my whole life, but there was something missing from those years.
I quickly figured out after attending Euzoa weekly that it was…you got it…JESUS that I had been missing! Oh, and Jesus is what was different and attractive, all at the same time, about Jodie. See, Jodie never really preached to me about Jesus, she just shared her life with me. She was being Jesus to me. For the first time in my life I understood what Jesus did for ME. He bore stripes on His back so I could be healed. He hung on a cross and died for my sins, my junk, my baggage and my nasty past.
So on February 3, 2001, when Pastor Rob Ryg from Euzoa Bible Church stood on the stage and asked at the end of the service, with every eye closed and every head bowed, if there was anyone that wanted to give their life completely over to Jesus and allow Jesus to come into their life and make them brand new, you better believe my hand was up in the air, without any hesitation. Of course, at that particular moment I didn’t realize that I was the only one among those 300 that night to be raising my hand. I just assumed everyone was right there with me. How silly and naive I was at the time.
In the “Christian” world this day is called your day of salvation, or some call it born again. And just a little side note, I was one of those people who used to make fun of that term, “born again.” But let me tell you very clearly, I WAS BORN AGAIN, and very proud to be. Jeremy was also born again on April 19, 2001, and we were married that same year on July 7.
Now, let me bring this story full circle. I am 36 years old now, a mom of four, and happily married to a strong, faithful man of God, Jeremy. This past November I was diagnosed with stage 3B cervical cancer. Not the best news of the year, but at the time it explained the unbearable pain I had been in for the past 8 months. Shortly after my diagnosis I received several letters, texts, and emails from a friend of mine, Ashley Pittman. She would end each one of these with the tag line, “YOU WIN.” I quickly paid notice to this line and, like so many other times, God was using a good friend to speak to me. He was reminding me that with Him, I WIN every time. See, what I realized was that cancer is from the enemy, NOT from God. God is good, ALWAYS! Simple, but true. And when I made that decision for Christ 11 years ago, that meant that I would believe what His word says. And it clearly states in the Bible that, “by His stripes I am healed.” Therefore, if I do not claim that statement for myself and keep asking Jesus to heal me, over and over, then I am crucifying Jesus over and over. No one can take back what Jesus did for all of us over 2,000 years ago. The cross is final! My healing is final! And because I am a child of God, born again, saved by his amazing grace, I will live for eternity. So whether or not I die tomorrow in a tragic car crash, or in 5 years from cancer or I live to be 100 years old, I WIN either way.
The most exciting part of having cancer is that it has given me a platform from which to speak. See, it’s not about me having cancer, and honestly it’s really not about ME at all, it’s about what Jesus has accomplished in my life. Having a relationship with Jesus has changed my life. His love for me has changed my life. And it is my purpose in life to share this with others. It’s really what every Christian is called to do: share their story, their testimony, so others can be pulled out of the darkness which saturates this world and pulled into His marvelous light, where there is freedom and hope and love.
My prayer for everyone reading this story…
If you are a Christian now, are saved, and are walking with the Lord, then settle this thought in your heart now. Before the storms of life come, make the decision that when they do, you will know that you know, that you know, that YOU WIN! I settled this with Jesus several years ago that no matter what came in this life, that my eyes would stay on Him and I would choose to trust Him fully. This commitment has now become a reality for me as we walk through this cancer journey. The attitude and the faith I have for myself is huge because of knowing I WIN.
If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus like the one I have described, or maybe you have fallen out of relationship with Him, I ask that you choose to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and allow Him to change your life, as He changed ours. There has not been a day in over 11 years that I have regretted that decision. It can go as easy as this…He is there, just open your mouth and talk to Him. Tell Him what your heart desires and allow Him to come in and love you. I do recommend telling someone if you do make this decision.
As I close I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who have supported us over the years and especially this past year. God’s grace and provision has been so evident. Jeremy and I and our children stand amazed at the generosity and love our family has received and continues to receive from our church family, our community, both in Auburn and in Birmingham, and our family and friends. We really can’t comprehend it all. Thank you family and friends for believing with us that I have WON!
“we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us…nothing can separate us from His love” Romans 8:37-39
You can find more of my story on my Caring Bridge site: www.caringbridge.org/visit/summerkempfer