Last night I had the opportunity to celebrate the life of Jessica Joy Rees with 4000+ people at her memorial service. It was amazing to see the outpouring of support from our church family, the community, her swim team, and countless others that she has affected through her life. Though I never had a chance to meet Jessie, she was an inspiration to many through her NEGU Foundation.
I’m still trying to process everything that this 12-year-old girl has taught us, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Even when faced with a huge obstacle, don’t stop working for God. Over the past 10 months of her battle with inoperable brain cancer, Jessie has spread joy to pediatric cancer patients all across the country. She filled jars with objects of “joy” to give to these patients, in hopes that they would spread the joy that was so abundant in her.
- Be joyful, always. Jessie had an advantage with this one because her middle name is Joy, but she never had a bad attitude. Her dad Erik told everyone last night that she never complained about her condition, and she never asked “Why me?”
- Amazing ministry isn’t limited to older people. Jessie only lived to be 12 years old, but she impacted more lives than most people will in an entire lifetime. Between her JoyJars, the NEGU Foundation and her infectious, joyful smile, she used what she had to improve the world around her. She saw a problem and did what she could to address it.
- Never Ever Give Up. This is probably the most important lesson of all. It’s the phrase that Jessie will be known for well beyond today. It reminds us that no matter how tough life seems, we need to trust God and Never Ever Give Up.