Boy’s faith celebrated at memorial service

Battle Ground's Luke Jensen, 9, lauded for courage he showed during long fight with leukemia

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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They filled Vancouver First Church of God’s sanctuary carrying boxed Lego sets by the hundreds, his favorite. They placed them at the foot of the altar next to a smiling portrait of Luke Jensen.

When the music started, the mourners clapped and lifted their voices.

Tuesday was a time to celebrate a 9-year-old whose life was cut short by leukemia. But it was a life marked by faith and courage that made him older than his years.

There were tears. But there was also laughter, as family and friends reminisced about funny Luke memories and showed goofy pictures in a slide show. One photo showed him making silly faces. In another, Luke had chocolate caked on his face.

Celebrating the fond memories “is exactly what Luke would have wanted,” his father, Steve, told the packed sanctuary Tuesday afternoon. “We called him our passionate one.”

The memorial for the Battle Ground boy, who died May 6 after battling cancer since 2007, drew a thousand people to the church’s sanctuary. Nearly 800 more people watched the memorial service on big screens in the adjoining King’s Way Christian School’s gym.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked attendees to bring Legos. The plastic building blocks will be donated to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Children’s Cancer Association in Luke’s name.

Worship songs led off the ceremony, with powerful faith messages striking a chord with the audience.

“You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to stay. Blessed be your name,” the crowd sang.

The Rev. Dave Galanter told the audience they could all learn a lot from a boy who “used to be afraid of shots and came to the point he wasn’t afraid of death.”

“Don’t let this moment pass. Ask yourself what the secret of Luke’s life was,” Galanter said. “It was his faith.”

Luke was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2007. He underwent several rounds of treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, including two transplants with bone marrow donated by his siblings, Tori and Jake. Despite all the efforts to cure him, the cancer recurred in March.

Many people throughout the United States and outside the country began following the boy’s journey on his family’s online blog.

‘Everybody’s friend’

Those who spoke at the service — cousins, friends, and a teacher — remembered Luke as “everybody’s best friend,” kind, joyful and mischievous. He loved tickles and hugs. His faith seemed to grow as his cancer progressed.

Luke’s grandfather, Mike White, spoke about his grandson’s signature humor and his genius at video games. White said he remembered one time playing a game with his grandson. He couldn’t get the hang of it.

“I said, ‘I missed video games by a generation,’” White said. “And he said, ‘No, you missed video games by several generations.’”

At the service’s end, mourners sang a Christian song particularly special to Luke. White said the boy would hear it on the radio and lift his arms, telling his mom he was reaching to heaven. Called “I Will Rise,” by contemporary Christian artist Chris Tomlin, the song is about meeting God in a better place. It was fitting.

“When he calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain,” the crowd sang. “I will rise on eagle’s wings before my God on my knees. I will rise.”

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.