Like most of us who grew up in one of Cris’ supporting churches, I have many memories throughout the years of her visits to share updates of the mission. As an adult, I have memories of Cris visiting in my home on several occasions sharing stories of our lives. My son, Zac, and I loved hearing her stories of how our great God intervened in circumstances beyond human control, and Cris had many of those stories throughout the years. One Christmas when she was having health problems, she stayed at my mom’s house and we enjoyed sharing memories of years past, as well as hearing about her family in Mexico. I wish I had taken more pictures during visits, but I was always caught up in Cris’ stories and sharing, and I forgot.
Probably the most thoughtful and tender memory I have of Cris on a personal level occurred twenty years ago in a hospital room at NEGA in Gainesville. Previous to that my dad, Bob Whatley, had gone several times with a group from Galilee led by Tom Plank to help build the nursing home. His heart was to serve and when he heard Cris needed skilled help with the nursing home, he went. Daddy loved Cris and Bethshean, and he thoroughly enjoyed fellowship with the brothers and sisters in Estancia.
In 2002, Daddy was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. He wasn’t able to eat and spent most of the six weeks in the hospital. Tom must have told Cris because one quiet afternoon in April, Cris walked into Daddy’s hospital room. His eyes lit up and a grin filled his face, and Cris sat down for an encouraging, comforting visit. I was witness to the joy my dad experienced visiting with an old friend who shared stories of Bethshean and the people he had met in previous years. The fact that Cris would take time out of her very busy stateside schedule to visit someone who would very soon be with Christ endeared her to me forever.
Cris’s heart for the Lord’s people has been evident throughout the years I’ve known her. She has often made special trips to sit with friends in their distress, to offer encouragement and love. She has called on many occasions from Mexico to make connections between people knowing we could help and support one another. Her example of humble dedication and persistence in serving the Lord’s people in so many facets has made such an impact on my life, and I’m thankful to have called her my sister.