Members of Hamilton Life Church are carrying on a passion project after the sudden death of a member of the congregation.
Chattanoogan Chris Whiteside, 51, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He had a preliminary surgery and died suddenly from complications on May 4.
Now his church and wife, Terri, are raising money through GoFundMe to complete the building of a Haiti school that Chris had been working on.
“Chris wanted the Haitian people to know that even though they didn’t have much that God still loved them,” Terri said Wednesday. “They are so humble, so appreciative of every little thing and that really just tugged at his heart.”
Terri and Chris had been visiting a remote area of Colmini, Haiti, where there’s no running water and no electricity, since 2014. Although many churches go on mission trips to Haiti, Colmini is so isolated that it doesn’t always get much help, she said.
After the couple’s first journey, the man who was leading the trips asked Chris to take over, and he did. He took a trip every February, Terri said.
And they started building a school for more than 300 students, who had been working out of makeshift rooms with 50 students sometimes packed on one picnic-type table.
“We are raising funds to complete the building of the school on behalf of Chris,” Hamilton Life Church Pastor David Huff said Wednesday. “He loved Haiti and made building the school part of his life mission.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the group had raised $1,225 of the $25,000-goal.
They hope to raise enough money to complete the school, which they want to name in honor of Chris. Huff said the church wanted to involve as man people as possible in the effort, which felt bigger than their organization.
And Terri said focusing on this project is helping her heal. She’s going to start doing the work Chris was doing.
“I’m going to keep taking trips,” she said. “I think that’s what he would want us to do—just continue the mission.”
Huff said that Chris’ legacy will live on through the school.
“Chris’ death now serves as the point of life for many,” he said.