In Memory of Ryan Paul Whitaker , December 18, 1981 - January 29, 2007
As a former Christian School Administrator, founder of two Christian schools, and a counselor at Champions Christian Counseling Center in Tomball, Paula Whitaker has been a driving force in helping people through difficult times in their lives. On January 29, 2007 Paula would call on the strength of the Lord to help her. On that day, Paula’s only child, Ryan Paul Whitaker, died at the age of 25. It was, and remains, the worst day of her life.
Feeling depressed and overwhelmed with grief, Paula placed her Faith upon God to see her through this grim time. In an attempt to diminish her grief and seeking solace where she grew up, Paula and her husband Ken took a road trip to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee six months after Ryan’s death. Little did she imagine that God would intercede during her trip and transform her grief into hope and profound devotion and dedication.
As Paula and Ken drove cross-country, a gigantic cross suddenly appeared on the horizon near the Chattanooga Airport. Overtaken with emotion and with tears of joy in her eyes, Paula asked Ken to exit the freeway and turn around to find the magnificent cross. With the gleaming white cross in the distance, they made their way to the foot of the cross at Grace Works Church.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion and the Holy Spirit at the mere site of this beautiful cross and the representation of what it stood for as the symbol of our salvation and Jesus Christ’s unselfish death upon a cross to save us from our sins. Ken and I stayed there for an hour or two and took pictures, prayed and was filled with the Holy Spirit that lifted my heart almost to Heaven. I could see and feel the presence of God as I gazed in amazement upon this beautiful symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.” Paula explains.
Feeling uplifted and better than she had in months, Paula and Ken continued their drive through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, when they came upon another beautiful cross rising above the city. Just like her experience with the first cross, Paula felt overwhelmed and amazed that she could have another encounter in such a short time. Once again, Paula felt the Holy Spirit in her whole being as the majestic cross mesmerized her. It was an indescribable spiritual feeling.
Moving north to Asheville, North Carolina brought an additional revelation; another massive cross appeared through the trees, just like the others had. For their third time in three days, Paula and Ken searched out the source of the cross. “At that moment,” Paula says, “I realized God was giving me a sign - discovering the crosses was not an accident, they were a sign that the Holy Spirit can touch and change people’s lives for God. Like a powerful magnet, the crosses drew me, as well as others, to God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all of us.
It was now obvious to Paula that God had planted a seed in her and that she had to carry out His desire to one day build a cross in Tomball, Texas—Paula’s “Hometown with a Heart.” I realized that God was preparing me to build a cross to change people’s lives like it had changed mine. I couldn’t experience seeing three magnificent crosses in three days without that being a sign from God. I know this is truly a ‘God Thing.’ “
It was also at this time that God stared Paula in a new direction with her life. Since the tragic loss of her precious son, Paula prayed to God for a way to honor the legacy of her son, Ryan. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paula started the Ryan Paul Whitaker Memorial Foundation to bring honor and glory to God. As Paula explains it, “I always thought Ryan would be in the work of Ministry for the Lord, but little did I know that it would be after his death.”
With God’s guidance, a renewed sense of hope, and a strong spiritual conviction, Paula combined her passions, the building of a cross and her son’s legacy, into one grand mission—to build a cross in her own community of Tomball to help change people’s lives like it had changed hers. The cross, Paula determined, would be dedicated to the Glory of God through The Cross of Jesus Christ and in memory of Ryan Paul Whitaker whose goal in life was to help people. For over nine years, the vision of the crosses remained with Paula. “Every time I drove up Highway 249, I would ‘see’ a majestic cross by a church. The vision was in my mind, but I know God gave me the vision over and over again.”
After researching the three crosses that she witnessed, Paula contacted the builder in December 2007. It turned out that the builder, James Potter of Tennessee, had constructed 31 crosses in different parts of the country. Now he has helped build 50 crosses across America, with the hope of building more in the U.S. and in foreign countries. “James and I have been talking about this for almost nine year,” Paula explains, “and at last, we will be working together to build a cross for God in Tomball. I am looking forward to this work and this ‘ride’ of building a Cross to honor God through the Cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The basic plan is for the cross to be 125 ft. tall, as tall as a 10-story building with arms that are 82 ft. wide, similar to shape and design of the Groom Texas Cross. It will be amazing.”
Paula writes, "In November 2015, I received a powerful word from the Lord that 2016 would be the Year of the Lord’s Favor and I was called to build the cross in Tomball, Texas. God’s timing is not our timing, God’s timing is perfect, and when God start to move, we need to buckle our seatbelt because we are in for the ride of our lives and we’ll have a front seat to SEE GOD AT WORK.” As the scripture says, “all things work to the good to them that love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose.”
The cross of Tomball has been funded almost entirely by the Ryan Paul Whitaker Memorial Foundation. Paula writes, “We may need help here and there, but I know that God will provide and make a way and will put people in my path to walk with me throughout this magnificent journey. You are invited to join us in this wonderful ministry of The Cross of Tomball.” Paula explains, “I look forward to the work ahead of us to bring Honor and Glory to God by erecting a cross to Honor Jesus Christ.”
Rarely in our lives do we have the opportunity to build a monument to God and this is a chance to do just that…to build a monument of The Cross of Jesus Christ—in Honor of God and to bring Glory to Jesus Christ, Our Savior. It is the Symbol of our Salvation! It is my hope and prayer that thousands of people will come to accept Christ Jesus because of this Cross! Everyone will now see this beautiful cross as they pass it each day at the intersection of Tomball Parkway (249) and the Grand Parkway (99). It is a magnificent landmark to welcome people to Tomball. The Cross is located at River of Praise Church at Boudreaux Estates Drive and Rocky Road. -Paula Whitaker
The Honorable R. Jack Cagle hereby recognizes Paula H. Whitaker for the donation and dedication of The Cross of Tomball in memory of Ryan Paul Whitaker.
As Precinct 4 Commissioner of Harris County, Texas, and on behalf of the citizens of Harris County, congratulations on this momentous occasion! Thank you for your work and dedication in bringing light to our community. May this legacy have a lasting impact on the lives of many for years to come.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. -Matthew 5:16