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Kristopher Hatchell - a life to be proud of

April 12, 2024

The Hatchell Family

The Hatchell Family

“All college graduates have a desire to change the world once they get their diploma. Kris Hatchell actually did – one person at a time, one village at a time, one bridge at a time, one clean water system at a time,” says Mark Jent, former director who served in Lipscomb Missions from 2002-2017.

In 2004 Hatchell became a student leader on Lipscomb Engineering’s very first mission trip. They installed a water tank in rural Honduras to provide clean water for the village. 

“The moment he was a part of that first engineering team, something sparked in him and inspired him. He knew he wanted to be a part of that for the rest of his life,” says his friend and former Lipscomb Missions coworker, Paul Stevens.

Hatchell with newly installed water project

Hatchell continued to lead engineering mission teams after he graduated with his B.S. in Engineering Mechanics in 2006. Two years later, he returned to the university in a new role in Lipscomb Missions – coordinator for what is now known as the Peugeot Center for Engineering Service in the Developing World.

For the next five years he trained and led hundreds of college students on numerous engineering mission trips to Guatemala. 

“A lot of the mission teams he led were project-oriented because they were engineering teams,” says Stevens. “But he always made sure that the project-oriented mission was still people-focused. It was about using their skills to serve the community and point the people toward Jesus. He never wanted to miss out on an opportunity to share Christ with people. He knew that was why we’re here. And that’s the perfect embodiment of what Lipscomb Missions is all about – the intersection of mission and vocation.”

Jent agrees. “He loved to serve others by incorporating what he learned in the classroom as an engineering major and intertwining it with his faith.”

“Kris excelled at that, and he also excelled at empowering the people he served to then turn around and do the same. It’s the biblical concept of disciples making disciples,” says Stevens. “I saw that in a lot of the things Kris did. He would say, ‘let me work with you and show you how to do this thing so you can use the new skill to help others in the community.’”

One of the students he empowered, Kirsten Dodson, is now a mechanical engineering professor at Lipscomb and a dedicated engineering mission team leader herself. 

“Kris was my first team leader for engineering missions when I was a student at Lipscomb,” she says. “I chose engineering at first because I was good at math and physics, but it wasn’t until that engineering mission trip that I understood how my skills could be used to make a positive impact in the world. I’m so grateful to Kris’ leadership and later his friendship. If Kris hadn’t convinced my mom to let me go to Guatemala, or if he hadn’t trained us so well, or if he hadn’t been as invested in us as he was, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Kris cared so deeply about all of us and about all of our partners and the communities we worked with in Guatemala. His passion for life and service was always so clear in his work. I’m hopeful that I can continue leading and serving in Kris’ memory and with his deep dedication to care for others.” 

Jent, Hatchell, and Stevens

Jent, Hatchell & Stevens in the Lipscomb Missions Center

Hatchell’s dedication for using his skills to serve others was not limited to engineering projects in Guatemala. 

Jent remembers, “When he came on staff at Lipscomb Missions in 2008 he asked me ‘what do we need?’” Jent told him they needed an online system to keep track of their mission teams. Hatchell went into his office and emerged three weeks later with a new online system he developed himself.

“Lipscomb Missions wouldn’t be where we are today without what he built,” says Stevens. “In order to grow, you have to have some sort of system in place that can be scaled. The rapid growth and the number of opportunities Missions could offer was a byproduct of being able to have something that could capture all the information we needed in one secure place.” Since the program’s beginning, almost 10,000 students have participated in a Lipscomb mission team. “Without some sort of system like the one Kris built, it never would have happened,” says Stevens.

After five years of organizing short-term mission teams to Guatemala, Hatchell, along with his wife and partner in missions, DeeDee, moved to the country’s Ulpan Valley to serve the native Mayan population full-time for two years. 

Stevens said, “Kris saw the opportunities inside and outside of engineering that could be brought to that community. He saw the need to have someone there to guide the vision for it to grow into something and, once again, empower that community.”

Upon returning to the States, Hatchell continued to lead mission trips and became known professionally for his excellence and passion for water resource engineering in Tennessee through his work as a project manager at Barge Design Solutions.

“I believe there will be more people [in heaven] because of the life Kris Hatchell lived and the impact he had on others. It’s hard for me to truly fathom the massive ripple effect his influence will leave for generations to come,” adds Jent.

Hatchells, Jents, Stevens, & Steve Sherman in Guatemala

Luke Burris, another close friend of Hatchell’s, says, “he has shaped more of my adult life than almost anyone else; there are very few parts of my life that had no connection with him. His generosity was endless. He was passionate and tenacious about everything he cared about –  even and especially spreadsheets. And he loved DeeDee and his boys [Noah, Nehemiah and Nathaniel] so so well.” 

“Kris challenged himself,” says Stevens. “He was never complacent and never did anything just to get it done. He approached everything with a mindset of ‘this is going to be something that I’m proud of when I get done with it.’ And it permeated through everything he did.”

Kristopher Hatchell passed away at his home in Knoxville on Friday, March 22, 2024, at the age of 40 after a battle with abdominal cancer. 

Hatchell & Jent

“It is a common understanding in engineering that in order for a structure to succeed it needs a strong foundation,” says Joelle Noble, a junior engineering major who has participated on multiple Lipscomb mission teams. “Kris Hatchell was a vital piece of the strong foundation that the Peugeot Center now stands on. Every student who has had the opportunity to participate in the service of the Peugeot Center, and every heart served and loved by the service of the Peugeot Center, has Kris to thank for it.

Not a Trip
Category: Student Life
Tags: Lipscomb Missions, Guatemala, Ulpan Valley