For those with faith, the timing of the salvation and death of Christopher Greve was no accident.
Just days after the 31-year-old Kansas City man was baptized, he died Wednesday in a house fire along with his two children.
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And on Saturday in the same Belton church where he professed his new-found faith last Sunday, more than 200 people gathered, not for a funeral but for a “homecoming celebration” to commemorate the lives of Greve; his 7-year-old daughter, Donnica Runnels Greve; and his 2-year-old son, Brinton Greve.
They were killed in a fire at the family’s home at 108th Street and Bennington Avenue.
Kansas City fire officials said Saturday that though they had ruled out the possibility that the fire was intentionally set, they have been unable to determine an exact cause. The fire originated in the living room and caused an estimated $45,000 in property damage.
Like her husband, Shyla Greve was baptized on Mother’s Day at LifeQuest Church in Belton, where Pastor Chris Pinion officiated over Saturday’s service and cited the strength of faith that Shyla Greve had shown in the face of tragedy.
Brent Henkelman, children’s director at the church, also said the faith that Shyla Greve had displayed was inspiring.
“Shyla has reminded me what true faith really is,” Henkelman said.
Pinion noted the timing of the fire and Christopher Greve’s decision to accept God into his life.
“This moment did not take God by surprise,” he said. “I’m thankful that God knew best.”
The pastor also described how doctors were able to harvest two ventricles in Brinton’s heart for two other children.
“Two children lived because of Brinton,” Pinion said. “He saved lives much like Jesus did.”
Donnica attended Burke Elementary School, and many of her classmates and teachers attended the service. Several of the children climbed into the laps of adults for comfort as they watched a slideshow of photographs of their friend and her family. The pictures were the few that survived the blaze, Pinion said.
Although there were tears, there was plenty of laughter as the pastor shared stories about the family. He talked about Christopher’s fear of heights, even though he worked as a supervisor for a tree service company.
He described Donnica as both a tomboy and “girly-girl.” And he called Brinton, who loved to wrestle, a “24-7 bundle of energy.”
A memorial fund has been set up to help Shyla Greve cover expenses and rebuild her life. Donations can be sent to the Greve Family Memorial Fund, c/o Country Club Bank, 202 E. North Ave., Belton, MO 64012. For more information, call 816-322-2222.
Donations also are being accepted at Burke Elementary School, at 11115 Bennington Ave. in Kansas City.