Three children die in a fire, family finds healing in faith


SHEBOYGAN – One year ago, an unimaginable tragedy struck a Sheboygan family. Three of the four children born to Chris and Kristi Maki died in a house fire.

Sunday, the family spoke for the first time publicly at a church about their journey to find healing. The oldest of the Maki chidren, Natalie Renee Martin, 11, was honored posthumously for her efforts to save her siblings, ages 7, 9 and 10. The 9-year-old, Jenna, escaped the flames and smoke, but the other children remained trapped inside the house.

The deaths rocked the small community of Sheboygan, and the Maki family, who remain as volunteers at their local church. On Thursday, Senior Pastor Jeff Jaeger of Crossroads Community Church led a special service with the family to discuss their story.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports

“It was a fire that rocked our church family and captured the heart of an entire community and even our state as parents asked themselves, ‘What if those were my children?’” he said. “It was a tragedy that literally altered every aspect of Chris and Kristi’s life and that of Jenna, who survived the fire.”

Jaeger said the Makis did not request to speak at a service and that the church did not invite them. It was an arrangement that came about very naturally when he was on the phone with Kristi one day and asked if it would be therapeutic to tell the family’s story and she agreed.

Chris and Kristi joined Jaeger at a small table on the stage and the pastor asked questions that were not rehearsed beforehand. Of course, the first question was, how are they doing?

“For the most part, surprisingly, we are doing OK,” Chris said. “Relatively speaking, we are good. Life in general is happy like most lives, but everything has a tinge of sadness in it.”

Kristi agreed, saying that some moments are very sad, but that they look forward to their “home in heaven that will be perfect and good and free from this sadness someday.”

For more on the Makis’ incredible story, visit Milwaukee Journal Sentinel