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Officiating Pastor Speaks About Funeral for Five Houston Children

Aired June 27, 2001 - 08:28   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right Brian, I'm sorry to interrupt your guest segment. We want to go to Houston, Texas right now where Reverend Byron Fike, minister to the Yates family is speaking to reporters.


BYRON FIKE, MINISTER OF CLEAR LAKE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN HOUSTON, TEXAS: Tragedy to triumph. I'm going to begin the service by addressing the tragic nature of what's happened here and some of the internal struggles that we have and the questions we have that just do not really have answers.

That's the way we'll begin the service and then Mr. Yates is going to eulogize each one of his children and after he concludes that, he's got a few statements that he wants to read and a few scriptures. Then, I'm going to conclude the service by talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and the horrible death that he died and yet how God turned that into a triumph through the resurrection from the dead and how that we believe these children -- this is not the end for them.

When the Lord comes back, there will be a resurrection of the dead and so, the last chapter has not yet been written. So we're going to end on a message of hope.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how you felt that Mr. Yates prepared for this eulogy?

FIKE: I've worked quite closely with Mr. Yates. We've spent time -- well, considerable time just talking about what we want to do in this service and how we want to proceed. I don't really have a prepackaged funeral plan. I'm very concerned about him and his other close family members, and what I can do to help minister to them at this time, and so we've been talking about that?

QUESTION: How is family doing?

FIKE: Well, I haven't really seen them today. I'm going to -- as soon as I finish this interview, I'm going to head over to the funeral home and I'll spend a little time with them there?

QUESTION: Do you know how he will eulogize his children? FIKE: I don't know except to say I don't know specifically what he will say. I know he wants to share stories and memories. Wants it to be personal. Talk about each one of his children as an individual what they meant to him personally. It will be very intimate sharing.


FIKE: Well, you know, this is just a horrible thing. I don't really know how he's doing internally. Outwardly, he's functioning. He's getting the things done that he has to do, and he's staying very task-oriented. He's been very involved in arranging pictures to remember the children by, selecting the caskets and he's just stayed very focused and on task. But as to what's going on for him internally, I don't really know. He is a man. He does believe in the Lord Jesus and he is confident that he is going to see the children again.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how he will eulogize his children?

FIKE: I don't really know except to say -- meaning I don't know specifically what he's going to say. I know he's wanting to share some stories and just some memories. He wants it to be very personal. He wants to talk about each one of his children as an individual, and what they meant to him personally. So, it's going to be a very intimate sharing?

QUESTION: Do you know the children?

FIKE: I don't know anything about the children. I got involved with the Yates family after the tragedy occurred. And so, I never met the children and I don't know anything about the children.


FIKE: Well, like I said before, I think we have to begin with the tragedy itself. We've got to face that up front and deal with some of the hard questions. Where is God at a time like this? How could something like this happen?

So, that's where we're going to begin, but we're going to trust, even though we don't have answers to all of those questions, we do know the answer, and the answer is Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. And so, we're going to move from tragedy to triumph.

I don't know how God may use all of this, but I know that he is going to use it to bring about some very good things and Mr. Yates is confidence of that as well. So, we're going to talk a little bit at the end about some of the ways that perhaps God will use this to bring about good. Postpartum depression is receiving considerable attention now, and I think that's a very positive thing for the future. Who knows what may come out of that.

And also, we're going to talk about the need for community. We desperately to be involved with one another and to know what's going on in each other's lives. We need to know the lord, Jesus Christ. He is the only one that can give us hope and meaning in life on this Earth. So, those are some of the -- some of the ways that I believe God is going to use this to bring about some good things

QUESTION: Minister, you help a lot (OFF-MIKE)

FIKE: No, I have not.

QUESTION: Minister, you help a lot of people in times like this. Can you talk about how much difficult it's been for the Yates family to have to grieve given all the attention and focus on them the last week?

FIKE: Well, yes, with all the media attention, it's kind of compounded things. It's just made it difficult to get around somewhat. So, that's made it difficult. By and large, though, the media has been respectful. They've honored our requests for the most part. We've had a few exceptions, but they've honored our requests, and so when they come into the building that is somewhat of a sanctuary for them, and I can sit down and minister to them in private.


FIKE: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Minister you said in prior interview that before your first funeral that you had to eulogize was for a child who died from SIDS. Can you talk a little bit having to eulogize and minister for five children from one family and how difficult it has been for you to prepare for this?

FIKE: Yes, actually, it was the second funeral I ever did. I was 21 years old, and the child didn't die of SIDS, it was a shaking death, the father had caused the death in that instance and that was a horrible tragedy.

But I believe your question was -- ask it, again, please.

QUESTION: How much more difficult is it to try and minister to family where the entire family has been wiped out by both death and by the cause of what's going on?

FIKE: Well, it's an unspeakable tragedy. In fact, I'm going to say today that tragedy is understatement. I don't believe there are words in any language that can describe what has happened. We -- the only way that Mr. Yates or anybody else can deal with this adequately is going to come from the strength that the Lord provides.

This is -- Mr. Yates has lost all of his children, and in essence lost, he's lost his wife at this time. He is -- he is in desperate need, and yet, he is clinging to the Lord as his rock and as his security at this time. So he is finding support from him.

QUESTION: Do you find it remarkable that he can stand up there and eulogize his five children?

FIKE: Absolutely. I told him the other day, I don't believe there's one in a thousand, maybe one in 10,000 people that could do this. I believe he may be the one, though. If for any reason not able to do this, then I have prepared to do some things that will help him.

But he very much wants to do this. I think it's very appropriate. I don't know these children. They deserve to have a father who loves them and cares deeply for them to stand and eulogize them in a proper way. And so, I'm glad that he has the inner strengthen today be able to do this, and I really believe that he will.

QUESTION: Has he talked to you about ministering to his wife at any point?

FIKE: No, we haven't really talked about that. If -- what I'm encouraging Mr. Yates at this point is to follow the words of Jesus. Jesus said don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. And indeed, he's got plenty of trouble today and so I'm encouraging him to stay focused on the things at hand today, trusting the Lord tomorrow.

If at some point in the future it were possible to talk to Mrs. Yates, I would be honored to speak to her about the forgiveness available through the death of Jesus Christ.


FIKE: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Apparently he didn't say anything?

FIKE: I have no idea, no.

QUESTION: Have you ever had to speak at a funeral involving so many children?


QUESTION: How hard is that going to be for you?

FIKE: I'm sorry, say that again.

QUESTION: How difficult is that going to be for you?

FIKE: Well, the Lord has given me tremendous inner strength at this time, and I'm -- he's the one that brought this whole situation to us. They weren't members here. We didn't know them. I was recommended through someone that was helping them plan the funeral. So I consider this to be the Lord's calling to me to minister, and so the Lord has given me the ability to set a lot of my emotions aside and simply do the task that I need to do, which is to reach out with compassion and understanding and to offer a message of hope to those that are struggling, and so I thank the Lord for what he is going to give me.

QUESTION: What about the community support? Just how much donations have helped to cover expenses for the family? FIKE: I can only speak in a very general way because I haven't been involved intimately with that, but it's just been absolutely phenomenal how people have contributed. Someone contributed all of the -- all of the funeral plots, and the -- there's been a lot of food that's been donated from several businesses in town, and it's just been a wonderful thing to see people coming together in the community and wanting to support the Yates' family at this time, and I wish someone would compile a list of everything that's been done because I think it would be quite -- quite amazing.

QUESTION: How many people will be allowed in the funeral?

FIKE: Our auditorium will seat about 550, and I will be surprised if we don't fill every seat and I have to turn some people away.

QUESTION: Pastor, what is your name and how do you spell it?

FIKE: Byron Fike, B-y-r-o-n F-i-k-e.

QUESTION: Will the funeral be open to the public?

FIKE: No, absolutely not. In fact, the family has requested that family and friends attend the funeral. I know there's a lot of interest in the community, a lot of -- there's a lot of concern for this family, but this is a time for Mr. Yates to address those that know him, those that knew his wife -- or know his wife, those that knew his children, those that are connected with other family members, and so we're encouraging others to please be in prayer, but to allow the space to be given to those that really the family.

QUESTION: How do you plan to enforce that?

FIKE: Well, we're not really going to enforce that. We're trusting in people's honesty.

QUESTION: This is story that has touched the entire community. Not everyone will be able to hear what you hear inside the church. Are there words that you would offer to the community to help everyone heal?

FIKE: One of the things that I want to talk about is the biblical character Job in the Old Testament. Job suffered unspeakable tragedy in his life. He lost his possessions, he was a very wealthy man. He lost all of his children, and finally he lost his health. He was in terrible suffering and agony.

Right in the middle of his book, as he is being bombarded by questions from his friends and accusations about his character, Job speaks a word of faith where he says I know that my redeemer lives, and in the end he will stand on the Earth. That is the message of hope that I want to give where in spite of unspeakable trials and suffering, in spite of lack of answers when questions are many, we can stand firm with the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ will return and everything that is wrong will be made in that day.

QUESTION: Will you follow the family to the cemetery and what will happen there?

FIKE: Yes, I will. I will be with the family. We'll have a very brief graveside service. I am probably going to read a psalm. I may read a little bit out of 1 Corinthians 15, which speaks of the resurrection of the dead, and then we're going to sing the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

QUESTION: Do you know if a family representative or yourself will speak following the services?

FIKE: Speak to the media? I don't know. OK.


LIN: All right, that was Reverend Byron Fike, who has been ministering to the Yates family. He says that Russell Yates, the father of these five murdered children, will actually be taking the podium himself to eulogize his children's lives, and that's where the focus will be today, will be on how these children lived, not on how they died, although Byron Fike, Reverend Fike did say that he will begin today's service speaking about the tragedy that it is unavoidable in its own sense, but he wants it to be a message of hope.

That funeral will begin in less than three hours.



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