Haiti quake disaster strikes close to home for Berkleys
VERDEN—Danny Berkley was out feeding the 285 head of cattle he runs on his place near here on Jan. 20, but he had his heart focused on part of his large adopted family back at the farmhouse as he did so.
Berkley and his wife of 35 years, Debbie, have adopted 13 children since May of 1999. The four oldest are from Haiti—Jowana, 13; Sarah and Peterson, 11 and Daniel, 10.
Completing the roll are four 7-year-olds; twins Samuel and Benjamin, Joshua and Caleb; Samuel and Benjamin’s biological brother, Timothy, 6; biological sisters Victoria, 6, and Evelyn, 4; and 3-year-olds Hannah and Maryann, all from Liberia.
Since Jan. 12, attention in virtually all American households has been focused on recovery efforts in Haiti after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the nation on the western end of the island of Hispaniola.
Perhaps even more so in the Berkley house, however.
Danny said his family has monitored the situation on TV, but not to the point of becoming obsessed with news reports.
“But, we think it’s better to be informed than not,” he said, adding, thankfully, that only Sarah has exhibited one small sign of stress since the earthquake struck.
“Last night was first time she had shown a little bit of emotion,” he said.
Danny said the adoption agency he and Debbie worked with in Port-au-Prince “was a bit shaken up,” by the quake, “but suffered no significant damage. Their hospital is swamped, of course.”
The Berkleys adopted Jowana and Sarah in 1999 and Peterson and Daniel in October 2000. They added the nine children from Liberia since, and have been approved to adopt two more children from Liberia. They would like to adopt more from Haiti, but have surpassed the governmental regulatory limit of three children and the age limit of 45—Danny is 53 and Debbie is 51.
“But, who knows, this disaster may open up those limits and allow us to adopt more children from Haiti,” Danny mused.
Members of Verden, First, the Berkleys served with the International Mission Board as International Service Corps (ISC) missionaries from 2002-04 in Botswana and a year later in South Africa. Now, in addition to raising the nearly 300 cattle, they plant wheat and alfalfa hay on their farm/ranch in Grady County.
The first Sunday after the disaster (Jan. 17) the Berkleys took the opportunity to do their part in responding to the tragedy.
Danny said he presents a “missionary moment” frequently during the morning worship service, and thought that was the perfect time to make a plea for help with the relief effort through Oklahoma Baptists’ disaster relief organization.
All four of the Haitian children assisted him with the presentation, the three younger ones talking about their homeland and the need for help. Jowana also read Matt. 25:35-40.
“I told the people the best way to help was to contribute through our state disaster relief office,” said Danny, adding that he plans to attend disaster relief training in the near future so he can be ready to respond as a volunteer.
The church contributed $1,250 to the disaster relief fund that morning, and was set to take up another offering Jan. 24.
Verden, First pastor Troy Taylor said the Berkleys “are a wonderful family. The children are well behaved and very involved in church with activities such as Sunday School, GAs, RAs and youth activities.
“They truly live what they preach. They are very dedicated to missions and missions work. They love the Lord and are dedicated to serving Him and His church.”
Taylor said Berkley also is planning to help lead a mission team from Verden, First to Botswana in late October or early November.
Meanwhile, Danny is enjoying the hectic life of being an adoptive father of 13, all of whom are home-schooled. The Berkleys also have two biological children and four grandchildren. Their adult son, Kirk, and his wife, April, attend Mustang, Chisholm Heights. They have a daughter, Stevie Ann, 8, and a son, Racer, 2. Their adult daughter, Tiffany, and her husband, Isaac, have two daughters, Peyton, 9, and Marie, 6. They live near Blanchard and attend an Assembly of God church in the area.
“We have discovered the fountain of youth; these kids keep us young,” he laughed. “It’s a joy to do what we do. We feel like it’s part of God’s plan, and what we’re supposed to be doing with this part of our lives.
They have shared their story with others, as well. They spoke at an adoption seminar at Pryor, First last November.
“I tell people, if God puts it (adoption) in your heart, go for it. Don’t be caught not doing what God leads you to do.