WHITESBURG, Ky. (AP) — Reagan Berry has seen firsthand how some children in Africa suffer. Berry, of Whitesburg, has returned to Africa several times since her first three-month mission trip to Senegal during her sophomore year in college.
The trip that profoundly impacted Berry's life was when she met a little girl named Eleanor at a school in Zambia. Children at the school were dirty, hungry and without hope, she said.
One day Berry couldn't find Eleanor at the school and was told that she was in the sickbay. Berry didn't leave Eleanor's side for the rest of the day once she found her all alone shivering with a fever curled up on a dirty mat. Berry held and rocked Eleanor all day.
"We tried to give Eleanor all of the love and medicine we had available," said Berry, a native of Paducah. "I ended up having to take her to the hospital, where I had to force her down while they gave her a shot. I've never heard a child scream so loud. She was so scared and so sick."
Eleanor died at age five from malaria and anemia.
"Both of which could have been cured with a little medicine and a little attention," said Berry. "It breaks my heart. Eleanor's life is just a glimpse of what children are dealing with and we can't sit by and not do something to help."
Berry said spending time in orphanages and getting to know children there was a game-changer for her.
"I feel like once you see it, you can't get it out of your head," said Berry.
Berry was encouraged to one day adopt children from Africa after she met families in Louisville that had adopted children from Ethiopia.
"I began to see it as a real possibility," said Berry. "You can't change the world, but you can change one life, and so once I saw that other families were able to do it and it was a realistic thing I was like 'Oh, man. That is what we need to. We need to adopt some of those kids.'"
Reagan Berry met Jonathan Berry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. They were married June 9, 2009. Mrs. Berry gave birth to the couple's first child, Stella, on August 11, 2010. When Stella was six weeks old the Berrys moved from Louisville to Whitesburg where Jonathan Berry serves as associate pastor of the First Baptist Church.
Soon after moving to Whitesburg the couple decided to adopt a baby from Ethiopia.
After six months of waiting to hear something from the adoption agency, the Berrys got word about a baby boy that had been born.
Mr. and Mrs. Berry named their adopted son Addis after Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian city in which he was born. The word Addis means new life.
"In Ethiopia, Addis's future would have been living on the streets and dying later," said Mr. Berry. "His life expectancy would have been short or dying of malnutrition."
It took a year and four months from the time the Berrys started the adoption process until the time Addis came to Whitesburg.
"That is short compared to a lot of stories," said Mrs. Berry.
The Berrys knew that they wanted to adopt another child from Africa in a few years, but weren't planning on adopting again in the near future until Kona came along.
"A friend called one night and said there is an eight-month little girl in the Congo and they can't find a family for her. Would you all be interested?," said Mrs. Berry.
She said that after two weeks of prayer and conversation, she and her husband began their second adoption process after learning the little girl would most likely die if she weren't adopted.
Kona, who turned one year old on March 26, lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Berrys gained custody of Kona, whose name mean "lady," in May and hope to be able to bring her to Whitesburg by Christmas or the beginning of 2014.
Jonathan and Reagan Berry both come from large families and both want a large family of their own.
"I think we will adopt one more time," said Mrs. Berry.
Addis and Stella are excited to meet their sister, Kona. They look at her photograph and say "Kona."
"We're just doing what the Lord has called us to do," said Mrs. Berry. "If people want to get on board, get on board, and if you don't that is okay, too. This is just our journey."
Information from: The Mountain Eagle.