Willard Berkenpas said he wasn’t even looking for a wife when he met Grace.
And even though Willard’s brother married Grace’s sister, Willard admitted he didn’t know who Grace was … but she knew him!
When they finally did officially meet, Willard says, “The rest was history!” They married March 15, 1951. Through 63 years of marriage, their love is still strong. Grace is now suffering from Alzheimer’s and is in assisted living, but Willard sits with her several hours a day, talking to her and sharing a meal with her.
Willard spent his life working in construction. First, he was a carpenter. Later, he formed Berkenpas Builders and built residential condominiums. He worked hard so Grace could raise their children (they had 5, one passed away in infancy).
“I said I would work two jobs so she could stay home,” he said. “She did a good job.” They are proud of the fact all of their children and grandchildren faithfully attend church.
Over the years, God has blessed Willard, 82, and Grace, 81, financially, and they knew it was important to give back.
“My goal wasn’t to be a rich man,” Willard said. “I feel it’s not my money, it’s the Lord’s money. I’m just a steward.”
He wasn’t really looking to get involved in Mission India when, more than 25 years ago, he and Grace were invited to Mission India’s Banquet of Praise. But Willard was impressed with Founder John DeVries and with the different programs Mission India offered, and Willard and Grace wanted to be a part of the ministry work in India.
Children’s Bible Clubs are important to Willard because he says that children are the ones who suffer the most. He loves how the programs can start with children, and the children can bring it back to the parents, and then whole communities can be transformed.
Willard and Grace joined the Mission India Legacy Society because they believe strongly in what Mission India is doing in India.
“I’m a sinner saved by grace,” Willard says. He shares that it’s all by the grace and mercy of God that he and Grace have been able to make such a difference in the lives of others.
They are especially encouraged knowing that they are supporting India’s believers in reaching their own nation for Jesus, and that even the smallest gift will make an impact beyond their imagination.
UPDATE: Grace went to be with her Lord and Savior in April 2015. Though she is deeply missed by friends and family, we are thankful for her legacy of love for missions and for reaching the people of India with the Gospel.