Wednesday, February 17, 2016


A baby's first words are important- especially to mom and dad. As soon as a baby starts making sounds parents develop a special skill of interpretation. Others may listen with interest in hearing cute baby sounds, but parents are listening for something more.

Parents have to learn to interpret their baby's "Ba-ba-ba" to see if he or she is asking for a bottle, bath, ball, balloon or a blanket. As good as parents become at interpretation, sometimes things are lost in translation. I'll be honest- I have changed many diapers because my kid said,"Poo poo," but all he wanted was a "poo poo" (purple) crayon.

Although it is amazing to hear your baby's first words, every mom and dad is listening for one word, or should I say, one name: theirs. You hear "da-da-da" and you come running only to find your kid playing with the dog. You hear "ma-ma-ma" and you break your neck, thinking the child wants "mama" only to find your baby pointing at the milk jug. Then it happens: they look right at you and say, "Dada"- and you know they mean it. I'm telling you, there's not a feeling like it in all the world.

I remember the first word Elli said to me: "Baba." We had just met and the teacher at the orphanage introduced me to her. The worker pointed to me and said, "Baba." Elli repeated it: "Baba." Her sweet little voice got me all choked up. Looking back at that moment now I know she didn't really understand what a "Baba" really was as she had never really known hers. But it didn't matter to me. It was great to hear my name.

Over the past 5 months we have both learned what "Baba" is: he loves Jesus (hopefully she sees and knows this), he takes care of his family, he loves Luke, Noah, Adam and Elli and he loves their Mama. Baba is the guy who jumps on the trampoline with the kids, fixes an incessant number of chicken nuggets and pizza in a given month and laughs at kids movies like he's a kid as well. Baba coaches his sons' basketball teams, plays four square, grills for Mama sometimes and reads books at night. Oh yeah, Baba also loves to snuggle his kids, kiss them and tell them "I love you." "Baba" is really "Daddy."

One of my favorite parts of being a dad is coming home after a day of work. The kids hear the door open and all come running, "Daddy! Daddy's home!" Hugs and kisses fly and immediate requests for attention flood the doorway. Now a little girl comes running, "Baba! Baba!" It is music to my ears.

I am a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, I am a friend. To others, I am a pastor. To some, I am a neighbor. But only 3 people in the world can call me daddy, and only one can call me Baba. The relationship between and dad and his kids is special.

But a couple of months ago something happened that stopped me dead in my tracks. We were at our house one evening. Luke and Noah were playing with Legos and Adam and Elli were playing with Play Do. From across the room Adam called to me, "Daddy, can you help me?" I made my way to their table and helped him get the blue Play Do to pass through one of the Play Do squeezing mechanisms (I have no idea what you call those things). With Adam satisfied with the help I offered I got up and turned to walk away, back to whatever it was I was doing.

Then I heard that voice. The sweet voice of that little girl who captured my heart from the first time she uttered a word to me. "Daddy?" My heart stopped. She said it with a question mark at the end. She said it as though she was testing me, "Is that okay? Can I call you Daddy? Are you Daddy to me as well?" I felt like the world was standing still and everything went silent. I turned around and she was holding a lump of red Play Do as a lump was forming in my throat. I could see it in her eyes. I had answered when she called me the name she had heard her brothers call me hundreds of times.

I knelt back down, "Yes, baby? What do you need?" Without hesitation she made a request, "Daddy, help." She held out the Play Do as I held back the tears. I kissed her on the forehead and helped her. And just like that, I was no longer "Baba." I was now "Daddy"- not only to Luke, Noah and Adam- but also to Elli.

"Baba" will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first word she said to me and it was my name for a few months. But I don't miss Baba.

When that garage door opens and my kids come running, I hear all four voices calling me from around the corner, "Daddy! Daddy's home." From around the corner this cute little girl appears with a smile from ear to ear: "Daddy!" I'm Elli's Daddy: and she means it when she says it. There's not a feeling like it in all the world.


  1. Truly touching words. My wife and I are in the process of bringing home our little girl from China. Reading about your journey has been a great source of hope as we anxiously anticipate following in your footsteps. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you and your beautiful family!

    1. Phi-
      I apologize for missing your comment. I am so thankful our journey has been a source of encouragement to you and your family. Our journey has been on the most challenging, yet highly rewarding experiences of our lives. If you guys need ANY help, input, contacts, etc. we would be glad to help. My email address is Blessings, my friend-