I met Babita when she was 12, two years after we first placed her picture on our refrigerator.
It was the summer of 2009, and finally, yes, finally, after years of prayer, I was in Nepal, a country that God had placed in my heart before I ever knew a thing about it.
There she was, at a children’s home in Kathmandu, where she had come to stay a few years earlier. It was an awkward meeting in front of the other children, me handing her a teddy bear just like all the others that each of our children, who at that point numbered five, had tucked in their beds at home.
Just days earlier, as I was walking out the door to get in the car of a friend taking me to the airport, my wife said these words to me, “When you meet her, if you want to make her part of our family, we can.”
You see, in my wife’s heart, she was ours, and she wanted me to know that I needed to listen to what she had already heard.
After a few days of walking Babita to and from school, I was heading back to the house where I was staying when God spoke so clearly He could have been walking next to me. I guess He was.
He said, “She is your daughter, and you are her father.” And at that moment, something happened in my heart that I don’t think I can ever explain. I never looked at her the same again. Suddenly, she was my daughter, and you couldn’t have taken that away from me no matter how hard you tried.
But what God didn’t explain that day was the struggle that we would face and in many ways still face today.
No, we have never legally adopted Babita. The United States stopped processing adoptions out of Nepal just two months after we filed paperwork, and by the time the country was open again, she had aged out of the system.
We’ve tried multiple ways to get her to the United States to be with us, without any success.
We moved to Nepal as missionaries because I said once that if she couldn’t be with us, I was sure God would bring us to her. He did, only to take us away again two months later as we were forced to leave the country without her.
Then we tried college. Babita was accepted to not one, but two Christian colleges in the United States, only for the U.S. Embassy to deny her a student visa last year.
In all our time of knowing her, we’ve only spent one week together, the only time I’ve woken up to have all of my daughters and sons come downstairs and greet me in the morning.
At this point, I see her a few times each year as I travel to Nepal for training. My wife and other children haven’t seen her in more than two years.
And despite all of this, never once have I thought her less a daughter.
I get so tired of people acting as if she can’t really be ours because we don’t have some stupid piece of legal paperwork. I struggle with keeping my sanity every time someone says, “Oh, she’s like your daughter.”
I have to suppress my anger when people rule her out because she doesn’t live with us or because she’s Nepali and we’re not. This doesn’t just happen in America. I get it in Nepal, too.
I can’t imagine what people say to her. I know she struggles with it, and it has caused friction at times in our relationship.
I love my daughter despite all of this, even when sometimes she doesn’t like me or isn’t sure she wants to be part of the family God has given her. Yes, there are times like this. I think now is one of those times. But it doesn’t change the way I feel.
We’ve had great times together. We’ve had terrible times together. We’ve laughed while eating pizza, we’ve sat and cried at our losses, we’ve fought and yelled over issues that aren’t easily resolved.
But she’s still my daughter.
Will she ever be with us? Chances of that are slipping every year. Now 20, she’s an adult, and if she can’t get a visa to study next year (her college of acceptance is still waiting for her), then I don’t know that we’ll ever be with her as one might expect.
And if she does come, it’s only until her degree is finished, when she will return to Nepal to do the work God has created her to do.
The thing is, my daughter is my daughter. And while I’ve no idea what that future looks like, what God has deemed, God has deemed. Somehow it’s all for His glory.
And so I’ll keep working to build that relationship, keep trudging through the muck and mire, always answering, “Babita is my daughter. There’s no ‘like’ about it. And I’m blessed to be her dad.”