To Be Her Dad

New adoptive dad Pete Chrissotimos could not wait to meet his daughter in Colombia — to love, nurture, cherish and support her. And to her those words that make it all worthwhile: “I love you, Dad.”

Pete, his wife, and his daughter in Colombia

What inspired me to adopt my daughter from Colombia became proof God’s plans are bigger than ours. When I started the adoption process with my wife, we were initially looking at another country.  However, God had Colombia in mind for us — and we did not yet know it!

While we were waiting to be matched with a child from China, I received horrible news — cancer! Even though my treatment lasted less than a year, and by the end of the treatment I was considered cancer-free, Holt’s China program staff informed us that China required a three-year wait to ensure I was truly cancer-free. After three years, we would then be go back to waiting in line to be matched with a child.

We were devastated, but we knew that God was in control.

Shortly after I was cured of cancer, we received a phone call from our Holt social worker. She told us about a little girl waiting to be adopted from Colombia. My wife and I were excited, and as soon as our letter of intent was approved, we were officially matched with her.

Pete's daughter dressed up as a princess.

Reading through our child’s profile, I saw God’s craftsmanship at work. Although we came to Holt hoping to adopt a younger child, we just couldn’t stop being excited reading her profile. Line by line, she was so much like us!  Beyond our wildest dreams! She had similar talents and interests as my wife, she and I had similar food tastes, and so many other things. This was our daughter! I wanted to go to Colombia to get her as soon as possible!

Not knowing how long we would be in Colombia, we wanted to plan our trip well to make the most of the time we would have there. We especially wanted to experience Colombia with our daughter, since we knew that she had probably had limited exposure to so many things.

We wanted to taste as many of the 2,000 fruit varieties as possible, see the Andes mountains, visit the Salt Cathedral, see as many as possible of the amazing older churches that looked very well kept up, visit various museums, and just get as much of the flavor of Colombia as possible with our daughter. Thanks to the Amazon being nearby, there were so many different kinds of birds and animals that we never or seldom got to see in the United States. Because we are from Iowa, we were excited about the mild-to-warm climate so that we could enjoy the outdoors — walking, swimming, and even wearing shorts in February!

The staff from Holt International made our trip so easy by arranging transportation and lodging for us. All of our Holt representatives were friendly, funny and helpful.  They showed us the best places to eat, places to visit, and helped walk us through the required paperwork. They were available any time, no matter how often I called them with questions!

On our second day in Colombia, we were able to go to the orphanage to meet our daughter and take her to be with us. We were a family! The staff at the orphanage was also very helpful and eager to show us around. And of course, meeting our daughter was an unforgettable experience!

Pete, his wife and daughter on the day they met in Colombia.

As soon as we received our daughter, I was so proud to be a dad. I knew that every day, I would have the opportunity to model Jesus to her and to her mom and show her how to be a brave and strong child of God while making memories filled with laughter and joy. I thank God each day for having her in my life and for knowing that I am making a positive impact on her. Helping to reshape her view of life is an incredible responsibility that is filled with great opportunities to give her a brighter outlook for her future.

A family of three.

This is not to say that being a new dad is always easy, of course. There are moments when I need to remind myself of her background instead of asking, “Why are you behaving this way?” I remind myself to think of the love, care, support and connection she needs on a daily basis that she almost certainly did not get before. It can be a difficult balancing act, but at the end of the day, to hear those words, “I love you, Dad,” makes it all worthwhile.

Pete and his daughter.

Coming home from work and putting my day behind me so that I can pick her up and give her a big hug is something I look forward to every day! To learn all that she did at school, the friends she made, what she and her Mom did, to hear her English improving (faster than my Spanish!), all motivate me to want to invest in her even more. I am thrilled to be a dad. Getting those birthday cards, Father’s Day cards, and having a secret handshake all remind me what a difference she is making in my life, filling it with love.

Pete's wife and their daughter at home, baking cookies.

My advice to new adoptive dads is just to know that no matter what happens throughout the day, your child loves you. Remember that she has been waiting for a dad who will love, cherish, nurture, protect and support her. When she does something that may not be what you expect, know that it may be a survival act from her past rather than what you might be tempted to see as an act of disobedience. Over time, she will learn that she is safe with you — because you are her dad.

Pete Chrissotimos | Adoptive Dad

Learn more about adopting from Colombia!

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