“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” Oops, wrong story. Our story begins far, far away all right but not a long time ago. Our story begins now and reflects an urgency not often understood in our country.
Our story is about two young girls in Papua, New Guinea (PNG). Their mother was murdered nine years ago when they were toddlers and their brother was an infant. The brother was adopted because boys are valued in their culture. But the two small girls were left to be raised by their grandmother.
All was well in those early years. They were loved; they were sent to a Lutheran school; and most important, they were safe. But that was then, and this is now. Now, the grandmother is old and not well, and the girls, who are 12 and 15, are of an age where if anything happens to their grandmother, they face being married off to men they do not know, or worse, being victims of the dark world of human trafficking.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that they have an uncle and family in the United States. He has some form of guardianship of the girls in New Guinea, but his ability to go to his homeland and bring the girls to safety in the U.S. is hampered by finances. He does not have the money to hire an immigration lawyer. He does not have the money to fly to PNG and bring the girls home. And he, his wife, and young daughter live in a two-bedroom apartment and will need to find a larger apartment or house.
We realize that there are many people and organizations that are in desperate need of our help in these troubled times. But this story hits close to home. This family in need is the family of one of our church’s own. In fact, their story came to our attention when one of our members literally heard that “calling in the night” and began putting together the pieces of casual conversations over the past two years.
And so, the Esther’s Daughters Project was born. We have to get those girls out of PNG before anything happens to their grandmother who, by the way, is entirely behind this project knowing the fate that awaits the girls should anything happen to her.
Mother Teresa said that we cannot always do great things, but we can do “small things with great love.” These girls need our help. In a troubled world of many needs, this “small thing” begs our time, connections, resources, and “great love.” We cannot leave these girls to the fate that awaits them.
Caring and dedicated members of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church and friends are working hard on behalf of the girls and the adoptive family to raise money.
Current update: The process for Esther’s Daughters is moving forward and entering the final steps! The Ketepa family has received word that the visas for the girls have been approved. The next steps include scheduling an appointment with the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea, completing a final medical exam, and then bringing them to the United States. Exact dates have not been set yet, but this will happen in the next several weeks. We are grateful that so many people are excited to help with this tradition. The family’s needs are not all completely known until the process moves forward. As help is needed, we will let you know the specifics. For now, continued prayers for safe travels and a smooth transition are always appreciated.