You may remember, back in July, our friends Ken and Lepo lost their only child, Kenalin. Lepo has never been able to have children–Kenalin was adopted. We’ve been really hoping for a new baby for them, but not sure if or when or how or from whence it would come.
For the last two weeks or so, Lepo has been in Lae, a coastal city, awaiting surgery to remove a growth in her belly. This is the second time she and Ken have made the expensive trip to Lae over the last few months. Each time the hospital there has told her to wait a few months and come back. But this isn’t a post about the state of medical care in PNG.
Lepo got back to Menya this weekend and came over to see me yesterday. I was excited when I saw her, thinking she must have had the surgery, so that was the first thing I asked her. Nope. Then she sold me a papaya…
Then she nonchalantly pulls a baby bottle out of her bag to ask me if Wes could buy her one like it in the States and bring it back over here. A BOTTLE?? SAY WHAT?? Why do you need a bottle??? She totally surprised me—but that wasn’t all.
Once I got the whole story from her, it turns out that while they were in Lae her husband married a second woman. This woman is pregnant and has two other kids, but has never been married. When she has this baby, she is going to give it to Lepo to raise. The new wife, her two young kids, and her mother all came up from Lae with Ken and Lepo and they are all living together for now! (Ken is in the process of building the second wife her own house and he will take turns living in each house.)
Now, you might think that Lepo would be upset about this arrangement, but she was almost giddy telling me about it. It was hands down the happiest I’ve seen her in months. Lepo actually chose this wife and really likes her. And she’s finally got another baby on the way, after all! We are all excited about that!
[Lepo on the left in red, Ken’s new mother in law on the right]
[Ken’s new pregnant wife with two kids]
I don’t know about you, but one of my first thoughts about this situation was how similar it felt to Sarah, Abraham and Hagar. Now, God hasn’t promised Lepo a son, like he had Sarah, but here is a couple getting up there in age who are desperate for a child, with no access to invetro or fertility drugs. The idea of arranging a second wife for your own husband probably sounds ludicrous, as does Sarah offering her servant to Abraham, but this context makes that story of Abraham and Sarah make a lot more sense to me. Their culture, as well as opportunity, was probably much more like the Menyan culture than it was like our American experience. Here, the only option is adoption, but even that looks much different than in the States. There isn’t an adoption agency that Lepo can go make arrangements with to get a baby. No matter how badly she wants a baby, she can only adopt one if someone (almost always a relative) offers a baby to her. So here she is longing for a baby, unable to conceive, getting older, no babies being offered to her for adoption, and the option she has to control this situation is to get a second wife for Ken. So that’s what she did. Can’t you just see Sarah in that same spot? It was easy for me to read Sarah’s story before and wonder how she could do something like offer Hagar to Abraham. I mean, God had told them they would have a son even! Where was her faith? But seeing Sarah with Lepo’s face makes me a little more compassionate. It’s funny how often people here bring biblical stories to life for me. In my mind, now, Mary and Joseph look a lot like Menyans too, but I’ll save that story for later.