Lehigh Valley

Amy Yu's former youth leader says she will want to come home

Posts reveal Amy was upset, wanted to leave

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - "She could always bring life to the room."

Samuel Chen first met Amy Yu when she was 8 or 9, and he was a youth leader at their Lehigh Valley church.

"She was always in youth group, she was always in Sunday school, she was always in church," he says.

Sam's father was the minister at the church. Like Amy and her younger brother John, Sam was the son of immigrants, and loved reaching out to kids like him.

"I would take them under my wing all the time, all the time…We knew when their exams were, we knew what they wanted to study, we knew what their problems at home were."

In Amy's case, Sam says he knew her father had left the family when she and her brother were very young. Amy's mother raised them by herself.

"They never brought up their dad, ever. They never talked about (their) dad," Sam says.

Sam left the church when he says Amy was about 12 or 13. He says, he never remembers meeting 45-year-old Kevin Esterly.

Amy, though, would become friends with Esterly's daughters. She went on vacations with the Esterly family and spent the night at their house.

Sam says it's easy to make a connection that Amy saw a missing father figure, and Esterly saw a vulnerable young girl.

"I can't ever imagine her going to Kevin, "hey, we should go somewhere together" - especially when you see someone as a father figure. You let them make the move, let them make the suggestion especially since they're the ones that know 'what's going on,'" Sam says.

In the days leading up to her disappearance, a female mentor in Amy's youth group said Amy posted Snapchat messages that said things like “I'm done with this place,” or “I'm done with people who don't like me.”

"There's always that sense in which you get in that mindset and you don't realize how many people care about you," Sam says, referring to how many people liked and cared about her.

Sam says no matter what decisions have been made so many people care about Amy and are praying for her to come home.

He says it's important Amy knows that.

"It doesn't mean that she's right, but you can't help someone if you don't understand what they're thinking…But at the end of the day, he is not going to be enough. She's going to need her friends, she's going to need that social media interaction, she's going to need her family and she's going to realize it, and I think sooner than later."

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