How it all Began. . .

In May, 2009, Lonny forwarded me an email he had received from a relative who had just accepted a position with Morrell International, a logistics company that, among other things, produced bottled water for the U.S. troops in Iraq & Kuwait. Out of curiosity, I googled the company, looking for possible work opportunities. What I found was

The only job opportunities were positions for water bottling plant managers in the middle east, which scared me a bit, and weren't in Lonny's field, so I brushed past them, writing off this company in my head. But then, I noticed a link to "Morrell Family Charities" , which sounded interesting, so I clicked on it. That click would change our lives forever.

What I found there was an amazing list of projects going on throughout the world, helping the poverty-stricken people of many countries. The link that caught my attention first was about a dry farming project in Ethiopia. I started to watch one of the videos, then paused it and called Lonny in to watch with me. As we sat there watching together, the strongest feeling came over me. "This is the kind of thing you need to be doing," I finally said, "You need to call this guy." Lonny nodded in his quiet way, and I could see the wheels beginning to turn in his mind.

We weren't sure how Lonny's skills would fit into the picture. He's spent most of his career in the Dairy Industry, although he also has a master's degree in Molecular Biology and an MBA, as well as many years in management. But dry farming wasn't exactly his specialty. After thinking and praying about it for a few days, Lonny sent off a resume to Morrell International with a note about how impressed he was with the work they've been doing in Ethiopia. Within a day or two, Lonny received an email from Paul Morrell, asking him if he could meet to talk about a project in Ethiopia. We weren't sure what the meeting would lead to, but we felt good about it and looked forward to more information as the day for the meeting approached.

In the meantime, I watched those videos again, I showed them to my kids, showed them to anyone who would watch. I looked at the pictures of these people in Ethiopia and their plight and I saw the success going on with these projects. I felt so drawn to those people, to the whole idea of teaching principles that are common agricultural concepts in the Western United States, such as dry farming, and completely changing the lives of the people in an Ethiopian community. These basic principles are what America was founded on: industry, economics, science, agriculture & hard work. It is what many of the people of Ethiopia are missing. Knowledge. Hard Work. Hope. Progress. Could it be that just a few of us could make a difference? Only time would tell.

In the meantime, I came across an Ethiopian newspaper article about the dry farming project. The very last sentence jumped out at me: "[In] the next five years [Mr. Morrell] plans to add vegetable dry farming and dairy operations." I froze, then shouted as I repeated that line to my son, Joseph, who was in the room. "That's what he wants to talk to Dad about!" I shouted excitedly. I ran outside to where Lonny was working and called out to him, "They are planning to build a dairy in Ethiopia! That's what your meeting is about! I'm sure of it!"

The rest is history. Lonny was hired by Paul Morrell to build a state-of-the-art dairy and a butter/cheese factory in Kokosa, Ethiopia. He is there now, on his first trip to Africa. And although I miss his loving arms around me, I am so happy for him to be involved with this. It is exactly what we need to be doing right now. What was the chance of this happening by coincidence? Paul Morrell needed a businessman with dairy experience who was willing to travel to Ethiopia. Then, suddenly, seemingly out-of-nowhere, without advertising for the position, he gets an email resume from an experienced dairyman with international experience, an MBA, dairy construction experience and 14 years in the industry who's willing to travel to Africa. Impossible.

So even though the odds of success in this endeavor may seem impossible, we have to try. There are little children starving in Ethiopia who could be saved by the milk & cheese from this dairy. And it feels like perhaps we are getting a little help from above.


  1. This is an amazing leap of faith. Thanks Erika for sharing this story. It gives me a bit of hope in our unsuccessful search for employment. My heart goes out to those in Africa who suffer and reminds me that we are so truly blessed to have what we have. Keep up the good work and God Bless.

  2. Coincidence or divine intervention? I think I know which one. Best wishes to you and the family.

  3. Hi Erika,

    Jill sent me an email, and there was this link on it, so I opened it. I knew that Lonny was in Africa, because Jill had told me a little of your story. I am blown away by the feelings I've gotten on this website. What an inspiring work Lonny and the others are doing! Just seeing through pictures those people that live there,evokes great compassion in my heart for them. To be able to work with and teach them must be very fulfilling for those who have the opportunity to do so. I'm sure not only will the African people be blessed, but also those who sacrifice time away from their family and friends to do this work. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this experience.
    Marla Swope
    Malad, ID

  4. Thank you Marla! It has definitely been a blessing. Lonny has been home for awhile now, so we haven't done much updating. But we will be getting more on here again soon. It is DEFINITELY a blessing to have such an amazing job. Thanks for your support!


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