Lon Kennard said he wanted to bring hope to Ethiopian orphans. Instead, he stole what little innocence they had left. Photo by Rick Egan.
KERSA ELAWA, Ethiopia—In this land of hunger, disease and anguish, a story is told of a man who arrived amid despair to create a village of hope.
A good man. An honest man. A hero. A saint.
Everyone in this dusty village, about 235 miles south of Ethiopia’s sprawling capital, Addis Ababa, knows about Lon Kennard. And everyone has heard about what happened to him after he left this place.
They know about the allegations. The conviction. The prison sentence.
Some understand why he needs to be locked away as a sexual predator. Others, accustomed to different notions of how powerful men behave and how justice is rendered, see him as a martyr.
But all seem willing to balance his evils against the good he did in their village. Some say that’s just the Ethiopian way.
This is, after all, a land where fear and power are a form of currency. It is a nation whose citizens have endured famine, terrorism and genocide. And it is a country where people can only dream the pathway to hope often runs through hell.
Lon Kennard learned that, too.
This is the story of how one man exploited the most sacred of trusts to satiate his desires. It is the story of how he lifted a village, then left it to fall. It is the story of how those sins rippled across the world, linking Utah to a distant African village.