Ellen grew up on a farm in South Dakota. As a junior in high school, Ellen felt God’s nudge toward international missions while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. It wasn’t until four years later, during college when she learned about Wycliffe’s work, that she gained further direction.
Initially, Ellen thought teaching missionary kids (MKs) would be a good fit for her degree and talents. However, in 1973 during her first summer of linguistics training, she met Ross, who was intent on being involved in Bible translation. After a very short courtship, they were engaged one day and accepted into Wycliffe the next!
Ross and Ellen headed for the Philippines in 1975, with their 12-week-old son, Peter. They focused their work on the Cotabato Manobo people, first assisting another team and later working with four Filipina colleagues. Through earthquakes, political insecurities, the birth of daughter Kathy, and adjusting to a very remote part of the islands, God was faithful. In 1989, the New Testament was completed and welcomed by many Manobo believers who had come to faith through literacy classes and outreaches to far-flung settlements.
Ellen never lost her love for the Manobo people, but over the next two decades she also acted as consultant and co-ordinator of literacy and education, first in the Philippines and later for all of SIL’s work in Asia. Her tiny fingerprint was left in many parts of Asia as well as a big piece of her heart. While focusing on literacy and education, Ellen’s motto was “connecting people with the Word.”
In 2016, daughter Kathy graduated to heaven after a 13-year journey with cancer. She so treasured growing up in the Philippines and desired so much to return there one day.
That same year, another big change happened, when Ellen turned over her literacy and education co-ordinator role to a colleague. She is looking forward to seeing where the Lord will direct her next, but possibly it will be into greater involvement in the Manobo Old Testament project.
Ellen has seven wonderful grandchildren who live in Plano, Texas, with their son Peter and his wife, Esther