‘The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.’ (Psalm 23:1 NLT)
When we first joined Wycliffe 17 years ago, we had no idea that we would end up in Kangaroo Ground. We thought we would be living in a remote community working alongside a marginalized people group to translate the Bible into their language. We knew God called us to join the immense task of getting God’s Word into the heart languages of the thousands of language groups still waiting to hear God speak to them in their own language. We felt such a deep passion for others being able to understand God’s Word and worship Him in their heart language that we resigned from perfectly good teaching jobs and committed ourselves to doing whatever we could to support the cause of Bible translation and language development work worldwide.
And we have loved being part of the Bible translation movement. We have been privileged to see brothers and sisters in Christ hear God speak to them in their own language for the first time. We have been blessed as we have witnessed the impact that praying to God in their heart language had on some of our closest friends where we worked in Southeast Asia. What a joy to see people discover,
“I can tell God anything when I pray in my language!” and
“I feel that God is so close to me when I use my language to worship Him.”
Seeing our brothers and sisters in Christ worship God for the first time in their own language is one of the all-time highlights of our lives.
We thought that life couldn’t get much better – to have such a purpose serving such a meaningful cause in a place where God was clearly doing extraordinary things to draw people to Himself. We couldn’t wait to see what God would do next!
And then God re-directed us. He asked us to do more study in Australia.
“Really God? We are ready to go back overseas! Are you sure? Can you just confirm this is what you are telling us?”
And God answered. Apart from showing us the tremendous need for scholars who love Jesus and treasure His Word, God spoke through His people.
Wycliffe and SIL Australia encouraged us to do further study. God spoke through those we were serving overseas. The first national friend (from the country we were serving) that we asked to pray, did pray and came back to us with,
“Yes, this opportunity is from God. You have to trust Him.” Another national friend told us,
“You need to set a good example for us by studying more.” And still another national friend said,
“You don’t know what God has in store for your future. You have to follow what God is asking you to do.”
Well, God certainly spoke truth to us! So we started down the long path towards PhDs in biblical studies.
And then things took a turn for the worse. The global financial crisis hit some of our supporters really hard – dear friends had lost jobs and homes. Although we needed to top up our financial support, we sensed God asking us to refrain from requesting the additional money we would need to live and study in Australia. So we asked God what He wanted us to do instead.
God answered by giving us part-time work both at college and in a Chinese church to sustain us while we studied. This was an incredible blessing to us and once again we saw God doing amazing things as we witnessed people growing closer to Jesus, learning from His Word and sharing His love. The church was supportive of our work with Wycliffe and allowed us to travel to Kangaroo Ground to teach at the SIL Australia summer school every year. Things seemed to be looking up and we were reminded that we can serve God in Australia too.
And then tragedy struck. An unknown virus attacked Ellie’s respiratory system and she ended up in hospital struggling to breathe. So began an incredibly difficult part of our lives and ministry. The hospital became a familiar place to us. Specialists, doctors, tests, machines, a myriad of medicines – nothing effectively regained control of Ellie’s asthma. We begged (and still beg) God for complete healing and have asked others to do the same. Ellie had to take medical leave from study. Graham’s study was incredibly hampered as he took care of her, his family, and the church.
This was not the plan. The plan was 2 years of study leave (3 maximum), and then back overseas for the next chapter. “What are you doing, Lord? What do you want us to do?”
The Lord answered by reminding us that He saved Ellie’s life.
And we are so grateful for God’s grace in that. The stark reality is that if we had been on the field when Ellie became this ill, Graham would have buried her there. But instead, God used the hospital and medical system in Australia to preserve Ellie’s life again and again over the last few years. Over time, through access to good medical care, the Lord has given Ellie a measure of healing. She has seen improvement, and now is averaging 3-4 good days per week. The bad days are still really difficult. Her body just can’t take a long-haul flight at the moment. So God has made it clear to us that Ellie’s asthma needs to be well-controlled again before she is able to travel overseas.
“Ok, Lord, right now we’re ‘stuck’ in Australia, so what would you have us do? We’re happy to keep serving you at the Chinese church and the college. But is there more you want us to do to support and further your work through Bible translation?” We’d been asking God this question, hoping that God would miraculously cure Ellie and release us to return overseas.
Instead, God did something totally unexpected. The SIL Australia board approached Graham to ask him if he’d consider becoming the Principal Executive Officer of SIL Australia (SILA).
“You’re joking! Surely you have someone better than me who can do that job!” was Graham’s first response. But as we prayed about this, God made us more aware of the urgent need that SIL Australia had for someone like Graham to serve in this position. And through God’s incredible grace, He made it clear that this is what He has been doing all along.
God doesn’t see us as ‘stuck’ in Australia. In fact, this is exactly where He wants us. We can still be part of the Bible translation movement by training, equipping, supporting and encouraging others!
When we asked David, the chairperson of the SILA board, why he thinks Graham is suited to this role, David responded,
“Graham’s technical competency, teaching experience, field experience and previous teaching roles at SILA make him eminently suited to the role. He knows SILA quite well having been involved for many years on sessional staff. He is experienced in higher education in Australia, so understands many of the accreditation and regulatory principles. Graham and Ellie are experienced trainers and have much to contribute in this important role, both to the preparation of new recruits for service in language ministries and to the continuing development of quality training for staff. Their presence at Kangaroo Ground, involvement in the community, and leadership in SILA are highly appreciated and valued in the wider context of Bible translation and language development work.”
Wendy, the academic administrator of SILA, says,
“I’m excited and thankful to God that Graham is able to take on this role long-term. Graham’s past experience on sessional staff gives him a head-start in the role (and allows him to come with his eyes wide open as he has some idea of what the role entails!); his teaching background is invaluable; as an academic he brings credibility for a role with an educational institution; recent/current experience as a student in the Australian College of Theology system provides good background for a role in that environment; he brings his own network which is very helpful, especially for PR purposes or when looking for staff; Graham’s collaborative style, approachability and his willingness to ‘muck in’ and get his hands dirty with the rest of us will promote team building and engender high staff morale; I think he will respect the past but be keen to introduce new ideas and move SILA to the next phase. I’m excited to work alongside Graham and Ellie as they harness their passion for the poor and marginalised by training and equipping people to serve in translation, training, literacy and education, and other language development activities amongst people from the lesser known language communities in the world.”
One of the teaching faculty of SILA, Debbie, says,
“Graham has such a relevant mix of experience, it is amazing how well he seems prepared to take on this role – academically, but also pastorally, and with linguistic field experience. Graham and Ellie have lived through challenges and taken on difficult roles, and all those experiences have been part of the path leading to now. Graham and Ellie are lovely, godly, caring and intelligent and I know God will use them and bless them, and bless us through them. That is exciting.”
Could it be that Ellie’s illness has been God guiding us to this very place, this very moment, for this very purpose? By the grace of God, this is our conclusion.
So here we are in Kangaroo Ground, on the outskirts of Melbourne. Although we have been (and will continue to be) blessed by all that God has done in Brisbane, we have given up our part-time jobs and are living by faith. At the moment, we do need to raise additional financial support to meet our basic living costs and additional medical expenses. This new role does not come with a salary, so we are relying on the gift s of support that God provides through some of you. We trust that because this is what God is asking us to do, He will bless us and provide for our needs through the generosity of those He moves to financially support us.
We wonder if you would take a moment to ask the Lord to raise up more financial supporters for us to meet our basic living and medical expenses. And if God moves in your heart to support us in this ministry, please respond via one of the pathways provided below.
It is because of people like you standing with us in prayer that we have been able to follow God’s leading. We are so grateful to witness together what God is doing to raise up more workers for His harvest.
We thank God for each one of you who is doing whatever you can to support the cause of Bible translation and language development work worldwide.
May God bless you as we partner together in this meaningful cause for God’s glory! And may our Great Shepherd guide you in your journey and pursue you with His goodness and mercy.
- The gentle and clear guidance of our Good Shepherd!
- Positive feedback on how Graham is doing in his new role as Principle Executive Officer of SIL Australia
- Opportunities that Ellie has had to pray with others and support Graham in his work
- The blessing of getting to know our colleagues better, forging new friendships, and reconnecting with Melbourne-based friends
- Safe travel for Graham as he attends meetings overseas April 9-18
- Wisdom and ability to prioritize for Graham as he learns all that is required of this role
- Continued healing for Ellie—her doctor in Melbourne has referred her to a private thoracic specialist. Ellie has an appointment to see the specialist on April 20. We don’t have private health insurance, but our doctor thinks we will get better results from the private system. Please pray that God will provide for us so we can follow the doctor’s advice.
- God to raise up more financial supporters so that we can equip and support 100 people to impact the world for Jesus through Bible translation, literacy, cross-cultural ministry, training and consulting by February 28, 2022.
Would you like to support us?
Electronic giving from anywhere in the world: https://wycliffe.org.au/member/graham-ellie/
Or donate through any Wycliffe organisation worldwide—just include a note that it is for us, Acc. No. 281522
Or donate by cheque in the USA: Wycliffe Bible Translators P.O. Box 628200. Orlando, FL 32862; Acc. no. 281522
For Partnership Information/ Inquiries: Wycliffe Australia
70 Graham Rd, Kangaroo Ground, VIC 3097 firstname.lastname@example.org (03) 9712 2777