Born in Wyoming and growing up there and in Colorado, Ellen was raised in a Jesus-loving home and became a Christian at eight. Attending the University of Colorado as a Spanish major, she felt God's nudging toward sharing God's love in other places. She and Ralph had met at Moody Bible Institute and after a long, mostly-correspondence dating relationship, were married in 1977
From 1985 to 2005 Ralph and Ellen lived in Lima, Peru, being part of the neighborhood and community, raising their children, two of whom were born there, and contributing to the development of two communities of Christ followers.
In 2007 they moved to Guadalajara, Mexico