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Learning the Moyo Mother Tongue

Lyndsay playing Jenga with the locals while learning Ma'di.
A young couple with a passion for dialects are devoting their lives to help maintain the local Ma'di language in Moyo and ultimately spread the gospel.

A couple who are both very much signed up for long haul service in East Africa are Lyndsay and James Ellis working with IBM Global. They have been offering pastoral care since 2013, having previously lived in Kajo Keji till end of January 2017. When fighting broke out in Kajo Keji, everyone had to flee across the border to Uganda. They have since been based in Moyo and have thankfully, with the help of MAF help, been working with the same pastors from Kajo Keji who are now in the refugee settlements in Uganda. 

The Ellis’ like so many other missionaries that fled South Sudan have had to survive the disappointment war brings.  ‘We had the chief of the village hire people to watch over our home, but it was finally looted and burnt down in 2019.’ 

The Moyo Mother Tongue

At the moment the Ellis’ are learning the local Moyo language, Ma-di, due to their passion for developing literacy. ‘We’re helping develop the orthography for the local people. First, we have to learn the language before we can help other groups like SIL who need assistance with the marks and tones in Moyo’s dialect which are not in the alphabet.

For example, for one word there can be 16 different meanings depending on the tone. There’s a prejudice that people consider the language less sophisticated because of this, but we’re trying to promote and develop material for the Moyo people to read in their own language.

The Ellis' before boarding in Arua with MAF Pilot Gregory Vine in the background. MAF and the Moyo Mother tongue.
The Ellis’ before boarding in Arua with Pilot Gregory Vine in the background.

This helps them read the bible with understanding.’ The IBM Global’s long term vision is to establish a bible believing church in the modern language in the Moyo District and be able to offer literacy courses, pastoral training, and community development and most importantly, giving the local people access to the Word of God. 

The Ellis’ have flown around a dozen times with MAF. ‘The roads are dangerous because of other vehicles, fatigue and terrible roads.  It adds 2 days on the trip in both directions. We’ve also had health problems on the verge of being medevac’d when MAF was able to adjust their schedule to get us onto a flight, which we’re very grateful for.’ In October 2020, Lyndsay was taking malaria meds when her liver became dangerously swollen. 

MAF Makes a Way

James shared, ‘The doctor in Moyo’s verdict was that she had indigestion even though she was experiencing intense pain. A doctor in Kampala advised over the phone the Ellis’ prepare to arrange an emergency flight. MAF quickly organised for Lyndsay to fly down from Moyo to Kampala. She wouldn’t have been able to handle going by road.  We are so thankful for being flown quickly and directly from Moyo. I have nothing negative to say about MAF. Also, when we needed a break, MAF flew us to Kidepo, which was a huge blessing.’

Beatrice's family. MAF and the Moyo Mother tongue.
Beatrice’s family

Lyndsay and James shared about a lady who was hugely impacted by the ministry of IBM Global. ‘She was helping us in our home. Everything she learns from the bible goes straight to her heart. Right now, she has 3 children and they’re reading through the bible every day. Her husband abandoned her in 2014, but then later died in the war in 2017. She’s a widow discipling her children and growing so quickly. She’s one of the godliest women I’ve ever met. She also has been a blessing to us because she speaks Ma’di. 

We’ve built her a house and helped provide for her but it’s a two-way relationship because she has helped us a lot. She’s now in partnership with us and learning the autography so that she can help reach people for Christ. In fact, when our 9 year old son drew a picture of our family he drew Beatrice’s family as part of our family.’

The Ellis’ have been flying with MAF since 2014 and hope to continue flying with us for many more years to come while they’re based out on the field serving the people of Moyo.

Story and Photos by Jill Vine and Lyndsay & James Ellis

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