Ford, Robert Elden (1921–2006)

By Vicente Nafri Machado

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Vicente Nafri Machado Arévalo, M.B.A. (Montemoleros University, Nuevo León, Mexico), is communication and information support director for El Salvador Union Mission since 2011. He is also the ESDA union coordinator and is devoted to church planting in the capital of El Salvador.

Robert Elden Ford was a pastor, founder of schools, and administrator.

Early life

Robert Elden Ford was born February 1, 1921,1 in the small town of Pomata, close to Lake Titicaca, Peru.2 He was the second son of Pastor Orley Ford (December 27, 18933-November 19, 1972)4 and Lillian Gertrude Shafer Ford (December 29, 1894-December 8, 1990).5 His parents were Adventist missionaries from the United States who served for 55 years in Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.6

When he was six months old his father was called to Ecuador to establish Adventist work, and they moved to the mission on the shores of Colta Lake, among a large native population. When he was nine years old, in 1930, his family took a furlough.7 Pastor Orley Ford, his father, thought he would like to work as a missionary doctor among the natives living along the Amazon River, so he decided to go downriver from Lake Colta, in Ecuador, to the mouth of the Amazon where it reached the Atlantic Ocean. This was a three-month experience and a wonderful trip for the young Robert. Sometimes they walked through the jungle, others they went by canoe or sailed in small river boats. When the furlough was over, his father had a call to go to Guatemala, not the Amazon, where he became president of the mission. There Robert Elden Ford finished his primary studies in the Adventist school his father established and, at the same time, took some correspondence courses to learn English.8

When it came time for high school, his parents took him to the United States and enrolled him at the San Diego Union Academy in California. While he studied in the United States, he lived with his uncle, Frank Ford.9

Education and Marriage

At the end of his secondary studies, Robert went to Walla Walla College in Washington state;10 and there he met Venessa Standish (October 22,, 1920-April 19,, 2013) whom he married on June 6, 1943, the same day she graduated as a teacher.11 He was missing just one year before his graduation when he was called to work in Central America. They told him that at the time of his first furlough he would be able to finish that year. This promise was fulfilled in 1951 when he returned to the United States and received his degree at La Sierra College in Riverside, California, in 1952. At the beginning of the 1970s, Elder Ford returned to the United States to study, and he earned a master’s degree in education at Pacific Union College in California.12

Robert and his wife had four children. Robert Elden Jr. was born in Honduras at a US Naval Base hospital established there during the Second World War. Kathleen was also born in Honduras.13 Patricia Rose (Pat) was born in Costa Rica. Daniel (Dan) was born in the United States during a furlough.14

Ministry

In April 1943 the Inter-American Division called Elden to reopen a boarding school in Islas Bahia in Honduras, but he declined because he was still studying and single. Later, he was again called to work in Honduras with the promise that his first furlough could be used to finish his studies.

On January 1, 1944, the Fords left from Los Angeles to started their ministry in Honduras.15 First they lived in Guanaja, Isla de la Bahia, Honduras.16 This assignment was urgent, because the school was ready to start and there was no one to run it. Also, he was fluent in Spanish, and the Honduras authorities wanted the school to function in Spanish even though the majority of the population spoke English. Pastor Ford and his wife, with the help of two Adventist Honduran teachers, started the school that, at the time, taught ten grades.17

At the end of 1945 the administrators of Honduras asked the Fords to establish a second school in the mountains of Guanaja, this time a boarding school to serve the entire country. The Fords thought it would be better to open a school in the continental part of the country, far from the Atlantic coast, in order to provide education to students from Islas de la Bahia and the Atlantic region.18 After a few days spent looking for a place, they located a farm in Frisco, province of Atlántida, with 1,500 hectares of excellent farm land. At the beginning Pastor Ford was principal and manager of the institution, but the next year a new principal arrived and Pastor Ford taught and managed the school. The school began with a good number of students.19

In 195120 Pastor Ford was called to work as preceptor and teacher at the Adventist College of Alajuela, Costa Rica (UNADECA). At the end of 1953 he returned to Islas de la Bahia as a district pastor. He was in charge of 11 churches in the three islands.21 In order to make visitation easier, the church bought a motor boat. On Sabbath, December 3, 1955, Robert Elden Ford was officially ordained as a pastor.22

After many years of service in the Bahia Islands, in 1960 Robert was called to serve as president in the Honduras Britanica Mission (Belize).23 Here one of his major challenges was Hurricane Hattie, that on October 28, 1961, hit Belize’s coast. This was a category 5 hurricane that passed through Central America. The Honduras Britanica Mission was completely destroyed. Miraculously, nine churches and the mission office building survived among all the destruction.24

In 1962 Robert was called as a district pastor to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, where he served for two years. Then he was a pastor in Jinotepe for a year. In Managua his wife was the office director of the Voice of Prophecy and Pastor Ford was president of the Nicaragua Mission.25

After many years in pastoral work, Pastor Ford requested to return to educational work. He and his wife finished their master’s degrees, and both were called to work in the Centro Educacional Adventista (CEA) located in Peña Blanca, Honduras, which is a boarding school. While Mrs. Ford led the teacher training school she had founded, Pastor Ford worked as Bible teacher and pastor for the institution.26 In 1974 he was called to work in Belize, but this time to rebuild the Adventist Vocational Collage (AVC) which was damaged by Hurricane Carmen.27 He worked for five years as the principal of AVC, located in Calcuta, closer to Corozal.28

In 1979 the El Salvador Mission had plans to build a boarding school and called Pastor Ford, who was named director of the mission education department. He concentrated on locating a site for the school and finding the money to purchase it. He received funds from USAID (United States Agency for International Development).29 In August 1981 the Hacienda los Palmitos, located near San Juan Opico, La Libertad, was purchased and it included 114.62 hectares.30

Pastor Ford led in the first stone laying ceremony of the Escuela de Capacitacion Adventista Salvadoreña (ECAS) on March 19, 1982,31 and construction of the first buildings began.32 When the school year started in 1983, the first part of the construction was finished and ECAS opened its doors, offering 12 grades. Pastor Ford was the first principal of this institution.33

Final Years

Robert’s stay in El Salvador helped him to take care of his mother, who still lived in the country. In 1987 Pastor Robert Elden Ford,34 after 44 years of service, officially retired; but after six months of visiting families and friends in Loma Linda, California, he returned to ECAS as a volunteer until 1992 when he moved to Loma Linda permanently. Even in his retirement, he continuously looked for benefactors to help ECAS and its hardworking students.

On October 26, 2006, Pastor Ford passed away peacefully in his house in Loma Linda. His family, to commemorate his work, suggested that instead of flowers at his funeral, people give a donation for students at ECAS.35

Legacy

The educational institutions Pastor Ford founded or helped to develop in Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador, taught generations of professionals who served in their communities and denominational workers who worked for the Adventist church in different countries in the Central American region and beyond it. His legacy transformed thousands of young lives and will continue to do so.

Sources

Autobiography written by Pastor Robert Elden Ford and provided by Seventh-day Adventist Biography File of Loma Linda University in a PDF file that the author had.

Brown, Walton J. “Inter-American Educational Facilities Expand.” ARH, January 19, 1978.

Figuero, J. H. “Construction Begun on New School.” Inter-American News Flashes, May 25, 1982.

“First Academy to Be Built.” ARH, November 19, 1981.

Ford, Lilian. “Meditations of a Bereaved Missionary Mother.” ARH, November 3, 1943.

Ford, Orley. “Good News from Guatemala.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, October 1, 1931.

Ford, Robert Elden. “A Call from the Islands of the Sea.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, February 1, 1946.

Ford, Robert Elden. “A Glimpse at the Honduras Junior Academy.” ARH, August 28, 1947.

Ford, Robert Elden, Jr. “In Memoriam for my Mother Venessa Standish Ford,” http://geobobford.blogspot.com, June 2, 2013. Accessed August 2, 2019. http://geobobford.blogspot.com/2013/06/in-memoriam-for-my-mother-venessa.html.

Ford, Robert E. “Robert (GeoBob) Ford’s Family Album and History.” Geobobford.com, November 26, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2019, http://geobobford.com/ford-genealogy.html#OrleyLillianMissionaries.

Ford, Robert Elden. “SDA Academy Ravaged by Hurricane Carmen.” ARH, January 23, 1975.

Hernandez, Fred. “News Notes, Inter-American.” ARH, June 3, 1982.

Hernandez, Fred. “News Notes, Inter-American.” ARH, April 18, 1985.

Kinzer, Noel H. “Activity in Central America.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, August 1, 1946.

Kinzer, Noel H. “Highlights of the Superintendent’s Annual Report.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, May 1, 1944.

Larson, Sylvia. “Obituary,” Inter-American News Flashes, February 1, 1991.

“News Notes.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, September 1, 1954.

“Ordinations.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, June 1, 1956.

Retzer, Fenton. “Wilbert Oliver Ordained.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, September 1, 1960.

“SDA’s Celebrate Brotherhood Day in El Salvador.” The Inter-American Messenger Flashes, December 19, 1972.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965-1966.

Schoen, V. W. “Disaster Strikes British Honduras.” The Inter-American Division Messenger, January 1, 1962.

“School News.” The Journal of True Education 24, 2 (December 1, 1951).

Taylor, C. R. “Mittleider Plan in Honduras.” Inter-American Messenger Flashes, May 7, 1974.

The Press-Enterprise. “Pastor R. Elden Ford.” Legacy.com, November 18, 2016. Accessed July 30, 2019. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/pe/obituary.aspx?n=r-elden-ford&pid=19949204.

Notes

  1. The Press-Enterprise, “Pastor R. Elden Ford,” Legacy.com, November 18, 2016, accessed July 30, 2019, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/pe/obituary.aspx?n=r-elden-ford&pid=19949204.

  2. Autobiography written by Pastor Robert Elden Ford provided by Seventh-day Adventist Biography File at Loma Linda University in a PDF file in possession of the author.

  3. Robert E. Ford, “Robert (GeoBob) Ford’s Family Album and History,” Geobobford.com, November 26, 2018, accessed July 25, 2019, http://geobobford.com/ford-genealogy.html#OrleyLillianMissionaries.

  4. “SDA’s Celebrate Brotherhood Day in El Salvador,” The Inter-American Messenger Flashes, December 19, 1972, 2.

  5. Sylvia Larson, “Obituary,” Inter-American News Flashes, February 1, 1991, 3.

  6. Seventh-day Adventist Biography File of Loma Linda University, PDF copy, page number was not readable but is under the title “FORD, ORLEY.”

  7. Orley Ford, “Good News from Guatemala,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, October 1, 1931, 8.

  8. Autobiography written by the author Robert Elden Ford and provided by Seventh-day Adventist Biography File of Loma Linda University in a PDF file in possession of the author.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Lilian Ford, “Meditations of a Bereaved Missionary Mother,” ARH, November 3, 1943, 10-11.

  11. Robert Elden Ford Jr., “In Memoriam for my Mother Venessa Standish Ford,” http://geobobford.blogspot.com, June 2, 2013, accessed August 2, 2019, http://geobobford.blogspot.com/2013/06/in-memoriam-for-my-mother-venessa.html.

  12. Autobiography written by Pastor Robert Elden Ford provided by Seventh-day Adventist Biography File of Loma Linda University in a PDF file in possession of the author.

  13. Robert Elden Ford Jr., “In Memoriam for my Mother Venessa Standish Ford,” http://geobobford.blogspot.com, June 2, 2013, accessed August 2, 2019, http://geobobford.blogspot.com/2013/06/in-memoriam-for-my-mother-venessa.html.

  14. Robert E. Ford, “Robert (GeoBob) Ford’s Family Album and History,” Geobobford.com, November 26, 2018, accessed July 25, 2019, http://geobobford.com/ford-genealogy.html#OrleyLillianMissionaries.

  15. T. J. Michael., “Missionary Departures,” ARH, vol. 121, no. 5, February 3, 1944, 24.

  16. Noel H. Kinzer, “Highlights of the Superintendent’s Annual Report,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, May 1, 1944, 3-4.

  17. Robert Elden Ford, “A Call from the Islands of the Sea,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, February 1, 1946, 5-6.

  18. Noel H. Kinzer, “Activity in Central America,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, August 1, 1946, 5-6.

  19. Robert Elden Ford, “A Glimpse at the Honduras Junior Academy,” ARH, August 28, 1947, 21-22.

  20. “School News,” The Journal of True Education 14, 2 (December 1, 1951): 24-25.

  21. “News Notes,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, September 1, 1954, 11.

  22. “Ordinations,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, June 1, 1956, 2.

  23. Fenton Retzer, “Wilbert Oliver Ordained,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, September 1, 1960, 12.

  24. V. W. Schoen, “Disaster Strikes British Honduras,” The Inter-American Division Messenger, January 1, 1962, 6-7, 12.

  25. “Nicaragua Mission” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965-1966), 153.

  26. C. R. Taylor, “Mittleider Plan in Honduras,” Inter-American Messenger Flashes, May 7, 1974, 2.

  27. Robert Elden Ford, “SDA Academy Ravaged by Hurricane Carmen,” ARH, January 23, 1975, 22.

  28. Walton J. Brown, “Inter-American Educational Facilities Expand,” ARH, January 19, 1978, 12.

  29. Robert Elden Ford Jr., “In Memoriam for my Mother Venessa Standish Ford,” http://geobobford.blogspot.com, June 2, 2013, accessed August 2, 2019, http://geobobford.blogspot.com/2013/06/in-memoriam-for-my-mother-venessa.html.

  30. “First Academy to Be Built,” ARH, November 19, 1981, 19.

  31. Fred Hernandez, “News Notes, Inter-American,” ARH, June 3, 1982, 20.

  32. J. H. Figuero, “Construction Begun on New School,” Inter-American News Flashes, May 25, 1982, 2.

  33. Fred Hernandez, “News Notes, Inter-American,” ARH, April 18, 1985, 27-28.

  34. Autobiography written by Pastor Robert Elden Ford and provided by Seventh-day Adventist Biography File of Loma Linda University in a PDF file that the author had.

  35. The Press-Enterprise, “Pastor R. Elden Ford.”

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Machado, Vicente Nafri. "Ford, Robert Elden (1921–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 13, 2021. Accessed April 19, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GB09.

Machado, Vicente Nafri. "Ford, Robert Elden (1921–2006)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 13, 2021. Date of access April 19, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GB09.

Machado, Vicente Nafri (2021, April 13). Ford, Robert Elden (1921–2006). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 19, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GB09.