Lois Major Ford


Retired Missionary to the American Indian Field
“Don’t Get Sidetracked”
By Rachel Elwood, Writer
July 2012

“Keep your eyes on the Lord and on what the Lord has called you to do so you won’t get sidetracked.”

Retired missionary Lois Ford definitely found that to be true during her 35 years of service at Southwest Indian School, now Southwest Indian Ministries Center. Born in Piedmont, South Carolina, on November 5, 1928, she is the ninth of 11 children. Being part of such a large family was good training for serving on the mission field, because “we learned to get along. We had to work hard together.” During the Great Depression, the family didn’t have much, but her parents placed a high value on church and serving the Lord. Six of the 11 siblings later became full-time Christian workers.

Lois attended Kentucky Mountain Bible College and earned her degree in education at Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University). She taught in Logansport, Indiana, for two years before applying for missionary service with World Gospel Mission. In 1955, she arrived at Southwest Indian School, located just outside Phoenix, Arizona. SIS was a boarding school for Native American children.

“That first year, I was the main teacher for all eight grades. Most of the kids didn’t speak English very well. I learned more that year than they did!”

As the school grew and more teachers arrived, Lois taught various grades in elementary and junior high. She served as dorm mother for several years, which was especially challenging when she was also teaching full time. Still, Lois loved spending time with the kids. “We had a lot of neat times during devotions and worship,” she said. During the summers, Lois would travel as part of a team to various reservations to put on Vacation Bible Schools.

In 1981, Lois married Mark Ford, who had come to SIS on a work team. After their marriage, he volunteered at the school, helping students with the yearbook and photography. Lois officially retired in 1990 but volunteered regularly for years. Although the school closed in 1998, the campus remains active with camps and other ministry opportunities. Mark and Lois settled in a nearby suburb, and she continued to volunteer there until 2010.

“We like it out here!” Lois laughed. “I just didn’t want to leave Arizona. I wanted to keep volunteering at the school, and we ended up being involved as long as we could.”

Even though health concerns have slowed her down, Lois continues to have an impact with many of her former students through Facebook. “We just keep plugging away at it. We just keep showing the ways of the Lord.”