High school sweethearts Dick and Judy Ford of Martinsburg felt compelled to serve the Lord since they were young.
The retired teacher and nurse, who have been married for 43 years, didn't find their direction, however, until they became empty nesters.
Originally from New Jersey, the Fords, who were always involved with their Baptist church, decided to look into become second career missionaries. When the youngest of three children started college, Dick retired from teaching and Judy retired from nursing.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Dick Ford is shown with some artifacts from the Philippines. Ford and his wife, Judy, raise support in America to help Filipino children with disabilities.
"We were always involved in the church when we were raising our kids. For a long time we felt we should have been getting into missions. We always had excuses until the excuses moved out of our house and got married," Dick joked.
After housing a Ukrainian foreign exchange student, the Fords planned to travel to the Ukraine to minister to others. Their plan fell through when the country no longer accepted missionaries.
The Philippines was their second choice, and they decided to travel to the country on a youth mission trip to address the spiritual needs of young Filipinos.
"We were just trying to reach them for salvation [to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ] at that point, but that's when we decided that there was a bigger need there," Judy said. "That if we wanted to save their souls, we needed to help feed their bodies and nourish them also."
That first mission trip shocked the Fords.
Cardboard shacks lined the streets where people used open fires to cook food. Mangy animals roamed the area with no place to go.
"It was a shocking picture," Judy said.
The Fords decided to return to the Philippines as independent missionaries, where they lived from 1998 to 2000.
They helped in an orphanage where they found their daughter Maria, whom they adopted six years ago.
After the adoption, Dick continued to travel to the Philippines, but Judy stayed in the United States to care for Maria.
"We just felt we were supposed to bring her back to the States. She needed some medical care," Dick said, explaining Maria is blind and has some cognitive disabilities.
Since helping to refurbish the orphanage, the Fords helped to create five churches, which they continue to oversee. The couple trained and mentored Filipino pastors as the churches were created.
The Fords' latest project is developing a House of Compassion and Love to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of disabled children who have been abandoned.
During their work in the Philippines, the Fords noticed many needy families were unable to care for their disabled children, who were often abandoned or kept out of sight.
"Our daughter was left by a garbage dump when she was a baby," Judy said. "If they don't abandon them, they hide them in their home. They don't get proper care."
The House of Love and Compassion would provide facilities and staff for eight children.
The Fords are hoping to raise $50,000 for the construction of the first home. All donations go through the Central Missionary Clearing House in Houston, Texas, which offers accountability for 470 independent missionaries in the United States.
"We handle all the missionary funds," Linda Bridges, vice president of Central Missionary Clearinghouse said. "The Fords are doing something very special."
Floyd Rinehart, pastor of Penn Wood Bible Church in Everett, agrees. He said the Fords' project is a worthwhile mission.
When they Fords were members at Penn Wood Bible Church, the church served as a "sending church" for the mission, Rinehart said.
"It was for the purpose of accountability," he said.
The Fords recently began attending Grace Bible Church in Hollidaysburg, although Penn Wood Bible Church members still donate to the mission, including Rinehart.
"Apparently there are a lot of orphans there. A lot of young people need help. Dick has this burden to help young people. I think they're reaching out to people who other people wouldn't reach out to. I admire that aspect of it," Rinehart said.
Ideally, the Fords would like to build another home with the hope that other groups will replicate their efforts. They have traveled to churches in the area and other states to seek funds and support.
"Disabled people are really unreached in the Philippines. As it is in other countries, a lot of times these kids get stuffed in the back room somewhere and never see the light of day," Dick said.
Dick, who travels to the Philippines three times a year, takes ministers, teachers, physical therapists and other experts from the United States with him to train people in the Philippines.
John DeMarco, pastor of Jacobstown Baptist Church in Jacobstown, N.J., has traveled twice to the Philippines to mentor pastors there. The Fords recruited DeMarco and his wife, Lori, while speaking at churches in New Jersey about their work in the Philippines.
The DeMarcos are passionate about the new House of Compassion and Love project.
"It keeps our focus off ourselves and onto the needs of less fortunate people in other parts of the world. It really just reminds us of the needs of people," DeMarco said.
While Dick takes along help from the United States, Filipinos construct the buildings and take care of the disabled children.
The focus of the project is to care for disabled children, but the foundation is God, Dick said. "The basis of the whole project is really evangelistic."
"The Bible tells us to be servants like Christ was and we should be helping the needy," Judy said.
For more information, contact Dick at firstname.lastname@example.org.