A blank slate: Jack Huff in Uganda

Thirsty, sunburned and exhausted from several days of medical treatments, junior biology major Jack Huff and his dad enter a small, dark hut in Zeu, Uganda. While the hut provides brief solace from the African humidity, what they find inside is heartbreaking. A young boy, scarlet-faced, covered from forehead to chin in severe cracks and blisters: the unfortunate result of syphilis and HIV. Huff’s dad looks over at his son in melancholy. The boy has maybe a week to live.

Equipped only with Neosporin, children’s vitamins and a packet of Gatorade powder, prayer is their only option.

“In moments like this, we never prayed a courtesy prayer. Over there, you pray for people not out of moral obligation, but because you are deeply moved by their situation,” Huff said.

One week passes. Having returned home to Jonesboro, Ark., Huff and his dad continue to pray for the Ugandan boy and his family. To their surprise, they receive a message the following week from a Ugandan pastor containing a picture of the boy. His face has been completely healed.

Return to Uganda

Fast forward one year to Christmas break 2016. After more than 20 hours in a cramped airplane, Jack Huff is anxious to be on the ground. He remains patient, however. This isn’t his first rodeo.

“My first international mission trip was to Belize in 2012. I really liked it, but the ministry we were working with was still developing, so it was not quite what I was looking for,” Huff said. “My first deep connection with missions happened in Nicaragua in 2013, and because that trip was so life-changing, I decided to intern there in medical missions the following summer before my freshman year at Ouachita.”

After they touched down in Entebbe, Huff and his dad met up with their party in Kampala, which consisted of four “mzungu” (white people): Huff, his dad (a veterinarian), a Tyson farmer and a retired judge and rancher. They were also accompanied by a Ugandan pharmacist, two Ugandan pastors and a veterinarian from Tororo. Their trip opened with a brief visit to a Muslim village near Kampala, where Huff and his party provided basic medical care to the Ugandans and their cattle.

“Our daily treatments began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. due to heavy traffic and lack of electricity. We primarily conducted blood tests for HIV, malaria and syphilis. More than 70 percent of the people we saw had malaria, with stomach ulcers and high blood pressure also being common cases,” Huff said. “Each person was screened through me before being treated by my dad or the other doctors. My job was to take heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, record names and visit with the patients while they were waiting.”

As he visited with the native people, Huff grew in his understanding of their language and culture. He learned quickly that in the Ugandan village, the man is king. As he walked among the villagers, he passed men hanging out with their friends, knowing that at that same moment their wives were cleaning the house, taking care of the children and breaking their backs out in the fields.

Around 5 a.m. each day, he would wake to the sound of Muslim chants emanating from the village’s prayer towers. Each prayer shouted through the large megaphones was a reminder of the blessings of American freedom.

“We are not oppressed or persecuted in the states. Sure, we no longer have prayer in most schools and some of our long-held traditions are changing, but that’s not oppression,” Huff said. “In America, you won’t be sought out by the government and told to give up your faith because you were married into another one. In America, you won’t have boiling water thrown on you by your husband because you believe something that he doesn’t. That’s oppression.”

In years past, the Muslim population had been unreceptive to Huff’s dad and his party. This time, however, they received a warm welcome.

“We shook hands with them, ate in one of the leaders’ homes and they even gave my dad a chicken at the end of the week. Chickens are really expensive in Uganda, so it was a big deal for us to receive one,” Huff said. “We returned the favor by giving them rice, a sign of friendship and respect, which established that we really were there to help.”

After two days in the Muslim village, the party traveled to another remote village for five days, where they conducted similar treatments and further ministered to the Ugandan people.

Over the River and Through the Speed Bumps

Following their five-day stop, the party pressed onward to the town of Zeu, a nine-hour journey through crowded, speed bump-ridden roads, a local game park and across the Nile River.

While the party continued their medical treatments in Zeu, the primary reason for their visit was to scout land for a potential agricultural development project. The mzungu Tyson farmer in Huff’s party organized a council of local pastors and government officials and shared his thoughts on the project.

“We placed an idea in the minds of the government officials, and they seemed very receptive to it. This gathering also provided a foothold for us to educate the local pastors in basic agriculture and medicine, so they would be armed and ready to go out and plant churches,” Huff said.

In the midst of their medical and agricultural service, Huff and his party never lost sight of their true purpose: sharing the Gospel.

“There was one time when my dad was bandaging the foot of a man with elephantiasis who had ordered hitmen to go out and kill a business associate of his. The man had always been an atheist and he even thought he had acquired his disease from stepping on an idol,” Huff said. “So, as my dad was wrapping his feet, without being prompted the man said, ‘I think I want to follow God.’ We then prayed over him and he accepted Christ.”

Huff has a multitude of similar stories that highlight how God has used him and his dad to treat the Ugandans physically and spiritually. However, he stresses that without the financial support of their immediate and church family, the work they accomplished would not have been possible.

“During our trip, we encountered a baby girl whose shin was sticking out of her leg. After stepping in a hole and breaking her shin years earlier, as she aged, her shin eventually grew through the skin of her leg. After one of the local pastors showed us her picture, my dad posted on Facebook requesting donations for her,” Huff said. “Because of the money people sent, the girl was transported 16 hours on the back of a motorcycle from deep in the Congo to a location capable of helping her. She went through surgery and when we saw her toward the end of our trip, she was standing and walking around. Her story should serve as a take home that even if you’re not going on these trips, you can really make a difference by giving.”

A Call to World Missions

“Someday I would like to be in a position to where I can help these people full-time, to where I don’t have to go home,” Huff said. “It’s often refreshing to get out there and forget about America, because, to me, over here there’s a lot of association with vanity and materialism and just stuff that I don’t want to be a part of. When you’re over there, it’s like a blank slate.”

Thirsty, sunburned and exhausted from several days of medical treatments, Jack Huff and his dad gather their belongings after a long day of scouting land in Zeu, Uganda. As they prepare to head back to the hotel, a young boy approaches them, vibrant-faced, blemish-free from forehead to chin. They shake hands with the boy and hug him, praising God for his miraculous provision.

“Go somewhere,” Huff said. “Whether it’s down the road in Arkansas or overseas to Uganda, when you go, you’re blessed. It may not feel like it at times when you’re hunched over, throwing up and its 110 degrees outside, but at the end of the day it’s not about you. When you go, you gain perspective. You see that this world is a lot bigger than it feels sometimes.”


– By Evan Wheatley, features editor

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