JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 18, 2012– Jordan Hughey finished a day’s work at a hospital in Ghana and headed home for the night. As he strolled down the path, a group of children walked up behind him.
“Everyone look!” Hughey heard one boy say. “It’s Jesus! Jesus has come!”
Hughey looked over his shoulder to see what was causing the commotion and realized the boy was talking about him. With his long hair, mustache and beard, Hughey bore a strong resemblance to pictures of Jesus the boy had seen.
“No, no, I’m not Jesus,” Hughey told the kids.
The boy at the front paused for a moment.
“Oh, you must be John the Baptist,” he replied.
Such was Hughey’s introduction to the time he spent this summer in Ghana, working at the Baptist Medical Centre there and helping a local pastor and church planter.
A May graduate from Union University, Hughey plans to do long-term medical mission work, and the Ghana trip through the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board gave Hughey an opportunity to work alongside medical professionals and sample the lifestyle.
“Because I just graduated, I’m not really certified to do anything in a hospital yet,” Hughey said. “So I did a lot of shadowing, a lot of watching.”
He observed doctors treating patients and performing surgeries. But he said he quickly tired of only watching and tried to find ways to get more involved. He soon started taking patient histories and giving injections.
On his first day at the hospital, Hughey was helping in an outpatient clinic when a resident physician yelled for help in the maternity ward. A woman had given birth to a baby girl prematurely, and the tiny baby was barely clinging to life. Hughey worked an ambu-bag, which helped the infant to breathe, and monitored her breathing and heart rate for about two hours.
Doctors and nurses did all they could to save the baby’s life, to no avail.
“This was day one for me,” Hughey said. “I didn’t even know how to respond. It was really difficult. We did everything we could, but it still wasn’t enough.”
As he struggled with the reality of the baby’s death, Hughey realized a few days later that the hospital had given the baby a chance at life. In a country such as Ghana, unless babies are born perfectly healthy, they wouldn’t have any chance at all of living without doctors and nurses willing to help.
“That mother is, at least for a few hours, given hope for her child,” Hughey said. “That’s what you have to cling to.”
Though he saw his share of heartache and pain, Hughey also witnessed recovery and joy. One day, as he sat in the clinic with a physician’s assistant, a man came in with symptoms that included a high fever and vomiting. Hughey thought it sounded like typhoid. The man was admitted and taken into surgery, and about a week later walked out of the hospital with his wife.
“That was incredible, because when he came in, he could barely walk on his own,” Hughey said. “He was in excruciating pain. It was amazing to see the transition across that week from this guy who was half carried by his wife to walking out of the hospital, happy and healthy and ready to go back to his farm and get back to work.”
His time in Ghana reinforced to Hughey his desire to work in planting churches, likely while doing medical work on the side. He worked with a church planter and a local pastor in Ghana, participating in Bible studies and visiting people. He realized the role that the hospital played in people’s understanding of the gospel.
“They respect that hospital,” he said. “They know that that hospital is doing good work. They know that there are American doctors there who have given their entire lives to come over here and serve this community and this country. They have no problem understanding a loving God because they see very loving people demonstrating that.”
For now, Hughey is working to become a certified nurse assistant, and has applied for programs to earn a master’s degree as a physician’s assistant. He plans one day to enter the mission field full-time, where he may once again be considered “Jesus” by local children.
“I’m definitely not him,” Hughey will tell them, “but let me tell you his story.”