By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
When you hear the words “South Pacific,” you may conjure up images of a beautiful tropical island, or perhaps a highly successful Broadway musical.
For Tobey and Kathy Huff, the images are quite different.
These Joplin natives have spent more than half of their lives as missionaries in the South Pacific, doing God’s work through their Oceania Outreach. And in a few weeks they will leave Joplin once again to return to the overseas ministry they embarked upon 37 years ago.
Sponsored by Mount Hope Church of Christ in Webb City, the Huffs must come back every few years on furlough to raise funds in order to continue their ministry.
With fundraising completed, they will leave Joplin on Sept. 20 to return to the island of Vanuatu, where they plan to open the Christian Institute of Biblical Studies next year.
Tobey, a 1966 graduate of Joplin High School, said he and his wife, Kathy, a 1967 JHS grad, have wanted to start the school since they began their overseas ministry in 1975.
The school had originally been planned for Fiji, where the Huffs had been ministering since 2007, but after being unable to afford land after four years, they went to Vanuatu, where 30 acres had been donated.
Some people have been confused about what the Huffs are hoping to accomplish with the school, said Tobey, a Vietnam veteran who received a master’s degree in missions and a doctorate in religious instruction from the Church of Christ-affiliated Theological University of America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The two-year curriculum is meant to train students from many areas of the South Pacific in all aspects of Christian service so they can return to their villages and make a positive contribution.
“All this basically means is that they graduated from Bible school where they were taught how to study the Bible,” said Tobey, who emphasized that it is not a preacher-training school, and is open to all high school graduates and up.
Vocational-technical courses will be offered. Tobey will teach those as well as Bible classes, while Kathy will be in charge of basic skills classes such as cooking and sewing.
The vo-tech part of the school will be especially important to students from Vanuatu, an island of around 245,000 people who live largely on what they raise in their gardens.
“This is a very poor country,” Tobey said. “If they have a drought, they lose everything. They don’t have any resources to fall back on, such as Social Security. The government doesn’t do anything.”
Four months ago Tobey began building a house for Kathy and himself, with plans to begin construction of the school around the first of the year. The 581-square-foot house has no electricity or running water -- unless it rains, Tobey said. And, yes, they use candles for lighting.
In addition to the obvious monetary gifts needed to get the school up and running, the Huffs are in need of a vehicle such as a small truck, because they have only a motorbike to get them around the island. It is cheaper to ship those things overseas than try to buy them on the island, Tobey said.
Contributions may be made to: Huffs/Bible School in care of Mount Hope Church of Christ, 2830 Mount Hope Road, Webb City, MO 64870 or Tobey and Kathy Huff, 2730 E. 24th St., Joplin, MO 64804.
More information may be obtained by calling Tobey at 417-396-0371 or Kathy at 417-529-0866.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.