Holstonians grieve loss of United Methodist mission workers in Haiti

Holstonians grieve loss of United Methodist mission workers in Haiti

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people perished in the Jan. 12 earthquake that rocked Haiti. An estimated 2 to 3 million people need immediate assistance.

For the United Methodist Church, the losses are not only staggering and painful, but personal.

The Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of UMCOR, died Jan. 16 after being buried in the rubble of a collapsed hotel for four days.

The Rev. Clinton Rabb, head of the GBGM's Missions Volunteers, died Jan. 17. The two men had been trapped together in the debris of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince.

Dixon died before rescuers could free him, contrary to earlier reports from church leaders that he was pulled out of the wreckage alive. Rabb was airlifted to a Florida hospital where he died after his family joined him.

The news came as a shock to Holston members who had worked with both mission leaders.

"He gave me a place in the kingdom," said Danny Howe, referring to Dixon the day after his death.

Dixon attended Holston's first-ever "Sudan Summit" in June 2008 and was scheduled to attend the second Summit March 11-12, Howe said. Dixon was also scheduled to be keynote speaker at First Broad Street United Methodist Church's "Mission Celebration" on March 12-14.

"I've not a clue about what to do about that, but I guess I will let God lead me there," said Howe, missions director for First Broad Street as well as chair of Holston's Mission Team.

"I am now praying for Sam's family," Howe wrote on UMCOR's Facebook page. "I am now praying for our great United Methodist family that reaches around the globe and invites all to the table of life. And, I pray for all of us who will follow in Sam's footprints ..."

The Rev. Melissa Smith, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator for Holston Conference, served with Rabb on the UMVIM Southeastern Jurisdiction board.

"I really didn't know him that well personally, but my heart is broken to hear about his death," said Smith, associate pastor at Fountain City UMC. "I saw him as a person who tirelessly worked to connect people in mission all throughout the world and literally died as he was trying to do just that thing."

Smith said that she had a "renewed passion to connect people in missions through VIM teams because of the influence he has had on my life."

In late October 2009, three Holston members traveled to New York City to meet with several key members of the General Board of Global Ministries to discuss mission work in south Sudan. Dixon and Rabb were among those who met with Howe, Bishop James Swanson, and Anne Travis from Holston.

"Our prayers are with all of the staff at GBGM, along with the Dixon and Rabb families," Travis wrote on the United Methodist Church's Facebook page. "We grieve with you. Lord, hear our prayer." Travis is Holston's director of connectional ministries.

The Rev. Ron Matthews, Holston's executive assistant to the bishop, expressed his sadness following news of Dixon and Rabb:

"The United Methodist family lost dedicated servants of Christ in the deaths of the Rev. Sam Dixon and the Rev. Clinton Rabb ... We grieve their losses, but we shall never cease in our efforts to complete the missions that were their passions: providing help and hope for those we serve in the name of Jesus Christ."

On Facebook, UMCOR and GBGM posted celebrations of their lost leaders, then posted this reminder:

"Although GBGM's loss is great, the need in Haiti is greater. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to give: www.umcorhaiti.org."



United Methodist News Service contributed to this report.