|Missing mission execs seen entering destroyed Haiti
The Rev. Sam Dixon, head of the United Methodist
Committee on Relief,
addresses directors of the denomination’s Board of Global
in October 2008. A UMNS photo by Cassandra Heller.
Editor’s note: Updates story with new information from Bishop
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
UPDATED 7:30 PM EST Jan. 14, 2010
Three missing United Methodist mission executives were seen entering
the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince shortly before the Jan. 12
earthquake rocked the capital, destroying the hotel.
Even as hopes for their survival dimmed, officials with the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries were still holding out hope Jan. 14
that the Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of the United Methodist
Committee on Relief; the Rev. Clinton Rabb, head of Mission Volunteers;
and Jim Gulley, an UMCOR consultant, are somehow still alive.
The Rev. Clinton Rabb, head of Mission Volunteers
for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. A UMNS photo
courtesy of GBGM.
“While communication with Haiti is still very difficult, the limited
information we have received is cause for concern. The latest
information indicates that our friends were at the Hotel Montana at the
time of the earthquake, and that hotel was one of the structures badly
damaged,” said Bishop Joel Martínez, the board’s interim top executive.
“We also hear that some persons have been rescued there.”
Martínez said the agency is seeking the assistance of the U.S. State
Department and U.S. Embassy in Haiti “in a search for Sam, Clint, and
The Rev. Suzanne Field Rabb, Clinton Rabb’s wife, said she appreciates
the concern of others as she experiences the “mystery of grief – hanging
between hope and fear.”
“It’s nice to know that people are thinking of them, loving them,
praying for them – and are willing to be in vigil with me as I wait for
this very difficult time to unfold. They help me stay present in this so
that I don’t get lost.”
Staff from the Board of Global Ministries in New York gathered for a
prayer service for their missing colleagues Jan. 13, sharing Scripture
and offering prayers of the people. “As the names of people were lifted,
there was a strong sense of community,” said Melissa Hinnen, UMCOR
At the hotel
The Hotel Montana on the outskirts of the Haitian capital tumbled to the
ground when the earthquake struck. French Secretary of State for
Cooperation Alain Joyandet reportedly told Agence France-Press, “We know
there were 300 people inside the hotel when it collapsed; only around
100 have got out, which greatly concerns us.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon, quoted in The Miami Herald, said, “Troops have been working
through the night to reach those trapped under the rubble.”
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an UMCOR executive, said a car had dropped the
three men at the Montana Hotel. “The driver reported he had driven about
five minutes (afterward) when he was stopped by the earthquake,” he
Jim Gulley, a consultant
with the United Methodist Committee on Relief. A UMNS photo
courtesy of GBGM.
The president of the Methodist Church in Haiti had been invited to
accompany them to the hotel but did not go because he had another
meeting, he said.
Another United Methodist, Sarla Chand, vice president of international
programs for IMA World Health, also had a scheduled meeting at the
Montana Hotel the day of the earthquake. Chand is a former staff member
of the Board of Global Ministries.
Douglas Bright, a spokesman for IMA World Health, said on Jan. 14 they
still had not heard from Chand or her colleagues, Rick Santos, the
agency’s president, and Ann Varghese, program officer for Haiti.
“They were scheduled to be at a meeting of the Montana Hotel with people
from the University of Notre Dame the afternoon of the quake,” he said.
“The meeting broke up just prior to the earthquake.”
The Notre Dame participants were located and are reported to be safe,
Bright said, but IMAWorld Health cannot confirm the whereabouts of its
staff, which was staying at the nearby Prince Hotel.
IMAWorld Health, a specialist in providing essential health care
services and medical supplies to people in need, has a close
relationship with The United Methodist Church. Dixon sits on the
organization’s board of directors.
Dixon and Gulley had been in Haiti since Jan. 10 or 11, but Rabb had
just arrived the day of the earthquake, coming from Cuba. The trio was
staying at the Methodist guesthouse outside Port- au-Prince.
Suzanne Field Rabb said she last talked to her husband at the airport
early in the morning of Jan. 12.
“Clint’s call to ministry means that he would go out into volatile and
difficult places and love people. He has such a loving, open heart for
others. That’s what he is all about,” she said.
The three men’s luggage is at the Methodist guesthouse.
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“Sam even left his suit coat at the guesthouse,” Hazelwood said.
He noted that all were seasoned travelers who had been in dangerous
situations before. “If there was a way they could have protected
themselves, they probably did,” he said. “My hope is they could be safe
somewhere under that rubble or at least alive.”
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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