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Mission agency’s Clinton Rabb dies of earthquake-related injuries

By Linda Bloom*
UPDATED 3:21PM EST, Jan. 17, 2010 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

The Rev. Clinton Rabb

The Rev. Clinton Rabb knew how to connect volunteers with people and places in need.

His effectiveness as a mover of mission was being remembered Jan. 17, after the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries announced his death from injuries sustained during the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

The news came a day after the mission agency had confirmed the earthquake-related death of another employee, the Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The men had been trapped together in the debris of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. The MSNBC television network had shown a brief video clip of French rescue workers attempting to free Rabb, who had been trapped under a concrete slab for some 55 hours.

“Our grief is overwhelming, in part because just hours ago we were grateful for his rescue,” said West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Board of Global Ministries.

Rabb, 60, had been airlifted to Florida with unspecified injuries. His wife, the Rev. Suzanne Field Rabb, and other family members were able to join him at a hospital there before he died, said Jennifer Payne, Rabb’s daughter-in-law. The Rabbs have eight children and three grandchildren.

“We’re all deeply saddened to lose Clint,” Payne said. “We all love him dearly and admire everything he’s done in life. Please continue to pray, as he was doing, for everyone who was in Haiti.”

Texas roots

Rabb, a clergy member of the Southwest Texas Conference, spent nearly 20 years as a pastor and chaplain in Texas before joining the Board of Global Ministries in 1996. He focused on special initiatives in the evangelization and church growth unit before moving to Mission Volunteers in July 2006.

He had been scheduled to receive an award for distinguished service to the church in early February from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, of which he was a graduate.

“Clint Rabb was a tough and fearless advocate for the least and most vulnerable of God’s children,” said Bishop Joel Martínez, the board’s interim leader. “He traveled the world encouraging volunteer ministry in his service on behalf of Christ and the church. He gave his life for others, and we celebrate his faithful witness.”

Together, Rabb and Dixon had helped expand the denomination’s mission work to new countries, says the Rev. John Nuessle, a board executive. “Clint and Sam both saw the big picture, and they were good at getting the job done,” he added.

Finding support for mission

Nuessle also credited Rabb with formalizing the concept of congregation-to-congregation support, known as the “In Mission Together” program, as a way of nurturing United Methodism in other countries. Although the idea of such congregational support started in Russia, he said, “it was Clint who took that and made it a reality in every part of the world.”

He had a passionate understanding of the denomination’s mission work, according to Lorna Jost, who coordinates mission volunteers for the denomination’s North Central Jurisdiction. “It seemed every time we would get together, he would talk about our special niche as United Methodists and how we work with people, not for them,” she said.

Rabb approached such projects on a holistic level, explained Gregory Forrester, mission volunteer coordinator for the Northeastern Jurisdiction. “He said, ‘Let’s look at this from a full-on approach. Let’s build the school, build the teaching project, build teacher support, build in a way to get the kids something to eat, too.’”

For his friends and co-workers, “he was just a nice guy to be around,” said Nuessle.

Michael DeBorja worked closely with Rabb in Mission Volunteers until retiring in December.

“I had not wanted a retirement party, but Clint insisted on it, and he and his wife, Suzanne, also wrote me two of the nicest farewell notes in the memory book,” he said.

Rabb, Dixon, and a third colleague – the Rev. James Gulley, who survived the earthquake – had traveled to Haiti for meetings and contacts aimed at improving health services in what is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

“He and Sam were two sides of the triangle for mission,” said Debbie Vest, coordinator of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the South Central Jurisdiction. “We have lost two outstanding individuals. I can readily understand the grief of the Haitians and the sadness of the people you see on the street because those are our faces as well.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. Kathy Noble, Interpreter magazine editor, contributed to this report.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  


Photos from team in Haiti

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