|Mission leader Rabb celebrated for making difference |
By David Briggs and Linda Bloom*
UPDATED 11:30 PM EST Jan. 23, 2010 | AUSTIN, Texas (UMNS)
A mission leader who died serving one of the world’s poorest nations
was remembered as a friend and advocate for the most vulnerable of God’s
More than 700 friends, family and mission workers from throughout the
world packed University United Methodist Church Jan. 23 to celebrate
the life of the Rev. Clinton Rabb, 60, who died from injuries received
in the rubble of the earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12.
“He was my north, my south, my east and my west,” the Rev.
Suzanne Field Rabb
said at the funeral of her husband.
Tears, some laughter and moments of profound silence filled the
two-hour service that took participants from the plains of Mongolia to
baptisms in Russian prisons to the darkness of post-quake Haiti as
witness after witness spoke of the passion for life and faith of the
director of the Mission Volunteers program at the United Methodist Board
of Global Ministries.
"As we are gathered here this day, the occaision of our worship is
the death of Clinton Rabb. The purpose of our worship is
to give thanks to almighty God for his life and for life eternal," said
Bishop James Dorff, who leads the Southwest Texas Annual (regional)
Conference, where Rabb was a clergy member.
In an emotional presentation of a plaque to the Rev. Suzanne Field
Rabb, Clinton Rabb’s wife, Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona said the
Methodist Church of Columbia wished to pay homage to the man who loved
all people, “especially the smallest of this world.”
“No one, Cardona said, “has love as big as those who give their life
for their friends.”
Bishop Joel Martinez, the interim leader of the Board of Global
Ministries, said Rabb was a big man in his physical size, in his vision
of global mission and “in his embrace of other people, of all colors and
creeds … and places. Clint was a person who loved and reached out.”
Today, Martinez said, “Clint is saving all of us a place in the
banquet of Jesus Christ, the banquet of eternal life.”
Mission of mercy
Rabb was in Haiti to discuss ways to assist the impoverished island
nation. He had joined five colleagues for a dinner meeting at the Hotel
Montana in Port-au-Prince when the Jan. 12 earthquake struck. He and the
Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of the United Methodist Committee on
Relief, found their legs pinned under a concrete slab. Two days later,
French rescue workers found the group, but it took hours for them to
Rabb was airlifted to Florida but died of his injuries at a hospital
there on Jan. 17. Dixon died earlier in Port-au-Prince.
The Rev. Clinton Rabb
The Rev. James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant who was trapped with Rabb
and Dixon, struggled to control his emotion at times as he spoke of the
ordeal. Although Rabb was pinned down in the rubble with his legs
broken, Gulley said, he would spend much of his time trying to lift up
Dixon to make him more comfortable by creating a makeshift bed of
plaster and laptop bags.
That strength, and his resilience through days of agonizing pain and
vicarious suffering, gave hope to his colleagues that Rabb would
survive. At one point, as rescue workers struggled to free him, Rabb
told a reporter, “Please tell my wife that I deeply love her.”
“I can’t answer the question of Job, of why some people suffer and
die and others do not,” a shaken Gulley said at the memorial service.
“We all will someday meet again.”
Amid words of hope and resurrection, mourners also experienced the
depth of the grief being suffered by Rabb’s family and the loved ones of
so many tens of thousands of other people who perished in the quake.
Rabb’s purple-draped coffin was at the front of the church, where a
large cross serves as the backdrop.
There is a deep abiding grief, one that would extinguish the stars
and dismantle the sun, with the knowledge, “My beloved Clint is dead,”
Suzanne Field Rabb said.
“He was my north, my south, my east and my west,” she said. “I
thought my love would last forever.”
A gentle spirit
Many at the service recalled Rabb as a man with a gentle, kind
spirit, but a passion for service.
“Clint never waited for the world to come to him,” said West Ohio
Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Board of Global Ministries. “He went
to the world. He channeled the talents and equipped thousands of other
United Methodists to go to the world (to be) a mighty river of grace,
mercy and transformation.”
In a eulogy, the Rev. Robert Huie, a close friend and former
neighbor, said, “Clint’s God was always getting bigger.”
Rabb could pound out hymns such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” on
the piano with a jazzy beat, and take similar great pleasure in helping
start house churches in Southeast Asia, Huie said.
If someone said Rabb thought outside the box, “Clint more than likely
would say, ‘What box?’”
Huie told mourners that Rabb would want to tell each of them that he
loves them with all of his heart and mind and soul. “And his love
endures forever,” Huie said.
In a spirited part of the service, the gathering sang along to guitar
accompaniment several verses of “Peace Like A River.”
Hands began clapping throughout the church as celebrants sang:
“I got love like an ocean.
I got love like an ocean.
I got love like an ocean,
in my soul.”
A life of service
Rabb, a Texas native, grew up in Hunt County, northeast of Dallas.
“We grew up in a home where we were expected to be aware of the
larger world, to participate in a larger world and to know we had an
obligation and the ability to make a difference,” said his brother Joel.
Joel Rabb said his brother “achieved great things because he listened
to God’s call at the lowest points in his life—and at the highest points
in his life.”
Clinton Rabb served as a pastor and chaplain for the denomination’s
Southwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference before joining the mission
agency in 1996. Besides working with the mission volunteers program, he
had been involved with new mission initiatives in Africa, Asia, Eastern
Europe and Central Asia. He created the "In Mission Together Church to
Church Partnership Program," which links congregations, annual
conferences, volunteer efforts and mission personnel.
His wife, the Rev. Suzanne Field Rabb, is also a member of the
Southwest Texas Conference. They have eight children, Maury Rabb, Tyler
Rabb, Ginny Scheuch, Travis Payne, Daniel Payne, Andrew Payne, Matthew
Payne, Clare Payne, and three grandchildren.
The family has started a charity, http://www.clintonclarkrabbcharity.org,
in memory of Rabb. Memorial contributions should be designated to The
Clinton Clark Rabb Charity. Checks can be mailed to P. O. Box 721115,
Dallas, TX 75372.
*Briggs is news editor of United Methodist News Service, Nashville,
Tenn. Bloom is a news writer based in New York.
News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
of Clinton Rabb funeral
reflections about Clinton Rabb
Photos from team in Haiti
Listen to complete Rabb funeral service
the lives of Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb
Mission agency’s Clinton Rabb dies of earthquake-related
Haitian Methodists and UMCOR size up needs
Medical specialists top volunteer list for Haiti
Earthquake in Haiti: The Church Responds
Clark Rabb Charity
UMCOR: Haiti Emergency
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