Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb, Christian ministers with The United Methodist Church's mission and humanitarian organization, the General Board of Global Ministries, died of injuries received in the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Good friends, they were trapped with four other people, who survived, for 55 hours in the ruins of the Hotel Montana. Dixon headed the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Rabb worked with mission volunteers. They were in Haiti in an effort to improve health services.
The following are personal reflections from family, friends and colleagues celebrating the lives of Sam and Clint. Please feel free to add your reflections in the comment section below.
I had just been elected as the General Secretary for Global Ministries in January 2010. Sam sent me a letter with words of wisdom and encouragement anticipating that we would be colleagues in mission. The email ended, "There will be many tough days to be sure, but I, and others, are with you all the way, Sam."
How could he, or I, have known that the “tough days” were so close, and that he would not be with me. It was so sad to lose him. I had so much looked forward to working with him. I could not answer “why?” but I felt God’s presence in that time of uncertainty, tears, and sorrow.
I had known Sam for a long time in various situations and capacities. He was one of the people at the board whom I most admired for his dedication, experience, and always smiling openness to all of the people around him. He filled the room not only by his size but by his tremendously positive presence.
Sam and Clint are not forgotten. Their lives left an imprint on United Methodist mission in the world. Their legacies are kept alive in the work of the Global Ministries, sharing God's love and transforming people and the world.
United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries
Clint – Big man with a big heart from a big state. His love for Christ was large and so was his love for people. I will never forget him.
UMVIM Coordinator, Western Jurisdiction
When I heard of the earthquake and my sister, Clint’s wife, Suzanne, called to say they could not contact him, my first thought was, “Clint is the most resourceful person I know, if anyone can survive this catastrophe he can, and he is probably busy helping others.” That pretty much sums up the essence of the man I knew. Resourceful, compassionate, looking out for others. He was such a good husband to my sister, an incredible advocate for my sister’s children and his own, and an awesome guy to just hang out with. Honestly, he was like an Indiana Jones-type figure to us. We loved him dearly, and his loss to us, his extended family, his friends, to the church, to all those he trained in missions, and to all those he advocated for, is truly beyond measure. Clint lives on, and for that we are grateful, but still we miss him painfully.
Clint’s sister-in-law and friend
Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb’s work as Christian ministers and in particular their role in helping improve the health systems in Haiti prior to the 2012 earthquake needs to be remembered. Even though I never worked closely with them, it is evident that their work and passion for helping those marginalized and at risk in society guided their calling. As a member of UMCOR staff, I will continue to carry the fort for what both Sam and Rabb strongly believed in through my role as grants operations manager.
Grants Operations Manager, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
Clint Rabb was a true mentor and friend. Whether we were visiting ministry partners around the world, attending a Yankee game or just sitting in his office; Clint and I spoke daily about the challenges of ministry, mission and our personal lives. Clint always gave guidance without judgment and treated me as a friend and equal despite being 35 years my senior.
Since Clint’s death, I have returned to many of the places we visited together and have stayed in close contact with his wife, Suzanne Field-Rabb. In 2012, Suzanne officiated my wedding in Clint’s stead, to the woman Clint had advised me to marry years prior.
Clint’s death was painful. I had much left to learn from him and still miss him deeply. But his legacy and memory continue in my life and that of so many others.
Global Ministries employee, 2007-2012
When I think of Clint, I think of his smile and laughter. He often seemed like a kid who had been caught with both hands in the candy jar. His “candy jar” offered him several treats – the rewards of his personal ministries; his successful mentoring, coaching and encouragement to those involved in volunteer ministry; and his enjoyment of seeing God’s work being done throughout the world.
(former) UMVIM director, South Central Jurisdiction
Clinton was a beautiful man inside and out. He was devout and believed that the church could heal the world if it let go of its ambition and focused on service. He was my soulmate and love of my life. He was gentle, kind, thoughtful, romantic and believed in me. I felt like I was really me around him and his love for me was deep and abiding. It was out of the depth of his ability to love that he loved his children and my children. He cared about people and set out to assist the church to be the Eucharist for the world. He wanted children safe, women respected, men empowered to live out the gospel. He wanted people to have a place to worship and hospitals for medical care.
Clint loved Sam and since Clint is a caregiver I know it was hard for him to see Sam suffering. Sam was one of my favorite people at Global Ministries. He had a sunny attitude and the two of them had their heads together almost daily. They were a powerful team and held the purpose and vision of Global Ministries within their souls.
My personal loss is beyond words but I am deeply thankful for the love and life that Clint and I shared.
I’ve known Clint most of my life and will know him for the rest of it. He continues to be a source of strength I draw from. Growing up, I can remember a thousand things that inspired me about him and that I seek to model in my own life. There’s his singing old-time Jazz and Blues at the piano, deep-voiced and full of life. There’s his constant learning, the way he devoured information of all kinds to better know the world. There’s the way he gave gifts with an open heart. There’s the way he gave himself with an open heart. There’s the way he sought to contribute to the world in a way that would bring deep joys to others, assisting thousands in opening their own hearts to a greater spiritual force in all corners of the world and in all economic circumstances. There's the way he was an essential part of the fabric of the world and the way people communicate and foster relationships. He was always deeply rooted in the political, social, economic and spiritual aspects of people. His greatest strength was the ways in which he loved others and the world. I admire this and hope to model this in my own life. He lives.
Sam’s support, encouragement and friendship are things I missed the most about him. Clint left me very large shoes to fill. These were two giants in the mission field and their death in Haiti spurred us all to be engaged in Haiti. Thank you Sam and Clint for your passion of God’s mission and because of you we continue to be in service.
Assistant General Secretary, Mission Volunteers
As I take some time to remember Clint, I immediately think of the passion in which he served his church and the zealous way he moved through life. Clint wasted no time; he saw his work as personal, important and urgent. As a result, his impact was tremendous – both for the lives he touched through his professional work, and for the family members he returned to after his travels. Every day I hold onto the notion that we should waste no time making our mark in the world. Clint was a powerful example of what we can each do if we approach life with enthusiasm and positivity.
Daniel W. Payne, CFA
Clinton was my husband Robert’s brother, but the distance between our homes and the busyness of life meant we rarely saw him more than twice a year. I have thought from time to time over the past five years that my strong sense of Clint still being among us was perhaps due to his having never been a part of my everyday life. He did not leave a gaping hole in my day-to-day existence and so, I thought, maybe it was only natural that I would continue to feel, as I had for the 20 years I knew him, that he was always “out there.” But I have come to understand that my sense of Clint’s continued presence is more about who he was and what he did. He was a bigger-than-life kind of man who felt a simple, but bigger-than-life call – to help people. Everywhere. He followed the call to the ends of the world and the end of his life and so, when I catch myself feeling that Clint is still alive, I let myself rest long in that thought. I think of the thousands “out there” whose faces we at home never knew but whose lives Clint touched. And I know that he is there.
Clint was the embodiment of generosity and humility. In our family life he was always willing to do what needed to be done so that we felt loved, safe, validated and inspired. As a stepfather he was gentle, unobtrusive and consistent. He never seemed to let his own body or mind get in the way of being there for us. He was truly the paragon of a selfless man. As well, he filled our lives with joy and opened our minds to music, food, art, literature, people and places we might never have known, and are the better for knowing. I yearn to thank him, even now, every day, for all he did. His affirmation and love continues to propel me, comfort me and nourish me. How could he do so much, be so much, for so many people?
We didn’t have enough time. I was with Suzanne in her living room during some of the hours that the news from Haiti came in. I don’t need to paint that picture which is still quite vivid. Especially for Suzanne. All I can grasp is that we had a few years of friendship together that meant a great deal to me. And I believe to all of us. I still stay in touch with Suzanne and she with me, but five years of life-changes have intervened.
I dreamt quite vividly about Sam and Clint last week. I recall a lot of dreams these retirement days. It was a good dream. They both were doing well.
“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” – Spinoza
Clint was an amazing man. He truly loved and a empowered each of us every day. I loved watching him and seeing the joy and dedication to everything he did. His eyes gleamed when he played the piano and sang. His eyes gleamed when he sat down with his family to eat. I even believe that his eyes gleamed behind the safety goggles as he did yard work. I am very honored to have known such a man. I will never forget him!
I turned back. It must have been a split second, in my memory it is blurred, dream-like and long. I hurried back to his bedside, each step like through water in a pool. I had just told him about how the Cowboys looked like they were doing better this year. His face had lit up, but not as brightly as when he had first seen my mother and myself. I had already looked at his body, with so much cut away and forced myself not to think about what that would mean for him. But I hadn’t yet told his lingering soul as I touched his still warm arm that I would carry on the work of the Church. I hadn’t looked back at the next few moments over and over in my head. I hadn’t yet found peace. I hadn’t yet understood we all will die, but we will not all live unless we choose it. All that would come.
Now, I just turned and ran back. Something was wrong, I felt it. All those hours under the rubble, the family searching the country, the Facebook vigil, the emergency flights, the pain and the darkness, I had felt like it must count for something. I didn’t believe that God would let him die after all that. As I turned and saw the doctors trying to revive him, as I heard the machine flat-lining, I knew Clint was dead.
Rev. Andrew Payne
When you lose someone as vital and strong as Clinton you are hit with two powerful emotions. First there is the overwhelming sorrow. It seems that it will be unending. Second is the profound realization that all life is temporary. The sorrow still lingers but it is not now overwhelming. The realization that life is temporary has grown stronger. This sense that life is a temporary gift has led me to think about how to live my life more intentionally. Intentionality in both large and small things. Focus on relationships with loved ones has become more important. Focus relationships to do the work of the community, local church and acting on the brokenness in the world are also important.
But in the large and small things I have been led to focus on relationships rather than results. It is in relationships that God dwells. It is my human frailty that grasps for meaning in results. If the relationships are put right then God’s Will will be done. This time has given me the opportunity to focus more on my faith rather than my will. It has given me the faith to seek relationships outside my comfort zone. To be a part of healing a broken world, I think God calls us outside our comfort zone. It is in those relationships that we accomplish Wesley’s third rule: Stay in love with God.
In Clint’s ministry, I know he understood these things all along. In a discussion of his career path when he was still in college he said to me, “I think I am called to bring reconciliation and healing to the world.” I don’t think he understood where that journey would take him but that is what he did in his ministry. As an In Mission Together Coordinator for Laos and Vietnam, I see evidence of his ministry of healing and community building in the relationships he forged. In the trips I take, I frequently meet people who say they knew Clint. They don’t talk about monuments he built but the impact he had on their lives. Someone will say, “Clint ate at my house.” Another will say, “Clint went with me to meet with the Provincial Chief.” Or another will say, “Clint baptized me.” Each time I go there someone will show me pictures of Clint in ministry in Laos or Vietnam. Clint understood that you heal a broken world through relationships.
IMT coordinator, Laos and Vietnam