Hope and Tears Mark Haiti Tragedy Memorials
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, January 12, 2011--In a service of hope and tears, staff of the United Methodist mission agency marked the first anniversary of the "unspeakable tragedy" of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the deaths in the disaster of two beloved colleagues.
The worship theme, "The Living Promise," recalled the lives of the Rev. Sam Dixon and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, and invited recommitment to the ministry shared with them.
Grief for acute loss mingled with strong faith in Jesus Christ in the readings and songs:
Dixon was director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Rabb headed the office of mission volunteers of the General Board of Global Ministries. They were part of a group of six persons trapped together in the lobby rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck in the late afternoon of January 12, 2010.
On the same day as the New York memorial, the Protestant Federation of Haiti sponsored a public observance remembering the 300,000 persons killed in the earthquake, the 300,000 injured, and the million left homeless. Melissa Crutchfield, who leads the UMCOR Haiti relief team, was among the speakers and the event that celebrated life.
United Methodists have contributed $43 million toward Haiti earthquake relief and rehabilitation. Extensive information on this work can be found at UMCOR's Haiti page.
Addressing the Haitian people, she said, "We have learned from you what it means to be patient, hard-working, dedicated, and devoted to the ministry of renewal in Christ's name. We have walked with you through the treacherous and ever-challenging recovery.
We have worked side-by-side with you in what have been the first steps towards rebuilding this beautiful country, the first steps along what we know will be a long road." (Read the full text of Crutchfield's remarks.)
A year earlier, rescuers reached the church group at the Montana after 55 hours. Dixon died before he could be freed, and Rabb died in a Florida hospital a few hours later. The other four persons survived, including the Rev. James Gulley, a former missionary and a Global Ministries consultant. The three were in Haiti to meet with other faith-based representatives on ways to address health needs.
A short video recollection from Gulley was played at the end of the memorial service. He spoke less of the ordeal of the earthquake than of the ongoing work of the church to help with the reconstruction of Haiti. (Gulley was scheduled to speak at a memorial event at the site of the Hotel Montana on the evening of January 12, 2011.)
The service in New York opened with verbal and vocal versions of the Beatitudes, the latter with the refrain, "Rejoice and be glad; blessed are you, holy are you…."
Two staff members, Beth Buchanan, who had worked with Rabb, and Lisa Jackson, who had worked with Dixon, read a commemoration, "One Year Ago….", written by Jorge Lockward and Melissa Hinnen. It summarized the agonizing experience of Global Ministries and the church as a result of the earthquake and the deaths of Dixon and Rabb. "For the staff of the General Board of Global Ministries, the unspeakable tragedy of Haiti was compounded by this very personal loss of two of our own," Jackson said.
But hope was the compelling theme. "As Global Ministries, led by UMCOR, mobilized to respond to the crisis in Haiti, our hearts were heavy, but our purpose was unwavering," said Buchanan.
Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the mission agency, making brief remarks in New York, stressed the hopeful examples of Dixon and Rabb.
Hope was also a theme in an online commentary of January 12 written by the Rev. Cynthia F. Harvey, who is Dixon's successor at UMCOR. She wrote:
The work in Haiti will take a long time, but UMCOR is committed to be there and to respond to the needs of the Haitian people for as long as it takes. Our recovery plan initially contemplated five years, but our response may well have to stretch beyond that, to 10 or more years. Patience and perseverance will be critical in 2011. (Read her full commentary.)
The New York memorial concluded with the singing of Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise," which contains the affirmation:
Give to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325. One hundred percent of your gift supports the people of Haiti in their recovery from the earthquake of 2010.
Date posted: Jan 12, 2011