Fallen Colleagues Remembered at Hotel Montana
A UMNS Report
by Kathy Gilbert
January 24, 2010—Walking up the curving driveway to the Hotel Montana, Melissa Crutchfield stopped several time to pick flowers.
Crutchfield, United Methodist Committee on Relief international disaster response director, was on her way to a memorial service for two United Methodist executives and friends who died in the hotel after being trapped inside during the earthquake that hit Jan. 12.
The Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of UMCOR, and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, both died from their injuries. The Jan. 22 memorial service occurred at the same time a funeral service for Dixon was taking place in Raleigh, N.C. Rabb is being remembered Jan. 23 in a service in Austin, Texas.
Dixon and Rabb went to Haiti to discuss projects to improve life in the impoverished island nation. They were in the hotel when the quake hit. Both men were trapped for several days in the rubble before rescuers found them. The initial elation at their discovery turned to grief when neither mission worker survived.
“This time last week, we thought they were alive,” Sharad Aggarwal, another colleague from UMCOR, as he walked inside the hotel gates to the service.
The Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, and the Rev. Marlo Despestra, also an official with the church, coordinated the service that was attended by Crutchfield, Aggarwal and the Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda, an executive with the mission agency. The three are in Haiti preparing the way for UMCOR to respond to the aftermath of the earthquake.
The private service began with the singing of “Amazing Grace.” While Paul prayed, a search and rescue team was still working to recover bodies from the rubble.
“They came to help us,” Despestra said. “It must have been a very painful time, they must have suffered a lot. We don’t understand why or ask God why. The God who created us is with us now.”
The small gathering said The Lord’s Prayer together.
“We commit their souls to God and his Son. We know one day we will have the privilege of being with them in heaven,” Paul said. “The Methodist Church in Haiti is grateful for their service.”
Crutchfield left the small bouquet of pink, white and red flowers on the rubble.
*Gilbert is a news writer for the United Methodist News Service on assignment in Haiti.