UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2010 / 0114 - Missing Mission Executive Seen Entering Destroyed Hotel

Missing Mission Executive Seen Entering Destroyed Hotel

A UMNS Report

By Linda Bloom*

January 14, 2010—Three missing United Methodist mission executives were seen entering the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince shortly before the Jan. 12 earthquake rocked the capital, destroying the hotel.

Even as hopes for their survival dimmed, officials with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries were still holding out hope Jan. 14 that Sam Dixon, top executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief; Clinton Rabb, head of Mission Volunteers; and Jim Gulley, an UMCOR consultant, are somehow still alive.

“We have a recent e-mail that some survivors were rescued from the Montana,” said Bishop Joel Martínez, the board’s interim top executive. “Apparently, rescue operations are continuing.”

The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an UMCOR executive, said a car had dropped the three men at the Hotel Montana. “The driver reported he had driven about five minutes (afterward) when he was stopped by the earthquake,” he added.

The president of the Methodist Church in Haiti had been invited to accompany them to the hotel but did not go because he had another meeting, he said.

Another United Methodist, Sarla Chand, vice president of international programs for IMA World Health, also had a scheduled meeting at the Hotel Montana the day of the earthquake. Chand is a former staff member of the Board of Global Ministries.

Douglas Bright, a spokesman for IMA World Health, said on Jan. 14 they still had not heard from Chand or her colleagues, Rick Santos, the agency’s president, and Ann Varghese, program officer for Haiti.

“They were scheduled to be at a meeting of the Hotel Montana with people from the University of Notre Dame the afternoon of the quake,” he said. “The meeting broke up just prior to the earthquake.”

The Notre Dame participants were located and are reported to be safe, Bright said, but IMAWorld Health cannot confirm the whereabouts of its staff, which was staying at the nearby Prince Hotel.

IMAWorld Health, a specialist in providing essential health care services and medical supplies to people in need, has a close relationship with The United Methodist Church. Dixon sits on the organization’s board of directors.

Dixon and Gulley had been in Haiti since Jan. 10 or 11, but Rabb had just arrived the day of the earthquake, coming from Cuba. The trio was staying at the Methodist guesthouse outside Port- au-Prince.

“All of their luggage is at the guesthouse,” Hazelwood said. “Sam even left his suit coat at the guesthouse.”

He noted that all were seasoned travelers who had been in dangerous situations before. “If there was a way they could have protected themselves, they probably did,” he said. “My hope is they could be safe somewhere under that rubble or at least alive.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.