Remembering UMCOR Leader, Sam Dixon
*By Melissa Hinnen
January 25, 2010—In a service filled with references to the Wesleyan tradition, family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC to remember and honor the life of Sam Dixon. The head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Dixon died in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake.
Jim Gulley, an UMCOR consultant, in a moving witness of faith, recounted the 55 hours that he, Dixon and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) executive, Clint Rabb were trapped in the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port a Prince, Haiti. Of the three, Gulley was the only one to survive. Sarla Chand and Rick Santos of IMA were trapped with them and also survived and attended the memorial service. Gulley said that while they were trapped they prayed and sang, were quiet and told jokes. When Sam became discouraged, he named his mother, wife and children by name, expressing his love for them.
Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim head of GBGM, said “Sam is leaving big shoes to fill. While he never took himself too seriously, he did take his work and ministry very seriously.” He offered prayers on behalf of GBGM for Dixon’s family. Bishop Martinez reminded those gathered that the best way to honor Dixon’s legacy was to support UMCOR’s relief efforts in Haiti.
Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer highlighted the number of bishops attending the service, noting the impact Sam had in the church around the world. “He had the kind of passion that engages you,” Bishop Palmer said.
A Man Who Transformed Lives
Dixon was passionate about serving the world’s most vulnerable people and often traveled globally to fulfill UMCOR’s mission to alleviate human suffering. Cashar Evans, Jr., a NC layman, said that he one time asked Dixon how he could spend so much time sitting on airplanes. “Sam’s response was, ‘I don’t sit. I walk up and down the aisle of the plane unless someone tells me I need to sit.’ So I feel reassured knowing that Sam has experience walking in the clouds,” Evans shared. He continued, “Everyone he touched was changed in some way by Sam. Looking around this room each person has a part of Sam they carry with them.”
Dr. William C. Simpson, Jr., Dixon’s former pastor, noted the strong commitment to justice and how meaningful it was that he passed away on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Whether it was by having the courage to partner with Muslim Aid or giving his lunch to a family in need, Dixon always had his “eye on the cross.”
UMCOR staff was united in prayer from all parts of the world during the service. Edenton Street Church streamed the service on-line and staff was invited to watch it. The NY GBGM staff who did not attend the service watched it together in a conference room.
Melissa Crutchfield is leading UMCOR’s relief efforts in Haiti. She and the disaster response team went to the Hotel Montana where Dixon lost his life. They held a small vigil in solidarity with the service in NC. Crutchfield laid flowers where the hotel lobby had been.
Messages of condolence should be sent to "Cindy Dixon and Family," General Board of Global Ministries, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 1400, New York, NY 10115.
A joint memorial service for Rev. Dixon and Rev. Rabb will take place in New York City at a date and place to be announced.
Memorial gifts should be directed to the Haiti Relief Fund of UMCOR. Checks should be made to UMCOR with "Advance #418325 Dixon Memorial" in the memo line. Checks can be put in the church's offering plate or mailed to: UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087.
* Hinnen is the communications director for UMCOR