Samuel W. Dixon, Jr.: Man of Faith and Compassion
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, Jan. 17, 2010—Samuel Dixon, Jr., age 60, died doing what he loved to do: working for the welfare of the poor and rejected of the world in the name of Jesus Christ. His life ended before he could be rescued from the ruins of a hotel toppled by the powerful earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12.
Dixon and two others from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries had gone to the Hotel Montana to meet colleagues from other agencies to plan improved health services in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. His colleagues, the Rev. Clint Rabb and the Rev. James Gulley, were rescued. Rabb was taken to a Florida hospital, but later died from injuries sustained under the rubble of the hotel, and Gulley was able to return to his home in Denver.
A clergyman who began his ministry in 1975, Dixon was the executive officer of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a major disaster relief and rehabilitation agency related to Global Ministries. He had also been an effective pastor, church developer, manager of a church investment fund, and organizational administrator. In all of these ministries, he was motivated by a keen sense of the love of God for every living thing.
Writing in the January 2010 issue of Global Ministries' mission magazine, Dixon recalled an experience in a refugee camp:
"The little girl held my hand as we walked through the camp. 'This is my home,' she said, as we paused before a canvas tent with a wooden floor provided by the United Nations. In this large tent several refugee families lived, each with a story of significant horror to tell. The little girl had witnessed the death of her father and brothers. Only she and her mother survived--scarred, alone, hungry, sick, and scared. There are too many such stories in the world."
Dixon wanted to write different endings for such accounts of injury, fear, aloneness, hunger, and fear.
"Sam was unsurpassed in his dedication, tireless work, and joyful embrace of Christ's mission," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, president of the General Board of Global Ministries. "His absence in our lives and at Global Ministries will be profound." The bishop said that Dixon's death is an "overwhelming blow" for the organization. "I extend my deepest sympathy to Sam's family and his colleagues in ministry."
Native of North Carolina
Sam Dixon grew up in North Carolina, the son of Samuel Dixon, Sr. and Mildred Dixon. He and his three sisters were products of a strong Christian home. He graduated from Statesville High and attended college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He received a doctoral degree in ministry from the Chicago Theological Seminary and, upon graduation, joined the North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference of his denomination.
He served as pastor of rural, urban, and small-town congregations for 15 years, including churches in Sneads Ferry, Durham, Swepsonville, and Swansboro. From 1990 to 1996, he was a staff member of the North Carolina Conference. His focus was on evangelism, mission, and outreach. During those years, the conference experienced a growth in membership, an increase in mission giving, and an expansion of global connections in ministry.
Dixon became pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Roanoke Rapids in 1996, and during his two years there, the church grew in spiritual intensity and became more engaged in mission.
Dixon joined the staff of UMCOR in 1998 as an executive in the non-governmental organization (NGO). He was shifted to the position of executive director of the United Methodist Development Fund in 2001. The fund receives investments from church members and makes loans for the building of churches and related facilities.
In 2003, he became Global Ministries' deputy general secretary of Evangelization and Church Growth, and later, he also supervised programs in mission education and relations with mission partners. He assumed the leadership of UMCOR in 2007.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is a 70-year-old humanitarian agency that engages in a broad range of programs in disaster relief, post-disaster rehabilitation, economic development, health services, peace initiatives, and services to refugees and immigrants.
Writing in the anniversary issue of New World Outlook, Global Ministries' mission magazine, he described UMCOR as serving "God's creation on behalf of The United Methodist Church" and "providing help and hope to people in serious situations." The work, he said, witnesses to peace, restores lives, addresses injustice, and joins "hearts and hands with others in building a sustainable future for an amazing multitude of people."
Dixon was a firm believer that Christians and all people of goodwill should work together for the sake of the goals of UMCOR. He helped to cement relationships between his organization and Muslim Aid, a relief agency based in London. He promoted collaboration among all humanitarian organizations in responding to emergency needs.
Dixon and his wife, the former Cindy Leapley, are the parents of four grown children, Christy, Amy, Josh, and Molly. All survive, as does his mother.
Messages and Memorial
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.
Times and places of memorial services will be announced later.
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.
Gifts can also be given online by going to umcorhaiti.org.