Top Mission Executive Dies as Result of Earthquake Injuries

January 17, 2010

The Rev. Clinton Rabb was head of UMCOR Mission Volunteers program

January 17, 2010 - The General Board of Global Ministries has announced that the Rev. Clinton Rabb, 60, head of GBGM's office of Mission Volunteers, died today in a Florida hospital of injuries he sustained in the collapse of Hotel Montana in Port au Prince, Haiti, during the January 12 earthquake.
 
He was the second United Methodist Committee on Relief staff member to lose his life as a result of the earthquake. The Rev. Sam Dixon, the executive in charge of UMCOR, died before rescue workers could free him. Dixon, Rabb, and the Rev. James Gulley, an UMCOR consultant, were trapped in the rubble for 55 hours. Gulley has survived.
 
"We have lost an excellent colleague and someone who was passionate about helping the poor and helping people participate in transforming the world," said Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., resident bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
 
A member of the Southwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference of the denomination, Rabb had served as head of the Mission Volunteers unit of Global Ministries since 2006. The staff of that area works closely with regional and jurisdictional mission volunteer networks, represented by United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). Thousands of UMVIM teams work throughout the world, many in health services. The office Rabb led also sponsors Individual Volunteer programs and mission opportunities for retired persons.
 
Phil Bandy, Interim Director of Cal-Nevada's UMVIM Office, said, "He was an inspired teacher. I benefitted from the time I spent with him and what he shared of himself. What he taught me in those times has changed the way I think about my job and will empower me in ways I can't even imagine now."
 
Bandy said that he and other Western Jurisdiction UMVIM coordinators meeting with Rabb three months ago, asked why Haiti had not been targeted as a priority. Rabb responded, Bandy said, that Haiti "is particularly problematic, in part because poverty there is so pervasive," and told them that UMCOR was looking into how to partner in new ways, to rethink how to provide sustained health care.
 
"He said we needed to figure out ways to sustain the delivery of health care beyond mercy service," Bandy said.
 
Rabb was engaged in that mission when the earthquake hit. He, Dixon, and Gulley were in Haiti for meetings and contacts aimed at improving health services in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Global Ministries has longstanding relations with the Methodist Church in Haiti and dozens of volunteer mission groups from United Methodist congregations in the United States send teams to work in the country every year.
 
"Our grief is overwhelming, in part because just hours ago we were grateful for his rescue," said Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, president of the General Board of Global Ministries, on being informed of Rabb's death. He called Rabb "a tireless, dedicated advocate for volunteers in mission around the globe."
 
"Clint Rabb was a tough and fearless advocate for the least and most vulnerable of God's children," said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, the interim general secretary (CEO) of Global Ministries. "He traveled the world encouraging volunteer ministry in his service on behalf of Christ and the church. He gave his life for others and we celebrate his faithful witness."
 
Long Career in Mission
 
Rabb grew up in northeast Texas, the son of Joe and Peggy Rabb. The Rabb family has been Methodist for generations.
 
"We lived as a family in the shadow of the Almighty," he said in a 2001 article for New World Outlook, the mission magazine of Global Ministries. "We didn't do this in a conspicuous manner or make a big deal of it. I was taken to church on Sundays, there were prayers at meals, we tried to be good, and we were supposed to make life in our community a little better."
 
Rabb had been with Global Ministries since 1996. Prior to serving in the Mission Volunteers unit, he was an executive for special initiatives in the Evangelization and Church Growth unit, working particularly with new mission initiatives in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Rabb crafted the "In Mission Together Church-to-Church Partnership Program," which links congregations, annual conferences, volunteer efforts, and mission personnel. He also worked in the U.S. with ministries involving African-American, Mexican-American, and Vietnamese-American communities.
 
During a span of almost 20 years as a pastor and chaplain in Texas, Rabb was engaged in a range of VIM teams, both domestically and internationally. His work with new mission initiatives put him in frequent contact with the Mission Volunteers program.
 
"The man was a visionary about how to create situations of ministry in ways that transcended the problem spots of the world," Bandy said. "He also was a teacher for us, giving us real practical skills in how to bring together stakeholders in mission in an insightful and loving way, so that it is a true win-win for everyone. I like to think that I'm a part of his legacy."
 
Bandy got the news of Rabb's death minutes before speaking to the congregation at Dixon UMC this morning. He used the time allotted him to share about Rabb's and Dixon's lives and ministries, to tell why they were in Haiti. At the end of the service, five people handed him commitments to get involved in mission.
 
"The story of this week has already begun to blossom," Bandy said.