Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Colleagues Mourn Methodist Relief Workers

Haitians are grieving the overwhelming loss of hundreds of thousands of precious lives. That grief grips families and friends of the confirmed earthquake victims, among them our colleagues from the U.S. church-based relief and development community.

Hundreds gathered Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina, to celebrate the life of Rev. Sam Dixon, general deputy secretary for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). He died Jan. 16, after spending nearly four days trapped in the collapsed Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. His colleague, Clint Rabb, though rescued alive, also died as a result of his injuries and was memorialized on Saturday at a service in Austin, Texas. 

The men were meeting with representatives of other agencies seeking better health care delivery in Haiti. Church-run hospitals and clinics, which provide much of the care available to Haiti's poor, are chronically overcrowded, short-staffed, and underfunded. In partnership with local leaders, U.S. church agencies such as UMCOR work tirelessly to provide needed resources, personnel, and medicines. Former Bread for the World faith outreach organizer Ann Varghese was also trapped in the collapsed hotel, but was safely rescued. She now serves on the staff of IMA, an ecumenical organization that channels medical supplies to Christian health ministries around the world.

Friday's service reflected Sam Dixon's spirit – people at times remembering his humor even in the midst of tragedy. We were reminded that he didn't take himself too seriously but that he took his work very seriously. He was committed to spreading a message of hope, and wanted everyone to know that they "belonged." Even as they grieved their loss, his UMCOR colleagues reminded us that the best way to honor and remember him with thanksgiving is to do our "very, very best in Haiti."

Bread is blessed to have many partners who are committed to doing their very, very best in places of human suffering around the world. A tragedy like this reminds us that this commitment is often costly for those who regularly risk their lives in difficult settings, and for families who live with great stress and fear.

Our good friend and Bread board member June Kim wasn't able to be in Raleigh Friday. Her UMCOR work has taken her to the Congo for the past two weeks. While her heart was with Sam's family and grieving colleagues, both she and UMCOR are also committed to doing their very, very best for God's precious, suffering children in Africa. She, too, was in my prayers at the funeral.

Please join me in lifting up all those who mourn Sam and Clint's deaths -- and all those who have lost loved ones -- to God's love and healing power.

Gary Cook is director of church relations for Bread for the World.


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