Honoring memory, mission at Sager Brown

The new Dixon-Rabb Hall at the Sager Brown supply depot will allow the United Methodist Committee on Relief to respond quickly to any major disaster.

It seems a fitting tribute to the two pastors and church executives who lost their lives during the 2010 Haiti earthquake while engaged in mission, says Theodore R. Warnock, interim executive director for UMCOR Relief Supplies, who organized a Nov. 17 dedication service.

Sager Brown’s 22-acre campus in rural Baldwin, Louisiana, now has three dormitory-style facilities to hold volunteers who arrive each week to assemble health, school and layette kits, cleaning buckets and other supplies to use for emergency disaster or development needs.

Currently, Sager Brown averages 50 to 55 volunteers a week. “With the completion of the Dixon-Rabb hall, we have the ability to house 100 people on a regular basis,” Warnock said.

The increased capacity also will allow Sager-Brown to expand its reach to youth groups and to other organizations wishing to use it as a retreat location. The new hall has six rooms, each with four regular beds and one bunk bed, and two complete bathrooms with four showers, a dressing area and toilets.

Honoring memory and mission

The new dormitory honors both the memory and the mission of the Rev. Sam Dixon, Jr., who was the top executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, who oversaw mission volunteers for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent agency.

Friends as well as colleagues, the two men were in Haiti to discuss health programs with partners and were among those trapped in the Hotel Montana during the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, which resulted in more than 222,500 deaths and massive destruction in Haiti.

Thomas Kemper, who became top executive for Global Ministries two months later, was aware of their dedication to mission and said he saw “how their loss helped to propel the magnitude of response to post-earthquake needs in Haiti.” 

In one letter sent with relief donations after the earthquake, he recalled, the writer said, “I don’t know much about UMCOR but I have read about the staff you lost and want to help; you gave upfront.”

“As Sam and Clint were close in life and labor, and in the experience of suffering and death, the work of Sager Brown is an active, living symbol of the close relationship between relief and voluntary service,” he said.

‘A real tribute’

Kemper was unable to attend the dedication ceremony but his remarks were presented by the Rev. J. Denise Honeycutt, UMCOR’s top executive, who said she had talked about the work and lives of the two men at a large gathering in Little Rock, Arkansas the day before the dedication.

A 94-year-old woman at the gathering said that while she had never met either man, “`I feel I know them and love them,’” Honeycutt noted. “I said there are people all across the globe who share that same sentiment, knowing and loving these two men for their faithfulness and commitment to God’s mission.”   

Among those present at the Nov. 17 dedication service were their wives, Cindy Dixon and Suzanne Rabb, both of whom were visiting Sager Brown for the first time.

Mrs. Rabb said she was “very touched” by the ceremony, by the care given to her and Mrs. Dixon during the visit and by the fact that the hall named for her husband will help Sager Brown reach out to new volunteers.

“I always think it’s a real tribute to Clint when someone does something for young families and young people," she told United Methodist News Service. Mrs. Rabb said she would like to bring her grandchildren to Sager Brown when they are older "so that they know what it means to love beyond yourself."

Mrs. Dixon also expressed her gratitude. “The dedication was such an honor and our family appreciates it so much,” she said.

“Sam loved the church,” she told those gathered for the dedication, “helping us understand how connected we are, or need to be, as global citizens, as United Methodists.  Reminding us that we are so much more alike than not — (we are) all God's children.”

The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, who was the head of UMCOR’s U.S. disaster response when Dixon led the agency and spoke at the dedication, said he couldn’t think of a better place for a memorial than a setting that encourages the building of relationships among people from across the church.

“One of the many things that Sam, Clint and I would share was this common understanding of the importance of relationships and the powerful ministry that happens when the relationships are strong,” he explained after the event.

Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at https://twitter.com/umcscribe or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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