(released by the General Board of Global Ministries)
New York, NY, Jan. 16, 2010—The Rev. Dr. Sam Dixon, head of the humanitarian relief agency of The United Methodist Church, died before he could be rescued from the rubble of a hotel destroyed by the earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12.
The executive officer of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was part of a group of mission and relief specialists trapped by the collapse of the Hotel Montana. Other persons in the group of five, including two more from the General Board of Global Ministries, were rescued and were back in the US by the morning of January 16. The group was pinned down for more than 55 hours.
Dixon was reportedly alive in the hotel ruins on the morning of January 15. Confirmation of his death before rescue was conveyed to Global Ministries through several sources, including eyewitnesses from a Methodist guest house in Port-au-Prince, where Dixon and his colleagues had been staying. Frequent press reports throughout the day on January 15 asserting his safety were incorrect.
He and the Rev. Clint Rabb, head of the United Methodist office of mission volunteers, and the Rev. James Gulley, a former missionary and now consultant to UMCOR, were at the hotel for meetings with representatives of other organizations, making plans to improve medical services in Haiti.
“Sam Dixon was a tireless servant of the church of Jesus Christ on behalf of all of us,” said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. “His death is an incalculable loss to Global Ministries, UMCOR and our worldwide ministry of relief to God’s most vulnerable children. Our directors and staff extend their condolences to Sam’s wife, Cindy, their children, and their wider circle of friends and colleagues.
Bishop Janice Huie of Texas, president of UMCOR, said that Dixon “was an extremely gifted minister of the Gospel. He lived his life following the commandments of Jesus to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and love the least of these—all over the world. Jesus is holding him dear, and we are in prayer for his family.”
Bishop Al Gwinn, bishop of the United Methodist Church’s North Carolina Conference, said “This news deeply saddens us. And, our hearts reach out to Cindy, their daughters and the host of friends who have loved and admired Sam. Sam died doing the very thing he loved and was called to do. His work and witness have profoundly influenced our lives and made our world a better place.
Dixon was a native of North Carolina where he served for 24 years as a pastor. He came to the General Board of Global Ministries in 1998 to serve as director of field operations of the non-governmental agency (NGO) section of UMCOR. He then became head of the United Methodist Development Fund and moved up to head the unit on Evangelization and Church Growth. Dixon was tapped to head UMCOR in 2007.
He was officially a deputy general secretary of Global Ministries assigned to UMCOR, where he oversaw programs of emergency relief, long-term disaster recovery, economic development, health services, and peace-building.
Dixon was educated at the University of North Carolina and the Chicago Theological Seminary. He was a member of the North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference of his church. He and his wife have four children and two grandchildren. He is also survived by his mother and three sisters and a host of loving friends.
Additional details, a profile, and tribute to Dixon will follow.