Haiti mission volunteer remembered as symbol of love
Clara "Jean" Arnwine, 49, who gave her life providing medical care to Haiti's poor, was remembered in song and prayer Jan. 20 in an emotional service attended by many of the volunteers who served with her.
More than 800 family members and friends of Arnwine packed Highland Park United Methodist Church in a service of celebration and thanksgiving for the mission team member, who died from injuries she received in the earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12.
Wearing a pink carnation in honor of Arnwine's love of flowers, 10 of the 11 surviving members of the 12-person medical mission team from the church attended the service. They included ophthalmologist Dr. Ken Foree, 82, the clinic's founder, and his wife, Lila.
The Rev. Paul Rasmussen, pastor of Highland Park Church's contemporary worship program known as Cornerstone, built his sermon around the concept of clarity of sight, calling it "the very nature of love."
The congregation sang "Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine" and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."
Arnwine's husband, David, shared memories of their courtship and subsequent raising of two children. He recalled the couple's joy as recently as last month, when they attended a national tour production of "South Pacific" at Dallas' new opera house.
He said she was especially excited about this opportunity to help others.
Arnwine, serving on her first mission team, traveled to Haiti as part of a 12-member medical team from Highland Park. Arnwine and four colleagues from Texas Retina Associates were part of the volunteer team that helped run a free eye clinic in a village near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital and city where the devastation was the greatest. Like several others in the team, she was not a member of the mission-sponsoring church.
When the earthquake struck, their clinic in Petit-Goave collapsed with five volunteers inside. Arnwine, the most seriously injured, was placed on a surgical plane destined for Martinique. When her condition worsened, the plane diverted to the island of Guadeloupe, where she died at the hospital, said Highland Park spokeswoman Kim Gifford.
In addition to her husband, Arnwine is survived by a son, Ashley Ryan Arnwine of San Francisco, and a daughter, Merilee DeAnne Arnwine of Keller, Texas.
*Lovelace is a freelance writer based in Dallas.
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