Friday, January 3, 2014

Missing Adventist Missionary Murdered in Belize

Missing Canadian Adventist missionary confirmed dead, media reports say. Brian Townsend went missing in Belize late on December 24, 2013

A Seventh-day Adventist missionary missing in Belize for a week has been confirmed deceased, media reports indicate. Brian Townsend, a missionary living in the Valley of Peace area of Belize, went missing on December 24th, 2013. A body found in neighboring Guatemala has been identified as Townsend, who was 64, according to a report by CBC Edmonton.

"We have made formal identification," Belize Commanding Officer Dinsdale Thompson told the CBC in a story posted on their website. "We do know that, for sure, that it is a homicide and we are looking [in] that direction as well of the motive, of why they have killed him." The Canadian news report says police in Belize have identified two suspects and are working with Guatemalan authorities in a search.

On Christmas Eve, Townsend's cook and neighbor saw his truck drive by with a mattress and rolled-up rug, heading out of town. The following morning when she arrived at the house for work, she discovered Townsend's truck was missing. Upon entering his single room house she discovered the place had been ransacked. Outside, approximately fifty feet from the house, "there was blood, there were two machetes in the place where they struggled" says Juan Arias, Vice Chairman of Valley of Peace who was on the scene soon after Townsend was noticed missing. Arias also stated "In his room it's like they hailed him to open the door and he did it. Because there was no forcing."

Police had also worked with the Canadian consulate and Kory Townsend, Townsend’s adult son, who has traveled from his home in Western Canada to help search for his father. Acknowledging that Townsend seemed to make it a point to know everyone, Martinez uttered a personal note, "It is a shock, it is a shock, I knew him"

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Townsend moved to Belize from Canada to build the Valley of Peace Seventh-day Adventist High school and ended up staying after it was finished. "He was doing a lot of things, he had a couple projects. He built a school, towards his later years he was doing a vocational school, things like gardening and a wood shop," said Kory Townsend. "There are few people who can live a dream or live a goal, and embrace it with the passion he had." Kory also acknowledged his father's commitment to his Seventh-day Adventist faith and community. "This was a lifestyle for him, it was not just a project or a mission, he lived here".

According to Dennis Slusher, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belize, “Townsend came to work in the Valley of Peace Community, helping build a school and church which now has about 50 members. He stayed on after the construction was finished, continuing to work for the betterment of the local community." Slusher says that the Belize Seventh-day Adventist Church administration and staff held a session of prayer for Townsend on Monday and are hoping that he will be found soon.

On December 30, 2013, Kory Townsend, accompanied by Patricia St. Jean and the Belize Disaster and Rescue Response Team visited Townsend's house in Belize and joined the search efforts. While at the house, neighbors and local Seventh-day Adventist church members kept dropping by and sharing what Townsend meant to them.

"Brian has been a role model for me, he has shown me a lot about mission work" said Miguel Ico, a local elder. "Through his efforts the Valley of Peace Seventh-day Adventist high school has been built."

Enrique Depaz was also a beneficiary of Townsend's kindness. He lived in Townsend's single-room house, but was out of town when Brian went missing. Enrique describes him as a "very positive man, very intelligent, he was always telling people how to live that Christian lifestyle." He recalls Townsend as a strong man who trusted in his faith completely "He never showed that had fear of anything, because he always believed in God". Others told similar stories. Kory Townsend shared the story of a neighbor who told him that they had just named their newborn child in Townsend's honor. 

On the evening of January 2, Ian Townsend, Brian's son-in-law who organized the family's efforts on Facebook, wrote, "With grieving hearts we inform you that the body found in Guatemala is Brian Townsend. We want you to know how much it meant to us, the support and prayers we received from all of you.

 It is hard in the midst of grief to see God at all times, when we take a small step back we see how much we are blessed by God for the people that love and care for us. We also feel we have been blessed by God for the quick action the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala, Canadian Foreign Affairs and the governments of Belize and Guatemala. Grief may push people away from God but my hope is that we will all draw close to God at this time so we can all join Brian in heaven and once again celebrate together.

We have celebrated what Brian has been able to do in Belize and the difference he has made in the community of the Valley of Peace. I challenge each one of you to do the same, make a difference, be that close to home or far away. Know however, that you already have made a difference in your support of us."Adventist Review (with additional information from Tim Wolfer, reporting from Belize for the North American Division.)

Belize police confirm body found that of missing Canadian Brian Townsend. Edmonton CTV News│Jan 2

Body found in Guatemala is missing Canadian Brian Townsend, police confirm. The Globe and Mail│Jan 2

• Brian Townsend, missionary missing in Belize, confirmed dead. Police believe Townsend, 64, was a victim of homicide. CBC News│Jan 2

Brian Townsend Missing: Body In Guatemala May Be That Of Edmonton Missionary. The Huffington Post│Jan 1

Is body found in Guatemala that of missing former Edmonton man? Edmonton Journal│Jan 1

‘This is a rescue mission for me’: Son, heading to Belize to find father missing since Christmas. Edmonton CTV News│Dec 27

Missing: Brian Townsend, Canadian Missionary in Valley of Peace, Belize. LostNMissing Inc.│Dec 27

Canadian missionary reported missing from Valley of Peace village. "The family of Canadian national Brian Townsend is in a frantic search for the missionary who has been reported missing from his home in Valley of Peace village, Cayo district. According to an internet post by the family, Townsend was discovered missing from his house on Christmas morning ..." Breaking Belize News│Dec 27

"Brian Townsend is a missionary from Canada that has been working in the Vally of Peace, Belize for years. Brian has been confirmed missing from his house since Christmas morning. There are unconfirmed reports that his truck drove away Christmas eve about 10:30pm. 

What we do know is there were signs of an aggressive struggle in his room that carried out the door and across the lawn to where his truck was parked. Brian's phone and computer are missing as well. It goes without saying that we have been unable to contact Brian by any means at all.

Since that time we are assured by local friends that the police are working on this case. Unfortunately we have been unable to actually talk to anyone in law enforcement in Belize at all to this point in time ..." Brian Townsend (A Celebration of Life)│Dec 27


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