Brian Townsend

My friend Brian was murdered in his home on Christmas Eve in Belize.

My father was among the early mission workers to work with Brian in the Valley of Peace, a refugee settlement. I knew Brian first as the father of my good friends Mandy, Robbie and Kory. I knew Brian second as an always smiling leader in the SDA Alberta Men's Ministry. I worked with him on a couple events and had supper in his home a couple times too.

Having witnessed first hand the kind of violence that is so prolific in Guatemala, I am crushed to hear how he was murdered. Nothing is certain, but the police have been piecing stories together. From accounts, he was attacked in his home by two people, stabbed, dragged to his vehicle, thrown into a river where he was discovered in Guatemala a couple days later. His body has been positively identified.

This is the last time I saw Brian. We were on a return trip from Mexico to Guatemala and we stopped in south of Valley of Peace to have supper with Brian and a team from Alberta - it was the night of the Superbowl when the Giants made that huge comeback, January 2008. It was great to catch up with him, even though emotionally he wasn't himself.

My favourite memory of Brian is at a Men's Retreat he led in Bowden. I was there to lead worship for the weekend and despite the fact that I had a different song picked out as the theme song, he had me lead "Shout to the Lord" a dozen times. His brother Charlie was leading worship with me. I saw tears in his eyes many times that weekend as he sang that song. In fact I think of him everytime I hear "Shout to the Lord." He had a big heart, but more, he wasn't satisfied with the status quo so he was always doing something to try and change things.

Just a note on the perpetrators of the crime. I don't have any love in my heart for them right now, but I think it's important to note how justice works in Central America. There is very little judicial satisfaction. Despite high murder rates, there are very few investigations and even fewer convictions. The nationals know this and often take matters into their own hands. Mob killings/beatings are common. If the suspects ever return to Valley of Peace, there is a chance the community would seek retribution. We can pray that justice comes, but that it does not further spiritually impoverish the community Brian worked to enrich.

Rest in Peace, Brian. I look forward to seeing you tell the angel choirs to sing the songs he wants.

A fund is being collected to support Brian's son's trip to Belize to search for his father. Donations can be made here.

Brian will be missed by countless people, especially those with whom he was living in Belize.

1 comment:

Debby said...

It's been a few months since this horrendous murder occured but I really appreciate your testimonial to Brian. He was a really quite an amazing fellow and it breaks my heart for him and his family. He lived his life to the fullest. His murderers unfortunately may never realize what he was trying to do for their country and their people.
Thank you , Zaak for speaking so eloquently on behalf of someone I count as my friend too.