Young missionary recalled as gifted, generous person

A 17-year-old missionary from New Albany who was swept into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday is being remembered as a generous and gifted person of faith.
The Rev. Jerry Beam, superintendent of the New Albany District of the United Methodist Church, said the body of Marshuan Braxton was recovered Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. CST, about one and a half hours southwest of the village of San Isidro on the western coast of Costa Rica.
Braxton had traveled to the Central American country along with 14 other youths and adults from First United Methodist Church in New Albany. .
Vera Braxton, Marshuan’s aunt, said the family had been holding onto the slim hope that he was alive. But nonetheless, she said, the news that his body was recovered came as “the answer to the family’s prayers.”
“Of course we wanted him to come home to us,” she said. “But, we’re joyful that he’s been found.” Braxton has three older sisters and one younger brother.
According to Beam, the missionary group arrived Saturday for what was to be a one-week trip. The purpose was to help build a gymnasium and a new sanctuary at Jesu Christo Es El Señor Methodist Church in the rural village of Villa Briceño.
After worshiping with another missionary group Sunday morning the group had lunch, then stopped for some sightseeing en route to their destination.
Braxton and other youths were standing on some rocks looking out over the ocean when an unexpected wave smashed into them.
Four youths went into the water and three made it back to shore.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church said she was “deeply grieved” by the death of “a remarkable young man, a great leader,” and praised Braxton’s dedication and generosity.
Ward, who has sent her own children on mission trips to Costa Rica, said the country is considered a safe destination and she understands that it must be difficult to come to terms with the tragic accident.
Ward said the United Methodists lost three volunteers during efforts after Hurricane Katrina but Braxton was the first of their missionaries killed in Costa Rica.
This was Braxton’s first mission trip abroad although he had served extensively throughout the South, including cleaning up along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and working locally with disadvantaged children.
Braxton’s friends had high praise for the young man whom they said embodied the best of the missionary spirit.
Ron Price, Braxton’s football coach at New Albany High School, said he was a leader among his teammates, working hard in the weight room and constantly encouraging his teammates.
Kim Day, Braxton’s Sunday school teacher, said the fact that he was one of the few black members at a predominantly white church was a testament to his welcoming nature.
“He was a real life force,” said Braxton. “He was a wonderful witness to all of us.”
Beam said the church staff and Braxton’s family continue to communicate with Costa Rican officials and the U.S. Embassy to arrange for the return of the young man’s remains.
Ward said the support of church members in Costa Rica has been a “beautiful witness to the connection of Methodists people around the world.”

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal