BELOIT, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin teenager died on a church mission trip to Panama this week, Panamanian authorities confirmed Friday.
The body of 16-year-old Malachi Taylor, of Beloit, was found on the beach in the town of Las Lajas on Thursday evening after an intensive search that lasted nearly two days. The regional civil defense director in Chiriqui province, Francisco Santamaria, told The Associated Press that the youth was participating in a religious mission in the community of Potrerillos, but had a day off and went to the beach.
The youth's mother, Lisa Talyor, told the Beloit Daily News that her son disappeared after saving a young woman from drowning in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.
The area is about 280 miles west of Panama City. The rest of the group from Good News Christian Church remained in Panama on Friday. They're scheduled to return home Saturday.
Taylor said she received a distorted phone call from Panama on Tuesday, but wasn't fully aware that anything was wrong with her son until she received a visit from their pastor, Clifton White, who told her Malachi had gone missing.
"I'm just devastated. It's hard to swallow," Taylor said. "He begged me for over two months to go on this trip and now he's dead."
Taylor described her son as "very biblical" and said he devoted a great deal of his time to his faith.
"He went to church every Sunday, and would read his Bible all the time," she said.
White told the newspaper that his church will support the family in any way it can.
"Malachi was a very special young man. I loved him dearly," White said.
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