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U.S. Missionary Lost At Sea: 'We Are Standing in Faith That He Will Be Rescued'


(Picture Courtesy: Open Door Enterprises)

Six days after a boat carrying American missionary Kenneth Danforth capsized off the coast of Tanzania, the search for him and other passengers continues.

"The search has not changed and is ongoing," a spokesperson with Open Door Enterprises (ODE), the missionary-sending agency that Danforth was involved with, told CBN News. "They still have not been able to find any of the lost men."

On May 3rd, Danforth, who is also known as J.R., and five Tanzanians where making the two-hour boat ride to Mafia, a small Island off Tanzania's east coast, when they encountered rough weather causing their vessel to capsize in the Indian Ocean.

"For several days we chartered planes to look for the men and hired private boats and asked people who are familiar with the waters to help in the search for J.R and the other men," a person familiar with rescue efforts described to CBN News.

The captain of the boat reportedly managed to swim to a nearby island and was rescued by Tanzanian authorities.

"He {J.R.} was traveling by boat from the east coast of Tanzania to Mafia Island when a storm blew in," his mother Tammy Stevens told CBN News on Monday.

(Picture Courtesy: Tammy Stevens)

J.R. moved seven years ago to serve as a missionary to Tanzania with the group Open Door Enterprises which primarily works to bring clean water to parts of the African country.

"He has had a heart for mission work and for the gospel of Jesus Christ since he was a teenager," an ODE representative told CBN News. "He always had a desire to serve God on the mission field since he was very young."

A sentiment echoed by his mother who says her son's passion for telling others about Jesus is a constant inspiration to family and friends.

"J.R. went to Christ for The Nations in Dallas to get his theology degree," Stevens told CBN News from her home in Van Vleck, Texas. "After college he became a full-time missionary in Mexico for several years before moving to Tanzania.

"This is simply his calling; He loves it over there and just loves the people and the country," Stevens added.

(Picture Courtesy: Tammy Stevens)

"Please pray for those searching," ODE encouraged followers on its Facebook page. "Let today be the day they are found."

An official with the missions agency said they were impressed with J.R.'s commitment to service from the very the moment he joined the team.

"He found out about the work here in Tanzania and God opened the doors for him to come here and serve and he is doing that very well," a ministry spokesperson told CBN News.

After living in the far most western part of Tanzania for several years, J.R. moved to Mafia Island in the last year. Slightly smaller than New York City, the island is home to about 40,000 people and part of Tanzania's Mafia Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean.

"My main goal {in Tanzania} is to make disciples," J.R. said on his profile page on ODE's website.

In addition to helping ODE with various water construction projects, J.R. is also involved in children's ministry, preaching and teaching.

"As of right now, my main ministry is teaching English to the some of the kids in the Kids for Jesus program," J.R. described on ODE's website. "Learning English is very important for these kids because they start school in Swahili for the first seven years, then switch to English and most kids aren't able to even understand what is being taught."

"It's a good way to help them in the natural and then be available to help them spiritually," he added.

ODE is urging people around the world to pray that J.R. and the other men will be discovered alive.

"J.R. is a really close friend to all of us and we are very concerned about him," a representative expressed to CBN News. "We are standing in faith that he and the other men will be rescued and we are trusting God that He is working on their behalf and helping us to know where to look. Please pray that these men are found and pray for the families of those involved."

(Picture Courtesy: Tammy Stevens)

Tammy Stevens told CBN News that the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, working alongside Tanzanian officials, are actively involved in search and rescue efforts.

CBN News reached out to the U.S. State Department for more details on efforts to find Mr. Danforth.

"We are aware of reports regarding a missing U.S. citizen in Tanzania," a State Department official told CBN News. "When a U.S. citizen is reported missing overseas, we cooperate with search efforts by local authorities. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need."

Officials with Open Door Enterprises say they appreciate the direct communications they've had with U.S. and Tanzanian officials.

"The U.S. embassy has been communicating with us to let us and J.R.'s parents know what's going on," a spokesperson added. "The Tanzanian authorities have been really helpful, very compassionate, cooperative and thorough in their search for the boat and the missing men."

ODE's Facebook Page profile picture features an image of J.R. with the words "Praying for You!"

Followers are also posting their prayers for his safe return.

"Praying for JR and his family...y'all are heavy on my heart," wrote Alicia.

"Praying today is the day of their victorious discovery," said Theresa on the group's social media page.

Danforth's mother organized a GoFundMe page to help with Danforth's rescue efforts.

"Funds raised will be used towards search and rescue operations," the GoFundMe page states. "Funds will be used to hire local agencies and to pay for the planes, search teams and fuel for the planes."

At press time, 53 people had donated to the site, raising over $6,000 of the $65,000 goal.

"Please also pray and support Open Door Enterprises because they are the boots on the ground over there looking for him," Danforth's mom told CBN News on Monday. "They are the ones that are actually footing the private planes, the fuel, renting boats, they are doing everything they can to try and find him."




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