A missionary from Van Vleck, Kenneth Danforth Jr., is still missing at sea after a boat carrying him and five other men capsized off the coast of Tanzania more than a week ago.
Danforth, a 34-year-old Van Vleck graduate also known as J.R., was taking a two-hour boat ride May 3 to Mafia, a small island in the Indian Ocean off Tanzania’s east coast, when they encountered rough weather causing their vessel to capsize.
“A storm blew up and it caused the boat to capsize. Five men are still missing, including my son,” Danforth’s mother, Tammy Stevens, said.
“The storms have been off and on, but they’re still searching.”
The captain of the boat managed to swim to a nearby island and was rescued by Tanzanian authorities, Stevens said.
Stevens’ friends launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser to raise money to continue the search for her son at www.gofundme.com/kennethjrdanforth, which had raised $10,724 by Friday.
“My biggest focus is our GoFundMe account,” Steven said. “We’re trying to raise money for boots on the ground for people chartering boats and planes to search for him and the other men that are missing.”
Danforth grew up in Bay City until he moved to Van Vleck as a junior in high school and graduated as a Leopard in 2001. Danforth is one of three siblings, but is Stevens’ only son. She works at the STP nuclear plant southwest of Bay City, while Danforth’s father, Jeffery Stevens, works as a contractor at the Dow Chemical plant in Brazoria County.
Danforth moved to Tanzania seven years ago to serve as a missionary with the group, Open Door Enterprises, which primarily works to bring clean water and shelter to parts of the country.
“Two days after graduation, he went to a mission trip to South Africa. It’s just in his blood,” Stevens said. “He did missionary trips straight out of high school. He has been planted in either Mexico or Africa.”
Danforth was living in Kigoma, a city in the western part of Tanzania, teaching English to children. For the past year, Danforth has called Mafia Island, a population of some 40,000 people, mostly Muslims, his home away from home.
Before Tanzania, Danforth was a missionary in Mexico when he began his full-time missions career in 2010 after attending Christ for the Nations in Dallas and graduating in 2006.
“He was last home over the Christmas holidays and went back in March,” Stevens said. “He loves the people (in Tanzania) and the country.”
Officials with the U.S. embassy in Tanzania are aware of Danforth’s situation. Stevens is asking people to pray that her son will soon be found.
“I ask for prayers for the searchers, the other men that are missing and for my son,” Stevens said. “We need every prayer we can get.”