News Story

Samoan Missionary Saves Drowning Man

A Samoan missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints jumped into Lake Cunningham near San Jose last Friday (18 May) to save a drowning man.

Elder Etimani Faiese, a 20 year old full time missionary for the Church, stopped his volunteer service work of cleaning a park when a pedestrian fell into the lake and began flailing about.

Unaware of what caused the man to slip from his relaxed perch on the embankment and into the muddy water, Elder Faiese turned off his leaf blower when the middle-aged man was suddenly gone.  

Dashing to the lake’s edge, the missionary saw the unknown victim thrashing in the water, clearly unable to swim.  Elder Faiese called out, offering assistance, but the man was choking and sinking in the unexpectedly deep water close to the shoreline. Faiese yanked off his shoes and leapt into the lake.

Immediately he found himself pulled under by the panicked non-swimmer.   “That’s when I remembered those boy scout lessons from long ago,” said Faiese.  “I tugged hard to get him off my back and then pulled him under my left arm, clutching him while I swam back to shore with my right arm.”

The rescue quickly attracted another surprised pedestrian who helped Faiese get the man up to the sidewalk that surrounds the lake.  The shocked onlooker quickly called 9-1-1.

"The guy wasn’t breathing,” Faiese said, “Then I remembered another scouting lesson; so I laid him down and turned him on his side.  Water came gushing out of his mouth.”  The exhausted victim choked out the remaining lake water and gasped for life.  Finally, Faiese could breathe easier himself.

Faiese said the entire emergency happened so fast that not even his missionary companion, Elder James Maughn (from Benson, Utah) could run over fast enough from where he was performing volunteer service in the same area.

Ironically, Mormon missionaries are asked to avoid swimming during their 18 months to two-year service for the Church.  Faiese sheepishly smiled, joking that his mission president may be upset with him for jumping in a lake.  

As a child growing up in Samoa, Faiese spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming with friends. So he was well prepared to act when needed.

Community service is part of the San Jose missionaries’ daily regimen.  Mormon missionaries in San Jose and around the world spend their days teaching people about Jesus Christ and in serving families and communities in other ways.    Service projects are often performed with partner, non-profit organizations.  

Elder Maughn and Elder Faiese are quick to point out that their volunteer service feels more rewarding to themselves than it might to their recipients.  But for a man who may not be breathing today — were it not for a Mormon missionary performing just the right service at just the right time — he may have a good argument for who gets the most benefit.  

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