News Story

Faith and Prayer Help Fisherman Endure 100 Days Adrift at Sea

An I-Kiribati fisherman adrift at sea for 100 days credits prayer and faith as keys to his survival.

Ukenio Kaobunang and his fishing companion Teibouri Kakau were rescued by the crew of a Japanese fishing boat off the coast of Ponape Island in the Federated States of Micronesia on 15 May. They left Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, on 4 February.

“Faith in my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ enabled me to endure the ordeal,” Kaobunang said with the help of an interpreter.

“We survived on whatever fish we could catch, and rainwater. Sometimes we would go without rainwater for as long as one week.”

Assuming Kaobunang had died, his family held a memorial service.   His son, who is serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii, was informed of his father’s disappearance and probable death.

Kaobunang and two companions, Teibouri Kakau and Mamaia Bwebwetaake, left Tarawa on a fishing expedition on 4 February. They were headed to Maiana Island when their engine failed.  When Kaobunang and Kakau were found they had drifted over thousands of kilometres.

The third member of their crew, Mamaia Bwebwetaake, died of hunger, thirst and exposure just a week before they were found.

Kaobunang and his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Approximately 16,000 I-Kiribati — or one in six people in Kiribati — are Latter-day Saints. There are 26 Mormon congregations throughout the island nation.

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