Grand-daughter’s story of a pioneering pastor

Early mission patrol in the Enga region (Harold Freund)

PHILIP FITZPATRICK – posted on PNG Attitude blog

Mugang Mugarewec Bitengere- A Pioneer Missionary to the Highlands of New Guinea by Gabby Mugang, Marapa Publications, Waigani, 2018, K100 from the author at

TUMBY BAY – The early Lutheran missionaries in the highlands relied very heavily on their Papua New Guinean pastors and evangelists to spread their message and extend their influence.

These men and their families were sent to live among the people they served and had to be tough and independent.

Mugang Mugarewec Bitengere from Finschhafen was one of those men.

He pioneered Lutheran mission work in the Wahgi, Jimi and Kambia areas of Jiwaka Province and also in some parts of Simbu and Western Highlands.

The history of the Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea is well documented, including in the 1986 book The Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea: The First Hundred Years.

Mugang and Manzia Bitengere grace the cover of their grand-daughter’s book

While due recognition is given to Papua New Guinean members of the church, there has never been anything significant published from their point of view.

As often noted previously in PNG Attitude, historical accounts from a Papua New Guinean perspective are few and far between.

Fortunately this seems to be changing, although momentum is still slow.

It was by accident that I came across a reference to Gabby Mugang’s book about her grandfather. I followed it up with interest.

Gabby writes of him:

“He was a man of valour; he stood in the face of danger and reached out to the people with the word of God. His unique capability of standing right in the midst of heated battles and initiate peace & reconciliation between warring enemies … touched the hearts and minds of the people and gained their respect.

“The people saw him as a strong, fearless and brave man who had the wisdom and courage to stand up boldly and speak and make decisions that had solutions, impacts and positive influences upon the lives of people both spiritually and physically. Through his ministry many people accepted the gospel and many lives were transformed.

“One of the outstanding highlights he achieved in his ministry was the self-autonomy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Jiwaka District from the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Hagen District.”

Mugang served the church for 41 years until he died in 1980. He was buried at Banz. His wife Manzia died in 1996.

Gabby Mugang (The National)

They are survived by family members; 10 children, 46 grandchildren, 61 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren residing throughout PNG and abroad.

It took Gabby four years to compile and write the biography of her grandfather.

During that time she trekked to many places to record interviews and research his story.

It seems, however, that after all this research and financial outlay to have the book published she is still struggling to sell it.

That, of course, is nothing new in Papua New Guinea. Every other author has that same problem.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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