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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.