By GABBY MUGANG
MISSION is the ministry of the church for world evangelisation. Mission breaks down barriers between different nationalities and races and bonds people in unity.
To become a missionary it takes commitment, dedication and a lot of sacrifices. Here is the story of a man named Mugang Mugarewec Bitenggere who laid down his life for missions. It all started during Papua New Guinea’s exploration era.
During 1600s and 1700s European explorers came exploring the Island of New Guinea. The western part of the Island which is present day West Papua (Irian Jaya) was taken over by the Dutchmen. While the British and German explorers took over the eastern part of the Island which is now Papua New Guinea. After the explorers, other groups of people came into PNG. They were government officials, traders, planters and labour recruiters. Out of all these, one important group of people who came were missionaries.
The motives for their coming varied. Those government officials came to run and control their colony gained by the explorers, the traders and planters came for business and wealth, the labour recruiters came looking for people to work on plantations in other countries and the important group, the missionaries came to spread the gospel.
The work of missionaries really began in PNG in the 1800s. The missionaries who came into the country represented many different Christian churches. The first mainline church to be established in the country was Roman Catholic followed by London Missionary Society, Methodist, Lutheran and Anglican.
In the year 1886, German Lutheran missionaries arrived on the shores of Finschhafen since Finschhafen was the first set up German station in New Guinea during colonial era.
Finschhafen cape is located north-east of New Guinea and consists of many beautiful lengthy coastlines stretching out to huge mountains of tropical rainforest. Its inhabitant is made up of many ethnic groups of people with various traditional cultures and dialects. One particular ethnic group in Finschhafen was known as Hube. When the gospel reached them, many accepted it and became Christians. Afterwards a revival fire for missions broke out and many became missionaries too and took the gospel to their fellow countrymen around Papua New Guinea. One of those men who put his hand up for missions into the highlands of New Guinea was Mugang Mugarewec Bitenggere.
Missions in the Highlands
Mugang was a pioneer Lutheran Missionary to the highlands of New Guinea in the 1940s and was based in Jiwaka. He pioneered the mission work in the Waghi, Jimi and Kambia areas of Jiwaka and also into some parts of Simbu and Western Highlands provinces.
At that time, it was the period of uncivilisation. There was no proper road links or any other infrastructure developments compared to today’s modern technology advancements. People wore purpurls with tonka leaves and were living in small isolated tribal groups with no contacts of the outside world. The traditional practices of witchcrafts and tribal fights between warring clans were so common with no knowledge of the gospel.
The early missionaries including the colonial government officials had faced a lot of challenges, oppositions and hardships when reaching out to the people. Missionary Mugang 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 has always touched the hearts and minds of the people and gained their respect.
The people see him as a strong, fearless and brave man who has the wisdom and courage to stand up boldly and speak and make decisions that have 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. Mugang was a great and outstanding man who laid down his life for the gospel. He was obedient to God’s calling in his life and served Him faithfully despite through sufferings and challenges he had faced in the mission field. A lot of things he did have changed the people and had lasting impacts upon their lives.
One of the outstanding highlights he achieved in his ministry was the self-autonomy of Evangelical Lutheran Church -Jiwaka District from Evangelical Lutheran Church- Hagen District. The name “Jiwaka” was initiated by Mugang himself from the three (3) areas he was pioneering the mission work in; Jimi, Waghi and Kambia. Today the name “Jiwaka” is adopted from the Church into the Government and now the people of Jimi, Waghi and Kambia including Anglimp have their new Jiwaka province.
Missionary Mugang dedicated his life completely to serving God and helping lives. He had served in the church for a total of 41 years. He eventually went to be with the Lord on January 18th, 1980. He was buried in Banz, Jiwaka. His wife Manzia stayed for another 11 years after her husband’s death and on October 27th, 1996, she too went to be with the Lord. They are survived by family members; 10 children, 46 grandchildren, 61 great grandchildren and 3 great great grand-children residing all throughout PNG and abroad. It is an honour and privilege to be a Levite family!
- This article is taken from the book titled “Mugang Mugarewec Bitenggere- A Pioneer Missionary to the Highlands of New Guinea”. The book is soon to be published and released out for sale. Interested readers can check out at any bookshops nearby and grab yourself a copy of the true life inspiring story of a great man of God!