Mambo Fangaria is missing quite a few teeth, but he has one of the most infectious smiles you’re ever likely to see. “Be happy!” he calls out to anyone he meets around Honiara, the bustling capital of Solomon Islands. In fact, he says it so often that a lot of people don’t know his real name—they call him “Mr Be Happy”. Mambo’s become a local fixture around Honiara—people often call out “be happy!” to him before he’s had a chance to say anything.
It’s almost impossible not to be cheered up by Mambo’s upbeat manner. But his smiles and encouragement belie a tragic history. In 1999 Mambo’s wife was killed unexpectedly. She was out in the garden collecting melons when a tree fell on her. “It was great pain that someone I loved so much died like that,” says Mambo.
I told them I had been through hard times but God had rescued my life from worry and pain. He has taught me to be happy.
Due to civil unrest in Honiara at the time, Mambo went to live with his daughter at Ranongga in the western region of Solomon Islands. Struggling with grief and loneliness he decided to reach out to other people going through hard times. “I started visiting hospital patients in [the regional capital] Gizo,” he says, “bringing food to them and praying for them.” Through this ministry, Mambo discovered a way out of his misery—by helping others he was helping himself. It was an important discovery that he wanted to keep sharing.
“In 2000 I returned to Honiara and continued my hospital ministry there,” Mambo says. “I told them I had been through hard times but God had rescued my life from worry and pain. He has taught me to be happy. I always tell people, ‘Be happy!’
“Now I give out clothes; I preach on the streets on Monday and Friday mornings—outside the places where people are drinking sometimes. I tell them, ‘Don’t spoil your life with drugs or beer or whiskey. There are no spare parts for our life!’”
Mambo’s positivity hasn’t shielded him from tragedy. In 2012 his son-in-law died by suicide and in 2014 his daughter died from heart problems after there were delays in sending her to Australia for surgery. Now he helps to care for his grandson. “Yes, all these things caused me pain, but you have to be happy, right?”
According to the Solomon Star newspaper, Mambo chose not to stay home and mourn on his late daughter’s birthday; instead he marked the anniversary with a visit to Honiara’s main hospital to distribute clothes to patients, saying, “Only Christ can heal the pain in our hearts, which this sinful world imposes on us and our loved ones.”
Sometimes Mambo mixes up his greeting of “be happy” with the Pijin expression, “Mi lavim yu” (I love you). He calls it out on the street to friends and strangers, to both men and women. “Some people are shocked because this is not usual in our culture,” he explains. “There’s a different kind of love from God—it’s different to the world’s love.”
Mr Be Happy is committed to continuing and growing his ministry to the sick, the poor and the struggling in Solomon Islands. He’s grateful for the support he has received from various sources, even the nation’s prime minister and the mayor of Honiara. “I want to register the Be Happy Ministry with the government and become a recognised charity. Then I can take donations,” he says. “I’m already talking to SIM [the Solomon Islands Mission office of the Adventist Church] about Church recognition of my ministry.”
One thing’s for sure. Whether or not Mambo Fangaria can sort out the paperwork, he’s not likely to stop sharing his two-word sermon with everyone he meets. Be happy.