Owen Pomana of Ngāti Kahungunu is a preacher on a mission helping the vulnerable in Aotearoa and around the world. His passion for the needy has seen him travel to 42 countries over the last seven years, including war torn Middle East and eastern Europe. He's recently returned from South Lebanon and Romania, and plans to return to the Middle East on the 1st of January.
In a candid interview with Te Kāea reporter Mānia Clarke, Pomana talks about his faith and why he chooses to help people. “People say like I don't know who Jesus is. We'll maybe Jesus could look like Owen Pomana”.
He says the answer to his work is simple, “My way of coming to the Lord was through people. They were the expression of the character and nature of what Jesus is like. So I saw that with my eyes and I felt it with my heart because, what they were doing at the time was feeding the poor and the homeless, and I was moved by that compassion that they had”.
Pomana recently travelled to Romania doing ministry work and helping struggling families, “Five girls and a young lady whose husband is in prison, their house they had no windows. When you lifted up the beds all these rats and mice and stuff were living in the beds. And as I shared that story with the world, within less than an hour, I had pledges from people.”
His labour of love continued on to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon, “I was able to send 150 kids to school, buy them school bags and stationary. We were able to feed multitudes of families with food packages”.
Pomana’s caring nature has stemmed from a path of heartache and turmoil, a past he would rather forget.
“A really dark past. So I came out of the Royal NZ navy. I joined as a seaman gunnery range. I became a professional body builder and represented NZ at national, international level. When I came from America I caught my best friend in bed with my missus and I kind of lost the plot because I had a broken heart and I wanted to commit suicide”.
It was here Pomana became a bitter, angry alcoholic. He moved to Australia with a broken heart eventually becoming homeless. “I became an armed mediator or debt collector in the underworld”.
But after twelve years in and out of prisons, his life took a turn
“When I gave my heart to Jesus and I saw that there was forgiveness and restoration.”
Even with a criminal record, Pomana has been lucky enough to continue spreading the Word offshore.
“It's only by the grace of God. Just recently in Rarotonga, they said you've ticked criminal convictions, I said, "Yes". She said, "What are those criminal convictions?" I said, Armed robbery, kidnapping. And she said, What do you actually do? I said, I'm a preacher now, this is what I do. Even with prime ministers and presidents of different nations, men of influence and governments. And they said, what do you do? Feed the poor, clothe the homeless.”
Pomana says he doesn’t want to be remembered for being a drug addict or armed robber, who was so bitter and angry.
“I'm a rugged man, it doesn't come with all the bells and the whistles, but, I like to see people live.”