As a ships diver in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Owen Pomana lived on high adventure, keeping an extreme level of fitness and nights out with alcohol and women whenever he was at port.
After seven years of service, he became a successful personal trainer and body builder, until an ugly betrayal left him heartbroken.
“I placed highly in all my body building competitions,” Owen remembers proudly. “I represented New Zealand and the South Pacific at National, and World Body Building Competitions, placing fifth at the World INBA Champs in Las Vegas, USA in 1997.”
After Las Vegas, Owen was on a high, and then arrived home to discover that his girlfriend was cheating with his best friend. Sinking into uncontrollable bitterness and alcoholism, he decided to move to Sydney to start a new life.
His savings quickly dried up, forcing him to sleep in a park for six weeks until a sleazy bar offered him security work.
He then found work as a personal trainer and earned some big money as a bouncer and debt collector in the nightclub industry.
“My life was beginning to spiral out of control,” Owen remembers. “I was arrested for an armed kidnapping and carjacking of a wealthy businessman’s son.”
A new friend in the maximum security prison put up his bail. He then lived with the national president of an outlawed motorcycle gang collecting drug debts.
He tried to restart his life in Queensland as a personal trainer, but became caught up in the same circles and made the mistake of borrowing money to help a friend who did not repay.
To repay his debt, Owen robbed the biggest drug dealers in the state, which almost succeeded until he unknowingly walked in on a federal police sting.
After posting bail, he attempted to take on an outlaw motorcycle gang that had given him a bad job, but received a 15-minute bashing by five men with steel hammers.
Hospitalised with severe blood loss and numerous broken bones, Owen began planning his revenge when he realised that someone had stolen his taiaha, a Maori traditional weapon that had his father’s name carved on it.
This was the motivation for Owen to plot an explosive revenge attack and to possibly take his own life doing it. He uncovered a plot from a hit man that was sent to shoot him, and they became friends. He helped Owen to recover his taiaha and cancelled the hit.
“I was facing either death from underworld figures or a lengthy jail sentence, and I was smashed on seven grams of meth-amphetamine a day, which kept me awake for up to seven days straight,” Owen explains.
“That night I went down to the beach in front of my apartment, and I cried out, ‘If there is a God, you need to help me. You know my life. If you help me, I promise to give up the guns, the drugs and the violence’.”
As he sat down, he felt a small Gideon’s Bible in his back pocket — a gift from a friend who had become a Christian a year earlier.
“I asked God to speak to me and I opened the Bible to Psalm 23. Using the light of my cell phone I read: ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I’ll fear no evil, for you (God) are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me.’ I had just tripped over a big stick like a shepherd’s staff, and I had my taiaha in my hand.”
Three weeks later, a meth-using friend visited and happened to bring a friend who was a Christian pastor.
“Do you think Jesus can help me with jail and my drug addictions?” Owen asked Pastor Ken.
“Yes,” Ken replied. “Jesus says just ask Him into your heart. You need to turn from all the evil things you have done, repent and ask for His forgiveness because you need to be born again. Do you want to make that decision to be free, Owen?”
Owen recalls: “When I said, yes, before he could touch my shoulder God was at work in my life. I felt clean, like I didn’t need drugs or the 45 calibre pistol that was in my pocket.”
That day, Ken explained to Owen from John chapter 3, verse 3 and 16, that “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” and “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
A week later, Owen moved into Pastor Ken’s garage and began helping him care for needy people on the streets.
Six months later, Owen pleaded guilty to all charges and the judge unusually allowed Pastor Ken to share an inspiring testimony about Owen’s changed character. Further encouraged by a psychologist’s good report, the judge handed down a five year sentence, suspended after 18 months, far less than the six to eight years the lawyers expected.
Before his 18 months finished and he was deported back to New Zealand, Owen says God used him to lead many prisoners into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Owen Pomana visited prisoners at Ba Correctional Centre, Fiji, in May 2011 to share how his life changed
Unlikely to get a passport, many people thought his life was over, but Owen says God opened up many opportunities to talk about Him.
“I have toured New Zealand prisons with former All Black rugby stars Michael Jones and Eroni Clarke, who are also Christians,” he says.
He has also obtained a passport and travelled to Fiji and Pakistan, where he talked about Jesus to crowds of people.
“I have seen people delivered from every type of bondage,” he shares.
“The key to deliverance is renouncing all your sins, expressing genuine sorrow for your sins and asking Jesus to forgive you and turning from those sins and to renew your mind to what God says.”
Owen confesses he is not at all perfect. “I have fallen short numerous times, but I have brought it all to the light so that God can heal me from every setback and old habits,” he says.
“God has given me a new start to walk in love and truth.”