Native American Christians bringing message of hope to NI

Pat Phillips (centre), an elder in the Umonhon Tribe, asked Co Down man Paul Malcolmson (right) to come and set up a church for her people. Together with Curtis Boschult (left) they are coming to Ballynahinch to tell their story
Pat Phillips (centre), an elder in the Umonhon Tribe, asked Co Down man Paul Malcolmson (right) to come and set up a church for her people. Together with Curtis Boschult (left) they are coming to Ballynahinch to tell their story

Native Americans are coming to Northern Ireland to share how the message from a Co Down missionary is helping break down ancient tensions with the European “white man” and restoring their impoverished community.

Paul Malcolmson from Dromore, left Northern Ireland 10 years ago with his wife Jen and three children to set up a church on the Omaha Indian reservation in Nebraska.

He went in response to a passionate plea for help at a Texas church conference from Pat Phillips, an elder from the Umonhon Tribe of Nebraska.

She was grieved by “the breakdown” in her community and when Paul answered, she “more than welcomed him and his family”, whom she believes were called to lead them in founding a new church.

Now their growing congregation has around 130 native American, black, white and Hispanic members, almost 50 of whom are coming to Ballynahinch New Testament Pentecostal Church this week from Thursday to Sunday, to share the story of how their new faith is bringing hope and healing to their community.

Paul said: “I feel we have got so far away from what Christianity is all about. We forget that it is all about a person. It is about a relationship. It is about how He came to this world to save sinners – irrespective of their religious upbringing, their social status or political leanings.

“It is about loving your neighbour as yourself. My wife was brought up Roman Catholic. I was brought up Protestant. Today, we call ourselves Christians.”

One of the native Americans making the trip is 26-year-old Curtis Boschult. While some people might question why native Americans would buy into the “white man’s” faith, he counters that Christ is an impoverished, dark-skinned man that he can closely relate to.

“There is a lot of bitterness and feelings of mistreatment from the majority of native American people towards the US government,” he said.

“The old promises and treaties that were once signed to bring peace and prosperity to native people have long been forgotten.

“From the outbreak of smallpox, the destruction of the American bison [natives’ main food] and eradication or forcible removal of native people from their land, most native Americans have been left with ugly scars on their hearts that can only be healed by Jesus Christ.”