"Native America" is perhaps the most forgotten group of people in North America. Sadly, they are almost completely off the radar of the mainstream news, and the American Church as well. What happens regularly on America's reservations would be front page tragedies if it happened anywhere else. But quietly, often violently, Native American young people are dying – far too many, far too young.
A U.S. Senate committee recently declared, "The incidence of youth suicide has reached catastrophic levels in Indian Country." The rates of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, violent crime and sexual abuse continue at rates far beyond that of any other people group in America. And yet, the tragedy of the first Americans is largely out of sight and out of mind for most Americans.
But not to God. There's a crisis of hope right on our doorstep – and a new undertaking of God in this generation that could, for the first time, start turning the tide.
For the past 20 years, Ron Hutchcraft has been making a difference in Native America. Hutchcraft is founder of the “On Eagles’ Wings” Native American outreach – equipping Native young people to reach other Native young people for Jesus. With a lifetime invested in cross-cultural youth ministry, Hutchcraft has mobilized to reach young Native America for Jesus.
Hutchcraft has seen and felt what few believers ever do. He has traveled to over 50 reservations, experiencing the need firsthand. Hutchcraft says, "I'm thinking about the reservation where the mental health workers have quit because they can't take the suicides anymore and they can't do anything to help. A pastor in the darkest community there told me that in his first week at his church, he did the funerals of three 13-year-old girls. They had all killed themselves by hanging themselves from the clothing rod in their closets. There have been many more...."
That is one of 10 reservations that Hutchcraft will be going to this summer with a special team of young people who have been bringing unprecedented hope to reservations across the continent.
Hutchcraft's heart is to help his fellow believers open their hearts to the missions frontier of Native America. According to Hutchcraft's ministry, there is a need to mobilize God's people to pray for a need that is not a world away, but that is as desperate as any mission field in the world.
“Believers need to understand this need that's been invisible too long,” reports the ministry.
“We then can celebrate the hope that is coming from a place few would have ever expected – from Native young people themselves – broken, but transformed into warriors for their people by Jesus Christ,” the ministry release adds, referring to the "On Eagles' Wings" team of young Native Jesus-followers from some 30-plus tribes.
Hutchcraft, meanwhile, points out how prayer warriors for this team can literally help open doors that have been closed for centuries.
“And my burden is to help my brothers and sisters who listen to Christian media know how to pray for Native America – for this Summer of Hope 2012," he says.
Last week, Hutchcraft and his team wrapped up their annual “Warrior Leadership Summit” Native Youth Discipleship Conference. Over 650 Native young people, representing numerous tribes from across North America, gathered for the powerful, one-of-a-kind Native conference.
Many Christian radio stations have participated in mobilizing for Native America, through interviews with Hutchcraft, praying for this team, and even by sharing reports of the outreach with listeners.
PHOTOS ABOVE: (1) One of the On Eagles Wings team of young Native Americans share the hope of Jesus with their people. (2) Ron Hutchcraft, founder of On Eagles Wings, is a mentor and spiritual coach to this team of 55 young warriors, representing 35 different tribes. On Eagles Wings is the Native American outreach of NRB member Ron Hutchcraft Ministries.