North America (MNN) — Yesterday, we talked about a surge of suicides taking place in the United States. But there is a certain group of people throughout North America suffering from rampant hopelessness and higher suicide rates than any other population in the US — Native Americans.
Ron Hutchcraft with Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says they have worked among Native American communities for 26 years. “We deal with suicide all the time in our ministry with Native Americans because what was happening nationally recently is just a tiny hint of the pain that they live with all the time in Native American communities.”
Among Native Americans, nearly everybody knows somebody who has taken their own life. This has resulted in what Hutchcraft calls “serial grieving”.
“My own daughter-in-law who is Native American [has] a brother and two nephews [who] have died by suicide,” says Hutchcraft. “This is one family.”
Over the course of 10 years, suicide rates among Native Americans were up by 65 percent — higher than any other demographic in the US. In a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides among Native women rose by 89 percent and men by 38 percent.
A Hopeful Response
There is a crisis of depression and hopelessness in Native America. It may seem too easy to say that the hope of Jesus is the answer. However, Jesus is not a trite response because following Jesus as a Native American isn’t easy. After 400 years of missions work in North America, only four percent of Native Americans know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
“Usually they will not hear [the Gospel] because they have believed Jesus is the white man’s God and there [are] a lot of things that happened in history in the name of Christianity that have made them feel that way.”
When it comes to reaching Native people with the Gospel, the best messengers are other Native Americans. Through On Eagles’ Wings, a ministry branch of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, a team of young Native American Christians will visit 12 Native communities this summer — and they’ll bring the hope of the Gospel with them.
“I have watched thousands of Native Americans come to Christ over the past years, and it isn’t me. I’m a little white guy on a bus praying for a team of Native Americans,” Hutchcraft says. “They have lived all of this hurt and violence and despair and depression and suicidal feelings and addiction and they have been to all the funerals of their friends…but now they have become incredible messengers of the hope of Christ.”
A Hopeful Transformation
As the On Eagles’ Wings team visits each Native community, they gather on the local basketball court to hold sports competitions, share food, give prizes, play music, and build relationships. Then at some point during the week, team members publicly share their hope stories with the young Native men and women gathered.
Hutchcraft says the response is amazing. “You could have an Eskimo team member 400 miles from a road up in remote Alaska go to a reservation 3,000 miles away and the stories will be the same. Wherever we go, the stories will be the same and will break your heart.
“Then they start to tell of a brown-skinned tribal man…named Jesus who has changed their life forever because of what He did on a cross for them and the fact that He conquered what no man could conquer when He conquered death.
“When they ultimately invite their generation of Native Americans to Christ, there are breakthroughs that, based on my reading of missions history, I think may be historic.”
The On Eagles’ Wings team will prepare to launch after the Warrior Leadership Summit during the first week of July. Right now, they desperately need prayers and financial support to make the trip possible. Click here to support a team member with On Eagles’ Wings!
“They can only go if they are sponsored by caring Christians…. If that’s on your heart, you want to know how to pray for them and how you can support them, go to HopeforNativeAmerica.com.”