North America (MNN) — When you think about the highest drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicide rates in the United States, you might assume that those high numbers would be found among the urban poor, maybe even in the suburbs. But the highest rates for those things actually fall into a forgotten demographic: the Native American population.
Through the ministry branch known as On Eagles' Wings, since 1991 Ron Hutchcraft Ministries has been reaching out to the thousands of Native Americans who suffer at least twice the suicide rates as any other demographic in the U.S. and who statistically have little hope of a long and happy life.
"70 to 75 percent [of the population] is under the age of 30. And the life expectancy in Native America, as of a few years ago, was still right around 50-years-old or younger," explains Brad Hutchcraft with On Eagles' Wings. "We just realized that if we are not getting to young people, then we are missing most of the reservation population."
Seeking to flip these statistics upside down by providing the truth of Christ to this forgotten people, On Eagles' Wings ministers to hundreds of Native youth every summer. Grandparents, parents and small children all come to the ministry's summer events, but they are pointed at youth.
"[Our goal is] to get to as many native young people in need of a rescue and in need of a Savior as possible," explains Hutchcraft.
This is done through a number of outreach programs but most notably through those who attend the student-led ministries of Warrior Leadership Summit.
The Warrior Leadership Summit provides an annual opportunity for hundreds of Native youth from over 70 tribes to get together and worship and learn about the Lord. As students gain a heart to reach their people, On Eagles' Wings is able to choose about 50 of them to disciple and train to join summer teams.
Their success has been nearly unparalleled in Native American ministries. Last summer, teams visited Native youth in 26 states and watched lives change in response to the Gospel.
One transformation story is about Todd. Todd was a gang leader until On Eagles' Wings came to his community and preached the Truth. Todd gave his heart to Christ and trained to become a "rescuer" with the ministry. Hutchcraft reports that Todd was one of the strongest rescuers on the team last summer, and he has now gone from leading a gang to completing a full year of Bible school.
Another former On Eagles' Wings team member was able to go to Bible School on a scholarship with the ministry, and she now has her own Native ministry in Canada.
One changed student reported his thanks to On Eagles' Wings. "They said, ‘I want to thank you guys. You showed me how to leave Satan and follow Jesus. You talked to me, you accepted me, and you loved me. And nobody does that.'"
On Eagles' Wings ministry is more than just a summer outreach. The ministry only goes where they're invited, in order to ensure that ministries are in place for proper follow-up afterward. As youth come to know the Lord, they're plugged into discipleship programs where they can learn to better share their faith with those around them and even have the opportunity to get Bible school scholarships for further training.
The On Eagles' Wings Summer of Hope 2011 starts soon, but your prayers are needed. If you would like to give financially as well, you can sponsor a Summer of Hope "Warrior" here.