North America (MNN) — When you think of ‘Millennials’, what comes to mind? A generation that tends to be entitled? That can be rather self-centered? That defies tradition?
Well one particular demographic of Millennials is certainly defying tradition on several fronts and shaking things up. But it’s a good thing.
Native Millennial Youth Culture
Millennials in Native American communities are confronted with two ‘norms’. There is the norm of their parents and grandparents that follow traditional Indian religions and live in an often despairing environment. Then there is also the norm of a materialistic Western youth culture, that mindset of ‘it’s all about me, whatever makes me happy’.
It’s no surprise then that there are astronomical depression and suicide rates among Native American teens and young adults today. Ron Hutchcraft Ministries (RHM) even estimates suicide rates among Native teens in the United States are around 10 times higher than the rest of the country.
However, the Millennials of today are more defiant to the old way of doing things. And for Native American communities, following Jesus is definitely not the ‘old way’.
“There is something different about this generation,” says RHM’s Ron Hutchcraft. “They don’t necessarily salute to the things the previous generations have saluted to. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, I’ve been a lot of places, and there is a generation that is truly more up for grabs, and that’s true in Native America.
“They are probably more willing to consider an alternative, more willing to be open to a change than any previous generation before them where, before, it has been mom was like grandma, and grandma was like great-grandma, and great-grandma was like great-great-grandma. Not so much in this generation.”
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“In Acts 17, Paul said this: ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.’
“And that word ‘times’ means kairos, it’s a moment of opportunity. It’s not the clock kind, that’s chronos. Kairos is a moment of opportunity. And apparently, could it be that God has decided this is the time for a breakthrough, and He has used world events and the growth of the youth culture and all the rest to create a generation that, on the one hand, is more open perhaps than previous generations, but also more broken than previous generations.”
Native American Millennials Lead Gospel Breakthrough
When you think about it, Native Americans were the first mission field, but now they tend to see Jesus as the “white man’s god”. And it doesn’t help that many missionaries to Native American’s have been white — reinforcing this perception. Which is why a Gospel witness from within is so critical.
“They [young people] are the right messengers, and they need to be the focus of our prayer and our investment,” Hutchcraft shares.
Already, RHM’s On Eagles’ Wings outreach has seen incredible advances for the Kingdom of God. It’s a team of Native young people who go around and witness on multiple reservations in the summer.
“We saw for example last summer when we were on 11 reservations, and where I would have to say probably it’s taken us 20 years to get into some of those reservations because they’re either some of the most unreached people in Native America or some of the most unreachable. And God just broke through, they led almost 600 Native Americans to Christ among a population that about four percent know Christ.
“Their ministry, their breakthroughs have been made possible by praying people like the folks who listen to this program, who read this. Those praying people have prayed down something in this generation that has never happened before.”
A Reunion of Family
Recently, the young people who participated in the On Eagles’ Wings trip got together again for a winter retreat. Hutchcraft was there as well, and the reunion was very moving.
“I just had the opportunity to spend about a week with my heroes, the greatest heroes I’ve met really I think in all my years of ministry. They are young Native Americans, they are warriors for their people, they are the people who are on our On Eagles’ Wings team in the summer, they are from 30 different tribes, and they come out of that background, the dark context of so much despair and hopelessness,” he says.
“We had a winter break retreat with them because of the battle, the target they are. I mean, I have to say that the enemy hates these young men and women because they are threatening his strongholds. So we had a great time of revival and renewal with them.”
Defying tradition to follow Christ isn’t easy, going against the grain of your generation, your tribe, and maybe even your family. But we can find new family in the Body of Christ.
“Most of that team has said this: ‘This team is my family.’ The reason I bring that up is it underscores how very alone they feel and how very alone they are when they go back to the places where they live. Most of the people there [are] very deep into the traditional Indian religion, many of them [are] very broken, as these young warriors once were.”
They were together at the retreat from a few days after Christmas through New Years.
“Going into the New Year not partying as they once did, but going into the New Year together on our knees, observing the Lord’s Supper, remembering His death on the cross that liberated every one of us and each of them from the darkness they’d been enslaved by — I was reminded that these warriors are really heroes,” Hutchcraft reflects.
“They are defying their tradition, they are standing alone, they are going back and starting ministries on their reservations, they are going back and being listened to because they are of the people reaching their people.”