North America (MNN) — This year, On Eagles’ Wings is celebrating 25 years of ministry to Native America. It’s a big deal since, after 400 years with Native America as the first mission field in North America, only around four percent of Native people believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
On Eagles’ Wings is a unique missions strategy of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries that can basically be described as outreach to Native young people by Native young people. It all started when Ron Hutchcraft, who had been involved in cross-cultural youth ministry much of his life, sensed God pointing him to a different mission field.
A prompting from the Lord
Brad Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries explains that his dad “worked on the southside of Chicago [and] the inner city of New York, and had a lot of experience there. Even growing up, I remember being involved in some of those ministry settings. But one area that just wasn’t on our radar was Native America.”
However, God put Native America on their radar in a poignant way. “We got this report that someone sent to us just about the most devastated group of adolescents. This official report had come out from the Senate subcommittee and everything.
“Basically, it just wrote about how Native Americans have the odds just completely stacked against them. They have anywhere from three to ten times the suicide average rate of any other group in North America, and that is devastating.”
Sending the right messengers
Once God had laid the need in Native America on Ron Hutchcraft’s heart, the next question was — how to reach the First Nation People with the Gospel?
“My dad has shared the Gospel in many countries and around this country, around the United States, but he even realized he wasn’t the right messenger.””
From there, Brad Hutchcraft says, “We started finding these young Native warriors, and some came to know the Lord through a leadership conference we have called Warrior Leadership Summit. But as we met them, we realized that they were the right messengers. So over the years, we have helped train them and send them and bring them out to reservations across the country, up into Canada, down into Peru, and they have shared their stories of hope.”
While it is completely possible to have an effective witness across cultures and community differences, there’s something about the truly empathetic witness who can speak to a shared experience, and then share the hope Jesus Christ injects into that experience. This is why Native young people reaching their peers with the Gospel are the most impactful messengers.
A personal calling
For Brad Hutchcraft, he saw his dad starting ministry to Native America, but he originally had other plans related to college and a career. However, God stirred Brad Hutchcraft’s heart as well.
“We went out on a trip, and I was leading this one Native young person to the Lord, and I still remember this individual came up to me…and just said, ‘If I come to one of your events later in the week, will you tell me more about Jesus?’ And it was the simplest, most basic question and it forever broke my heart, forever changed the direction of my life, and God called me to be involved with Native ministry.”
What about you? Is God calling you to the mission field? Maybe even to engage in or support missions to Native America?
“If God is calling someone, don’t cut short the conversation. Don’t cut short the conversation when God calls. Because it can be scary, it can be uncertain, and there was not much money around and everything — but it is the safest place to be when you are in the middle of God’s will for your life.”
Ripple effect of outreach and impact
Currently, the Warrior Leadership Summit is coming up, which acts as a sending platform for the On Eagles’ Wings summer mission team. What they see is a ripple effect of outreach. Young Native believers with the On Eagles’ Wings team reach out, and many of their peers who accept Christ then attend the Warrior Leadership Summit and are sent out themselves with the next On Eagles’ Wings team to share their new faith.
“We’re expecting over 800 Native young people from 100 different tribes to come to one location for five days of great Bible teaching and amazing worship that is mostly lead by Native young people. And the way that conference has grown from a couple dozen to over 800 is simply because more Native young people are coming to know Jesus, and that is in part directly through the On Eagles’ Wings team. It’s also through ministry partners. We work with partners across the country on various reservations.”
One example of the impact they see? Brad Hutchcraft shares this story:
“There was one place the team went years ago where they were averaging several suicides and suicide attempts per month. They were seeing this devastation over and over again. The team went there and brought the hope of Jesus, and this reservation that following year after the team was there…they had just a drastic drop in the suicide attempts that year…. There had been more hope and more light in that community, and now a youth ministry has started in that community through one of the ministry partners we work with.”
Encouraging the next several years of ministry
As On Eagles’ Wings celebrates 25 years of ministry to Native America, they invite you to join them in celebration and to spur the next 25-plus years! Brad Hutchcraft advises, “People can help by sending [the Native young people]. They can go to hopefornativeamerica.com and they can find out more, they can request a prayer kit there, they can see a video of the team in action.”
And, of course, make a note to pray this summer for the On Eagles’ Wings team. Pray that their witness would be effective and that God would open more hearts to spiritual revival in Native America.
“Missions history is being made by these Native American young people. We praise God we’re able to be a part of it, but they could use the prayers of God’s people backing them up and the encouragement of God’s people, because it is a tough place to stand for Jesus.”