USA (MNN) — Tragically, quietly, in the corners and unseen spaces of our nation, there is a suicide epidemic sweeping through Native American communities and reservations.
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries (RHM) estimates suicide rates among Native teens are nearly 10 times higher than the rest of America.
“Something is horribly wrong there,” says RHM’s Ron Hutchcraft. “If in any of our communities we had the serial suicides going on that go on in a reservation unnoticed, we would have the national news and every agency possible descending on our town. But they continue to die off the radar and silently.”
The Native American community is in desperate need of hope and a reason for life. RHM shares the deepest hope possible; hope in Jesus Christ.
Warrior Leadership Summit
Yesterday, the Warrior Leadership Summit kicked off for hundreds of Native American young people from over 100 Indian nations across the US and Canada. The conference goes from June 27-July 3.
The Warrior Leadership Summit is essentially a discipleship conference for Native teens, but each year they also see around one-fourth of the attendants commit their lives to Christ.
“The messages and what we call The Battle Councils, which are smaller sessions, many of them will be taught by Native leaders. These will address the unique issues of trying to follow Christ in the very toxic environment of a reservation or Native community within a city. This is targeted specifically for them, and that’s what makes it so powerful.”
Pain and Addiction
There are many unique challenges and hurts facing Native American youth, says Hutchcraft.
“One time I asked this question in a large group in the main session. I said, ‘How many of you have either attempted suicide, know someone else who’s attempted suicide, or lost someone to suicide?’ Almost every hand in the whole auditorium went up. Is there any youth conference anywhere where that would be the truth; where it would be almost everyone there? That’s why we really have to address the issues underlying this hopelessness.
“There is [also] a massive amount of sexual abuse. One out of three Native American women will be raped in their lifetime. Now for me and for us on our team, these are not statistics. These are people we know. These are names and faces of precious young men and women, and the issues of sexual abuse and sexual violence have left tremendous scars on Native young people.
“There are rates of suicide, alcohol addiction, [and] drug addiction because of the pain of all that has been lost by Native Americans over the years and even in their lifetime. That’s their pain reliever. There are horrendous, almost epidemic levels of addiction.”
Hutchcraft says, in many ways, Christians in North America have been very focused on overseas missions while missing the Native American mission field in our backyard. Today, only four percent of Native Americans know Christ.
“I think Satan has created a double-blindness. He has blinded the first people of this nation to Jesus by convincing them that He is the white man’s God. And Satan has blinded the rest of North American Christians to Native Americans. We don’t even think about them. But God does.”
Summit Theme: Hope Rising
This year’s Warrior Leadership Summit with RHM has a powerful theme: Hope Rising. The worship band, the breakout sessions, and the messages are lead and taught mostly by other Native leaders.
“This conference, it’s about a Jesus who walks into that kind of a world and can heal a wounded heart, restore a broken life, forgive a lifetime of sinful choices, and give people who never thought they had a future…to give them a hope,” says Hutchcraft.
“One of the great nights will be the night we call them to the cross of Jesus Christ, literally. And if it’s like most years, there will be somewhere between one-fourth to one-third of the young people there who will choose Christ to be the driver of their life and, as we say, the Chief of all Chiefs.”
Funds Needed for Support Goal
Many teens attending the Warrior Leadership Summit are only able to go through donations to RHM’s Summer of Hope Outreach. Currently, the Summer of Hope Outreach only has 72 percent of their $575,000 goal funded.
Together, we can show Native American young people that they are seen, that they are loved, and that we want them to know the fullness of life in Jesus Christ.
Hutchcraft says, “When you gather Native young men and women under the banner of Christ from all over the continent in one place where many of them will choose Christ, and where many of them will be trained and equipped to go back and become spiritual warriors for their people…this is so exciting because I feel like I’m standing and watching missions history take place.”