USA (MNN) — There's an epidemic gripping one U.S. population.
Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries (RHM) calls it a "spirit of suicide," and RHM's On Eagles' Wings teams are taking it on this summer.
"One of the reservations we're going to has declared a 'suicide emergency,'" Hutchcraft says. "The number of suicides there would literally stop any other community in America."
According to a May 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide claimed more lives in 2010 than car crashes. This report also noted "particularly high increases" in suicide rates of American Indian and Alaska Natives (65%).
Another CDC report, this time examining 2005 to 2009, lists American Indian/Alaskan Native males 10 years and older with the nation's highest suicide rate. From 1994 to 2004, suicide ranked as the second leading cause of death among Native youth ages 10 to 34.
For many OEM team members, these statistics have a name.
"Some of them have either buried friends who killed themselves, [or] family members; many of them have considered that themselves, and, in some cases, even attempted suicide because of the terrific despair and desperation in their lives," says Hutchcraft.
"But today, they bring the hope of Christ."
Armed with a personal testimony of hope through Christ's salvation, approximately 50 Native youth are reaching out to their peers on 10 reservations.
"This isn't about a couple of us leading a team," Hutchcraft says. "It is about these Native young people leading each other.
"When they (Native young people) come in, they truly are the face of Jesus to many young people who have never yet had a glimpse of Him. To see Him in someone their age, who has walked their trail, oh my goodness! It is transforming."
The leaders come from different tribes: Apache, Sioux, Eskimo, Navajo and more, but they're all a long-awaited answer to prayer.
"The 500-year drought of having Native Christian leaders who will be the hope for their people [is coming to an end]," Hutchcraft states. "Finally! We see some clouds in the sky, some rain a'comin,' some hope a'comin' in the lives of these young people."
Last year, OEW teams brought the Gospel to nearly 5,000 people on 9 reservations. As a result, over 800 Native American youth began a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Your support makes the Summer of Hope and On Eagles' Wings possible, and by clicking here, you can help financially.
The most important thing you can do? Pray. Hutchcraft says the spiritual war OEW teams are engaging in is just like the real thing.
"You have to dominate the skies and win the air war first. Then when the ground troops go in, the enemy is weakened and the battle can be won," he explains.
"Our prayer warriors are the air cover for ground troops that are about to land deep in enemy territory. Their prayer will really determine the outcome."