North America (MNN) — Many Native American youth have lived in despair and hopelessness since they were born. Their lives are marked by depression, poverty, violence, and suicide.
The suicide rate among Native young people is “up to six, seven, or even ten times that of the rest of the young people in America,”says Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries (RHM).
According to The Center for Native American Youth, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Natives between the ages of 15 to 24. And violence such as homicide, suicide, and intentional injuries has caused 75% of deaths among adolescents.
“The pain comes very early,” Hutchcraft explains.
“Sexual violence against women [is] horrific. Life expectancies for Native men are 20-30 years less than for non-Native men. It is almost unspeakable and unimaginable.”
As a result, addiction to drugs and alcohol is rampant.
Hutchcraft describes going to a remote reservation in northern Canada. “When our team [was] there, there were 6-year-olds, all scattered in the woods, who were huffing inhalants. Some of them out cold–a common thing there.”
A recent report states that in Oregon, Hepatitis C, which is often caused by drugs, is very common among younger generations. The highest rate of the disease appeared among Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
On Eagles’ Wings
Since tribes are so remote, sometimes hundreds of miles away from the nearest town, they seem to have been forgotten. But RHM has remembered them and is helping to turn communities around.
For the last 23 years, RHM has faithfully held their annual summer outreach program, On Eagles’ Wings.
Often times, they hold basketball events to bring kids together. RHM also shares the Gospel, then gives kids the chance to spread the Word among others. In other words, kids are becoming messengers and missionaries of the Good News for their own people.
“The audience is listening to the messengers of this life-changing message, that never changes. But [it] needs sometimes to come through a messenger that will be heard. The messengers this summer–and for the last 23 summers–have been Native American young men and women.”
The team this year is made up of 60 young Native Americans from 33 different tribes, including Sioux, Apache, Eskimo, and Navaho.
“These young men and women: we call them warriors. They are fighting for their people, and they are able to go honestly,” says Hutchcraft.
“They are able to prevail because of the prayers of listeners and because of the gifts that have been sent in to sponsor these warriors. They do what you and I and listeners could never do: and that is to go and break through.”
Team members have been haunted by the past, but they’re able to share their stories with audiences as proof that there is hope.
One boy said three of his brothers had committed suicide, and he was almost next. He drowned his sorrows with drinking, but through RHM, he came to Christ, who turned his life around.
“He stood up and shared his hope story of how he has found that hope has a name. And hope’s name is Jesus.”
Hutchcraft adds, “[Team members] are finding out that God can do things through them that have never happened before spiritually on these reservations. And one after another, they are beginning to sense the call of God on their life.”
Because of the 23 years of work RHM has put in, there are now Native men and women who have started their own ministries.
The team has visited 4 reservations so far this summer, and they have 7 more to go. Be praying for spiritual breakthroughs and that RHM will help build a bridge between Jesus and Native kids.
You can also help sponsor Native kids here!