USA (MNN) — Christ’s command in Matthew 28 was short and sweet: “go and make disciples of all nations.” Known as the Great Commission, it’s the foundation of countless ministries and missions efforts worldwide.
Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says many U.S. efforts bypass a people group with critical needs. “After 400 years, only 4% (of this group) are estimated to know Christ,” he says.
“We’ve done better all over the world then among the people right on our doorstep.”
He’s talking about Native Americans. While they have a rich cultural heritage, Native communities are also plagued by chronic social ills.
“I’ve been in cross-cultural youth ministry all my life,” Hutchcraft begins. “Never have I met young people who have no dreams, who are pretty sure they’ll have no future, among whom the suicide rate is at least three times – in some parts of the country, 10 times – that of any other kids in America, whose rates of addiction are off the charts.”
According to the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, alcoholism mortality rates are 514 percent higher for Natives than the general population. Suicide rates are more than double, and Native teens experience the highest rate of suicide of any population group in the United States. Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide, and suicide, account for 75% of deaths for Native youth between 12 and 20 years old.
There’s a brighter future on the horizon. God’s using On Eagles’ Wings – a division of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries – to infuse Native America with hope.
Summer of Hope
A team of 32 Native believers from 23 different tribes just finished an intensive month-long “Summer of Hope” outreach. “I had the privilege of traveling with what I call a bus full of miracles,” Hutchcraft says, referring to this year’s Summer of Hope team.
“Every one of the young people on this team has lived those statistics that I talked about… they’ve buried many of their friends.”
Instead of leading the way, Hutchcraft prefers to watch the team in action. “I’m the little white guy on the bus praying, which is where I belong. One of the main reasons so few Native people have come to Christ is because of a lie – that Jesus is the white man’s God,” he says.
“You hear that on every reservation I’ve ever been on – Jesus is the white man’s God.”
On basketball courts in seven reservations throughout the U.S., Native believers like Marisa* shared the Gospel and their “hope story.” As a result, 483 Native American young people came to Christ.
“There’s food, there’s fun, but all night long, individually they are telling their ‘hope stories’ to young people who are desperate for hope,” Hutchcraft says. “Out of that has come this wonderful harvest that God has given this summer among the first people of this land.”
Five years ago, Marisa knew death was the only way to escape her pain. Cutting didn’t work, and neither alcohol nor drugs provided a solution. On the way to a location she chose for her suicide, Marisa stopped by the “rez” basketball court. Little did she know it was a life-changing decision.
One by one, On Eagles’ Wings team members stood up and shared their “hope stories.” Marisa’s heart stirred when she heard about pain like hers. “Jesus intercepted her that night, and Jesus changed her life,” recalls Hutchcraft, This fall, Marisa will head to Bible school to begin training for Christian ministry.
Her story gets even better. “Fast-forward to this summer on that same basketball court,” Hutchcraft begins. It was Marisa’s turn to stand up and give her hope story – one God used in a powerful way.
“When it came to ‘invitation’ time, a 13-year-old young lady came forward. It was Marisa’s younger sister, also a victim of sexual abuse, having already attempted suicide twice.”
Now begins discipleship and leadership training for new believers like Marisa’s sister.
The Summer of Hope acts like a rocket launch, Hutchcraft says. It’s a powerful starting point for the Holy Spirit, which continues working in each new believer. “The ‘launch’ takes place on the basketball court. Now there is momentum, there is energy, there is life among the Native young people on that reservation in the direction of Jesus,” he explains.
“This isn’t just about a great moment. It’s about a moment that gives birth to a movement.”
Click here to support ongoing ministry. “All year long we work on equipping them to be leaders for their people. What is launched in the summer is nurtured now all year long,” Hutchcraft says.
Most importantly, pray. Subscribe to OEW News so you can pray for this ministry throughout the year. “Let’s pray for God’s protection. This is a war and a battle unlike any I’ve ever been involved in in all my work across the country and around the world,” Hutchcraft requests.
“The prayers of God’s people are not only needed they are decisive in the battle for Native America. Every prayer warrior that God raises up for the First People of this land is an answer to prayer in itself.”
*– Name changed.
Header image courtesy of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries.