USA (MNN) — The U.S. government is trying to improve the lives of Native American young people in 2015. Through a new “Generation Indigenous” initiative and increased funding for education, the White House is trying to reverse a generations-old trend.
At the end of last week, officials invited Native American youth to join the “Gen-I” movement and take part in a nationwide challenge.
The Gen-I initiative seeks to “ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential” by removing barriers and investing in new opportunities. Earlier this month, President Obama requested $1 billion for the repair and construction of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.
“Native youth are in a state of crisis; unfortunately, we have all seen that firsthand,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Washington Post. “Our Native youth need and deserve dramatically better, not incrementally better.”
Ron Hutchcraft says saving Native American youth has been a goal of his namesake ministry for over 20 years.
“Any kind of dysfunction or brokenness that you can think of: Native American young people lead in those statistics all the time,” he observes sadly.
Native American youth: the crisis
The numbers are disheartening. Native American youth have death rates 2 to 5 times the rate of whites in the same age group. Violence, including intentional injuries, homicide, and suicide account for 75% of deaths for Native American young people between the ages of 12 and 20 years old.
Non-lethal violence lands many young people in foster care. Only 2% of U.S. children have Native American–also known as First Nation–heritage, but they account for 8.4% of all foster care kids.
The painful merry-go-round of foster care, in turn, causes some young people to lash out and get in trouble.
“It’s a very complex matrix,” says Hutchcraft. “What causes them to be in a foster home is also what seems to cause them to get in trouble with the law.”
As followers of Christ, we know the only hope amid this sadness is Jesus. But, who will tell disparaging Native America?
“Much to everyone’s surprise, the answer to a 500-year resistance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is turning out to be these very young people,” shares Hutchcraft.
The answer lies in Jesus
RHM’s On Eagles’ Wings (OEW) ministry introduces broken-hearted and lost Native American youth to a brown-skinned Savior named Jesus.
“I have the great privilege of being in the lives of young men and women who are breaking the cycle and starting an entire new line in their family because of Christ, who makes you a new creation,” says Hutchcraft.
OEW is a movement of Native young people that want to bring hope to their reservations through Jesus Christ. Each summer, an OEW team travels across the United States and Canada, sharing their “hope stories.”
“Hope means that ‘something I thought could never change’ can change,” Hutchcraft explains.
Despair grips every North American reservation and is familiar to every Native American young person. As part of their Hope story, OEW team members share how they were able to overcome that despair through Jesus.
“It is possible, because of the blood of Christ, to say, ‘It stops here. It stops in my generation.'”
“Native young people on our On Eagles’ Wings teams–going again this summer to 10 reservations–take with them this message,” says Hutchcraft.
Pray that the hearts of lost Native American youth will soften in preparation for Summer of Hope 2015. Pray that lives will be transformed through the power of Jesus Christ.