Report from Ron Hutchcraft
It was well over 20 years ago my precious Karen and I made a brief, unexpected stop on the Ash Canyon Reservation. We passed it on a trip and just felt compelled to stop and pray for a reservation and a people we had never heard of.
We felt the hopelessness and darkness. We saw no church. We prayed for Jesus to come to Ash Canyon with His hope. Years later, as our leadership team was praying for the one part of the country where OEW had never been, Ash Canyon was again on my mind.
Now - in a way I could never have dreamed at the time - 48 young Native warriors are here as the answer to that prayer.
Sadly, drugs have virtually taken over the lives of the Ash Canyon young people - everything from weed (marijuana) to heroin and meth. The team that won our 3-on-3 tournament was named "Higher Than Cloud Nine." Jenny, the reservation mental health worker whose burden was instrumental in opening this door, said, "That's very descriptive of the young people here."
An epidemic of drugs is often indicative of an epidemic of pain people are trying to escape. And this reservation has a lot of family violence and every kind of abuse. Like the girl who confided to Annie (Crow) that she was sexually abused from the ages of five to 12 - and raped by both her brothers. Annie hurried to the bus for prayer - with a broken heart.
The guys were hard. The girls were aloof. The crowd was restless, though clearly enjoying the joyful atmosphere of an OEW event. Our warriors had their hands full getting those personal connections that are decisive when it comes to reservation young people turning to Christ.
But in spite of a restless spirit, one thing never changes. The power of a Hope Story to quiet and engage all kinds of hearts. One local told a warrior, "Man, your stories are just like our stories here."
Brianna (Navajo) had everyone's attention as she talked about the broken, hateful relationship with her parents that started her on a downward spiral of alcohol, drugs, depression and self-mutilation. A deadly drug cocktail left her unconscious and unresponsive one night at a party. Then, too scared to use drugs to escape her pain...and too depressed to go on.
A friend invited her to church. She tuned in only for the last five minutes - but what she heard about Jesus was enough to change her life forever. She finished with a statement that turned out to be prophetic - "The Hope that found me that night can change your life tonight."
It happened. Man, did it happen! As Brad and I poured out our hearts for these broken young people, Travis (Creek/Cherokee), called them to Christ.
The response was instantaneous - and stunning. The Holy Spirit seemed to literally sweep the court! It looked like virtually everyone on and around that basketball court had walked en masse to center court. The same court where hours before the warriors had prayer-walked, claiming it as holy ground - and claiming a generation-changing breakthrough there in Jesus' Name.
Among them was the young woman who had poured out to Annie her pain of multiple abuse. She was led to Jesus by another warrior who herself has found in Jesus healing for the wounds of sexual violence.
Even with the great public move to Jesus, the warriors weren't done with their rescue mission. They went out to the cars and the corners to people who had not come forward.
One warrior found a homeless man in a car just beyond the court. It turned out that the man had come to the event to sell drugs. He didn't - and probably never will again. The man who came to sell drugs left with Jesus in his heart!
There was a tremendous celebration back at the church where we were staying. And what a holy moment it was when the team gathered around to pray for Jenny and her husband, the young couple whose burden had opened the door for us to come to Ash Canyon. And who are committed to aggressive follow-up. They were deeply moved by the incredible work God had done.
So am I. My heart flashed back to those moments years ago when Karen and I had been led to stop at a reservation to pray. Tonight I watched God use 48 rescued young warriors to be the answer to that prayer.
I got to see it. If Jesus pulled back the curtain in heaven for a moment, maybe my Karen did, too.
Report from Brad Hutchcraft
Hurt, neglect and abuse - those were painfully evident in our first visit to the Eastlake reserve in Canada last year. We saw it in the children, in the teenagers, in the adults. And we felt there was "unfinished business" there. This was evident in our team's reactions when we announced we were heading back there. It would be wrong to say they were excited about it, since it was a hard place to break through with the Gospel, but the warriors were definitely ready to go back. There was the "Yes!" that one of our warriors said, in almost a defiant tone.
From the first night, the difference was clear. The chaos of last year had been replaced with a more peaceful tone. The youth who were the bullies, the fighters, and even the rock throwers from last year were back again, but with a much different countenance. Yes, the pain was still evident in the conversations, but the peace that only Christ can bring was evident.
Our hosts shared with us the definite change they have seen in the community since we were there last year. It began with the On Eagles' Wings warriors, and was further fueled by a solid follow-up effort from the Body of Christ at Eastlake.
While the effects of the team's previous visit were evident, the hard hearts and tough issues were just as real. The individual who has been rejected so many times as a young lady that she is giving up on being a woman. The young man who stayed on his bike, riding around the event, so he could avoid getting too close. And the youth who were hungry for someone - anyone - to show them love.
Our team shared many stories of victories, which were shown in the commitments made to Christ. However, they also shared tears and stories of hurt, as they worked to "seek and to save" the lost, but found many hearts not ready to follow Jesus.
But as the invitation to publicly respond to the Gospel was given, they came. Just two at first, but then others, followed by yet a few more. The stage is set, as the team watered the seed that was planted one year ago.
When we arrived in this community, we parked our rental RV in a back yard, tucked behind a tall fence, where there really wasn't a road in, other than a small dirt path. Other than our hosts, no one even knew we were there. And that is very much true of the Eastlake reserve, as well. It is surrounded by a city, yet so few know this place is even there, much less the deep hurt that is carried in the community.
Because of that, as one local man said, they "didn't think OEW would come back." But Jesus heard the cries of these precious people, and He sent the On Eagles' Wings team to bring hope and healing where despair and brokenness have reigned too long. One year brought some real change - we can't wait to see how God will change things this time!
* Names changed for privacy