The Murray Creek Reservation is beautiful. Living here as a Native young person isn't. It's remote. Bleak at times.
So, the young people here are throwing away their lives one day at a time, drinking and drugging and deciding that's all life is.
Then the big OEW busful of hope starts moving across the rez, dropping off the blue-t-shirt-wearing warriors to meet as many of them as possible. They're back to nurture a work God began here a year ago.
Since last year's harvest, the Murray Creek family who were our key partners have consistently done follow-up events to maintain some of the spiritual momentum. Some weeks there's an encouraging turnout. Other weeks, a handful at best. But they have just kept at it - and for the first time, there is the beginning of an ongoing youth ministry on the Murray Creek Reservation. And God used On Eagles' Wings to be His jumper cables.
We're back to let the young people here know that Jesus - as embodied by this team - keeps on loving them. And to encourage these faithful local warriors and enlarge their impact.
Yes, there was excitement about OEW being back. But there was also resistance. It was obvious in personal conversations that the enemy has been doing his best to harden hearts before the warriors got there.
With only two nights there - and some walls the first night - it was obvious that we needed to step up the prayer. We found a hill that overlooks the reservation and, from there, fought together for a victory that night on the court below.
The warriors prayed simultaneously aloud, praying for courage in their hearts and openness in the hearts of those they had come to rescue.
After two compelling Hope Stories, Matt (Navajo) began his wrap-up with one of his earliest memories: "Seeing my mother in a pool of her own blood." It was that kind of family violence from his often-drunk father that filled Matt with hatred for his father and anger toward the world. But as he got into his teenage years, "I became what I hated - my father."
Tired of just living drunk and high (like so many on this reservation), he decided to end his life. That's when Jesus stepped in. "And gave me a real Father - and the power to forgive my earthly father. And the power to be a real man."
Matt passionately shared the awful price Jesus paid for us on the cross - and the power of a resurrected Savior who can give them a life with meaning. And, as a dense fog started to close in, he invited these Murray Creek young people to publicly choose the Jesus who has changed the lives of the 48 warriors in the blue shirts.
That's when I saw a first for OEW invitations. People literally running to Jesus! That's got to be the Holy Spirit of God! The harvest that began at center court continued in one-on-one conversations. All ages. A local drug dealer left seriously considering Christ after talking for an hour with an OEW warrior. His son went forward at invitation time. His son said, "I'm going to tell my dad about Jesus."
Most important, the local leaders whose broken hearts brought us to Murray Creek in the first place have new wind beneath their wings. To build a Jesus-generation on their reservation, one rescued life at a time.
And tomorrow morning, the 2017 warriors move to a new challenge and a new opportunity. As we split into two teams to be able to rescue on two reservations simultaneously.
They've risen to every challenge so far. The trail of hope they're leaving will double in the days ahead!
* Names changed for privacy.