Report from Ron Hutchcraft
We knew it would be hard. We were here last year, but we had to come back. Too many of us have left a piece of our heart here. It is our fourth visit here in the past ten years.
Believers in this area have explained to us that Eagle Rock* is the epicenter of the Ironstone* religion that has dominated reservations in this region for centuries. It is the only place we've been where older brothers and parents have covered the ears of their siblings or children when a warrior has mentioned Jesus. Where the pressure to never consider any identity but Ironstone is overwhelming. Where even those who have wanted to know Jesus have told our warriors, "I can't! I'm Ironstone!"
Ironically, many love it when On Eagles' Wings comes to Eagle Rock. They love the peace, the community feeling, the magnet inside the team. They don't like the Message. Last year, the spiritual leaders of the rez were there on our final night, reminding everyone by their presence that Ironstone people don't do Jesus. While some were led to Christ in conversations with the warriors, at invitation time, no one moved.
Something was different this year. Our speakers and leaders all commented on it. It was the riveted attention - even the holy hush - across the event site as warriors shared their powerful Hope Stories.
Stories like Kim's (Navajo) - shy and scared before she shared - boldly telling of the abuse by a family member that drove her into cutting and deep depression. Until she found in Jesus the one place where "I was really loved. And finally safe." She choked up as she tried to tell how happy she's been since Jesus came in.
In his Night Two Gospel wrap-up, Travis (Creek) compellingly declared that "our traditional religions haven't changed anything. We are still addicted, still suicidal, still searching."
That night, my teenage grandson, who's been assisting me in this final stretch, made an insightful observation: "There has to be doubt before they can consider Jesus." The Hope Stories vividly described a difference a resurrected Savior makes that no religion could ever make. Travis later told us, "I said things tonight I've never said before. That I never planned to say." It was his most powerful Gospel wrap-up yet.
Our final night, Matt (Navajo) emotionally described how he had become the man he despised - the alcoholic father who brutalized his mother and made his home a house of fear. When the drugs couldn't numb the pain, Matt was poised to end his life. Suddenly, he thought about Jesus. In the days that followed, Matt found "the Father I never had" when he found Jesus. And "how to become a real man."
As he drilled down on John 3:16, the large crowd of Eagle Rock people listened intently. When "God so loved the world," He loved Eagle Rock. And every individual there that night. "Why did 48 Natives from 25 tribes leave jobs and family and relationships to travel thousands of miles to be with you at Eagle Rock? Because we want you to know that Jesus loves you - enough to die for you. And He can change you like He changed all of us."
It was incredibly powerful. When Matt extended the invitation to declare Christ publicly, you could have cut the air with a knife. Only one came forward. Yet somehow, what had happened these three nights seemed like an amazing victory.
In the words of the veteran pastor who has fought for his people for 30 years here, "this feels like the beginning of the breakthrough." Matt said, "I saw their eyes. I feel like I saw their hearts. I know they felt His love." That's what I felt - what many of us felt.
Eagle Rock young people came to Jesus - in the personal conversations away from the fear in the public setting. Even there, the intimidation is strong. Curtis (Cherokee) led one boy to Jesus - then gave him a Bible. Later, his mother took the Bible away and literally tried to hide her son so Curtis couldn't talk to him again. The clash between light and darkness has never been so real as it has been here.
But all of us who have fought this battle before, felt that God used this team to penetrate deeper into Eagle Rock hearts than the Gospel may have ever gone.
And in our final debriefing, one of our warriors announced that God had broken his heart for these people - and that he's answering God's call to come back here to continue the fight for Eagle Rock young people all year long!
Our host had arranged for a fireworks display to end our final event. My son Brad, the Director of On Eagles' Wings, saw more than fireworks. He said, "We watched a small explosion grow to ultimately light up the night." These past three nights have been that small explosion. Next, lighting up the Eagle Rock night.
On behalf of these amazing young warriors, I cannot thank you enough for how you've prayed - and given. You've won battle after battle as you prayed. You sent them to the frontlines with your gifts. The final victory of this historic Summer of Hope will be as God sends the gifts that will complete the financial miracle we need and we've prayed for. If you can play a part in that, it will mean more than you know.
My final report will share the big picture of what God did in this Summer of Hope. Look for it soon.
*Names changed for privacy.