Driving into the reservation town of Antelope Valley brought tears to my eyes. Because of what God did here 27 years ago.
This is where God broke my heart for Native American young people. It's where He called me to devote a chunk of the rest of my life to reaching and discipling them.
It is where the vision for On Eagles' Wings was born. I had come only to speak at an event sponsored by the Christian radio station that broadcast our daily program "A Word With You" across this sprawling reservation. I left with a calling from heaven to do something about the young people who left missionaries saying, "Nothing seems to work with our young people."
And now I was returning with a powerful team of young Native warriors representing 25 tribes. But this was no sentimental journey. This was an urgent rescue mission.
Gang violence is erupting in this tribal capital. Recently, there have been drive-by shootings and six gang murders. Meth is everywhere. And most alarming is the heartbreaking conclusion in a recent study by the tribal police – "45% of the middle school students here are at risk of suicide."
Hope needed in Antelope Valley. Hope delivered!
Local young people got to hear the changed-life stories of warriors who had grown up in that community. Like Mark, whose mom left her young son for drinking. Young Mark thought Mom left because of him. Relationships and drinking himself numb offered no hope. One day he was, in his words, "just tired of the nothingness and brokenness in my life." That's when he asked Jesus to "take the wheel."
And now, with a new sense of worth, he is training to work with the broken people of this community where he was once one of those broken people.
It was amazing to see no one moving, no one talking during every Hope Story and every Gospel wrap-up. And how exciting it was to see nearly one out of four who came give their lives to Christ! And what a thrill to see many reborn in this place where this breakthrough work of God was born. The burden birthed here a quarter century ago has now carried the Gospel to over 120 reservations and reserves and spawned Warrior Leadership Summit where so many young lives have been rescued.
The dying and darkness of another community in this region drew us undeniably to the second reservation community in this amazing week. Pendleton has been identified by the local police as the likely epicenter of satanic activity on this reservation. That may explain the recent string of mysterious deaths in this community. Like the recent disappearance of a baby – later found dead near this area's landmark spot.
It seems the enemy is succeeding in dividing the churches in the area, distracting them from the fierce battle for souls. The small group of people who care about the young people here testify to how very hard reaching them is in an environment so filled with meth, suicide, and forces of darkness opposing every step.
But the local, hope-starved young people showed up! And these great warriors welcomed them warmly, stayed with them each night, and shared their stories of their life-changing, life-saving Jesus.
We are told by local Native friends that the Pendleton area deeply holds tightly to centuries-old beliefs – and often is very closed to Jesus. But as Jesus came through the painfully honest warrior Hope Stories, there was a total hush – and riveted attention – all around the court. There was the same Holy Spirit focus through every Gospel wrap-up. The Gospel wrapped in these powerful stories has been a magnet on every reservation.
There was a deeply personal dimension here. Three of our warriors told us how their traditional family members came to the OEW events – people who would otherwise never be where Jesus would be presented. Like so many on this team, those three warriors have often cried out to Jesus for their families. And prayers were answered in a powerful way right on that basketball court in Pendleton.
A lot of tears were shed. For those who joined the family of God there. And for those who finally heard the Gospel. And for those who heard but walked away without Jesus.
Many nights we see those tears and hear the broken hearts of these warriors who – like their Jesus – weep for the lost.
Thank God, everyone at that court the final night saw a victory of the Light in this very dark place – as Pendleton young people stepped to center court to indicate they were choosing Jesus.
Jesus has won this week! At the birthplace of this movement that God has used since then to bring thousands of Native young people to Jesus. And in the middle of one of the enemy's fiercest reservation strongholds.
And it's happened again through these broken vessels through whom the Light and Hope of Jesus shine so brightly. The relentless young warriors of On Eagles' Wings. Prayed for and sent by heart-match friends like you.
* Names and locations changed for privacy.