A Summer of Hope in a Season of Hurt
That's how we greeted the excited Native young people at Warrior Leadership Summit 2021. And that's why we may have been even more excited than they were.
COVID made being in the room together impossible last year - as well as taking an On Eagles' Wings team on their reservation rescue mission. But, praise God, this summer we're back!
- Never has it been more needed after the reservation ravages of COVID.
- Never have we been counting more on your praying.
- Never have we been more dependent on God being God!
And has He ever!
Time for just a few of the God-sightings in this groundbreaking Summer of reservation rescue...
A Hope Explosion
A Warrior Leadership Summit in a season where there's been so much loss - and a number of groups still couldn't come for pandemic reasons (though they could still join us online!). But...
- 44 tribes were represented at WLS 2021!
- Three Gospel invitations. Three full counseling rooms!
- Over half of the Native young people there came to the Cross with a blank piece of paper they signed - symbolizing the surrender of their plans for their life to whatever and wherever God may lead them.
And so many eternities changed! Four out of 10 young people at WLS made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ! Proportionately, one of the largest responses to the Gospel we've ever had!
- It's a summer of hard reservations - poverty, frequent suicides or suicide attempts, generations of hurt. Add to it the brutal impact of COVID. It can turn a heart hard. In an interview, one Native woman described the area where our warriors would fight their first battles: "The drug war is over. Drugs have won."
- Because of lingering COVID issues, it's a smaller team than usual this year. With the task at least as great.
Scars and Souls and Soldiers in Blue
The scars. That's what struck our female warriors as they got into spiritual conversations with local girls at our first reservations. They're the scars from centuries-old practices where suffering is evidence of their spiritual commitment.
The OEW warriors had come with the Message of a Savior who Himself was "pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins." Who had "laid on Him the sins of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6). Who, in heaven, still carries the scars of the sacrifice that paid a sin-debt we could never pay.
And early in this journey, these "newly-minted" warriors had the joy of helping some of these very young people give their lives to this Jesus.
Only one day out from their Boot Camp training, with a team that's one-third rookies, the blue-shirt-wearing warriors of On Eagles' Wings deployed for their first mission of the summer. Everywhere I looked, there was a "blue" team member talking to local young people.
It was clear from the start that, while this team is smaller than usual, they are mighty. A "Gideon's army." "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6).
Hard hearts. That's what our past experience has been in our second reservation community of this summer. Strong centuries-old beliefs. So many suicides and attempts. 60-80% unemployment.
But the prayers of friends like you got there ahead of the warriors. Our surprised young rescuers said, "They're coming to us, needing to talk!" Sometimes pouring out their hearts. In a place that, in the best of times has so much hurt, the ravages of the pandemic have left many hearts deeply broken.
Then hope in blue shirts showed up on the village basketball court. One-on one, and from the microphone, the warriors told their stories. Once again, their open hearts opened hearts. At invitation time the tribal couple, who run the only Gospel work in that village, were deeply moved to see some of the biggest guys in the community step out to choose Jesus. Some with scars like the young women our girls had met earlier.
But buried in our Hope Stories are some other scars. Like Missy (Lakota). Whose self-harm has left scars so deep, they required stitches. But that's only the beginning of the story she's telling girls on these reservations. Her shame had kept her from even going out in public. But that's all changed. She says:
"Even though my scars still remain, I am no longer ashamed. I see them as hope for myself that I no longer have to be that person, for I have Jesus Christ on my side!"
You couldn't see Randy's (Navajo) scars - but they almost cost him his life.
"I grew up poor. Hopeless. There were nights all we had for dinner was sleep. In 2013 I made my first attempt to take my life. I was truly hopeless...I gave my life to Christ and accepted His gift of salvation that He paid for on the cross. I felt as if I took my first breath."
It is that kind of hope - Jesus' story wrapped in the stories of heroic young warriors for Christ - that is calling hope-starved reservation young people to the Savior whose wounds can alone heal ours.
Thank you for helping this summer of hurt be, for many Native young people, their Summer of Hope.
* Names and locations changed for privacy.
You can still help send an On Eagles' Wings team member! Will you please help make this Summer of Hope to Native America possible?
Your gift of $130 will cover one day of their reservation mission. Your gift of $65 covers a half day. $900 enables a week; and your gift of $3,800 will send a warrior for a month of reservation rescue.
We are so grateful for difference-makers like you.