Summer of Hope 2023 Front-Lines Report - Our Third Reservation
"In the end, it's about one shattered life among the many."
Life on the rez is hard. Life for a rez kid in the city is even harder. So are the hearts.
You might call the city of Upton "the urban rez." As a "border town," a large segment of the population is Native. As in most cities, sin is easily accessible and more enslaving.
The Upton outreach site was caged basketball courts in a sprawling city park. In a city with a per capita crime rate among the highest in the nation. All our planning will include above and beyond safety precautions.
But would anybody come? Our first step on a rez is going door-to-door in small teams, inviting people to our events. Not in Upton. Our local hosts made clear it just wasn't safe. So without that exposure, we could only set up and pray them in.
And they came! In fact, our two nights in Upton would be our two largest turnouts of the summer so far! Giving the warriors a new challenge - being outnumbered roughly six locals to one warrior!
People all over. Constant movement. A sea of disconnected park users rather than a reservation community.
But these warriors do what they do, whatever the challenges.
Brian (Navajo) saw the young man watching over some kids in the nearby playground. He wasted no time. "Do you know who Jesus is?" In fact, he didn't know. Brian said, "I broke it down for him... I even did a lot of drawings in the sand." The man responded that no one had ever explained it like that. Then he unknowingly spoke what God was doing that evening in the park: "I don't believe in God. I believe in science. But you just made me think that God actually put you here to talk with me!"
While he did not pray with Brian that day, he clearly knew that God had come to him in the park. To open his heart to a Savior who seeks and saves the lost. Wherever they are.
And then there was Maria. Leslie (Pawnee) saw her sitting by herself on some nearby steps - no shoes, a bruise on her foot, hair disheveled, smelling of alcohol. Leslie said, "My heart instantly broke." As soon as Leslie introduced herself, the girl started crying. Her name - Maria - the same as Leslie's middle name! This was clearly a divine match-up!
Maria told her story of being kicked out by her abusive boyfriend. She had no place to go. So she landed in the park. Where Jesus was looking for His lost ones. Leslie shared her story of growing up in an angry home, her struggle for love and value, the sexual assault at a party, the new life since she surrendered to Christ. Maria made Leslie's Savior her Savior there on those steps. Then Leslie went to the bus and got her a spare pair of her shoes.
When Leslie obeyed the prompting to go to that girl on the steps, she could never have dreamed what was at stake. It turned out Maria has two kids, ages 6 and 2. She told Leslie she was about to go to the nearby bridge over the Interstate and jump. She said, "You literally saved my life!" Maria is now being cared for by our hosts, a wonderful Christian couple.
This is the kind of soul-saving, life-saving miracle your praying and your generosity are making possible this summer!
Along with what happened when a public invitation was given on that basketball court in the park. We did not know what to expect in this God-gathered crowd.
But just as in previous nights, they came. From every corner. There at center court, stood our Jesus-breakthrough in the park!
Leslie summed it up pretty well: "It was totally a God thing!"
And thinking of God leading our Leslie to one desperate girl named Maria, I told our team:
"We look at that court in the park and see this huge crowd. But God sees 150 ones. In the end, it's about that one shattered life among the many. So each night, big crowd or small, look for your one!"