Battlefield and Breakthrough
"You will never get this reservation out of your heart."
Ron told the team that in our first briefing. There's something about this reservation. Maybe it is, as one of this summer's OEW team said about her people here, "the spiritual bondage" that is "so dark."
Oh, they enjoy the love and energy of our On Eagles' Wings community events. But when the Native young people on the On Eagles' Wings team start to mention Jesus at our events, mothers have taken their children to the car so they won't hear about Him. Older siblings have literally covered their younger siblings' ears for the same reason. It has been the one place where no one came forward when the public invitation to choose Jesus has been given.
Because of the fear. A paralyzing fear that surfaced in conversation after conversation during the first two nights.
But something was different this year.
Softer hearts. That could only be attributed to the prayers of OEW prayer warriors like you, and of the frontline warriors of this relentless team.
- Christina (Navajo) talked with Shaylene, a young woman who practices their Native religion, and like Christina, had lived the pain of domestic violence. Christina asked her if anything would happen to her if she accepted Jesus. She said she didn't know - because she didn't know anyone in her tribe who had ever made that choice. But she was clearly afraid to make that commitment herself.
- Alyssa (Apache) had started to share Jesus with Lexi - who walked away. But after Trey's (Cherokee) powerful Gospel wrap-up that night, Alyssa felt urged to go back to Lexi. And, amazingly, Lexi prayed to begin a relationship with Jesus! But she hesitated to take the Bible that Alyssa offered her. Someone might see it.
That fear factor.
- When Ben (Cherokee) asked Ryan, a young man who strongly follows their Native religion, what he thought about the Hope Stories (testimonies) he was hearing, he responded, "Only about what the white man did and all the hurts that were done."
- Thank God, the fear and animosity didn't stop the 11-year-old boy our warrior Joel had stayed with throughout the evening. And the next night, after Joel shared his Hope Story publicly from the microphone, that boy came up to him and gave him a hug - saying, "Good job!" Joel was deeply touched.
At our Night One debriefing, it became clear that something was different from our previous visits here. People were softer. More willing to listen. And though the fear came up often, they wanted to hear about the Jesus who had so changed the lives of this team from across the country.
- One local girl saw herself in the Hope Story she heard that night. Tara (Crow) was able to introduce her to Jesus. But there was something that opened this girl's heart more than the Hope Story. It was Tara's simple, "We love you." The girl started crying "because I don't ever hear those words. And I never get a hug."
- Ben (Cherokee) said he prayed fervently during the ride to our event because "both times we were here before, God really broke my heart." But this night, he was grateful that Ryan - who, on Night One, had been all about grievances - actually seemed ready to go forward at invitation time. But the fear stopped him. Ben said, "He didn't want to pray because he was scared they would know he was praying. So he prayed with me. I prayed the prayer and he looked at me and said 'amen' at the end."
- On Night One, Shaylene had said she never knew anyone from this tribe had ever accepted Jesus. On Night Two, our OEW warrior Christina "encouraged her to look around and see all the Natives on the team who had made that decision. The fact that Jesus loves her was so overwhelming to her. I told her that's why I was there - to tell her that Jesus loves her…but there's a lot of fear in her. I brought out the Bible - she was afraid." Christina covered the Bible and continued to show Shaylene how much Jesus loves her. She took that Bible home - concealed for fear of the consequences. Christina said, "God is doing a work in her - but the fear is very real."
- Lexi brought her niece to hear about the Jesus she had chosen the night before. Hailey (Crow) reported that Lexi's niece "just started crying to me. It was a very genuine moment." She was really interested in finding out who Jesus is. But she was also terribly frightened of what would happen if she tried to learn more. For good reason. At one point, she had decided to take the step of going to a church service. The next day at school, four boys attacked her and tried to choke her - for going to a Christian church. "You betrayed your religion," they screamed at her.
Then when local law enforcement came to check on her injury, she was grabbed by the hair and berated for disrespecting her people and her religion. They said, "You don't have a choice about your religion! You'll always be our religion!"
That's the almost unthinkable intimidation that makes any commitment to Jesus here truly a miracle.
- The Gospel wrap-up this night clearly addressed the reasons people reject Jesus and boldly presented the love of Jesus poured out on the cross. And then, there was an invitation for people who just prayed in their hearts to begin a relationship with Jesus to make a public stand - an invitation to which there had been no public response in the past. Once again - though there had been amazing openness in many hearts - no one came.
Until the very last moment.
- One OEW warrior with one young woman walked forward in a stunning moment of spiritual breakthrough. As they were walking up, she said, "Am I really doing this? The whole community is watching." But still she came. Brought to the event by Lexi, who had chosen Christ the night before. A recovering addict. A single mom. Now a reborn soul.
Then on Sunday morning, we got to meet her - in the one reservation church where the team was ministering. And she was glowing!
As Ron heard the reports of unprecedented openness among these dear people who we've carried in our hearts, he told the OEW warriors:
"This time there's finally a crack in the wall that has resisted Jesus for so long."
Pastor Brian, who has fought for his people here for nearly 40 years, added what he was seeing:
"There is more than a little crack in the wall. The harvest is coming very strong."
The wall has been breached. By the overwhelming love of Christ.
|Ron Hutchcraft||Brad Hutchcraft|
* Names and locations changed for privacy.