June 2019 – Raised on a Navajo Indian reservation, Weston Francis was no stranger to hopelessness.
Watching his father repeatedly abuse his mother, Francis vowed never to do the same. Yet, he soon followed his father’s footsteps into alcoholism and drug addiction.
“I had no direction, nothing to cling to or give me purpose,” Francis told AFA Journal. “I wanted to live, but had nothing to live for.”
Francis was not alone. On some reservations, the Indian youth suicide rate is 10 times that of America’s other ethnic groups.
In the midst of his suicidal thoughts, Francis began to search the Bible for the Jesus his mother loved.
“I hated when she said, ‘Jesus loves you, Son,’” Francis said. “I wanted to believe it, but she was the only glimpse of love I had ever seen. I thought Jesus was not for us; He was the white man’s God.”
When Francis read that Jesus came to save the whole world, the blinders fell off; faith and hope were born. Now, Francis spreads the gospel through a ministry called On Eagles’ Wings.
Finding the messengers
Founded in 1991 by Ron and Karen Hutchcraft, OEW combats hopelessness in Native American communities by encouraging and equipping believers who are already working there.
Hutchcraft discussed OEW’s unique ministry with AFAJ, explaining that over 10 million indigenous people populated America when explorers first arrived. But by 1900, barely 200,000 were still alive.
“After 400 years of missions, only an estimated 4% of Native Americans are Jesus followers,” said Hutchcraft. “One of the Great Commission’s greatest failures, this is the unfinished business of the American church.”
But Hutchcraft said Native American young people, not white men, can more effectively carry the gospel to their peers.
Receiving His hope
Thus, when invited to Native American reservations, OEW sponsors varied events, e.g., a basketball tournament. The events become a platform for OEW’s trained Native American team members to share their stories of hope.
Indian young people are also invited to OEW’s yearly Warrior Leadership Summit, a five-day discipleship conference exclusively for Native Americans ages 15-30. The summit is a time of fun competition, corporate worship, and sound teaching. When Weston Francis attended his first WLS, he was shocked at what he found.
“I didn’t know there were so many Native American believers,” remarked Francis. “It gave me a confidence boost. I had felt alone in my faith until God showed me others just like me, seeking and looking for Jesus.”
That first summit propelled Francis to become an OEW team member. He attended Bible college and eventually became an OEW staff member. Today, he regularly shares his powerful story of redemption with hundreds of Native American youths.
“I tell them that Jesus is one of us,” he said. “He had brown skin and His own language. Just like us, Jesus knew what it felt like when people said, ‘Nothing good comes from that place.’ Then, I see the shock on their faces when they first believe that maybe Jesus came for our people too.”
On a personal note, Francis experienced a high-water mark the first time he was able to share forgiveness and hope with his father.
“We believe that Native Americans are not a hopeless people,” said Nick Liew, an Apache OEW coordinator. “They are just a people without hope.”
Hutchcraft affirmed that thought: “And young Native Americans like Wes are warriors, under the leadership of Christ. With passion and power, they are boldly sharing with their people the hope they have found in Jesus.”
Learn more about OEW ministries and its July 1-6 Warrior Leadership Summit at oneagleswings.com.
A Word with You, Ron Hutchcraft’s four-minute inspirational messages, can be heard on American Family Radio or at hutchcraft.com.