Years ago, one of the ladies who cooked for the team summarized what she witnessed in three never-forgotten words...
Chasing God's Glory!
Again this summer, that's exactly what we were doing for five supernatural weeks. And the work God began continues - as we get reports back from the follow-up events put on by our local reservation partners.
It's just like God. To save the most broken, most heart-wrenching reservation for last. When our full team is together. When every warrior is supremely battle-tested and battle-taught. And when, because we are at end of our strength, we will have to totally depend on His.
West End Reservation. Our final battle of this unforgettable Summer of Hope. The one where I heard more warriors talk about their heart being broken than any other.
"I looked in their eyes...and I felt their brokenness."
Those were Cindy's (Navajo) words as she surveyed the crowd just before she shared her Hope Story. Which turned out to be one of the most powerful God-moments of this amazing Summer of Hope. More on that later.
I truly believe that our small team of 13 had the opportunity to be like Jesus to these two isolated reserves in Canada. This was answered prayer for our local host who had reached out to us about seven years ago, asking what it would take to bring the On Eagles' Wings team there. But like always, God's timing is perfect.
She's a nurse at the Cedar Canyon Reservation Health Service. She told me the E.R. had been one tragic emergency after another. "Drug overdoses, stabbings, shootings, suicide. We've had elevensuicides since January. It's nonstop."
Another reservation in crisis. This year God seems to have led On Eagles' Wings to one place after another where a Summer of Hope may be the only hope for many.
"If you don't see me here anymore, it's because I was shot." - 11-year-old to a youth leader in the Ironwood Native community
Sadly, that's life in Ironwood. A violent urban "rez" where there is a constant bombardment of drug overdoses, gang activity, violence and death. It's not an exaggeration to call it a war zone.
We knew it was going to be hard at Ivy Park. This is a reservation where there have been 75 drug overdoses and at least 15 overdose-related deaths just since 2016. With only a few thousand people living there, this has been devastating. One of the young ladies who came to the event said at least ten of her friends had overdosed in just the past couple of months.
It's the rez that will long be remembered for the night of the washout miracle. And the reminder of Who's in charge.
A baby born addicted to drugs has three strikes before they've even lived a day. The recent report from the High Mountain Reservation laments "a growing number of new babies born to mothers who are using."
They called her one of this reservation's "baby mamas" - girls so very young with babies they're not ready for. One of those mamas died just before we got there - another life lost to a drug overdose. And a baby without a mother. And the night of our final event, a funeral for another drug fatality. Tragic reminders of how very much these people need Jesus.
One reservation has more suicides than any other area in the state. The other reservation is flooded with drugs and the death it brings.
Thank God, we didn't have to choose which one we went to. God has given us a strong team of warriors that enable us to divide our army and fight for lives on two reservations at a time.