ON EAGLES’ WINGS LEADERSHIP CENTER: A launch pad for Indigenous leaders


By RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Located on the 75-acre campus of Hutchcraft Ministries in the Ozarks, the 22,000-square-foot On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center is 30 years in the making.

The vision?

To prepare Native American youth to be messengers for Jesus Christ in their communities.

By all accounts, Hutchcraft Ministries is a well-known entity, both domestically and globally.

Since the 1980s, its co-founder, Ron Hutchcraft, has hosted a daily radio program that reaches 1,200 outlets across America. It is also broadcast in six languages, including Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic.

Hutchcraft and his sons — Doug, President and Brad, Executive Vice-President — also do a good deal of internet ministry, speaking engagements, and in-person events.

“So, we had quite a bit of ministry going on before God really planted Native American work in our hearts,” Ron explains. “But On Eagles’ Wings, as a ministry, actually reflects our overall vision: preparing people who do have a relationship with Jesus to be able to know how to guide other people who don’t.

“The dream was born a long time ago,” he adds. “The reality started to happen two years ago.”

“God broke my heart”

To fully understand how the On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center came to be, it’s important to consider Hutchcraft’s extensive work in — and heart for — cross-cultural youth ministry.

“I’ve been in cross-cultural youth ministry for my whole life,” he says. “That ranged from working with young people in Harlem and Paterson, New Jersey and Chinatown, to working with rich white kids, poor white kids, all kinds of young people.”

Accordingly, Hutchcraft spends a lot of time traveling around the nation speaking on America’s youth.

“Now, let’s go to 1992, when I’m invited to go to speak on a reservation,” he recalls. “I’m supposed to really be knowledgeable, right? Well, so much for that.” 

His talk was delivered on the Navajo reservation in Window Rock, Ariz. For Hutchcraft, it was quickly apparent that even his vast youth ministry experiences hadn’t prepared him for this one.

“For the first time in my life, I met young people who had no dreams — because they were pretty sure they wouldn’t have a future,” he recalls. “That week, I met some of the most devastated adolescents in America. I heard their stories, and it broke my heart. God broke my heart.”

At that time, data shows only 4 percent of Native Americans had a relationship with Christ. Hutchcraft was beginning to see this reality firsthand in the “many broken places inside” Native American young people.

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“There’s been a terrible history; of course, we all know that history,” he explains. “There is generational grief, and then there’s so much death, so much poverty, and so much pain and broken families on the reservation. All of that has fallen on this generation of young people.”

Sadly, this contributes to extremely high suicide rates among Native American youth, as well as the highest national rates of missing and murdered women — which, according to the most recent statistics, is 10 times more prevalent.

Following his calling, Hutchcraft and his team stayed in Window Rock for the summer. It was a pivotal time for many reasons.

“We realized that in order to strengthen young Native Americans to live and lead for Christ among their people and be messengers and models of hope, we needed more time with them,” he recalls. “It was a wonderful summer. And the growth, the maturing, the confidence-building, the sense of worth that developed in them during that time — that was incredibly powerful.”

“It was like I was taking dictation from heaven”

Fast-forward 25 years, and Hutchcraft has served with a team of Native American young people on more than 130 reservations to date. He travels with a team of Native American young people. As he puts it, “They lead everything. They’re the real heroes of this story.”

“I’m the little white guy on the bus,” he explains, laughing. “And that’s exactly where I belong.”

In addition to this outreach on reservations, while Hutchcraft’s sons and daughters-in-law had been working among Native people on a reservation, they had dreamed of — and done initial planning for — a facility for Native young people. Collectively, they had a wish all those years: to have a place where they could have even more time with the Native American youth they encountered.

“The only way we could really break through to them about the hope that only Jesus can give, was if the messengers were other Native American young people,” Hutchcraft shares. “Thus, the vision for the On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center was born.”

Brad Hutchcraft and his wife, Sara, had helped pioneer a youth ministry on a reservation years earlier. God have given them a dream of a youth center there. They had the blueprint, but it wasn’t God’s time yet.

Fast-forward to 2016, and God resurrected the dream and made it more than they could have imagined. At that time, Hutchcraft and his team had just completed the Summer of Hope, visiting eight reservations across the country. “We were worn out. Exhausted. Beyond exhausted,” he remembers. “But the Lord woke me up at 6 in the morning and started to really pour into my heart things that he wanted done through our ministry.”

Hutchcraft jumped out of bed, grabbed a legal pad and pen, and started writing.

“It was like I was taking dictation from heaven,” he says. In particular, Isaiah 54:2 — the next passage in his daily Bible study — came through strongly: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.

“I knew it was ‘go time,’” Hutchcraft says. “It was a call to get ready for bigger things, obviously.”

What came next (“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame”) also resonated deeply.

“Knowing that we’d be undertaking the largest challenge of all our years in ministry, that reassurance was important to have,” he points out.

For the next five years, the Hutchcraft Ministries board of directors — along with and any and all stakeholders in their Native American ministry efforts — held meetings. “I have minutes upon minutes upon minutes of conceiving and realizing the things that were stored up in our hearts for years,” he recalls. “We had a description of how the building would be. We knew what we wanted it to be like, its essential character of how it would feel. We envisioned what our curriculum would be, what kind of teachers we would have.”

Along the way, Hutchcraft says, another guiding message came to him loud and clear.

“On January 4, 2021, I was having my Jesus time in the morning. This is in big, bold letters in my journal: Hands off, Ron — I’m doing this,” he recalls, adding: “He went on to say to me, If I want you to do something, I’ll let you know.”

True to form, what came next bore what Hutchcraft calls “one set of fingerprints” — the development of the 22,000-square-foot On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center, built on 75 acres of land in the Ozarks.

“God used human instruments, and I’m so grateful”

Hutchcraft and his leadership team enlisted the same architects who designed the Hutchcraft Ministries headquarters – located on this same acreage — to design On Eagles’ Wings. To make it a reality, they knew they needed a builder with Christian values. A few were considered, but the team did its due diligence, asking other ministries for their recommendations. Ultimately, they chose Broken Arrow, Okla.-based Churches By Daniels to construct the new leadership center.

For one thing, the Daniels team was located just a few hours from the site. But more importantly, Hutchcraft says, they were trustworthy and spoke the same language.

“We tackled this project by faith; our national board of directors is made up of great businesspeople, but they’re men of faith as well,” Hutchcraft says. “So, it was important that we have a building partner we could trust, that would understand us.”

Moreover, the Churches By Daniels team embraced Hutchcraft’s desire that they work in syngery with volunteers to build the project. This would prove vital, as the project would come to include more than 3,000 volunteer-hours, much of it contribted by a team of volunteers from Volunteer Christian Builders. As Texas Baptist men, all were eager to help bring the facility’s unique, much-needed mission to life.

“Our parking lot looked like an RV park,” Hutchcraft recalls. “They were a tremendous blessing.”

Under Churches by Daniels’ oversight, these volunteers did much of the Center’s framing, along with its woodwork: beds, bookcases, built-in wardrobes in the dorms, desks, bookcases and so on. “Now, keep in mind that this was taking work away from Daniels,” Hutchcraft points out. “But they saw the work they were doing and appreciated it. People still ooh and ah over the things they built here.”

For their part, the volunteers were likewise impressed — by how they were treated by the on-site project superintendent, David Fink.    

“Some of the real veterans among them really appreciated their time here, and we have our staff to thank for that, along with their interactions with [Fink],” Hutchcraft explains. “He was very respectful and elevated them in the eyes of the tradesmen who were here. He bragged on them. They were treated with the dignity they deserved.”

“[L]et me just say, all of this was covered by enormous prayer”

For the remaining project work, the Daniels team committed to giving local subcontractors the first right of refusal. “We wanted the local area to benefit from the construction, if they could,” Hutchcraft explains.

Last but not least, the Daniels team was focused on driving cost savings. This proved critical at the time, as COVID was destroying even the best-laid project foundations. From the start, supply chain issues abounded and construction costs rose to unprecedented levels.

“Everybody working here said, ‘We’ve never seen it like this,’” Hutchcraft remembers. “We were given 24-hour price quotes from subcontractors, when we’d usually have a couple of weeks. And those prices were going nowhere but up.”

Suddenly, heavy timber costs rose from $30 a foot to $150. With 22,000 square feet to build, this wrought havoc with the original, board-approved construction budget.

They went back to the drawing board, so to speak, three times, with three different budgets — “not because we’re not good budgeters, but because no one could budget for what had never been,” Hutchcraft points out.

Fortunately, he and his team knew pretty quickly that they’d made the right choice with their builder.

“Throughout all this, the Daniels team supported our conviction about this building that said, There’s an essential character that we will fight for. It will feel warm and safe and like home,” Hutchcraft says. “That was extremely important for the tremendous young men and women we work with — the overcomers.”

He credits Fink and the rest of the Churches By Daniels team for being resourceful in a time that greatly required it. “They were on the phone on our behalf manipulating supply chains, pushing buttons,” he explains, adding: “But let me just say, all of this was covered by enormous prayer. They’re praying people, too. I’m so grateful for the flexibility, the ingenuity, the sensitivity, and the spiritual passion of the Daniels staff.”

In the end, On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center was completed in just a year. It includes a chapel, office, men’s and women’s dorms to house 24 students, multipurpose spaces, various types of classrooms, a commercial kitchen, a workout room, and even a 1950s-style café where students can enjoy casual fellowship.

Perhaps even more amazingly, the facility was fully funded when finished.

Ministry leaders opted against taking out a construction loan or even enlisting a professional capital campaign provider; they raised the funds themselves. “I’ll just say we all — Churches By Daniels and us — rose to the challenge,” Hutchcraft says. “More important, God had said from the beginning, I’m doing this. And He did! We owe not a dime on this building. God still does miracles.”

“There’s transformation taking place here”

With a place to call home, the students at On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center are thriving. Today, it serves as the launch pad it was intended to be.

“There are no rockets here, but there are lives,” Hutchcraft says. “It was built to fill a desperate need: young Native American leaders. There’s transformation taking place here.”

And although students live onsite for eight months, taking more than 240 class-hours, Hutchcraft is quick to point out that the center is so much more than a giant classroom.

“Our student life directors are a Navajo couple. Their job is to create weekly experiences, year-round, for students to put what they’ve been taught into practice,” he explains. “Our teaching approach is to learn it, then do it, then talk about it.

“And that’s not an original model,” he adds. “It comes all the way down from a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus. That’s what he did with 12 guys, and they changed the world. That’s what happens in the building.”



Year completed: 2022

Square footage: 22,000

Number of Hutchcraft Ministries staff — full-
and part-time:

One recent Native American On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center graduate described life there, saying: “I have learned so much here — I’ve healed from past experiences. This place isn’t just a place for us to grow, but a place to launch us to what God has for us.”

So far, two graduations have taken place under its roof. Many more are to come.

Beyond student life, a small conference has been held for the past two years in the 120-seat chapel. The event provides encouragement for individuals working with Native American youth on reservations throughout the country.

“This building is a statement,” Hutchcraft says. “Lord willing, Native leaders will be launched from this place beyond my lifetime, beyond the lifetimes of all the people who worked on it.”

Hutchcraft concludes with a poignant parallel: a branch of the Cherokee Trail of Tears is located nearby.

In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma.

“It’s either on or near our land, here,” he explains. “Today, where once there was a trail of tears, there is a trail of hope. It’s the On Eagles’ Wings Leadership Center.”


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