On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars


Losing David Wilkerson “like having to say goodbye to my father,” says Nicky Cruz

Back in 1958, rural Pennsylvania pastor David Wilkerson was stirred by a Life magazine photo of teenage street thugs – and felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to go talk to the young gangsters.

However, he found himself on the dark, dangerous streets of one of Brooklyn’s worst housing projects, facing off with a laughing teenage “warlord” who flashed a switchblade, expecting the country preacher to retreat in fright.

Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson

Instead, Wilkerson told Nicky Cruz that even if sliced into little pieces, each one of them would love the kid.

Nicky’s life was never again the same.

Wilkerson died May 27 in a traffic accident at age 79.

Today Cruz is an author and evangelist based in Colorado Springs who spearheads outreaches to street kids. He regularly speaks in crusades worldwide – often with Wilkerson’s son, Gary.

Of Dave’s sudden death, “It’s like somebody who was not only my spiritual father, but much more than that is gone,” says Cruz. This week Nicky begins a series of outreaches in the Ukraine to street gangs and teens. He spoke at Wilkerson’s funeral last week.

“I’ve always felt badly that I wasn’t closer to my own father,” he says. His dad was an occult healer in rural Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, who put Nicky on a plane to New York when he was just a boy, shipping him off to relatives, rather than try to deal with the adolescent’s rebellion.

That story is told in Cruz’s bestselling Run Baby Run as well as in Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade, which became a Hollywood movie starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Cruz. Both books have been translated into more than 30 languages and continue to sell worldwide 50 years later.

Wilkerson

“Dave became my spiritual father and was like my earthly father, too,” remembers Cruz. “He advised me about little things as well as big ones. He loved my kids. A year ago, we all got together. As he looked around at my children and my grandchildren, his eyes just lighted up. He was so proud of all of them.”

Cruz

Wilkerson could be tough, remembers Cruz. “Always Dave preached righteousness and he lived it, too. A lot of people thought he was harsh. But he had a tender heart. He was just a Teddy bear. He cared deeply and passionately about people and their relationship with the Lord.

“Dave was a generous, giving person. You know, he was like the angel who stirred the pool in John, chapter 5. He stirred and gave. He started Teen Challenge, then gave it away.” Teen Challenge today is a worldwide network of Christian rehabilitation centers.

“He got World Challenge going down in Texas,” recalls Nicky, “and gave it all away, too, to those who would carry on the work. Then he founded Times Square Church and gave it away when it was time.”

One of more than 20 books authored by Cruz

Wilkerson’s death shook him, says Nicky.

“It hurts. It hurts really bad. I miss him. I know I will see him again. I will spend eternity with him.

“But I will be there because he was bold enough in the power of the Holy Spirit to tell a kid holding a switchblade in his face that Jesus loved me.

“I have lost somebody who changed my life forever.”



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Comments read comments(12)
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Julie McFarlane

posted May 11, 2011 at 3:35 am


What an inspiring legacy this man of integrity leaves behind.



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GRETCHEN H.

posted May 11, 2011 at 5:33 am


I AM VERY THANKFUL OF MR.WILKERSON.I GRADUATED TEEN CHALLENGE IN 2007.IF IT WASNT FOR THAT MAN AND HIS BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST AND HIS BELIEVE IN SECOND CHANCES FOR PEOPLE WITH LIFE ADDICTING PROBLEMS I WOULDVE NEVER HAVE HAD THE CHANCE TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.I LEARNED ALOT IN THE PROGRAM,AND EVEN THOUGH I STILL HAVE STRUGGLES EVERYDAY,AND HAVE MY TIMES,I NOW HAVE FAITH.AND KNOW THAT BEYOND A DOUBT ” I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME”PHIL.4:13.NO MATTER HOW MUCH I DID IN MY PAST,GOD FORGIVES ME!JUST IN KNOWING THAT ALONE…..I HAVE A REASON TO WAKE EVERY MORNING!I LIVE IN COLORADO SPRINGS,AND HAVE YET TO MEET NICKY CRUZ.I NEVER GOT THE CHANCE TO MEET MR.WILKERSON EITHER BUT I KNOW I WILL ONE DAY IN HEAVEN.I SEND MY PRAYERS TO HIS FAMILY!



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Mary Smith

posted May 11, 2011 at 5:38 am


When I listened to David I usually wept…because he had such a passionate love for God and it oozed out of him. He made me feel loved. I always wished I could meet him, hold his hands and look into his eyes because I knew I would see God smiling back at me. He was a giant of a prophet…true blue…so unselfish.
I miss him but I know where he is and that makes me happy.



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Monica Monarco

posted May 11, 2011 at 10:32 am


It was a complete shock to stumble upon my e-mail and hear of the sudden passing Of Mr Dave Wilkerson. My sister introduced me to his ministry. I looked forward to his letters, and loved the compassion he showed to a dying world that was lost. It is our loss but Christs gain. His rewards will be great. My deepest sympathy to his family.



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Angela

posted May 11, 2011 at 11:14 am


I grew up with “The Cross and The Switchblade”. At first I thought who would put their life on the line for people that didn’t care. Yet he did what God placed him on this earth to do. I remember when Teen Challenge was first coming out. I still own the original manual and wonder what happened to us as we grew up. Dave can say with certainty “I have run my race. I have finished my course. Now I go to receive a crown of life that is laid up for me.” We really miss you whether we met you in person or not. I’m just one of the blessed ones that did. To his family and loved ones I do send my love and compassion in this hour of your pain. We understand the loss because we are a part of it. Hold on and nurture the legacy that must be running through this bloodline. It is a blessed legacy that cannot and must not be quenched.



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Wilma Ulibarri

posted May 11, 2011 at 11:23 am


The passing of David Wilkerson causes my heart much sadness. The fact that he touched so many lives here on this earth, is truly one of God’s greatest blessings. My heartfelt prayers go out to his family, and to all those who became part of the family of God, through him.



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Dr. Arnaldo I Zapata

posted May 11, 2011 at 11:37 am


Those men that are great became so by kneeling in front of God,s face and be available to obey him without conditions. Pastor David Wilkerson was an excellent example of it. Now he already won the greatest battle of all, life in eternity. We should follow his steps.



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Holly

posted May 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm


I met David back on a Friday night in his Times Square Church. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I was with a team to do work in the city with him. He came out and just sat on the steps with us like we were just his family. We talked then we knelt and prayed and for the lost and homeless people in N.Y.C. The lives we touched and the people we met were so awesome. I went back many times and took my family. My kids would beg to stay just so they go back to Times Square Church. It amazed me and still does that before the service would even start there were so many men down front praying on their knees. His trials were many but he kept reaching out to help others. David left a legacy of love for Jesus and I imagine him just sitting and talking with him now. My prayers are with his family.



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Sandra Hudson

posted May 16, 2011 at 11:37 am


I grew up reading all of David Wilkerson’s books. He was such a
mighty man of God. He cared about the souls of this nation threw
the books he wrote. His main objective was alerting the nation to come back to God. I hope this nation realize we have lost
another voice for God who would not compromise his values.



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JÉSSIKA

posted February 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm


DAVID WILKERSON SE ENCAIXA NA CLASSE DE PESSOAS QUE A BÍBLIA RELATA CUJA TERRA NÃO ERA DIGNA!UM HOMEM SANTO TOTALMENTE ENTREGUE, E TOTALMENTE GASTO NA OBRA DE DEUS!



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