Sadly and tragically, David Wilkerson, founder of New York’s Times Square Church and the worldwide drug rehabilitation movement Teen Challenge, has died in a car crash in East Texas. The accident happened on Wednesday, April 27, reportedly involving a head-on collision with a tractor trailer. Wilkerson’s World Challenge ministry has issued a statement here. Wilkerson was 79.
David Wilkerson leaves behind a remarkable legacy. During February of 1958, David felt God prompt him to spend his evenings praying rather than watching television. One night, two weeks later, he picked up a copy of Life magazine and started weeping over an ink sketching of seven members of New York’s Dragon Gang on trial for murder. ‘Go and help those boys,’ he felt God say. The result was Teen Challenge, an organisation which has since spread globally and reportedly helps around 24,000 men and women beat substance abuse issues each day. Wilkerson founded Times Square Church in 1987 and since 1999 has traveled the world holding conferences for Christian ministers. His story is told in the popular book and film, The Cross and the Switchblade.
I never had the opportunity of interviewing David Wilkerson. I wish I had.
I have, however, spoken to the man who felt his sacrifice the most - Nicky Cruz. In this Open House interview you’ll hear Nicky Cruz talk about:
- His abusive family and his escape to the streets
- Joining Brooklyn’s infamous Mau Mau gang and rising to become one of New York’s most feared gang leaders
- The day a scared, young bespectacled David Wilkerson walked into his life, and the abuse Nicky and his gang threw at him
- The single sentence David spoke that changed Nicky forever
As I’ve said in the introductory paragraphs of Nicky’s chapter in Open House Volume 2, there wasn’t a dry eye between us at the end of this interview. It’s a fitting way to remember David Wilkerson, a man who risked his very life to follow the call of God and love the most ‘unloveable’.
Download the interview here or listen below.
Q: Have you read The Cross and the Switchblade, or Nicky Cruz’s book Run Baby Run? How have you been touched by the life, faith and service of David Wilkerson?