It is set in New York City amongst the dangerous streets where violent gangs dominate and lives are destroyed through drugs and crime. David Wilkerson was a country preacher but felt called to the dark ghettos of New York. 'The Cross and the Switchblade' is an account of his remarkable influence with some of the toughest young people in NYC.
What amazes me about David Wilkerson is that he was not specially trained or equipped for such a task. His call to this ministry began one night when he saw a drawing of a boy on trial for murder in New York City. The image had captured the boy's expression of bewilderment, hatred and fear. In that moment, David Wilkerson's burden compelled him to help and his ministry with youth was birthed (worldchallenge.org).
In 1958 David Wilkerson began a very successful program called Teen Challenge. The program offers hope for people burdened with addiction to illegal drugs or alcohol. It is a practical ministry combining education and skill training while promoting biblical principles.
Teen Challenge recognizes the complexities of such problems with addictions by providing a rigorous and regimented program. This ministry offers hope to men, women and adolescents who are in need of urgent recovery from addictions (teenchallenge.com).
I wonder how different David Wilkerson's life would have been if he not responded to the burden when he first looked at the image of the young boy's trial? By taking the bold steps to relocate to New York City, David forever changed the lives of people destroyed by drugs and addictions.
He later went on to found Times Square Church in the heart of NYC. Once again, the calling came by seeing the need and feeling compelled to make a difference. "In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street at midnight, Pastor David Wilkerson's heart broke over what he saw. At that time, Times Square was populated mainly by prostitutes and pimps, runaways, drug addicts and hustlers, along with live peep shows and x-rated movie houses." (tsnyc.org/history.php).
Instead of being overwhelmed by such a situation, David boldly responded and establishing Times Square Church.
Last year I had the privilege of visiting Times Square Church, set in a beautiful theatre near Broadway. The church was packed with regulars and visitors. It was such an honour for me to attend, having been impacted by David Wilkerson since a teenager.
Sadly, Pastor David was recently killed in a car crash April 27th 2011. Senior Pastor Carter Conion of Times Square Church issued a statement: "Pastor David Wilkerson's was a life fully given for the glory of God and souls of men." (charismamag.com).
I'm both humbled and awed by the life that David Wilkerson led. He saw the needs and responded. His life of service is simply love in action. Although his passing is sad, David Wilkerson has left an extraordinary legacy.