A TESTIMONY OF FAITH IN THE MIDDLE OF NEW YORK’S CONCRETE JUNGLE
David Wilkerson’s legacy is absolutely undeniable.
The intervention and rehabilitation program
for drug addicts founded by this evangelist –
Teen Challenge – stretches throughout over one hundred
countries today, with more than 1,400 centers all over the
world. But how did it all start? The Cross and the Switchblade
gives us the answer.
Reverend David Wilkerson was a striking figure of the Pentecostal church in the fight against substance abuse and in the sharing of the Gospel, risking everything – even his own life – to bring hope and change to New York’s most dangerous boroughs. As such, it is with great astonishment that we realize the comfortable situation in which Wilkerson lived prior to his call to New York: The Cross and the Switchblade presents us David and Gwen Wilkerson, a young couple ministering a small community in the peaceful town of Phillipsburg, PA. Neither of the two could foresee how much their lives would change when David heard the Lord’s voice after reading the court trial of seven minors, all of them members of a New York City gang. “Go to New York and help these kids.” God’s task for David seemed almost surreal. How was he supposed to help these youngsters from the big city while he was already the pastor of a church far away from New York, with a wife and kids to provide for? And yet, the voice persisted. God’s plan was quite real, and it was going to change David’s life forever.
That is the beginning of a series of amazing events – many of them could even be called “miracles” – that unfolds into a tremendous odyssey of evangelism. The reader is brought to the “Big Apple” of the 60’s – already a metropolis divided and withered by poverty, discrimination, violence, and above all, by drugs. David Wilkerson goes on a true crusade against the plague of substance abuse and the youth crime that comes from it, armed not with a sword but with love and faith. It is this faith so firm and unshakable that leads David to conquer the hearts of several teenagers connected to addiction and gang violence, sharing with them the message of hope and unconditional love that can only be found in Jesus and bringing many to know the Christ Redeemer.
After some years of ministering in the New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods, Wilkerson founded the first Teen Challenge center, a place where all teenagers, independently of gang affiliations or substance abuse problems, were welcome. The center soon became the headquarters to a rather unusual mobilization of young Christians – some of them former gang members – who took to the streets of New York every day in search of other young people whose lives had been ruined by crime and drugs and needed urgent transformation. The book ends with Wilkerson discussing Teen Challenge’s expansion to Chicago, aware that the Holy Spirit is the only one in charge, and that Teen Challenge will continue to perform its work as long as it stays that way.
The Cross and the Switchblade is undoubtedly one of the most impressive testimonies of faith of all time, faithfully retelling the rough nature of New York’s inner city and Wilkerson’s anguish in those moments when nothing seems to be going well. His message of trust and grace has inspired many all over the world to follow on his footsteps, bestowing this work with an absolutely incalculable value.
David Wilkerson, with John & Elizabeth Sherrill – EDITORA BETÂNIA