Oakdale United Methodist Church
Saturday, February 24, 2024
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The Cross and the Switchblade

The Cross and the Switchblade
By The Reverend David Wilkerson & John & Elizabeth Sherrill
Review by Judy Sandberg

     Travel with Reverend David Wilkerson from a small town in Pennsylvania to the streets of New York City in a true story of his fight against crime in big city slums. Be with him in his one-man mission to the asphalt jungle.
     In 1957 Wilkerson saw a "Life Magazine" photo of several New York City teenagers charged with murder. It moved him with compassion. The artist had captured a look of bewilderment, hatred and despair in the young boys features. The boys were members of a gang called the Dragons when they stabbed and killed a fifteen year old polio victim. A thought came into Wilkerson's head. It sounded like a voice from afar. Go to New York and help these boys. The idea wouldn't go away. In 1958 after much soul searching and many trips to the city, Wilkerson moved his family to New York and began his ministry with under -privileged city youth.
     Many people thought Wilkerson was crazy to be taking the Gospel to drug addicted teens. Going to the city changed the pastor's life forever. With incredible faith he made the bizarre step from his country pulpit to the New York City streets. The Cross and the Switchblade is the amazing true story about how Wilkerson, prompted by the Holy Spirit, began to preach to teenagers enslaved in drugs and violence.
     In this book you will meet Nicky Cruz and Israel Narvaez both member of the Puerto Rican gang the Mau Maus. Joining a gang is one of the few options they had in order to survive everyday life on the streets. Nicky quickly became the gang's Warlord or leader. The Mau Maus were feared not only by other gangs but the police as well. They were especially violent, looking to fight with enemy gangs. Nicky was responsible for stabbing 16 people while a member of this gang. With the help of Rev. Wilkerson, Nicky was converted. He became a preacher founding the "Nicky Cruz Outreach" and returned to preach in the very streets he grew up in. Narvaez returned to the Mau Maus where he again commited murder and was sent to prison. He later re-dedicated is life to God. He now runs his own ministry and has authored a book entitled "Second Chances".
     "The Cross and the Switchblade" is the story of Reverend. Wilkersons first five years on New York streets. Wilkerson is the founder of "Teen Challenge" ministries. Through this program many street hardened young men and women have come to Christ allowing God's Spirit to transform their lives. Since 1958 Teen Challenge has grown to include 173 residential programs as well as 241 centers in 77 countries. It operates under the auspices of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal association of which Wilkerson is an ordained minister.
     In 1969 a motion picture of "The Cross and the Switchblade" was released, starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson and Eric Estrada as Nicky Cruz. The movie retells the unforgettable story of God's tender mercy and love to New York City teens through Wilkerson's ministry. The film has been viewed by 50 million people in over 30 languages in 150 countries. Both the book and the film are credited with drawing millions to Christ.
     The Reverend Wilkerson is the founder of Times Square Church in New York, an interdenominational church. His ministry has involved preaching, teaching and writing. The Cross and the Switchblade, his first book was followed by many others including, "The New Covenant Unveiled', 'Hungry for More of Jesus', and 'Beyond The Cross and the Switchblade". Since 1990 Wilkerson has focused on efforts to encourage Pastors and their families in their passion for Christ.
     I enjoyed this book because I was transported into a totally different environment, a different way of life that I was totally unfamiliar with. I was appalled at what teens had to do merely to survive on the streets of a large city. I wondered how one man could be so faithful to God that he followed Him even into dangerous situations. I soon discovered it was not an easy undertaking. Most of us have not lived in a large city and through this book I caught a glimpse of what being on the streets, and surviving, would be like. I became completely caught up in Wilkerson's project and his faith in God. I know you will laugh and cry with the author as he describes his teen challenge. This inspiring book has sold more than 14 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages. It is now available in the Church library.