a service of Teen Challenge International, USA

Loss of Rev. David Wilkerson

Written by Jack Smart on Apr 27, 2011

The family of Teen Challenge USA is immeasurably saddened today at the loss of our founder, Rev. David Wilkerson. Rev. Wilkerson was killed in a car accident in which his wife, Gwen, was also injured and is in serious condition.

“Brother Dave” was used by God in 1958 to reach out to gang members in New York City. Through that singular act of obedience, tens of thousands of those bound by drug, alcohol and other addictions have found freedom through Jesus Christ–there are 233 centers in the US, and 1187 total worldwide, providing help to as many as 25,000 people needing deliverance through the power of God.

Please keep Gwen and the entire Wilkerson family in your prayers.

Right now, it is as important as ever for us to carry on the mantle of this ministry to honor Brother David’s legacy.

Tribute to Rev. David Wilkerson from World Challenge on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Background on David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson was born May 19, 1931 in Hammond, Indiana. David Ray Wilkerson was the second child of Kenneth and Ann Wilkerson. At the age of eight, David felt the call of God and made the decision to become a minister of the gospel in 1939.

On June 14, 1952 he married Gwen Carosso. Gwen remembers falling in love with David when she was 13 years old. His father was pastor of her church in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania.

In February 1958 David Wilkerson was compelled to go to New York City after seeing a photograph of seven teenage gang members on trial for murder. In 1959, David resigned his pastorate in Pennsylvania and moved his family to New York City, where he founded Teen Challenge (initially called Teenage Evangelism). Through his singular act of obedience, tens of thousands of those bound by drug, alcohol and other addictions have found freedom through Jesus Christ–there are 233 centers in the US, and 1187 total worldwide, providing help to as many as 25,000 people needing deliverance through the power of God.

In 1963 the story of Pastor Wilkerson’s early years in New York was published in The Cross and the Switchblade. The book became a best-selling phenomenon, and has been distributed in excess of 15 million copies in more than 30 languages.

The success of Teen Challenge and The Cross and the Switchblade resulted in a flood of invitation from across the country asking David Wilkerson to speak at youth gatherings. Thus began the David Wilkerson Youth Crusades, an evangelistic ministry reaching the neediest young people, offering help for body and soul in 1964.

In 1967, David Wilkerson established CURE Corps –Collegiate Urban Renewal Effort. Wilkerson called college graduates to set aside their careers and pledge two years to work in the poorest areas of the drug-ravaged South Bronx.

In 1969 the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade was released as a motion picture starring Pat Boone as David Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz, the teenage gang member whose live was dramatically transformed by Christ.

Although Pastor Wilkerson left New York City in 1970, he continued to return annually to conduct street meetings in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. David Wilkerson’s ever-expanding evangelistic ministry headquarters moved to Texas, where he founded World Challenge, Inc. in 1971.

Coming back to New York City for a street rally, in 1986, David Wilkerson was shocked by the depravity of the place. Praying that God raise up a testimony in this hellish place, he was shocked when he heard God direct him to move his family back to New York City and establish a church in Times Square. The church opened its doors in October 1987, using rented auditoriums around Times Square. In 1989, fulfilling God’s promise to provide a beautiful building for the church, the Mark Hellinger Theatre was purchased as Times Square Church’s permanent home. The New York Daily News declared “Standing Room Only” for Jesus on Broadway.

David Wilkerson began holding international conference for pastors and their spouses in 1999. His burden was to share and learn with them more of an intimacy with Christ, “Renewing Your Passion for Christ.”

In 2008 David Wilkerson was reunited with Nicky Cruz, Sonny Arguinzoni, and Israel Narvaez on the platform at Times Square Church for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of his first visit to New York City. Because of Wilkerson’s calling to the streets of New York all three of the men’s lives were forever changed.  And because of their ministries thousands more lives have been changed by God.

April 27th, 2011 David Wilkerson passed from this earthly life to meet Jesus. What rejoicing in heaven! I’m sure there will be a long line of people to say “Thank you, I was a life that you touched,” but knowing David Wilkerson; he’ll be on his knees before his Lord – praising Him.



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10 Responses to “Loss of Rev. David Wilkerson”

  1. jmdriver 11 June 2011 at 11:34 pm Permalink

    Did not go through teen challenge. However I am a delivered drug addict.
    I just read “The cross and the switch blade” this past week. Was blown away by the miracles Christ used to bring about Teen Challenge, and also the obedience of Mr. Wilkerson. We serve an Awesome God. I was sad as I read of Dave’s recent passing. Also my prayer goes out to his wife. The version of the book I read had a epilogue that was added in October of 2000 I believe. He shared that his wife had suffered with depression. My prayer will be for her that she will find the strength to stay strong in her faith with her husband’s passing. My condolences to Dave’s family, friends and co-workers. Thanks for the example Dave, you have shown us once again how The Father honors us when we are obedient.

  2. kylerandleman 16 May 2011 at 10:01 am Permalink

    Thanks to David Wilkerson I am here today serving the Lord and living out the legacy he started with Teen Challenge.

  3. JamminJay 2 May 2011 at 9:28 am Permalink

    It Was A Big Loss That Work So Hard Reaching Out To Teens And Adults With Various Life Issues I’m Sure Going To See Him In Heaven Sometime With Other Christians Messianic Jews So We Can Be In The Presence Of God.

  4. kreedsweet68 28 April 2011 at 10:20 pm Permalink

    Teen Challenge has touched so many lives, including my own. David Wilkerson has been a servant and a laborer of love for the Lord and will be greatly missed. I praise God for his life and I am sure that those who have had the privilege of being set free under his ministry are very much grieved by his sudden passing. He is standing before the Lord and hearing the Lord say..”Well done David… well done my faithful servant…. My greatest wish is to hear those words come from my Lord. I want to extend my prayers of comfort to his family.

    Kim Juhas Midland, MI

  5. Lucas Tollefson 28 April 2011 at 10:44 am Permalink

    What a legacy. Praise be to God that he chose to take his servant home in these last days. I believe like so many other great mighty (humble) servants of Jesus such as David Wilkerson that God is calling the great ones home to prepare for his victorious return. I am sorry for the loss but I am so happy to know that he has gone on to be with Jesus. We rejoice in that. Thank you for your obedience to God David because of it Teen Challenge was there to help me.

    Lucas
    Oklahoma

  6. Sharon S. 28 April 2011 at 10:20 am Permalink

    I specifically joined “Connections” to share how much the loss of David Wilkerson has effected people all over the USA and the world. I worked as an Accountant with a Teen Challenge in NC and I will never forget the honor with which I served not only in my position but also to be able to intercede in prayer with others as we watched the Holy Spirit intervene in these men’s lives. Like another post that I saw on YouTube about David Wilkerson of how they wanted to go and visit Times Square Church and to ‘hear’ him live. This was something that I also wanted to do and was even in NYC in front of Times Square Church but it wasn’t to be because we were only in NYC for the day and there was no service that day. David Wilkerson will be missed by all of us and I ‘weep’ for his loss but I pray that more of the men who go through Teen Challenge and to who many have graduated and are now pastors all over the world will dedicate themselves to ‘seeking the Lord Jesus Christ with all of their minds, their hearts and their souls’ that they may be used as David.

  7. lilyofthevalleys 28 April 2011 at 9:24 am Permalink

    It is important to remember that all those who walk with Christ Jesus are members of the Body of Christ and the Family of God. The Lord is no respecter of persons. David was a man of God who was mightily used the Lord because he sought to live a life of obedience and humility. He should not be lifted up, and he would not want that. Nor does the Lord want us to set our eyes on any human being. We are to keep your eyes on Christ Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, and who is the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Serve the Lord and He will fulfill His call and His will through each one who walks in love, humility and obedience. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray the Lord of the harvest, that he send labourers into his harvest.

  8. redeemed1974 28 April 2011 at 8:32 am Permalink

    I was saved because of David Wilkerson’s outreach in 1974. We will not know this side of heaven what impact he, his family and ministries have had on so many lives. II Timothy 4:6-8 seems appropriate today.

    6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
    7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
    8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

    Phil from North Carolina

  9. BobCarey 27 April 2011 at 9:32 pm Permalink

    Truly a sad day with the tragic loss of our founder. May we continue to pray concerning the Wilkerson family and those closest to them. Can’t help but think of the multiplication of ‘one man’s obedience’ and what that means to each one of us personally as well as corporately. These are the final words from Pastor Wilkerson’s blog today, “Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world.” Well done good and faithful servant, we will indeed miss you!

  10. markburns0919 27 April 2011 at 9:09 pm Permalink

    What a tremendous loss to earth today and a glorious and victorious day for heaven as our brother Dave is more alive now than he ever was. Dave will be sorely missed! God’s continued blessed to Teen Challenge!

    Mark Burns from Reading, PA


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