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.
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.