One of my first assignments with my brother was to make a movie on addiction in the early 1960s. David said, “Don, the only way to impact people is to show addicts ‘shooting up.’” So we made a movie entitled “Teen-Age Drug Addiction.” I then took it on the road to show in churches and raise funds. On several occasions, people fainted when seeing a heroin addict put a needle in their arm. The film had the impact intended.
David was always on the cutting edge, using all means to reach troubled youth. He designed a box of tracts the size of a cigarette pack that had five tracts in it for church youth to give out after school. Instead of “Here, have a cigarette,” it was “Here, read this.” A popular road game then was called “chicken.” So he wrote a track with that title and tens of thousands were distributed.
David was innovative in his desire to reach the lost. He designed a “Gospel Bomb” — a tract inside a clear plastic tube that could be thrown at the feet of teens. He wrote a newspaper called “The Last News” on the coming of Christ and end of world. We passed out thousands on Wall Street.
He had a television program for youth on a major New York City TV station in the early 1960s. At the time, our organization was called Teen-Age Evangelism. The TV program was called “Teen Challenge”; later, the ministry’s name was changed and became Teen Challenge.
David had the vision to go to Greenwich Village, Manhattan, the center of the spread of drugs to white middle and upper class youth in the late 1960s and 1970s, by opening a coffeehouse. It was run by our mother, and was called “The Catacomb Chapel.” It later moved to another site near by and was renamed “The Lost Coin.” Such coffee houses were duplicated worldwide.
David founded Brooklyn Teen Challenge, the TC Training Center, a Bible school for TC graduates, the Walter Hoving Home, and a street outreach called “Cure Corp” — a ministry to reach kids before they get on drugs.
The emphasis, since the beginning, has been:
- Pray first, then reach the lost.
- God takes the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and mighty.
- Live “hand to mouth” — from God’s hand to our mouth. In other words, trust God for the finances.
- The best training in evangelism is not by the book, but go, take Jesus to the streets.”
Don Wilkerson is David’s brother, and Director of the Teen Challenge center in Brooklyn.