WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 25-May 1, 2011)


David Wilkerson 1931 – 2011; Preacher Built Activist Ministry in New York.” By Stephen Miller. Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2011. The Rev. David Wilkerson created the longest-running show on Broadway, an 8,000-strong Pentecostal church dedicated to saving New York City’s drug addicts and prostitutes. Mr. Wilkerson, who died Wednesday at age 79, was founder of World Challenge, a nondenominational Christian ministry that has worked in more than 50 countries, with a special emphasis on young people. In 1963, Mr. Wilkerson published The Cross and the Switchblade, an autobiographical account of working with teenage gang members in New York. The book sold 15 million copies, his church claims, and in 1969 was made into a movie starring Pat Boone as Mr. Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as troubled gang leader Nicky Cruz. Teen Challenge, Mr. Wilkerson’s antidrug organization, runs nearly 1,200 drug centers, 233 of them in the U.S. A native of Hammond, Ind., Mr. Wilkerson was the son of Pentecostal ministers and attended Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Mo. He was ordained by the Assemblies of God, the same denomination that included Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Initially pastor to a congregation in bucolic central Pennsylvania, Mr. Wilkerson was inspired to undertake a more activist ministry by a 1958 Life magazine article about a murder trial involving teen gang members unfolding in New York. Mr. Wilkerson created a ministry for gang members in Brooklyn, and soon began opening satellite Teen Challenge programs in other cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago. Medical professionals were skeptical, but he claimed that 80% of those who completed the program stayed clean. Mr. Wilkerson stayed in New York until 1971, when he moved to Tyler Texas, where he founded World Challenge.

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