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Christians Remember David Wilkerson

Since we announced the sad passing of Rev. David Wilkerson, Assist News Service has received many messages from our readers on how he has influenced their lives.

Gwen and David Wilkerson

Wilkerson, founding pastor of Times Square Church in New York City, founder of the Teen Challenge ministry, president of World Challenge Inc., and co-author of the well-known book “The Cross and the Switchblade” (as well as many others), was killed April 27 in a car accident.

Wilkerson, 79, died after his car slammed into a tractor-trailer on a highway about 95 miles southeast of Dallas. His wife, of 57 years, Gwen, was also injured but is expected to recover in an East Texas Hospital.

CBN News reported that Wilkerson was driving east on U.S. 175 in Texas, and moved into the opposite lane where a tractor trailer was driving westbound. The truck driver saw the car and tried to move out of the way, but still collided with the pastor’s car head on, according to Public Safety Trooper Eric Long.

His son Gary wrote April 29 on his father’s blog, “I don’t think my father would have retired well. I don’t think he was one to sit in a rocking chair and reminisce about times past. I believe that Jesus, knowing this, graciously called him home.”

Recent picture of
David Wilkerson

ANS reader Mark Peevler wrote that many years ago he picked up a copy of Wilkerson’s book “Have You Ever Felt Like Giving Up Lately?”

He said, “It has probably been one of the best books other than God’s Word that I have read. Such an honest scriptural approach to anyone facing adversity, and I highly recommend it to anyone. I know that his writing really helped me through some dark times in my life. God really used Bro. David in a powerful way.”

Louise Short wrote that Wilkerson’s book “The Cross and the Switchblade” challenged her when she was a teen and later on in college. She began witnessing on the streets of Seattle when she was 16, and later on in Wilkerson’s crusades.

She said Wilkerson also inspired her to pray before ministering. “(That) was a terrific start to years of ministry now working in Southern Sudan, but also during the war years [there] and in other troubled areas knowing Jesus is able to set people free from bondage. Thanks to Dave Wilkerson hearing the Lord who asked ask him to go to the streets and out of the comfortable pews.”

Raymond Rivera, who said he graduated from Wilkerson’s Bible School in Pennsylvania and has since started a church planting ministry in Russia, called him one of the most “amazing” person he has ever met.

A young David Wilkerson presents Nicky Cruz with a Bible as Cruz hands over a baseball bat weapon to him

He said Wilkerson was “A true example of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ, without all the hype and worldly trappings that we see in Christian circles.”

Kerry Denham wrote that on hearing the news of Wilkerson’s passing, “The grief I felt was as if it was for one I knew closely.”

Denham continued, “God is so faithful and so loved his servant that he gave him the privilege of leaving behind comforting words to minister to those left behind. What an amazing blog that appeared on April 27 ( I pray that the torch will be passed, and the mantle laid on one who would follow in his footsteps.”

Joann LaPorte said she loved to daily read Wilkerson’s devotions. She said, “On a human level I am absolutely heartbroken and unable to contain my grief through many tears today. On a maturing believer level, I rejoice with all of heaven that my brother David is now at home with his Father and Savior.”

LaPorte added that Wilkerson’s ministry had an indirect but amazing impact on her life. She wrote, “Pastor Wilkerson’s ministry and message led to the conversion of Pastor Nicky Cruz. Pastor Nicky Cruz’s conversion led to the conversion of my pastor, Pastor A.R. Bernard and Pastor Bernard’s conversion led to mine.”

She reflected, “I am so grateful and encouraged that God has a plan for each of our lives and none of it is incidental or coincidental.”

ANS Correspondent Allen Stark wrote that for many years Wilkerson was one of his and his wife Melissa’s inspirational leaders.

Times Square Church which Wilkerson founded

Stark continued, “A lot of what we have accomplished for the Lord, and will continue to do, has been based on David Wilkerson’s example of reaching out; going in the world to serve our fellow man. He was a huge inspiration when we decided to launch Birth Choice of the Desert, a crisis pregnancy center helping women keep their babies, in 1991, and later Circles4Success, a group that works with the marginalized of society.”

Stark said Wilkerson’s writing also encouraged them through difficult periods of their life. “When my wife and I found it difficult at times, due to her surgeries for arthritis and cancer, to fellowship with others, we always would read Pastor Wilkerson’s devotionals.”

Mina Rodriguez wrote that her cousin went to a Teen Challenge center while experiencing problems with drugs and other issues. She said he is now a pastor at a church in Florida, faithfully serving the Lord.

She added, “This man has touched millions of people, but I thank God because of him my house is now a house of prayer. The teachings of this man have blessed me, and continue to bless me and my family.

“Without his wisdom, so many of us would not even be here today. So very few men have this caliber to change many lives throughout the world. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Karen Ray wrote that her spiritual mentor gave her Wilkerson’s book “The Cross and the Switchblade” when she was a teenager.

She said, “David’s testimony of God’s mighty power on the streets of New York, and in the hearts of gang members, impacted my walk with Christ greatly.”

A recent picture of Nicky Cruz with David Wilkerson with the famous picture as an insert

Ray added, “My faith was increased yet again in the summer of 1966 when Nicky Cruz spoke in a church in Berkeley. My sister and her friend went forward to accept Christ that night after Nicky shared his testimony. They have gone on to serve the Lord in church planting and Christian education.”

“The Cross and the Switchblade” also impacted Joe and Carol Giali.

Joe wrote, “I was searching for some spiritual strength and direction. I had a good marriage, six children, and a good job, but no joy or peace. After reading this little paperback book, my spirit was open to the power of the Holy Spirit. Wilkerson’s work with the gangs and the transformation of their lives was definitely from the Lord and His Holy Spirit.”

He went on to say, “Looking back, that was the catalyst that brought us to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We have been believers and born again since February 7 1971.”

Broadcasting veteran, Chuck Pollak, who for many years worked at the Voice of Hope radio station in southern Lebanon, said that Wilkerson’s focus on holiness and grace has spoken to him greatly.

He said, “I interviewed him while working with KBSN in West Texas. I asked him how anyone could keep up the pace he had. He said, ‘We can do all things through Christ. Chuck, just DO IT!’ Well, for all these years he ‘did it,’ and many thousands came to Christ and had their lives dramatically changed.”

Pollak added, “Personally those words echoed in my mind so often as I worked in uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous parts, of the world in radio and television.”

Nancy Gilmore said that many years ago, at a Teen Challenge rally, she listened to Wilkerson share about the New York gangs and all that the Lord was doing through Teen Challenge at that time.

She said, “Unexpectedly, David walked over by where I was standing with others, and he laid his hands on me and said that God would be using me with young people. That has and is still happening today. I don’t think I ever saw him again after that night, but I never forget what he did. And in some special way, I have always loved him.”

John Pinder said he has known both David and Gwen Wilkerson for many years.

He said, “My prayers are with Gwen, an angel on earth. Gwen has been through so much in her life, but yet never she complained, but only praised God for his faithfulness and healing on her. Gwen has only kind things to say about everyone and I pray she will get well.”

He added, “I really miss the days when David and Gwen lived in … New Jersey, and I was able to see and spend that time with them. I am so grateful to have known him, and I’m pulling and praying for Gwen’s recovery.”

Note: There will be an official memorial service for Pastor David Wilkerson at Times Square Church on Saturday, May 14, 2001 at 2:00PM. (Doors will open at 12:00 PM). Location: 51st Street (between Broadway & Eighth Avenue), Manhattan, New York City. Live Webcast: The service will be streamed live all over the world on the church website ( at 2:00PM EST.

For more information go to

Note: I would like to thank the many ANS readers who submitted memories of David Wilkerson. There were so many that I am planning to write up a follow-up story so I can include many more of them.

Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “Homeless in the City.”

Additional details on “Homeless in the City” are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at

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  1. awilliams314

    May 1, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Has anyone heard that his wife died?

  2. DanTheMan

    May 2, 2011 at 1:23 am

    His wife was 70 years of age not 57 years.

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