I first became aware of his life when I saw the movie The Cross and the Switchblade. It was all about Brother David’s call to the streets of New York. Later when God called me to the streets of Tegucigalpa, I read the book many times to glean wisdom from His experiences. We were hungry to learn from other ministries and on our way back from Amsterdam (where we had visited ministries to prostitutes) Hae Young and I got stranded in Miami. She did not have a Honduran visa to get back into the country and it was Easter weekend so we booked a room at Howard Johnson’s and decided to visit the local mall. We first visited a perfume shop and God allowed us to lead two of the shopping attendants to Christ. We needed Bibles to leave with them so we went across the street to purchase them at the mall. As God would have it, Nicky Cruz was speaking at the special pavilion at the mall and he was due to speak in 20 minutes! Nicky was one of the wild gang members that David led to the Lord in his early years of ministering on the streets. Not only was he speaking there, but they were giving out free paperback Bibles. We had just enough time to take the Bibles to our perfume sisters and found our seats within spitting distance from this amazing legend in his own right. Nicky was full of fire and he told stories of how David, in his naivety, was used powerfully to bring gang members to the feet of Jesus. God used a country bumpkin preacher from Pennsylvania with no street smarts to minister powerfully to the lost and desperate gangs of NYC. He relied upon God’s power. I needed to hear that message.
Years later when a diagnosis of incurable cancer led me to NYC, I listened to Pastor David’s sermons online and visited Times Square Church where he was the main pastor. Once again God used this man and his flock to minister to me in my time of need. I was still in a wheelchair and barely able to sit for much time at all but somehow being in that theatre-turned-sanctuary with people from many tribes and nations helped me to believe in the impossible. Pastor David said something like this: “The Scriptures say that faith can move a mountain. Our mountains are not our problems. Our mountains are not illnesses, or addictions, or financial troubles, or difficult relationships. Our mountain is unbelief.” So we battled unbelief and God kept His promises.
As fate would have it, Hae Young and I just happened to be in the very state where David and his wife were traveling when their car collided into a tractor trailer. The accident claimed his life and nearly took hers. We were able to witness the reports on TV of this beloved man’s passing. Interestingly enough the entry in his blog written the morning of his death was about how there are no accidents in God. Ever a prophet, God even used his last day on earth to proclaim that which was about to come to pass. He wrote:
"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain. 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."
The Lord gave me a gift from Brother David the night before he died. I was reading a book he had written with Nicky Cruz called The Last Warning. I was reading it in Spanish but there was no confusion as to what God was speaking to me through this prophet. In his classic, very straight forward way, he matter-of-factly stated that Christians really had no business spending time watching TV. Not a popular thing to say in this day and age and it cut me deeply. My kids and I had slowly slipped into that pattern of turning on the TV and watching…well, you know….stuff. Stuff as in having nothing to do with eternal matters. Stuff as in not making any difference in our lives. Stuff as in wasting time.
So we are back on track thanks to this gift of God’s conviction through Pastor David. We made a pact to begin our day again with prayer before the sun comes up which means going to bed earlier and keeping the black box silenced. There I said it, publically. Now you can keep us accountable if need be. But we are determined. We are on it. David made a decision to stop watching TV and instead devoted the two hours he spent before it praying for others and the world. That decision changed his life. It was in those wee hours that he read about gang members in Life Magazine and as he prayed God stirred his heart to action. The rest is history. The rest is Teen Challenge and World Challenge. The rest is thousands upon thousands of lives radically changed by Jesus.
Thank you, dear Jesus, for this amazing servant whose desire for Your Truth inspired so many even if it first caused offense. We will miss him but we are blessed to know that he is finally with You, His beloved King.
http://vimeo.com/23002650 (link to a special tribute to David Wilkerson)