This opening paragraph from David Wilkerson’s classic, The Cross and the Switchblade, is the true story of Teen Challenge’s beginning in 1958. The “adventure” mentioned in the first sentence continues around the world today and has impacted thousands of lives. Wilkerson was a Pennsylvania country preacher who came to New York City in an attempt to speak with seven young gang members on trial for murder. He didn’t achieve his goal that day, but he achieved another. Seeing the plight of teens decimated by drugs, he founded Teen Challenge to reach gang members with a message of God’s love. As an epidemic of drug addiction began to reduce the gangs in New York, the fledgling Teen Challenge and Wilkerson adapted to this new reality to help those bound by drug addiction. A program was developed to help residents overcome addictions and to learn to live as drug-free Christians in the real world.
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