December 6, 1938 |
Las Piedras, Puerto Rico
|Notable work(s)||Run Baby Run, One Holy Fire, Soul Obsession, The Devil Has No Mother|
Nicky Cruz (born December 6, 1938) is a Christian evangelist, the founder of Nicky Cruz Outreach, an evangelistic Christian ministry. He was also once the director of Teen Challenge, serving under David Wilkerson before founding another ministry home himself in California. Prior to his conversion he was the leader of a New York City gang, The Mau-Maus.
Cruz was born in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico where he was raised by his parents. His parents practiced brujeria and were followers of spiritism ("espiritismo"). They mentally abused him; his own mother would call him "Son of Satan". The neighborhood in which he lived was one of the worst in Puerto Rico and Cruz was always getting into trouble. According to his book Run Baby Run, his parents sent him to live with his brother in New York City when he was 15, and Cruz soon ran away and started living on the streets of the city. He became a member of the Mau-Mau street gang, and about six months later Cruz was selected Warlord of the gang. He quickly rose to be their leader.
Shortly after Cruz became the gang leader, David Wilkerson was preaching in the neighborhood when Cruz encountered him. The preacher told Cruz that Jesus loved him and would never stop loving him. A shocked Cruz responded by slapping Wilkerson and threatening to kill him. Wilkerson looked Cruz in the face and said that he could cut Wilkerson into a thousand pieces, but every piece would still say Jesus loves him. Wilkerson said that no one can kill love, and that God is love. That afternoon the preacher showed up at the Mau-Mau's headquarters to repeat his message, and was slapped again by Cruz. Wilkerson just smiled, and then prayed for Nicky.
Two weeks later, Wilkerson had an evangelistic meeting in the neighborhood. When Cruz heard about it, he decided to go and teach the preacher a "lesson" and, with some of the members of his gang, he headed for the boxing arena where the rally was being held, on a bus sent specially by Wilkerson. According to Cruz, when he arrived at the arena, he felt guilty about the things that he had done and started to pray. Wilkerson preached, then asked the Mau-Maus to take up a collection. Nicky sprang to his feet and led a group of the gang through the crowd insisting on people giving money. Going backstage, he saw an exit, but was struck by the fact that someone had actually trusted him. He gave the money to Wilkerson on stage. Later, Wilkerson gave an altar call, and many gang members responded. Wilkerson prayed with Cruz, and Cruz asked God to forgive him.
The following day Cruz and some of the gang members who converted went to the police and turned in all of their bricks, handguns and knives, shocking the police officers in the station. They said that if they had seen the group approaching, they probably would have shot them down. Cruz began to study the Bible and went to Bible college. He became a preacher and returned to his old neighborhood, where he preached and persuaded some of the Mau-Maus to accept Jesus, including the gang's new leader, Israel Narvaez.
|A segment from the film "The Cross and the Switchblade"|
Nicky Cruz has written two autobiographies, Run Baby Run, with Jamie Buckingham (1968), and Soul Obsession, with Frank Martin (2005). He has also written several books with a Christian theme, including The Corruptors (1974), The Magnificent Three (1976), and Destined to Win (1991). Cruz's conversion was depicted in the 1970 film The Cross and the Switchblade starring Erik Estrada as Cruz and Pat Boone as David Wilkerson. In 2013, Cruz authored The Devil Has No Mother (Worthy Publishing, ISBN 9781617951893) which shares Cruz's hard-won understanding of how the devil will try everything possible to gain power in this world-but also shows clearly that it is God who will win the day.
- "Rev's Life Story A Cautionary Tale" - New York Daily News
- "Run, Baby, Run"; Nicky Cruz (Author); Publisher: Bridge-Logos (December 1, 1988); ISBN 978-0-88270-630-6
- "Nicky's Story". Nicky Cruz Outreach. 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- The Cross & the Switchblade - Starring Erik Estrada as Former Gang Leader Nicky Cruz & Pat Boone