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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Nicky Cruz, John & Elizabeth Sherrill, and Pat Boone

A Friend and Mentor

Nicky Cruz was a teen gang leader in Brooklyn, N.Y., involved in robberies and violence. But at age 19, after an encounter with street preacher David Wilkerson, Cruz made Jesus Christ his Savior. Cruz went on to become director of Wilkerson’s first Teen Challenge program. In 2004, he spoke with News Editor John W. Kennedy.

evangel: How did your salvation experience change your life?

CRUZ: I was on a journey of pain and rejection. Then the miracle happened. God was looking for me through David Wilkerson, who came to the streets and parked himself a few inches from hell. David was fishing for fish like me.

Elizabeth Sherrill and her husband, John, wrote with David Wilkerson the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade. In 2007, she spoke with Technical Editor Jennifer McClure

evangel: How has writing The Cross and the Switchblade impacted your life?

SHERRILL: I think the impact on us was knowing David. The commitment to prayer, the importance he placed on prayer, and the regularity of prayer — all of those things were not part of our experience until we met David.

In the book it states he sold his television set and decided to pray for two hours instead. And he kept this up. This was not just a brief experiment. This was a lifestyle for him. Every time we would get in touch with him after we’d finished writing the book, we’d ask him, “David, are you still praying two hours a day?” And he’d always say, “Yes, I am.” This went on, and when he moved out to Texas we’d check on him, and he’d say, “Yes, yes, still praying.”

Then he came back to New York. We asked him again, “David, are you still praying two hours a day?” And he said, “No.” And we thought, Oh no. We’ve seen ministry after ministry go down when people got so busy or so big or so important and influential that their own spiritual life faltered. And he said, “No, in New York I couldn’t possibly get by with just two hours.” He was praying three or four hours at that point.

evangel: David has given up some things because he felt God wanted him to.

SHERRILL: It was interesting to us that David can hear when he’s praying what God wants him to get rid of — like the TV set. Anything else he thought would take too much attention, draw him away from the principle work that he’s called to do, he would get rid of.

When we were visiting him in Texas one time he showed us his wonderful collection of old cars. He loved old cars, classic cars. I don’t know what shape they were in when he got them, but when he was finished working with them they were gleaming. He just loved them. He took us out and showed us so proudly all these cars. Next time we went out they were gone. He had heard from God that he was just a little too focused on those cars. And we just think of how painful that would have been because we saw the kind of attachment he had to them. I guess that was the problem. He just heard from God, and once he would hear something like that in prayer he didn’t put up a fuss.

He’s altogether a wonderful role model.

Pat Boone is a Grammy-winning recording artist, star of stage, screen and television, and entrepreneur who has served as an elder at The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif. He spoke with Editor Ken Horn in 2003.

evangel: You portrayed David Wilkerson in the 1970 film adaptation of The Cross and the Switchblade. Could you talk about how you came in contact with the book and the movie?

BOONE: I was on my way to Mexico City, and at the airport I picked up a paperback copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. I was curious how they combined those two images in the title. I started reading it on the plane, and by about page 31 or 32 I was getting goose bumps. I kept asking myself if this was supposed to be a true story. David Wilkerson was detailing an absolute miracle that happened on the streets of New York City. I’d been taught in my church background that God doesn’t do miracles anymore. I couldn’t put it down.

When I got back to L.A., I called David Wilkerson in New York. I’d never met him. I said, “I’m Pat Boone, the entertainer,” and I started to explain. “I read your book. Did all these things you talk about really happen just that way? … I really think there ought to be a movie made of this book. I think it would be a very successful film.”

He was less than enthusiastic. He told me he thought Hollywood would twist the story around. Then, all of a sudden, he began to pray about it over the phone. “Lord,” he prayed, “my life’s Your life, my story’s Your story, and if You want anything made of this, then You do it. You know Pat Boone; I don’t. You know whether he should be part of it.”

God put the pieces together and did a wonderful work in my life. By the time we started filming, I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

evangel: Did you face any challenges in making the film?

BOONE: I’d get in a cab in mid-town Manhattan to go deep into Harlem for the day’s shooting, and the cab driver would say, “You want to go where? That’s a dangerous neighborhood, man.” As we got close to the day’s location, I’d give him his fare. He would only slow down enough for me to open the door and hop out, and he was out of there.

When we filmed, we went into the very streets, alleys and basements where the story had been lived. I felt very inadequate to play David. But I prayed continually, and I knew God was doing something. After we had been filming a few days, David came on the set in a basement in Harlem. Then he went to see some of the film we had shot the day before. After they rolled the shots, the lights came up. David looked at me and said, “You’re starting to look like me.”

Right then, I knew the Holy Spirit was doing something. The film became the most successful independently produced and distributed film ever up to then.


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