David Wilkerson is the founder and president of World Challenge, Inc., a nonprofit organization incorporated on September 22, 1971. Reverend Wilkerson, the author of over thirty inspirational books, is perhaps best known for his early days of ministry to young drug addicts and gang members in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. His story is told in The Cross and the Switchblade, a book he co-authored which became a best-seller. (The story has been read by over 50 million people in some thirty languages and 150 countries since 1963. In 1969, a motion picture of the same title was released.)
For over four decades, Reverend Wilkerson's evangelistic ministry has included preaching, teaching and writing. Throughout that time a distinctive characteristic of his work has been his direct efforts to reach the neediest members of the population with help for both body and soul. Even now, the almost 70 year-old minister often goes out alone or sometimes with an assistant to walk through the streets of New York City, along Broadway and Eighth Avenue or down 42nd Street and nearby "Crack Alley" on 41st Street. His mission is always to seek out the lost, the disoriented, and the addicted, to tell them of the power of the risen Christ to set them free.
David Wilkerson, born in Hammond, Indiana on May 19, 1931, was married in 1953 to Gwen Carosso. The Wilkersons' two sons are ministers, and their two daughters are married to ministers. They have 11 grandchildren. The Wilkersons served small pastorates in Scottsdale and Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, until Reverend Wilkerson saw a photograph in Life magazine of several New York City teenagers charged with murder. Moved with compassion he was drawn to the city in February 1959. It was at that time he began his street ministry to what one writer called "desperate, bewildered, addicted, often violent youth.