The whole strange adventure got its start one night as I sat in my study reading Life magazine. I merely turned a page, and at first glance it seemed there was nothing to interest me. The page showed a pen drawing of a trial taking place in New York City, 350 miles away from my home in rural Pennsylvania. I'd never been to New York, and I'd never wanted to go, except perhaps to see the Statue of Liberty.
I started to flip the page over. But as I did, something caught my eye. It was the eyes of a figure in the drawing - a boy. He was one of seven boys on trial for murder. I held the magazine closer to get a better look. The artist had captured a look of bewilderment, hatred and despair in the young boy's features. Suddenly, I began to cry.
"What's the matter with me?" I wondered, impatiently brushing away a tear. Then I looked at the picture more carefully. The boys were all teenagers. They were members of a gang called the Dragons. Beneath the picture was the story of how they had been in Highbridge Park in New York when they brutally attacked and killed a fifteen-year-old polio victim named Michael Farmer.
The story revolted me. It literally turned my stomach. In our little mountain town, such things seemed mercifully unbelievable. Yet I was dumbfounded by the next thought that sprang into my head. It came to me full-blown, as if from somewhere else: Go to New York and help those boys.
The thought startled me. “I'd be a fool to do that,” I reasoned. “I know nothing about kids like these. And I don’t want to know anything."
It was no use. The idea wouldn’t go away. I was to go to New York. And I was to do it at once, while the trial was still in progress.
This trip changed his life forever. David Wilkerson’s burden for the lost of the city increased and gave birth to Teen Challenge – a nationwide ministry to reach out to people with life controlling habits. The ministry’s Bible-based recovery program to troubled teens, gang members, drug addicts and alcoholics has been recognized as one of the most effective efforts of its kind.