Former gang leader Nicky Cruz kicks off a 15-city U.S. tour this month to deliver his testimony of redemption to a new generation.
Dubbed TRUCE—To Reach Urban Children Everywhere—it incorporates television, inner-city multimedia drama, and the rerelease of Cruz's 1968 book Run Baby Run, now in 43 languages.
Born to Puerto Rican parents who practiced voodoo, Cruz fled to Brooklyn, New York, where, as a 16-year-old gang leader, he led followers in beatings, robberies, terrorism, and killings. Then, 40 years ago, street preacher David Wilkerson led him to Christ. Wilkerson's The Cross and the Switchblade, a bestselling book and 1971 motion picture, brought Cruz's story to an earlier generation.
Cruz has spent the intervening years talking to youth in stadiums and churches around the globe. At age 59, Cruz, whose ministry is now based in Colorado Springs, holds "invasions" in violence-plagued neighborhoods, inviting gang members to his rallies where he challenges them to turn from violence to Christ.
Cruz has no formal working relationships with other inner-city Christian ministries to gangs. Eugene Rivers of the National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation supports the work of Cruz but says it would be more effective by including more black leaders in reaching out to gangs.
Still, Cruz says he is reaching a lost generation. "I can smell the guts of the ghetto," he told CT. "These kids are young, hardened criminals who don't respond to parents, teachers, or the jail system," he says. "They receive a glorified message of gang activity every day in rap music, television, and films. They will respond to a message about God if it comes from others who have survived the same living hell."
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