Nicky Cruz was only 3-1/2 years old when his heart turned to stone. As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, bloodshed and mayhem were common occurrences in his life. He suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands, at one time being declared the "Son of Satan" by his mother while she was in a spiritual trance.
When he was 15, Nicky's father sent him to visit an older brother in New York. Nicky didn't stay with his brother long. Instead, full of anger and rage, he chose to make it on his own.
Tough, but lonely, by age 16 he became a member of the notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus (named after a bloodthirsty African tribe). Within six months he became their president. Cruz fearlessly ruled the streets as warlord of one of the gangs most dreaded by rivals and police. Lost in the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and brutal violence, his life took a tragic turn for the worse after a friend and fellow gang member was horribly stabbed and beaten and died in Nicky's arms.
As Cruz' reputation grew, so did his haunting nightmares. Arrested countless times, a court-ordered psychiatrist pronounced Nicky's fate as "headed to prison, the electric chair, and hell."
No authority figure could reach Cruz - until he met a skinny street-preacher named David Wilkerson. He disarmed Nicky - showing him something he'd never known before: Relentless love. His interest in the young thug was persistent. Nicky beat him up, spit on him and, on one occasion, seriously threatened his life, yet the love of God remained - stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered.
Finally, Wilkerson's presentation of the gospel message and the love of Jesus melted the thick walls of his heart. Nicky received the forgiveness, love and new life that can only come through Jesus. Since then, he has dedicated that life to helping others find the same freedom.
He reaches today's youth because they relate to his background, trust his peer authority, and respond to the message of hope he delivers with both passion and conviction. As one kid said after an outreach into his neighborhood, "All I knew was he was an O.G. (original gangster) and he was having this big meeting tonight."
"These kids are young, hardened criminals who don't respond to parents, teachers, or the jail system. They receive a glorified message of gang activity everyday in rap music, television, and films. They need to hear a different message - and they need to hear it now! They come to our 'invasions' looking for an alternative to the hopeless cycle of drug abuse, alcoholism, and violence. We must offer them an alternative source of security than the one they find in the gangs. They won't surrender to authority figures that have let them down all their lives. But, believe it or not, they will respond to a message about God if it comes from others who have survived their same living hell."