“Lord, we left You countless eons ago. Ours was a holy mission. You charged us to learn great lessons from life: to be fruitful in the gifts You had given us; to expand and multiply them.”
When Yoganandaji, meditating in a storeroom of his Ranchi boys’ school, saw in vision a sea of faces staring intently at him, he knew at once that these were Americans calling to him for spiritual help. When Bimal, one of his students, burst in on his meditation, Master unhesitatingly shared his joyful acceptance of divine guidance: “The Lord is calling me to America!” That same day he turned responsibility for the school over to his faculty, then turned all his energy toward the coming journey across the Atlantic Ocean, and the mission awaiting him on the far Western shores.
Heart committed, plans afoot, Master turned within to find divine assurance. Utterly willing to carry out God’s will, he was just as determined to hear from God Himself that this journey was His will. Weeping, praying with increasing intensity and passion, in an agony of yearning, pouring so much power into his prayer that his brain felt near to splitting, Yoganandaji again and again made his loving demand. The answer came with a quiet knock at the door. Babaji himself had come as the Lord’s messenger: “Our Heavenly Father has heard your prayer. He commands me to tell you: Follow the behests of your guru and go to America. Fear not; you will be protected.”
Lying in a bed of pain, the sheets soaked in blood, by his doctor given only a few hours to live, David Wilkerson’s father asked his wife to read to him from the Gospel of Matthew. Opening the Bible to chapter 21, she read, “And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Twelve-year-old David, raised by father and grandfather, both pastors in a Pentecostal faith, to believe in the power of prayer, rushed to the basement and prayed to Christ at the top of his lungs: “I believe what you said. Make Daddy well!” His desperately earnest petition boomed out all over the house through the octopus arms of the forced-air system. To the stunned amazement of the doctor, David’s father not only was well, but sat up, feeling a great power flowing into his being.
Years later — now married, a father, and pastor of a mountain congregation in rural Pennsylvania — David Wilkerson felt again the movement of the Holy Spirit in his life. Every day between midnight and two a.m. he practiced prayer, sometimes holding up life decisions for guidance, sometimes simply offering grateful worship. It was during one of these vigils, on February 9, 1958, that he felt God calling him to a mission as foreign to his experience as going to the materialistic West must have been to Yoganandaji, all the Master’s young life to that point having been immersed in the spiritual vibrations of Mother India.
Reaching out for a copy of Life magazine, David’s eyes fell on a courtroom drawing of the seven teenage boy defendants in a trial for the horrific murder of a defenseless polio victim. Weeping with compassionate grief, he felt the Lord calling him to New York City to help those boys.
Rebuffed in his efforts to meet the seven boys, struggling to make his way in an environment both hostile and alien, David Wilkerson came through prayerful listening to understand that God had kept him from the seven because He wanted him to work with all the youth gangs in the great city. Walking the streets of the most dangerous areas of New York City, this country pastor sought out these young people, loved them with Christ’s love, and, gradually, made friends, won respect, and began to see walls of fear and hate breaking down.
Young Nicky Cruz, a leader in a Puerto Rican gang called the Mau Maus, at first violently rejected David’s proffered friendship, pushed him away, even threatened to kill him. David gazed at him calmly, then responded, “You could do that. You could cut me in a thousand pieces and lay them out in the street, and every piece would love you.”
Like a spiritual yeast, the love of Christ worked inside the embittered soul of this boy who had never known love. Hard as he fought it, ridiculed it, threatened it, in the end it broke through all his defenses. At a gathering of gangs that David had organized, one that Nicky had attended only to disrupt, he felt himself taken up by a great power, carried forward to the altar rail, his whole being crying out to change, to be free from the horror of his life, to be clean. “Dear God,” he prayed, “I’m the dirtiest sinner in New York. I don’t think You want me. If You do, You can have me. As bad as I was before, I want to be that good for Jesus.”
“Change my darkness to Thy light, Lord!
And my evil into good.
Touch me but once and I will change,
All my clay into Thy gold.”
Nicky went on to attend divinity school, marry, and move with his young family to California, there to carry on David Wilkerson’s work with youth gangs. For David himself, as heartening as was the transformation of Nicky and many others, an inner feeling grew that God wanted more of him than making forays into the city from his quiet parsonage life. Back in the Pennsylvania hills, he gazed at his home and the church where he had served the local farmers and coal miners. Deep within he felt the Holy Spirit drawing near, then a quiet inner voice, speaking with perfect clarity: “This is no longer your home and your church. You are to leave.” In that moment he knew God’s will for his next step: no longer to keep one foot planted in the security of home, church, family life, but somehow to move with his family into the heart of gangland, there to give himself full time to God’s work with the young people — to set up residential centers where those touched by the Holy Spirit could learn to live in a new and godly way, with support and pastoral guidance as long as needed to become strong in faith. In a voice just as quiet, clear, and firm as the one in which David had heard God’s direction, his soul answered, “Yes, Lord, I shall go.” And, as if in divine confirmation, at that moment, his loving, loyal wife, partner in all his spiritual service, walked toward him, her face radiant, saying, “I heard it too, David.”
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing