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Overview: Short stories – stories for children and teens

Nicky Cruz

The life of a former gang boss in New York

The following tale is a true story. The story is about the former boss of a youth gang in New York.

We have read out the book by Nicky Cruz spread out over 3-4 evenings on a camp or in the group sessions. The book is written very grippingly and has managed to pull every listener „under a spell“. It shows that Jesus can save every criminal, drug addict, alcoholic, sex obsessed, lonely and lost person. Jesus loves these people all the more – the people who run away from him – the people who hide from him. The life story which is presented here is only a very short version of the book which I received in tract form in the German language.


I don’t want you to read this report in order to able to learn something about the past of a gang leader, I want you to experience part of a life which suddenly recognised its meaning and which was positively changed by Jesus. This Jesus Christ, who managed to change me, Nicky-Cruz, so completely is also in a position to change every single life! If we mean it seriously, open our hearts and put ourselves in the background, then we can experience healing in our souls.

Nicky Cruz

I could never have claimed to be a holy angel; because I certainly was not!

My parents filled my life with sorcery and the occult. When I was six years old, I was doomed to the devil. My family was under the devil’s power for many years. No one would have guessed that Jesus Christ could have an effect on the Cruz family.

At home I was totally left out and sent away by my mother. She had called me the “devil’ son”. I never believed that she would get rid of me. The lifestyle and the situation we lived in really had an effect. The feeling of being left out was so terrible for me! It hurt inside and I was fully torn apart. I was a very lonely BOY on the streets.

After I left Puerto Rico and came to New York I was really pulled into the suction of evil.

Satan had taken me by the scruff of the neck and had control over me. I was one of his string puppets which he could play with. Everything was so low! – He had given me what I wanted; but I stood there with a bag full of loneliness, insecurity and fear! I bounced around with an empty heart, a guilty conscience and a hand full of blood in a fearful city without anywhere to go apart from straight to hell! It is difficult when we say this word “hell”.

Lots of people have a psychological problem with such words; but I must say, I never would have thought that Jesus could change my life so completely whatever I have done with my hands and have seen with my eyes. I could never have thought it would be possible that it could be so nice to have a personal loving relationship with him so that we can feel so secure and protected and don’t have to fear anything. The bible says: "Do not be afraid because I am with you!"

As I stood on the streets I did not have these promises because I did not know Jesus. I do not look for him and I did not want him. For me he was simply a further confusion. The judges in New York and a psychiatrist who had treated me for 6 months had given up on me.

As I walked along the streets of New York the people were scared of me because I had a bad reputation. I was a gang leader of 205 BOYs and 175 girls. They did everything I told them to. I controlled them! We did lots of things from murder to bad little delinquents. We did not have any respect for life nor for anything else. I was so deep down in hell that no therapy in the world could have saved me from the darkness.

No clinic could have cleansed my heart and renewed my thoughts. My psychiatrist even took me to the zoo – he wanted to see if I could recognise the names of the animals. 3 hours were spent there until he had explained all of the animals and showed them all. But I came to the conclusion that the monkey was not at all similar to me. I thought it was ugly and I convinced myself that I was handsome. The psychiatrist took me the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and to visit another therapy clinic. Eventually he gave up and said: "Nicky, there is no hope for you anymore. You’re right for the electric stool and straight to hell. You are so ill because you are made of hate. You are completely torn up inside because of hate and bitterness. Yes, I believe that. You hate the whole world and everyone who shows you love and probably yourself as well." That’s true, he was right.

Since the day when I was 8 years old and my mother threw me out I have rejected everyone who has even tried to show me love. If my mother did not love me I could not expect that any strangers could love me. That’s why I became such a bad man on the streets.

Three weeks after my psychiatrist had given up, God did something wonderful for me. He said to David Wilkerson: "Go and fetch Nicky Cruz!" I can imagine that David thought:

"Never! I don’t want anything to do with that gangster boss!" But he obeyed the voice of the Lord. Who was this David Wilkerson? He was just a think, skinny preacher, as slender as a piece of "Spaghetti"! He did not know how to dress and he had never been to the big city. Up until then he was a pastor in a small village in Pennsylvania and this skinny countryside preacher came to us! He stood here and talked about God in the worst area of New York; a town which was surpressingly filled with sin and the underworld! You could see it in the people’s eyes when they came into the room and saw how the people lived. That is called “America’s freedom”. You can see people from the upper classes of society, who are as jammed together as the poor who have no hope anymore. Now this preacher is standing on the streets and everything is against him. The police advised him "do not go there, they will kill you!" - It was an urgent warning.

David Wilkerson knew the danger but he came anyway! As he started to talk about God, I said: "Aah, give up you’re a nutcase! He’s totally mad, he’s lost the plot! No one had ever stood up to me in theses streets and here came a man with a black book which he called the bible, and wants me to take it in!" When he did not want to give up I screamed: "Be quiet you, I am God! This here is people power, ghetto power and that is gang power! God doesn’t have anything to do with us and we don’t want anything to do with him. See that you get out of here and don't ever come back!" Then I asked one of my pals: "Do you want to have some fun? I'll give you what you need. We'll go down to the basement, smoke some weed, drink wine and pop a couple of pills. Then we'll get a girl for the night and forget this nutter altogether. Come on, let's go.

We went down into the basement. I put a record on and imagined how this preacher had already gone back to the place he came from. However 20 minutes later along came this lanky, thin man through the door again. He didn't have permission, just a big smile on his face. David Wilkerson was consciously aware of what would face him but he came in anyway.

He asked: "Where is Nicky Cruz? " I pushed the girl to one side and stormed up to him: "I am Nicky, what do you want? " David said: "I want to be your friend." I retaliated: "I certainly don't want to be your friend!" He came over to me. Then I hit him. Blood came out of his nose; I attacked him and spat on him like a wild animal! Then I called him every bad name under the sun.

I even bad-mouthed God. Then I grabbed him by the hair and hit his head against the wall until some of my friends pulled me away. They tried to tell me that: "The preacher means no harm!" I went to the door. Then David Wilkerson called after me: "Nicky, before you go out of the door, I just want to tell you that Jesus loves you!"

The living Holy Ghost has etched these words into my life! As David said to me: "Nicky, Jesus loves you", I felt the words go through me like a knife being stabbed into me. I went out. However every night was like hearing a broken record which kept playing in my heart saying: "Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you!"

Everywhere I went I thought about the preacher. I could not sleep anymore. I had tried to threaten him, even pointed a knife at him, but he didn't bat an eyelid. He said to me: "You can kill me and cut me into a thousand pieces, but these thousand will call out to you: "Jesus loves you!"

That had hit me between the eyes! "The preacher is brave", I thought. "He is strong, he has something inside!" From the outside he is just a skinny bloke and inside he is made of steel!" - He was a child of God! He was handsome. Whatever it was, that man was brave! On the evening when I broke his nose he could have walked off and said: "Forget it, I won't come back again!" but he had a special command from God: "You must stay there!".

I went to hear David Wilkerson preaching. I went to a Christian meeting for the very first time. I hadn't been in a church in my life and didn't know what these buildings looked like from inside. I took 75 blokes along with me, we had loaded guns with us. I was in a very dangerous area. There were around 2.000 people there. They saw how these animal-like blokes stormed in. They wrecked everything, pushed the people aside, started to swear and made all possible threats.

The atmosphere was so tense! Maybe some of them were scared because we simply barged in. But David said: "Nothing will happen to you tonight." David Wilkerson started to preach. He had tried to speak to us on the same level as Jesus Christ. I had never heard the story of Jesus. The first time that he had said that Jesus loves me, I had opened my thoughts to this.

I wanted to know where this Jesus came from. He began to explain this. Anyone who has read the stories in the New Testament will know what a fascinating person Jesus was and still is today. David started off by talking about him as a human version of God, how he had worked so many miracles which could only happen through the holy power of God. On the other hand he suffered like a person - like Nicky Cruz. However he was only filled with the love of salvation. He always wanted to help and despite this the preacher said: "The human race crucified him!" They were so cruel to him. They did not just want to hurt him but also humiliate him; and then I began to think about how he had felt.

The preacher’s words had hit me hard! He had painted a wonderful picture of Jesus for me.

I had understood how he was ignored and thrown out. I also realised that the people wanted to crucify him; and I could still here my mother’s voice: "You are not my son. I don’t love you. You are the son of Satan!"

I could also hear the voice of society: "Shut him away, kill him, he is sick. He will never amount to anything, he’s too dangerous. The only hope for him is the electric chair!" - Ignored und abandoned! Yes, I knew how Jesus had felt! However there was a big difference between him and me: He was the pure son of son and had sacrificed himself for others.

Nicky Cruz was different! I was a sinner, yes, I was in the clutches of sin and chained by evil. Society was right to want to kill me. Then they wouldn’t any more problems with me. In Jesus’ heart there was a different story to be read: "Nicky Cruz needs a new heart!" – The people had wanted to change others and I had refused the possibilities in society.

The state of New York spends millions of dollars to beat the gang core. Clubs had been opened to get them off the streets. After 3 months we had burnt the clubs down. The "Ghettos" are the worst areas of New York City. It is a jungle without laws! You can go through the streets and smell the greasy food, yes, you can even smell the diseases which spread around by the thousand. There is one block of flats after the next in which humans and animals live together. The New York City Council wants to knock the flats down and rebuild them. They want to send the people from the ghetto into new houses in the hop that they will behave better, but the problem doesn't lie there.

A new house does not change the pain in their hearts! It does not bring redemption for the plagued thoughts. If we were to give them new houses the old problems would be back within 6 months. They would make the nicest housing into a ghetto again because the change has to come from the heart; and if the heart doesn’t change then it doesn’t matter where we put the people – they won’t appreciate it. Only Jesus himself can change a heart! He had really come to free the people from the ghetto, yes, he freed the ghetto from inside them, because there is the solution to the problem: The broken heart. The bible says that the heart is evil: one day we love with it and the next day we hate. It is a constant up and down. The mind is like a computer, you can save good and bad things. As David Wilkerson had ended his speech on that night I asked myself why Jesus had died for me, why was he crucified? On this evening he was no longer thinking about the people 2000 years ago - he was thinking about me. He also died for Nicky Cruz. – I took the biggest decision of my life in that night!

This preacher had reached me. He had ripped my old heart out and my new heart beat for Jesus! I felt something that I had never felt before: "This bad atmosphere had left me." All at once the presence of God was in the room! If I had never experienced and accepted Jesus Christ I could never say that I had felt the power of God on that night. The people all held hands. They started to cry and they started to pray everywhere. The Holy Spirit washed over the room like a wave. I looked around and my friends were crying too. David Wilkerson was also very moved; he cried quite shakily and then he opened his eyes and said to me:

"Nicky, give Jesus the opportunity to come into your life for once. You have always ran away from him. You have been pushed out by everyone but Jesus of Nazareth wants to come to you now. He wants to be a real friend to you now and here. Come on, Nicky, I want to pray for you!" I was such a proud person on the streets, so proud that I was lowered by it. I lived according to one idea: I must be someone! And now I was standing opposite Jesus shaking my head and saying: "No, that is not my thing!" My friend, whose first name was Israel, stood up and asked David: "Pray for me, I want to go to Jesus!"

I thought: "The bloke has gone crazy!" But he was not crazy - I was! For the first time in his life, Israel was on the right path. He was a typical criminal; he looked good, was polite but was full of evil. Now he saw me and said: "Nicky, come with me. The preacher is right. Come one, you're the worst." I looked at Israel, pulled all of my confidence together and said: "Okay, I will go with you", and went with him to the front. 25 of my pals joined us.

I did not know what to expect because I did not know Jesus. I did not have any faith in him; but I had felt the change in me as I heard who Jesus was and where he came from. The preacher stood in front of me. I said to him: "Well pray, do something! Give it a go, if God wants to change me then give it a try!" Then I laughed at him. He had looked me directly in the eyes and asked me to close them to pray.

But I refused: "No, no I don't want to close my eyes! If I close them a bullet will be shot through my head. No, I won't shut my eyes. You are crazy!" - He placed his hands on my head and began to pray. As David prayed I had to cry. The most simple and beautiful prayer I have ever heard came from his heart. He had talked to God like he would talk to a friend standing next to him. And he was right - Jesus was there. This simple, friendly talk with God had really gotten through to me! - That had touched me! David Wilkerson did not have the slightest bit of falseness, he was real. I saw through him and nothing else; and through this love which he had for me and for Jesus, God could have an effect on me. I saw how my friends were crying, Israel was particularly torn to pieces. You couldn't even begin to describe how he felt. The tears fell over his face in streams. I shook him and asked: "What is wrong with you?" He said: "Nicky, I have handed my life over to Jesus."

I bowed my head down and thought: "Now I have lost my friend to Jesus." Then I suddenly felt alone again and my thoughts went back to a terrible experience. However the Holy Spirit managed to put the puzzle together again and I saw myself naked in the holy presence of God. He had touched my heart and showed me: "That is you; but if you present me with your heart I want to stay with you, love you and change you." Then the tears started to flow.

Lots of tears flowed over my face and ran over my leather jacket. I stood there for around 3 minutes and did not move at all. I was simply broken! I almost drowned in my own tears; tears of pain and penance, tears of bitterness and confusion. Then I felt how two hands took me by the shoulders - it was no other than Jesus!

And I went down on my knees. That was the lowliest thing which had ever happened to me! I kneeled down and cried out loudly in front of the whole gang - I cried with an unbelievable pain inside. Then I opened my mouth and said: "0 God, I do not love; I have never searched for you, but I am confused. Do you really, really love me?

Please help me! I need help!" - In the most important moment he came to me! He had heard my little confused prayer. I though that I was so far away from anything human, but I had never been so close! After I had felt a deep remorse for all of my sins, from this moment on three unnatural miracles happened in my life - three things which were more mind blowing than a healing miracle.

God had presented me with the biggest and most important gift: love. I can now love God and other people without being a hypocrite. I could have never said "I love you" to a person before. For the first time I could respect myself and God. I had been christened with love. In the world I had come from there was no peace for me. Everything was mixed up. There was lots of loneliness and bitterness. However he gave me his deep and wonderful peace with which he filled my soul.

I have experienced it! Now I could close my eyes and say my last prayer - and I could sleep again. God even cared for me in my sleep; there was no more drug addiction, prostitution and no more criminality for me! I did not have to run away anymore or move from one place the next because people could not stand me. No, I had peace and joy all of a sudden! I could go everywhere I wanted and laugh from the heart.

I did not even need to drink anymore; because if I wanted to drink alcohol the Holy Ghost was there and could protect me from it. No one could have given me this, no psychiatrist, only Dr. Jesus Christ! - You might ask now: How bad was Nicky-Cruz? Did Jesus really change him so much? I can truly say to anyone: The only truth is Jesus!

If you also want to fell his unbelievably great saving love, open your hear to him because Jesus will be with you. My mother has changed as well. She is not a witch anymore, nowadays she loves Jesus too. My brothers have also given their lives to the Lord along with my friends who were in my gang

They come to God one after the other. If someone asked me: "Nicky Cruz, where are you going? " I would answer: "My life has a meaning without any doubt and I know where I am going: my path is leading to heaven and I am focussed on meeting Jesus Christ - in all of his glory!"

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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