I couldn’t believe it! He was my hero. The coolest of the cool. Warlord of the most vicious gang of teenagers that ever roamed the streets of New York, and he was coming to my hometown. I had to see him! It was a teenaged boy’s dream come-true.
I had read his book several times, at least to the point where he became a Christian, but I never ventured past that page; I just wasn’t interested. But what I didn’t realize at the innocent age of 13 was that God was interested in me. He had a plan for my life and it all seemed to begin the day I first picked up that paperback book—Run Baby, Run.
“Nicky Cruz? He’s coming to town?”
“Yeah,” my sister said. “You wanna go?”
“Are you kidding? Yes!”
I felt wild with anticipation. Something thrilling was about to happen. I put on my coolest denim jacket and boots, slid a fake switchblade knife into my pants pocket, and followed my sister downtown.
The auditorium was packed. A feeling of intensity gripped the room. And then suddenly I saw him. He walked to the podium. I gazed in utter amazement. He was everything I had imagined and more, solid, tough looking and scarred with a no-nonsense approach that thrilled me to the core. I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at him.
And then he started to talk. He spoke of the ghetto, and of switchblades, and of zip guns and chains and blood. Of girls, of killing, of drinking and fighting and drugs. His story came to life. Filled me with wonder and awe. But as he continued to speak and shared the rest of the story that I had avoided so many times—of the skinny preacher who walked into Brooklyn and boldly shared the gospel that had forever changed his life—something happened to me. I began to feel a deep yearning, an emptiness that longed to be filled. And whatever it was that tough Puerto Rican kid had found after so many years of fighting and running from God—I wanted it.
“Jesus,” Nicky exclaimed. “He saved me. He can save you too!”
The service drew to a close. He gave the altar call. I inched forward with a hundred other people. I didn’t even know why. But as I made my way to the foot of the stage and gazed into his eyes something remarkable happened.
“Did you do it?” my sister asked me. “Did you pray to receive Christ?”
“Me?” I said, coolly shaking my head. “Nah, I just wanted to see what Nicky looked like. He was cool!”
But you know the truth—I did do it. I bowed my head and prayed. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, and since that night my life has never been the same.
*Fifty years ago a bold young preacher walked into Brooklyn and risked his life to share his faith with the gangs, and a boy named Nicky Cruz responded. And the night Nicky came to my hometown, I responded too. Now what about you? Have you met the Lord Jesus? Have you responded to his call? If not, don’t waste another day. Get down on your knees tonight and invite Christ into your life. Take it from a man who knows—from a naïve teenaged boy who responded almost forty years ago—you’ll be glad you did!
*Dear Nicky, God used you to ignite a fire in my heart. Then Jesus did the rest. I thank God for your boldness. I thank God for you. Happy Birthday! You are still the coolest of the cool! --Pat Patterson
Learn more about Nicky Cruz and his outreach at http://nickycruz.org/
Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stories are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.