Early Life in Puerto Rico
Nicky Cruz was regularly beaten from the age of 3-1/2 years old. At the age of 9, his heart turned to stone after a severely abusive episode and failed suicide attempt. As one of 19 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents in 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 exiled him to live with an older brother in New York City. Full of anger and rage, he soon left his brother to take his chances on the streets.
Teenage Life in New York City
By age 16, he became a member of the notorious Brooklyn street gang known as the Mau Maus. Within six months, he had risen through the ranks to become their warlord – ruling the streets as a leader of one of the gangs most feared by rivals and police. Lost in the cycle of alcohol and brutal violence, his life took a tragic turn for the worse when his best friend and fellow gang member, Manny, was jumped and stabbed repeatedly. Manny bled out and died in Nicky’s arms.
As Nicky Cruz’s violent reputation grew, so did his haunting nightmares. Arrested countless times, a court-ordered psychiatrist pronounced Nicky’s fate as hopeless. He was destined for “…prison, the electric chair, and hell.”
A Life Transformed
No authority figure could reach the young warlord – until he met a skinny country preacher named David Wilkerson. Wilkerson disarmed Nicky by showing him something he’d never known before: relentless love. His interest in the young thug was persistent. Nicky beat him up, spat on him and seriously threatened his life, yet the love of God prevailed. It was stronger than any adversary Nicky had ever encountered.
One night, against all odds, Jesus Christ broke through the walls that surrounded Nicky’s heart. Nicky describes it as if he had been admitted to a Holy Ghost hospital. As Nicky lies there vulnerable, Jesus walks to his side, opens Nicky’s chest, takes out his heart, and puts it to his lips to kiss it. The Lord then placed the transformed heart back into his chest and raises him up as a brand new creation.
Connecting with Today’s Headlines
Decades after his salvation, Nicky Cruz continues to connect with today’s people of all ages, backgrounds and denominations. Because of his background, Nicky’s story is vital as it mirrors the violent headlines on today’s news. Dignitaries and countries looking for solutions to the violence and hopelessness ravaging their communities seek him out.
Those in the urban culture relate to his background, trust his authority, and respond to the message of hope that he delivers. As one kid said after an outreach into his neighborhood: “All I knew was he was an O.G. 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 events looking for an alternative to the hopeless cycle of substance abuse, gang activity and violence. And when they don’t come to us, we go to them!”
President, Nicky Cruz Outreach