I was lugging my trash-can out the other morning, just as the garbage truck hove into sight. The two garbage collectors descended from their august perch atop the big truck. They were very helpful in aiding me with my household refuse. Then they paused long enough to give me a little sermon.
'Do you' ns go to church? If you don't attend any church, you're welcome to come down to ours on Tillman Avenue, where Rev. Adams preaches.'
'I'm mighty glad to know you go to church. I am an elder in the Presbyterian church but I find that some of the best sermons come over the radio,' I replied.
I was quite reassured to know that we had Christian employees serving us in the city sanitary department. This is the segment of a city government that can often give hard times to their patrons up and down the alleys often resulting in damaged trash cans, spilled refuse and the like. But I felt we wouldn't have trouble with men who seemed concerned about my spiritual welfare. They were kind and helpful in their suggestions as to just how to get better service by packaging the refuse. They even offered, very politely, to help me move my trash burner to the proper location, if I so desired. But the thought that struck me most significantly was that it was the very first time in my life I had ever been proselyted in the Christian faith by a crew that manned the lowly garbage truck. I noticed they worked in very close harmony with each other. There was no rough, obscene language only kind, helpful advice, a willingness to serve, plus a concern over my spiritual hereafter.
True Christianity is popping up in the least expected circles these days. No longer is the Divine Word a prerogative of long-robed theologians preaching in plush carpeted sanctuaries to colemnvisaged members in marble collegiate, high-spired edifices. Christianity has now reached down into the gutter to lift up those who never had heard its voice before. It's transforming the campuses, the long-haired addicts, the homeless ones who have discovered that bombing and burning dormitories are not the satisfying escape from life's problems as they once thought.
We have been reading 'The Cross and The Switch-Blade' a book written by David Wilkerson. Wilkerson was a small town preacher in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania. But he kept getting the urge to go and contact some of the gang leaders in the terrible asphalt jungle that makes up a large portion of New York City society. He didn't even know how to drive in the Big City. He had a terrible time of it, but he kept going back until he did make some crude contacts with some of the murderous knife-wielding gangsters who rule the outcasts of Gotham's gutters. He was often spit upon, slapped in the face, cursed and threatened by the murderous, slashing switch-blade and the gas-pipe the two main weapons of the big city gangs. He went into some of the dark, dingy dens where pot-smokers were living at Hell's portals. Yet he spoke of Jesus as loving them. Several hard-core gang leaders became converted and they, in turn, began helping the fearless Davie to carry on his work. If a gang leader became a Christian, he could influence those of his gang to attend the revival meetings. The sermons were only fifteen minutes in length, but they were packed with a Gospel of Love, showing these hapless, homeless ones that there was One who cared for them.
David Wilkerson's work has begun a movement of rehabilitation among the hopeless ones which society has bypassed for decades, worshipping in the established churches on the better side of town.
Through several miracles of financial donations, David Wilkerson succeeded in establishing a center for bringing back these hopeless youth in a large residence, located on Clinton Ave., in the heart of New York City. Through the power of prayer, preaching, kindly understanding and counselling, his organization, with other converted gang leaders helping, has reclaimed many lives from a living death young people who have enlisted also in the work of going out among the unwanted to tell them of a Savior. They never had heard of love before, or of anyone caring for them. Most had no home life in their tender years. To them it was survival by living in gangs, fighting against the awesome fear of a society which didn't care, police whose only retaliation was hitting them with clubs, or throwing them in jail. The Gospel of Love, when it got through, transformed those who would listen. They came by the hundreds to hear it, entire gangs, bringing their hard-faced girl friends along to share a seat and hear the Word. When some of the gang leaders became converted, they led the rest of the gang down to the altar. They saw a new light. The light was good to their seared souls. It offered hope, something they never knew existed in their world before.
One can hardly realize what terrible things the gangs did. If they weren't murdering members of a rival gang, for pastime they would take a pitiful, helpless cat and pull its legs off just for 'kicks,' till something more exciting Game along to do.
At first only a few had their lives suddenly transformed. Conversion had a miraculous way of snatching them from their awful habits of smoking heroin, which David Wilkerson said is a life of 'living Hell.' The large Clinton Ave. Center used its spacious rooms to aid these former victims of heroin back to normal. Devoted Christian volunteers, along with former gang members who had become Christians, devoted days, helping those who came to sweat out the three days of 'withdrawing' from the awful weed habits. They kept twenty-four hour vigils while the patients shook and trembled, rolled and tossed, cried and retched till the withdrawal period had been passed. It's a terrible experience of sacrifice, bringing the living dead back from the gutter, but it has to be done. And no one can do it without having the Christian love that goes the extra mile.
Sonny Cuesta came to our local schools to give many lectures. Sonny is one of the reclaimed ones from New York's gutters. He is a Puerto Rican who was hopelessly victimized by 'shooting' heroin into his veins. Sonny had been to San Quentin for murder. He could speak the language of New York's gutters. He had lived in it. He told the story how one day he lay dying on a roof-top, breathing his last from heroin. He said, 'When I lay dying, I wanted only one more minute of reality to live and it was taken away. But I cried out, 'Lord save me.''
'When I woke later the next day, I saw a beautiful woman leaning over me. She was beautiful not like we think of in beauty contests but she was beautiful with a look of love for me in her eyes,' said Sonny. '1 was nursed back from hell I'd been living in. I began helping around the institution established by David Wilkerson, trying to help others to come to Christ, studying and praying. A new life had dawned on me.'
Sonny Cuesta went on to become a minister. 'I have a new life 1 have been made a new creature,' he says.
The students in the many assemblies in our schools listened to Sonny Cuesta without whispering a word. You could drop a pin in the auditorium and hear it. The only sounds were Sonny Cuesta's wonderful words of how his terrible life had been re-made by Jesus. These same kids would have been whispering and cutting up, had a local minister been trying to tell them that there is a better life for them. But they knew that Sonny Cuesta spoke the language of the asphalt jungle and they didn't want to miss a single word. The Catholic schools attended with the Protestant schools all in the same school auditorium. There was no division among ecclesiastical lines apparent.
'I was naturally raised a Catholic,' says Sonny, being a Puerto Rican, although he is now a Protestant preacher in a mission he has established in Dayton, Ohio, known as Life Anew. Here it is that Sonny Cuesta is carrying on the very work which David Wilkerson began in New York that of remaking the hopeless derelicts and addicts into new creatures with the Christian faith.
I listened to one of Sonny Cuesta's sermons and received a new insight how God is working in circles heretofore neglected as social outcasts by our well-established churches. He was a wonderful young man to meet. I looked into his clear eyes, and saw not the murderer he once was, languishing in San Quenton Prison. I did not see the sallow look of the heroin addict. He was a new being.
'I'm happily married now,' he said, and 'I have two children they are the delight of our lives.'
It was a wonderful feeling to give some money and realize it was going to help others in re-making new lives. Heretofore, money I gave to organizations, I often wondered how much of it might wind up in secretaries' pocket-books to be spent merely for some new carpet to make a church more lavish without touching the needy. But this money, I knew, would go for what God intended church offerings to be used for remaking the hopeless into God's image.
After we finished reading 'The Cross and The Switch-Blade ' (a book I guarantee you can't lay aside until you've read it all), my wife and I began reading another book, 'Run, Baby, Run' written by Nicky Cruz. Nicky Cruz was also one of the early converts of David Wilkerson. He was a tough gang-leader in the slums of New York. When the Rev. David Wilkerson approached him to tell him of a new life Nicky Cruz spat on him, cursed him, and drew a switch-blade to his throat. 'Damn you, preacher if you try to talk to me, I'll cut you up and kill you,' snapped Nicky.
The preacher replied, 'Yes, Nicky you could cut me up into a thousand pieces, but every piece would say 'I love you' and you couldn't get away from that memory.'
Nicky Cruz became a convert and soon was helping Rev. Wilkerson in leading his gang to the services and the altar. Nicky Cruz has attended Bible School in California. Later he helped Rev. Wilkerson at this rehabilitation center in New York. Nicky met a fine woman at that Bible School, they married and are raising a fine family. But Nicky had to spend many a day and night, helping by the bedside of other gangsters who were going through the terrible drug withdrawal, in his attempts to lead them to new lives.
Nicky Cruz now has his own rehabilitation center in California, preaching the Word and pointing a new way to the hopeless, hapless forgotten youth of his city.
If our nation is to survive the awful gang wars and the crime, so rampant in our times, we must recognize and support these new movements. They are the answer to what's wrong with America today. Reports are coming in that university students by the hundreds, even thousands, are becoming converted to Christianity. Standard University in California is rampant with hearing the new Gospel Message. Many are having their lives changed from the hopelessness of drug addiction to becoming constructive, God-fearing citizens, bent on building America rather than tearing her down. I'm sure the school children, and the school situation even in our own local schools has been much benefited, and many problems solved, merely by the sermons and lessons of a one-time New York gangster who became a Christian.
'You kids have it made,' said Sonny Cuesta to a rapt audience of Junior High students. 'I never saw a horse or a cow till I came to Ohio. Why, I even thought it was wonderful smelling 'manure' for the first time. You should see where I came from. The hopelessness, the filth; gangs fighting one another. We were all without love; we were all scared. That's why we went together in gangs. We were afraid to walk around singly. The gang was the only kind of 'home' we knew. Our parents didn't love us. But you have parents who love you and send you to a fine school and help you go to church every Sunday.'
'Evil comes in ways we least expect,' explained Sonny. 'You read about dope peddlers looking sinister, like some long-nosed villain as you see on the TV screens. Well, it isn't that way. The man who urged me to take my first puff of marijuana was a friend of mine. I trusted him, and thought he wouldn't do anything to harm me. That's how I got started on my life of ruin, but Christ stepped in before it was too late. That's how I happen to be before you today.'
The Sonny Cuestas and others like him are saving our America from ruin. They are re-making hopeless lives into good and useful Christians. Many of our long-established churches has ignored that such segments of our society ever existed.
Jesus told a parable that explains it. The lord of a household once invited many guests to attend a wedding feast. But the invited guests gave excuses, explaining they would not be able to attend. So the lord of the household sent servants out into the hedges and the by-ways and invited others who came and attended the feast.
Privileged folk have been invited to church for many, many years now. But they keep giving excuses for not attending. So the Lord has seen to it that the hedges and by-ways be searched, inviting the lowly and outcast to partake of the Divine Feast. They are coming because the Christian life has an uplifting power to make things so much better than their former miserable lives. The transformation is much greater than is wrought among the privileged who've been ignoring the royal invitations.
From now on, my church money and tithing is going to the Sonny Cuestas, the Rev. David Wilkersons and the Nicky Cruz's who are doing what the forces of law and civic order have failed to do clean America up, not by billy-clubs but by the love of God, from the sewers and gutters, the pot-pads and jails where love was never known before.
For those of us who know not how to cope with such evils as Christianizing big city gangs, it behooves us to help out with needed funds those who do. Even those who suffer ill health, there is hope, much more than one thinks.
Lately I have been studying the benefits of a product called Lecithin (pronounced Less-i-thin). It is a derivitive from the wonderful soybean. Lecithin was discovered by a chemist employed by one of our large chocolate manufacturers. He said they used Lecithin to emulsify the oil in the chocolate.
Discoveries have revealed that using Lecithin can get rid of cholesteral in the blood vessels by mixing with it and flushing it away. It can to that extent also prevent heart attacks. Not only is it good to use in all cooking where oils are prevalent, but it can be eaten as a cereal. It will reduce fatty bulges and seemingly re-arrange these bulges more normally in the body. It rebuilds many organs, and according to reports is one of the greatest blessings to the whole human body.
Nutritionists have found out that by rubbing wheat germ oil (Vitamin C) onto the face, wrinkles can actually be induced to vanish, almost miraculously. Puncture a wheat germ capsule and press the oil onto the skin, and rub it in. It is a miracle worker, outside the body as well as within.
Recently I purchased a second-hand vegetable juicer (not a blender). I have been juicing up many pounds of carrots, just to be able to write what effects it has on the human system. Some people say, 'Oh, I eat some carrots every now and then, but get no results.' That's not the case. When you run carrots through a juicer, the cellulose fibres are ground up and thrown out, leaving only the vital raw juices. Nutritionists claim the carrot juice contains all the vitamins our body actually needs. If anyone has ever tasted a glass of raw carrot juice, they will declare there is nothing more refreshing or delicious. My wife prefers a stalk or two of celery for added zest and nutritional benefits.
We have a lady in our Natural Food Club who was completely cured of an 'incurable' cancer, and one of the main things she took into her body was only carrot juice, ground out every day. When I saw her at one of our meetings, she looked the picture of health. Another lady, hopelessly given up by doctors, was cured of cancer in fifty-two days by drinking only carrot juice. She did hers the hard way, having no juicer, but grinding the carrots by hand and pressing out the juice. But today she's the picture of health. The body needs vital foods to combat disease. Raw juices are the very best way to get these vital foods.