You know that feeling of being so scared you can barely move?
Too often we get stuck in the small world of our comfort. Jesus calls us out.
I love this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“The disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. He is called out... The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered. The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity... out of the realm of the finite...into the realm of infinite possibilities.”
Jesus invites us to burn our boats. To burn your boats means you are all in. You are committed. There is no turning back. Jesus invites to be set in our mission and know who we are.
One of the things we are striving to do as a missionary organization is to be clear about what defines us and the way we strive to live our life. We’ve put together our rule of life. A rule of life is a defining document that explains who you are. It’s the spirituality behind our mission. We want our rule of life to be simple and clearly state what we are about. We want to invite you to share in our spirituality and mission.
RULE OF LIFE-
Who we are:
Jesus was a vagabond. We seek to imitate him as vagabond missionaries.
“He emptied himself” and came into the world in poverty (Philippians 2:7.) Like Jesus we will choose and embrace our poverties in life. Our hope is the person of Jesus Christ. The grace and mercy of God are our only true riches and we desire to share those riches with the lost and forgotten. We are committed to investing our personal gifts, finances, and lives to this mission.
Where do we go:
“He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Out of our poverty, we will seek to listen to the call of Jesus and to be obedient.
We go out. The Good News compels us out of our comfort. Our desire is to be the physical presence of Christ and his Church to the neighborhoods and the kids the world has forgotten.
What we do:
Like Paul, “we [are] determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8.) We commit to building authentic community through sharing the gospel and our lives.
The words of St. Teresa of Calcutta sum up our call and our spirituality, “Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
Daily, we commit to mental prayer, the examination of our conscience, and the reading of scripture.
Weekly, we participate in daily Mass at least three days a week and spend two hours of prayer before the blessed sacrament.
Monthly, we receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, participate in spiritual direction, and take a spiritual day of reflection to refocus our lives and mission on Jesus.
We are committed learners as we pray and study scripture and do spiritual reading. We will be attentive to God’s presence in ordinary, daily life.
We will seek the Holy Spirit in all things. He is the life that moves us. We entrust our ministry and our lives to Jesus through the hands of his mother, Mary.
I was on my own for two years.
I was on my own for two years with a considerable task. I had started a new mission site in Pittsburgh with my mission partner. Unfortunately, that partnership did not work out, and after she left, I was given the task of not only helping this mission survive but also helping it flourish.
I knew that this task was impossible. I begrudgingly accepted it and told God that if any of this was going to be successful, it would have to be due to Him. If He wanted it, I would let Him work through me. I couldn’t do it on my own but knew “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Not only did I need God to take control of the mission, but I also needed adult volunteers. You didn’t think I could handle a room full of some of the toughest teens in the country by myself, did you?
After great difficulty advertising, recruiting, and being rejected, I finally wound up with a rough and tumble group of volunteers (including my wonderful wife) to help me minister to the lost and forgotten teens of Pittsburgh. Somehow, last Spring we held our first full semester of outreach nights. I could not have done it on my own.
One could say that I was “patient” ... unless you were my boss who I was calling on a weekly basis to ask if she had found me a new partner. I was patient in that I accepted my situation in the ministry and I shrugged my shoulders. I tried to be faithful to the work God asked me to do. God is ultimately more faithful than I could ever be and he honored that patient work.
This year Dirty Vagabond Ministries hired four new Pittsburgh employees. We hired three new missionaries for the Pittsburgh area and our new Director of Advancement, along with a new Missionary Director based out of Steubenville.
I finally have a partner! Her name is Milan, and she is the best. We can do so much more for our teens. Not only that, but I also have two other missionaries for support and community just fifteen minutes away at a new mission site in Sharpsburg, PA. And, on top of all that, I have a great new boss- Andy Lesnefsky! He is handsome, wise, and funny, and he is the best boss I could ever imagine! (All joking aside, he has been an enormous source of support.)
After two years of absolute struggle and loneliness in this mission, God rewarded me with a great community to help and support me. I keep reminding the new missionaries how blessed they are to have joined the mission during this exciting time of growth. God is doing big things here in Pittsburgh amid a new community of missionaries. I feel so blessed to see how God has rewarded the “yes” of every DVM employee during their tough times. God rewards faithfulness.
Please pray for us. Pray that we will remain faithful to God’s calling. And please pray that we will remain faithful to the teens everyone else has given up on. God bless you!
- Christopher Kerfoot, Pittsburgh Missionary
I hate folding laundry. Having three girls, it gets confusing for me to know what belongs to whom and what drawer different items belong in. Let’s not mention the bin of lonely socks, which sit waiting to see if they will ever reunite with their significant others. Next month will mark eight years of marriage for my wife Meg and I, and I am still getting the hang of doing the laundry in our home.
This year my birthday was on a perfectly sunny, summer Sunday. After a lazy morning, complete with cake leftover from the night before as breakfast, I sat myself down in my backyard with a good book. The moment was picturesque. Not a cloud in the sky, the sound my neighbors’ kids playing with their dog, and the slight tinge of smoke that I could only assume was coming from a nearby barbecue. I was so engrossed in my book that I didn’t notice that the smoke was getting thicker and thicker every second. It wasn’t until about five minutes later that I lifted my head because I heard yelling coming from the street behind my yard. I couldn’t see a foot in front of my face because the smoke was so thick.
Without thinking I bolted over the fence and started running towards the commotion. A crowd began to gather around the smoking house. In a moment of pure adrenaline, four of us, complete strangers, looked at each other and wordlessly decided what needed to be done. After making sure someone was calling 911, we broke down the front door, ran in, and began yelling for anyone in the house. By God’s grace, the house was empty other than the dog who made it out safely.
This all happened while I was living in Steubenville this summer getting trained by Dirty Vagabond Ministries to open a new mission location in Sharpsburg, PA with my missionary partner, Shannon. After my adrenaline evened out in adoration later that day, it became clear what God was trying to tell me through the experience. I had always wondered what I would do in an emergency, but when the time came, there was no moment to reflect on heroic virtues or to run through scenarios or to get wrapped up in anxiety. It was an event of pure urgency that demanded a response. Fight or flight.
This urgency is what drives the Dirty Vagabond missionaries. It's no secret that our world is in trouble. Hatred, wars, poverty, broken families, and indifference don’t only ravage nations overseas, but our own neighborhoods. In a real way, our neighbors' house is burning down, and very possibly our own house is burning down with it. The constant bombardment of brokenness in the world has made us numb. Doing inner-city ministry, the brokenness that we all try to hide comes quickly to the surface, both in those we work with and within ourselves.
Shannon and I have just begun to enter into the lives of the community of Sharpsburg. We’ve been having a great time getting to know and hanging out with teens. We’ve brought them to Breakout (weekly outreach night) over at the Garfield Underground which has gotten them excited about starting Breakout in Sharpsburg. I’ve worked out with the guys at the local free Christian gym complete with a big sign that says, “MALE GENDER ONLY,” and Shannon has brought girls to McDonald’s to hang out and spent an afternoon chatting and doing nails at the Underground.
God has immensely blessed us during the past two and a half months starting our new site. We spent the first two weeks wandering Sharpsburg thinking there were no teens to meet but were surprised by grace when God sent countless teens our way. We went from 0 kids to having over 20 teens whose numbers we have that we are in regular contact with, and every time we go out to hang out by the basketball courts when the buses drop off teens from school, we encounter dozens of teens that we’ve never seen before. But even in this honeymoon phase, the brokenness is evident. The broken families, the addiction, and the hunger, physical and spiritual, are present among the joy that these teens bring us.
What do we say in the face of such evil? How can we even begin to find solutions to this problem? The “good news” of our faith is we already have an answer to the world’s brokenness, and that answer is the person of Jesus. He is “the Way” to heal a broken world. He is “the Truth” in a society that has given way to relativism. He is “the Life” in a culture of death. The world needs Jesus. These teens need Jesus. Our neighbors need Jesus. Our families need Jesus.
We need Jesus. The spreading of the Gospel is every bit as urgent as a burning building. Evangelization isn’t the responsibility of a few that we think are “trained" to do it. People who run into burning buildings aren’t always firefighters. They are people who love their neighbors. I’ve only been a missionary with Dirty Vagabond for a few months, but the love that Dirty Vagabond has for teens and the desire that every employee and missionary has to share the Gospel is infectious. But you don’t have to be a missionary to share in that love. By becoming a mission partner with Dirty Vagabond, you can enter the brokenness we face in a very real way. God has called you by name and has uniquely given you the gifts to bring Jesus to your neighbors, your co-workers, and your family, and by partnering with Dirty Vagabond you can help bring Jesus to teens in the inner city.
-Ryan Ackerman, Missionary in Sharpsburg, PA (Diocese of Pittsburgh)
“Mr. Chris, how much longer? When can I receive the Eucharist?”
John is one of the fantastic kids we work with. We have loved seeing him grow in his relationship with Jesus and he can’t wait to become Catholic this Easter. He is one of the many kids we are working with right now in “Jesus Class” which is happening in 3 of different missions. Each Sunday, he grows more excited as he waits to receive his sacraments.
Jesus Class is a simplified RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program that we run in our ministry. The goal is to help kids grow in their relationship with Jesus and the Church as they prepare to receive their Sacraments at Easter.
We call it “Jesus Class” because we want to keep it simple and focused on Jesus. A lot of the kids we work with are unchurched. Many have never gone to church at all, and it’s not unusual for them to not have even a basic understanding of God.
Like St. Paul, “we [are] determined to share with [the kids we work] not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8.) It’s through these relationships that we can introduce kids to a relationship with God. It’s incredible to see these relationships grow. It’s beautiful to see their burning desire to become Catholic and journey with them in the process.
Right now we’ve got 13 kids in Jesus Class. It’s a process, and some kids may join later, and some kids may decide not to complete the program, but it’s an exciting journey. We wanted to ask you to join the process by praying for these kids.
Will you commit to praying for these kids? Their names are Isaik, Valentina, Olympia, Junior, Cynsair, John, Kayvon, Montasia, Morgan, Lyaisha, Arriana, Ethan, and Shiya. Thanks!
"I dream of a poor church for the poor." Pope Francis
I am not quite sure we’ve digested these words of Pope Francis as a church yet.
It is a truly challenging vision as we seek to live out the gospel of Jesus. What is a poor church? A poor church is one where the poor are loved, treasured, and put first.