Living Lent: The story of two Dirty Vagabond missionaries.
“To love the poor is not something abstract,
but profoundly concrete.” Pope Francis
What would you say if God told you to move with your wife and young family to the inner city of Wichita, Kansas, and serve the poor? Most people would probably say, “No way!” Many have the mentality that to live a missionary life is for the single person or someone who has chosen a religious vocation. However, when God spoke to Andy and Meg Churray, they said yes.
What would possess someone to purposely move himself and his family out of the suburbs and into the crime-infested city? The answer is simple: the Churrays were called. The idea of living a missionary life in the inner city was not a new idea to them. Andy and Meg had once lived and worked in Brooklyn for Dirty Vagabond Ministries, serving at-risk teenagers living in poverty. Many view the young people the Churrays serve as lost and hopeless troublemakers. Andy and Meg see them as sons and daughters of God who are in great need of care and understanding.
Dirty Vagabond Ministries was originally founded in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2007 and has since spread to several other cities, including, Pittsburgh, PA, Greenville, NC, Chicago, IL, and now, Wichita, KS. It is a sight to behold when one witnesses the group of Dirty Vagabond teens enter the church as one on Sundays for Mass. The newest members are easy to spot. They are uncomfortable and antsy. The missionaries sit with them patiently as they demonstrate how to participate in the Mass. There is nothing like the pride in the face of a Dirty Vagabond missionary as he stands behind one of these young people as he or she enters fully into the faith. The transformation in these young people is undeniable.
In 2013, the Churrays left Brooklyn, moved home to Wichita, and settled into suburban life. It didn’t take long for the Lord the start stirring their hearts back into the service of the needy. God had made it clear that they were to begin a branch of Dirty Vagabond in their own backyard. “In May of 2016, we sold our house and moved into the inner city on the north side of Wichita.” Andy said.
The Churrays were not oblivious to the danger of living in a crime-infested inter-city. Leaving their home in the suburbs was scary, especially after hearing that there was a drive-by shooting a couple houses down from their new home just months before. But, Andy and Meg knew that God would never call them where he would not be able to protect them. They were fearful at first. Andy said, “But once we settled in and got to know our neighbors, It’s amazing how fear disappears. You know, most people who live in the inner city, are good, hard-working, honest people. It’s a beautiful thing when you see the beauty in the brokenness and you realize we are really all in this life together.”
To be able to see Jesus in those they serve is truly a gift. As cliché as it sounds, Andy believes that this generation of youth faces trials and difficulties that no other generation has had to experience. His desire to be a positive influence, leading the youth to Christ, is what fuels his sense of mission.
To be a Dirty Vagabond missionary is to be immersed in the lives of the young people they serve. Most days, Andy runs an after-school youth center called THE UNDERGROUND. The center is a safe place where young people feel valued. The Churrays take great care in meeting the needs of these youth, whether it’s driving them where they need to go, being a listening ear, or making sure they have food to eat and clothes on their backs.
No one can deny that the need is great. “Unfortunately, the many good people who live here experience not only their own struggles, but are affected by the crime or negativity of a minority,” Andy said. “In the few short months we’ve lived here and started working, I’ve met teens who are documented gang members, teens on house arrest, kids abandoned by their fathers, or even abused. We’ve met neighbors who are alcoholics, sex offenders, homeless, and drug addicts.” But the future of these teens doesn’t have to be defined by their past, or even their present struggles. God wants desperately to reach them and he is using people like Andy and Meg to do so.
Amidst the busy ministry schedule, finding time to be a family and have a happy marriage is of the upmost importance. It seems that every marriage and family is under attack these days; however, those who serve God in full-time ministry feel an added weight of attack. Andy and Meg have to work hard to protect themselves from the evil work of the enemy. To combat this, the Churrays make a conscious effort to take time each evening for family prayer and worship. “We pray a decade of the rosary, read the day’s Gospel passage, do a couple of worship songs and go around saying what we are all thankful for. The girls usually dance when we play music, but it is amazing to hear them pray the rosary already!” This time together as a family is priceless and essential in order to remain strong and faithful together.
There is a misunderstanding among some who think that those who serve in ministry should just be happy to be doing the will of God. They forget that these people have real marriages and families who have the same needs of provision as everyone else. The Churrays’ sacrifice should not go unnoticed. This is great, eternal work. Most of us are unable to directly serve the children of God in the inner city, however there are other ways that we can support those who do. Please consider reaching out to Dirty Vagabond and Andy and Meg Churray to provide any support you can. The contact information is below.
To most of us, the day in, day out lives of these inner city teens is unfathomable. Yet, God aches for them. He desires to reach into their brokenness and give them the peace of His love. However, the way it will happen is through those like Andy and Meg who have answered the call to live a very Lenten life not only giving to the poor, but also living among them, serving them, and loving them.
The Andy and Meg Churray Family.
Andy and his beautiful wife Meg have three girls. Andy is originally from Newport News, Virginia. He graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville with a Bachelor's in Theology and Catechetics and a concentration in Youth Ministry. Andy has been doing youth ministry for the past eight years, including serving with Dirty Vagabond in Brooklyn, NY from 2010-2013. After teaching and doing parish youth ministry for three years in Wichita, KS, Andy and Meg felt called to start a branch of Dirty Vagabond.
Andy left teaching, they sold their house and moved into the North Side of the city and have been amazed at what God is already doing! Andy enjoys anything American, exercising, coffee, tattoos, and is currently trying to talk Meg into letting him get a dog.
This video gives you a glimpse into the work of Andy and Meg as well as the entire Dirty Vagabond Ministry.