Dirty Vagabond missionary immersed in “radical mission”


Maddy Burns, a graduate from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, is the new missionary for Dirty Vagabond Ministries in downtown Steubenville.

Burns has been working for Dirty Vagabond since October of 2016, and she, along with her co-worker Mark Pirro, ministers to the teens of Steubenville.

“My job is just to live incarnational ministry, and just to live the gospels,” said Burns. “Kids are always in my life, they’re always at my house, they’re part of my family now, so it’s just really being totally open to inviting them into my family, that’s my job.”

Burns graduated with a degree in social work from Appalachian State University, and originally worked with refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but soon learned of the need for a missionary in Dirty Vagabond ministries in Steubenville. After going on a pilgrimage that took her to Lourdes, she decided God was calling her to come work with teens in Steubenville.

Although this took her away from her social work career, Burns said she finds a comparison between her undergrad and this ministry.

“In both jobs, there are definitely boundaries,” said Burns.

Burns said social work is more about professional boundaries, like not talking to a client after a certain time, and not sharing much about her personal life. Ministry work is more about sharing yourself completely, with the constant discernment of when to share with the teens you work with, she said.

“I’m glad I have my social work background,” said Burns, “because I understand what my kids are going through, and they reasons why they do things. If I didn’t have a social work background, I would have a harder time understanding why they do what they do.”

Burns said the age group of working with teens is technically from grades 8-12, but oftentimes when they get to know the teens, then they begin to minister to their families as well.

Burns said she travels to a countless number of places around Steubenville to get teens interested in attending Bible studies and outreach nights with Dirty Vagabond. This includes going to schools, sports events, hangout places—basically wherever they might be.

“Jesus didn’t just put up a sign in the Synagogue and it said, ‘Hey, I’m going to speak here. Come see me.’ He went to where they were,” said Burns.

“It’s not always safe,” said Burns, “but if I really believe in the mission of saving souls, bringing kids to Steubenville to Christ, then I don’t really care that it’s not safe, I’m going to (go).”

Burns said that though it’s not always easy ministering to these teens, there are small moments that she loves, like small groups and dancing with them.

“It has been incredible watching them grow,” said Burns, “I feel so lucky to watch miracles happen, and to watch kids have true encounters with Jesus, because no one else cares about them, and cares enough to pursue their hearts enough to a point where they’re open to hear Jesus.”

Burns said working with teens has helped her gain knowledge and experience with teens, and helped her appreciate more what they go through each and every day.

“It’s super hard, it’s probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it’s the most rewarding work,” said Burns.

Burns said around 40 students from Franciscan University come to help minister to these teenagers.

“Dirty Vagabond is a super radical organization, and it’s a radical mission, and it takes your very life,” said Burns. “We’ve had students from Franciscan do incredible work, and I think they would say that Dirty Vagabond has totally changed their lives.”

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