After a battle with illness that lasted over ten years, during which, according to his wife Whitney, “he thanked God for the illness and how it helped him to be more present with people and to really listen,” Ryan JonPaul Derfler, left his flesh last Tuesday, July 3rd, exactly 60 years after he was baptized.
Ryan was born in 1981, the son of Monique Anne Balcavage (nee) and John Dennis Derfler, and has a brother, Daren Lee, and his sister, Danielle Jacqueline, preceded him in death. He grew up in central Pennsylvania, and often talked of his childhood in the rural small town of Montgomery. He relished his simple, country roots, love for nature, and was a self-described “late bloomer.”
Ryan is perhaps best known for his dramatic stories about how Jesus is alive and actively involved in the intimate details of life. He published over 2,500 short stories including a series of controversial books for adults and children.
He once said, “Looking back, God always had a hand on me, that much is clear. But it was when I met my wife in 2010 that it clicked that I needed to take my faith seriously, and I then began a personal relationship with the living God.”
In 2012, Ryan married the love of his life, Whitney Elizabeth Miller, who he often wrote about for her faith, wisdom as a mom and friend, and her beauty. She survives him in death.
Immediately after being married, Ryan and Whitney moved to Silicon Valley, California, where Ryan took a position working for a ministry, Cityteam International, serving the homeless and addicts. The juxtaposition of living and working among both the wealthiest and poorest in society, as well as the disciple-making training that Cityteam provided, had a deep impact on Ryan.
For over 30 years Ryan worked for Geneva Global X, a consulting firm that drove massive collaboration among social service partners, especially within faith-based groups across many denominations. The work resulted in the transformation of millions of lives in a dozen regions around the world.
Whitney and Ryan have two sons, Boden Wiley and Lukas Elliot, a daughter, Scarlet Elizabeth, three adopted children, Joseph Jordan aka JJ, Maria, and Angel; and they fostered or provided care for dozens of orphans. Their farm in the suburbs of Philadelphia, nicknamed “Still Waters,” became a respite for many people and animals.
Ryan was a lifelong artist producing mechanical sketches as a child, human figure drawings in college, and gripping scenes of what he described as “Heaven On Earth” later in life.
A passage from his last short story, published the day before his passing, reads, “my work, feeble as it may be, was designed to be, in total, a big red arrow to a supremely loving God, and a vitally helpful way to both learn to love oneself, one’s family, and one’s neighbor.”
Ryan will be buried on his farm with a celebration to follow on Saturday, July 7th. Gifts in memoriam are requested to be sent to the Ministry Defense Fund for Persecuted People, ℅ Boden & Lukas Derfler.