By Ronnie McBrayer
I had never met a chain-smoking missionary until I shook the tobacco-stained hand of Michael Bonderer. Michael is the Country Director for the “Fuller Center for Housing” and “Homes from the Heart” in El Salvador. As the late Millard Fuller described him, “He is quite the character.” Indeed.
But I found Michael to be more than just a colorful character. He is the stunning paradox of saint and sinner. At once he is a nicotine-addicted, four-letter-word-dropping, endless-coffee-drinking, recovering-alcoholic; and he is a wise sage, a deeply committed follower of Jesus, a spiritual practitioner who lives to put roofs over the heads of the poor and forgotten.
After a week with him in Central America mixing concrete and building houses I asked him what his work there needed, outside of money, to keep building homes. He flicked ashes into a coconut ash tray and replied, “People in the church feel like they need permission to do anything good, or they feel they need to be experts. But you don’t have to know anything about anything to change the world. The people who just show up are the game changers. That’s what we need: People ready and willing to serve, who will just show up.”
Truly, you don’t have to know anything about anything to change the world. Just show up ready to sweat, ready to bleed a little, ready to learn, and God knows what could happen. Every night this week, people from all walks of life volunteer to staff soup kitchens or deliver food to the poor. These people aren’t trained in the culinary arts; they don’t have degrees in public policy or hold licenses as Clinical Social Workers. They just show up to help, love, and to serve.
In church dining halls and in community rooms all around the world, Alcoholics Anonymous groups meet every day to weed through the recovery process. These meetings are filled with people who have no formal training in addiction recovery, nor do many of them know how to professionally counsel someone else. All they know is that they must show up—because sometimes just showing up is enough.
Everywhere good stuff is going on, everywhere Christ’s witness is being held out to a community, it’s not because some group has it figured out. It is because someone showed up and won’t leave till the job is done. Chain-smoking or not, that is enough.
Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net