by Koby Buth, Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Heath Center
Growing up, I regularly attended youth ministry events titled something along the lines of, “Be a Hero for Jesus!” The message I heard at those events usually went something like this: “Jesus calls us to be moral exemplars in society. We need to stand out from our peers in a way that points to Christ and brings others to Him. By performing extraordinary acts with extraordinary courage, we will gather attention from society that we will then be able to redirect to Jesus.”
Part of the use of the word “Hero” was, of course, a means of appealing to our ten-year-old imagination: we could be Superman or Wonder Woman. I did not consider, however, how this appeals to our modern obsession with individualism, until I first heard the song “Helplessness Blues” by the band Fleet Foxes. As I contemplated the lyrics over time, the first verse has always been the most striking to me:
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,
unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me
While that verse could be interpreted as critiquing the Participation Trophy Phenomenon, I think it more clearly speaks to the desire to contribute in small, cooperative ways to a larger, more meaningful society. Those youth ministry events encourage great individual acts, not small, perhaps menial, acts that add up to something greater than we could do individually. I think that our youth ministers did not want to encourage those particular acts, primarily because they can feel menial. An accountant for a homeless shelter may not feel like she’s contributing much to the world, but that shelter would not exist for very long without her, leading to fewer people getting the services they need.
This volunteer year, I have often felt like a “cog in some great machinery,” which has in some ways left me a little unsatisfied. I have felt the need to begin some great project which will overhaul the way the clinic works and drastically improve the care for our patients. I would love to say that desire comes solely from the care I feel for our patients, but I think some of it comes from a desire to stand out from the crowd—to be a Hero for Jesus. In college, we often had speakers from small organizations come and speak about what caused them to start a nonprofit that helps with human trafficking or world hunger. I often wondered if, instead of having many small organizations dedicated to eradicating a huge social issue like human trafficking, having a few large ones would be able to mobilize more people and more resources. I wondered if people’s desire to be a Hero for Jesus by starting their own organization was a less efficient way of decreasing hunger and slavery in our world than joining a pre- existing one and adding their skills and talents to an already established nonprofit.
People will often say that the desire to be a cog in a machine is fueled by complacency. But I am learning to see the benefits to it. It allows good, helpful organiations to function smoothly. It helps you make significant changes in the world without burning yourself out hunting for the next great idea.
A few months ago, some street evangelists stopped Brooke (my wife, also a Precious Blood Volunteer) and I on our walk home and asked when we were saved. I thought, I don’t think salvation is a one-time thing, I think it’s a process, which is why Paul tells us “work out your salvation.” But, because I knew I would make my wife uncomfortable confronting street evange- lists, I said, “When I was around six.” He then asked, “Does your salvation make you want to go out and evangelize?” My answer was something along the lines of, “Actually, I feel like I usually want to show people what Christ is like rather than telling them.” We then told each other to have a good day and parted ways. These people were looking for big ways to serve Christ, which is good, but I’m trying to find consolation in doing small things, routine things to serve Christ, other people, and the broader creation.
Koby is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org
Koby Buth with a patient at KC CARE Health Center
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of the New Wine Press.
Precious Blood Volunteers’ Orientation, July 2017, Leah Landry, John Lee, Hector Avitia, and Lota Ofodile
by Lota Ofodile, Precious Blood Volunteer
There’s an old story that has been circulating in my family for years now, since I was born—the tale of how I got my name. Legend has it that my grandfather wanted to name me Raluchukwu (which means “Choose God” in my native language, Igbo) but that changed after a little conversation.
Interesting fact: I grew up being part of a small Catholic community called The Neocatechumenal Way. Each year, Andrea and his wife Francesca, a nice Italian missionary couple and the leaders of our group, would make their way down to Nigeria from Rome with a new priest and seminarian and stay for a few months. They lived right next door. (So just in case some of you, like most of my friends and colleagues at the clinic are all wondering how I am so comfortable living with Fr. Dick and Fr. Garry, it’s because I have lived with priests for years).
Andrea was in the country when I was born, and apparently, after he heard I was going to be called Raluchukwu, naturally he asked what it meant. Once he found out, he said, and I paraphrase, “You can’t choose God; he has already chosen you. You just have to remember that.” That was how Lota came about. My first name, Lotachukwu, means “Remember God”.
Funny story, right? And who knows if that’s exactly how it happened? It doesn’t matter now because I have owned it, and every time I think about that story I realize how God shows himself to us in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes, the most incredible experiences happen to us when we least expect it.
At exactly this time last year, I had just graduated college and had no idea where my life was headed. I was lost and afraid. I had no job lined up. I had applied to a few places, but nothing seemed tangible. I couldn’t apply to medical school because I owe my college some tuition and so I couldn’t get my transcripts. Being an international student, especially in Trump’s America, that was a very scary time. I had pretty much accepted that I might end up moving back to Nigeria. Then Precious Blood Volunteers happened.
Growing up in my very Catholic family, my grandfather made sure we knew that helping others, especially those less privileged than we are, was just as important as prayer and going to Mass. So naturally, after about 10 years of Jesuit secondary and college education garnished with volunteering experiences here and there, I toyed with the idea of a year of service. I had heard about the Catholic Volunteer Network from a close friend who was just completing her year of service, so I put up my profile. I wasn’t even sure which group or what location I was particularly interested in. The very next day, I got an email from Tim Deveney, the Precious Blood Volunteer Director. At first, I didn’t think too much of it, just a really good recruiter who knows his job, right? But whenever I reflect on my time here, I realize that this was just another instance of God choosing me.
When I think about my orientation week, one thing stands out: prophetic voices. I remember all of us being somewhat confused and asking Tim to clarify what “prophetic voices” meant, and it basically came down to the ways and people with which God tries to get through to us. At least that’s how I’ve chosen to interpret it. It’s the #47 bus driver who has to sit through long hours of driving the same route everyday with all kinds of interesting characters, being part of conversations she’d probably rather not have if she did not have to be there. Patience. It’s John Lee, my ex-housemate and fellow volunteer who picked out monthly challenges to make the most out of his experience and ended up starting a podcast that is currently on iTunes! (I have never met anyone so insistent and intentional about self-development) It’s one of my patients at the clinic who I’m pretty confident is/was part of a gang who came back just before leaving to say thank you for making him feel comfortable and cheering him up after he cried to me while I was taking his vitals. He was just like me! A person with feelings who cries when he gets emotional. Gratitude and oneness.
At the beginning, I was mostly concerned with what and how best I would be contributing to the people I would encounter during my service year. But this experience has turned out to be much more rewarding than I ever imagined. I have gotten to meet the most amazing set of people who are dedicated to living the best versions of themselves in the Precious Blood community. I have made tremendous strides in my personal spiritual journey. I spend most of my Sundays as part of the St. Francis Xavier Parish 10:30am Mass choir. And I will be coming out of this service year with a full-time job at the KC CARE Clinic, God willing.
I am so grateful that God has once again chosen me, to be part of this wonderful community and to have this life-changing experience. I sincerely hope and pray that all of us are more attentive to the ways in which God is continuously calling and choosing us to be better people.
(Oh, and just for the record, we stuck both with names. My birth certificate actually has Lotachukwu Raluchukwu written on it. I have two first names! LOL).
You can learn more about serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer by going to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org
You can learn more about our placement at KC CARE Health Center by going to https://preciousbloodkc.org/kc-care-health-center/
2017-2018 Volunteer Lota Ofodile
Lota Ofodile was born and raised in Kaduna, a city in the northern part of Nigeria. She moved to the United States to attend college at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. In December 2016 Lota graduated from Canisius with a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in psychology. She will be serving at KC CARE Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri for a full year and living at Gaspar Mission House.
- Why do you want to volunteer?
“’Service of God and others’ is a value that has been instilled in me both from my family upbringing and my Jesuit education. Therefore, I decided that I would dedicate a significant amount of my life to helping others, with very little focus on myself. Also, from my previous (short-term) volunteer experiences, I realized that I really enjoy helping people, especially if the service I am providing could significantly impact their lives in the long run.”
- Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?
“I was really drawn by the mission of the Precious Blood, especially because recently, I have been struggling to improve my spirituality. At Precious Blood, I will be able to grow in faith and work on my relationship with God, while being a part of community and serving the less privileged.”
- What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?
“I look forward to being a part of a family, helping to build a peaceful and loving community with the other volunteers and staff at Precious Blood. Through this experience, I hope to make a significant difference in the lives of those I serve, as well as feel more in touch with my spirituality.”
We join in celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing reflections from Precious Blood Volunteers alumnae. Enjoy!
Current Precious Blood Volunteer, Koby Buth, taking a patient’s blood pressure at KC CARE Health Center
The Kansas City (KC) CARE Health Center is an integral part of the health care delivery system in the Kansas City community. As it was formed to do in 1971, the Health Center provides basic health care services to people who cannot afford them and to those challenged with access to care. KC CARE helps keep the uninsured and underinsured healthy!
The KC CARE Health Center promotes health and wellness by providing quality Care, Access, Research and Education to the underserved and all people in our community.
As a Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center you will be working at their clinic located in Midtown Kansas City. You will have the opportunity to work alongside doctors, nurses and a dedicated staff taking care of individuals regardless of their ability to pay. This is a placement for you if you are looking for a career in medicine or are interested in public health.
You can learn more about KC CARE Health Center by going to their website.
Read a reflection by former Precious Blood Volunteer, Lota Ofodile, about her experience at KC CARE here.
Read a reflection by former Precious Blood Volunteer, Jade Bowman, about her experience at KC CARE here.
You can apply to serve as a Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center by going to our “Apply” page.