By John Wynand Katende
For purposes of rekindling the spirit of volunteerism in our society, I have chosen to dedicate this reflection to the late Charles Bernard Mbaziira, who was called by his creator on August 8.
As many have eulogised him, Mbaziira was the man behind the humble and welcoming face that has been religiously ushering in VIPs and commoners during many national and local events of the Catholic Church in Uganda.
He was imbued with the spirit of hospitality or protocol. Mbaziira was a founder member of the Central Organising Committee based at Uganda Catholic Secretariat, also a member of many other church-based institutions and organisations.
Whereas volunteerism used to be part of societal life, today’s general trend happens to be the spirit of “what is there in it for me”. This has checked on the spirit of donating. Leadership positions which traditionally aimed at selfless service for the common good, are, today, being grabbed by the corrupt. The employment sector, similarly, suffers exploitation.
Volunteering may be described as freely giving time and labour for community service, without monetary compensation or making a profit. The Good Samaritans, Red Cross Society, Lions Club, Rotary, the Xaverian Movement, Boy and Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, are among the many illustrious voluntary organisations or associations.
The church, perhaps more than any other institution, is essentially a volunteer organisation. Religious leaders acknowledge serving God as being one of the major purposes for which they were created.
Theirs is a response to God’s call for workers in His vineyard: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2). They are inspired by Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I, Lord; Send me.”
In the same spirit, St Paul urges us to consider volunteerism as work for God, not for men. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Volunteerism is self-sacrifice in the name of God, after the sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of the world.
“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12: 1). Volunteerism is also a response to service above self, after the example of Jesus.
“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man.” (Matthew 28:20).
Begins at home
Volunteerism begins at home (see Galatians 6:10)”. Many people do not volunteer and serve because that is not the way they were raised in their homes, the “domestic church.” Without the modelling from parents or a subsequent conversion of heart and mind, we are less likely to consider getting involved in our communities.
In 1Corinthians 12:4-7, St Paul emphasises that as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we have each received gifts unique to our position in the Body, with graces that equip us for our work within the Church.
Religious leaders should be cautious to never fall into believing that their own role in a church is better than the role of a volunteer. We are all humbly pouring ourselves out for others and for the church. Christ loves each of us equally. To all volunteers, thank you for the ways you serve Christ and his church.
Bible says “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10).