My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

When the stomach is a-hurting, there's no one a-working!

Day 5-- Today, I woke up in the middle of the night and my stomach hurt so bad. I kept praying that it would just go away, but I tossed and turned until 7 am where I proceeded to spend the next hour either facing the toilet or on the toilet. Yeah, no good! Needless to say, I was out for the count most of the day.

Stacy and John sent me back to bed with some fresh bread (the bread here is so yummy) and orders to rest! So, I went back to sleep until, well, lunch time. I couldn't eat much, at lunch or at dinner today, but I'm feeling almost all better tonight as I write this. My stomach still isn't 100%, but it feels much better. I'm guessing it must have just been some sort of stomach flu or something.

Despite the illness, it was great to get to talk to my parents and Brianna, Yona, Jenni (and Kirsten and Yuliana), and the Koldings today on skype while I was out for the count. It was really nice to just chat about normal life and catch up on the daily happenings of my friends and family.

Tonight, after dinner (my first dinner with fufu--it's yummy!), we went to the YYAM base to let the kids visit with John's brother who is attending there this year. Rosemary, John and Stacy's oldest adopted girl, chatted with me the whole time telling me funny stories and jokes. My favorite one was one that her teacher told the class this year about his pastor at his church. She said that the pastor was wearing rather loose pants one day in church when he was preaching his message. Little did he know, but a small snake (not a poisonous one or anything), had slithered up his pant leg. He started shaking his leg and saying that he was feeling the Holy Spirit and kept on preaching louder and louder. Eventually, when the snake reached up near the top of his pants, he realized that it wasn't just the Holy Spirit that was moving on his leg. He unbottoned his pants and pulled the snake out and the congregation fell into fits of laughter. I was laughing so hard! The way she told it was so funny!

Pray that my stomach will heal as I sleep tonight. It would be awesome to just feel 100% back to normal by tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A little work, a little food, a little fun!

Day 4--Today was such a nice day! This morning, I got to sit down with Stacy while we talked about the school, plans for the upcoming week (and month), and just chatted about life. It felt good. . .and normal. Which was what I was praying for. . .a day where I would feel more at home in my own skin.

I definitely feel like I have a lot to do and need to start, next week, testing kids. I think this weekend, I'm going to have to get some of these tests ready to start doing with the kids. I'm trying to put them all on my computer so that we can keep the kids scores and things neatly organized and easy to update. Once I know their levels, I can make some better plans as to what's ahead. I have a fairly decent idea based on their report cards from the term that they just finished, but who knows. From what I've seen, the school that the kids attended hasn't been the most thourough experience! I thought California was bad with class sizes at 30 something. . .these kids didn't have a class under 50 students!

Besides working on prep for testing and our field days for next month, I spent some time playing with the kiddos. Stacy got out chalk and coloring sheets and the kids got right into that. It was so funny to see the little ones running around with chalk all over their hair and faces! DK, he's a funny kid! He wanted me to play soccer with him all day today. I played a bit, until I kicked the ball over the wall. Whoops! He keeps calling me "obruni" which means white person. I keep telling him my name "Miss Afi". We'll see what sticks! And little Edwin, man, he is ADORABLE! He is such a cuddle bug. Just walks right over and sits in your lap and cuddles up with you and giggles and giggles and giggles. He hasn't spoken yet, so we're still working on that, but he is so cute. Those eyelashes are to die for!

After a fun afternoon at the Freedom Center, John took Stacy and I out for an Italian dinner. Yummy! I'm loving the food here in Ghana, but it was fun to get food that was familiar as well. We chatted and laughed and talked about plans in August. We'll be going up to the Volta region in August to do a one day mission. We'll spend the day with a team from the US visiting people, ministering, doing some children's games, etc. At night, we'll have a worship gathering and see what the Spirit does! I'm excited! We also talked about our October move to a little village on the other side of Accra, Doryum (I think that's how it's spelled). It's going to be an exciting first year of the school (which we're starting in September) and will mostly be filled with finding out what the kids know, obtaining good curriculum, working in small groups for instruction, and working on the accredidation process. It was nice to just rest and have fun with John and Stacy. They are such a neat couple with such fire for the Lord and for their ministry here!

I'm posting more pics to facebook, as my blog seems to struggle with uploading anything of size. So, check out facebook for more pics from my day today!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learning to Set Boundaries and Manage my Time

Day 3--
Today was a little bit more of a challenging day for me. I'm still working on coming out of my shell completely and am learning how to set boundaries, not for the adults, but for the kids.

To start the day, I learned a valuable lesson about my malaria pills. My pills require me to eat along with taking them. I decided to take my pill this morning before breakfast, thinking that soon enough, the food would settle in and I wouldn't have to worry. Needless to say, about halfway through breakfast, I thought I was going to lose it on the dining room table! I made it through and learned my lesson for next time. Step 1--eat breakfast. Step 2--take malaria pills.

Today, I had to learn to start setting better boundaries for myself today, not with the adults, but with the kids. I have LOVED the kids and hanging with them has been an absolute joy, but I definitely have to be careful with having my own space and the "what's yours is mine" rule seems to be applied generously. I want to share what I have brought, but I also want to be careful that it's not messed up before this school is started. So, I've tried to set some boundaries today, but it went alright. We'll see how tomorrow goes!

I'm also learning that it's really easy to just get caught in a day where I don't do much but play with the kids (which is totally fun, but I'm definitely feeling the burn to get started on things). I think that whatever we end up doing tomorrow, I'm just going to have to pack up my computer and assessments and take them with me so that I can get some stuff for the school done during the day.

It was good this morning though to spend a little time with a newcomer to The Freedom Center, DK. DK was recently rescued (on Father's Day) and was brought to the Freedom Center with no previous education (he's 10). He is so hungry for learning and this morning, we sat down to work on the the alphabet. What started as a small project, turned into an hour long letter writing lesson. I had written out all the letters of the alphabet on a chalkboard, and for him, not being familiar with the letters, it was more like drawing foreign objects than writing letters. He worked so hard and he was so pleased with himself when he was able to make a letter correctly. When he didn't, he'd erase and erase until he got it right. What a sweet boy!

Since I've struggled for a couple of days to upload videos of anything that's going on (the internet is a little slow here), I'm going to try to post pics online. I'm still struggling to post anything else on this blog, so keep updated on facebook and hopefully you'll see some stuff uploading on there soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 2

7:30 am--I just woke up from my first night here in Ghana. It's rainy season, so I loved falling asleep to the sound of rain outside my window. Only problem is, the rain makes the air so muggy! The fan in my room is essential to the breathing process! But, I slept well and am ready to start my first full day here.
My shower is first. I have my own bathroom, and though it's a little different from my shower back home, it's running water.
Plan for the day. . .meeting up with a lady from an International School here to discuss curriculum and ideas, hanging with the kids from the Freedom Center, and we'll see what else the day holds.
I tried to upload a video tour of my room here in Ghana, but the internet was too slow for this one. I'll try again soon.

6:30 pm--What an amazing day! I spent part of the morning working with Stacy on different ideas for the school. We talked a lot about ACSI accredidation and what that would look like for a village school with no income. Hmmmm! After awhile, we went to the Freedom Center where I was greeted by little Portia (3 yrs) and Edwin 1 1/2 yrs) running to me for a hug. They are so cute! After a little bit of time at the Freedom Center, we brought the school age children their lunches to their school. It was the second to last day of their term, so the kids were all out in the courtyard putting on a talent show. It was so fun! Dancing, singing, fashion show (which was hilarious to see the boys reactions!). After that, we met up with a lady (Erin) who is teaching at an International School in Accra for the next two years. We had lunch with her and it was an amazing blessing to get to hear John and Stacy's story of how they met and how God has moved in their life to bring them to this place. Erin also told some of her story and then we all had the opportunity to pray together. We definitely felt God moving in the restaurant as we prayed over the table and chairs that whoever would come next would feel the LOVE of the Father! Powerful time! After dropping Erin off at the YWAM base where she is staying, we went down into Community 1 in Tema which is in the center of the city where they do all their shopping. We had to pick up toilet paper (I bet you're glad I shared that random fact) and, of course, stopped off for some AMAZING pineapple! What a treat! Finally, we made it back to the Freedom Center where I got to hang out with little Edwin. Man, he is SO CUTE! At a year and a half, he still hasn't spoken. They work with him everyday to get him to talk. I also got to hang out with some of the older children and look through their past term's school work. I got some ideas of their current level of education (most of the books weren't finished, maybe only a couple pages completed in each) and what we'll need to do. I need to work on assessing the kids to see where they would fit in, but I know that these kids are bright and I'm excited to see what God does.
One cool note, Erin was praying today at lunch and told me that she felt like God told her that He was going to do something new and deep in me in this season. I have felt the word "expansion" over this season as well--just a widening and a deepening in my relationship with God, but also in my kingdom perspective. Cool to hear from her, someont I just met today, that God is speaking the same things!
Until next time!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome Home

I made it into Accra, Ghana today. It was a full first day here, getting used to life in Ghana and talking about what has been happening and what is ahead for the Freedom Center and the Omorefes.
I found out more information about the Freedom Center today that I wasn't really aware of before. They work to rescue kids out of the fishing trade, but ultimately, their goal is to reunite children with their parents. They seek out the parents, ask for reunification and discuss ways to make that happen (without the children being sold again). Sometimes, it means the parents ask for City of Refuge to take their children for a short while they go to job training or find a suitable place for the children. Sometimes it means that the children are placed back in the home the parent immediately and provided with with monthly support. So, while many children have been rescued so far with the work of City of Refuge, they currently maintain 14 children in their home (with hope for more either through social services or with future rescues).
We discussed options for the school and Stacy was excited to let me know that we are going to go full-force and start the school in October. We'll be moving out of Tema then and building the school while we rent homes in a local village. The school will be an "American standards" school as Stacy and John have discovered that some of the Ghanaian standards are no reasonable and cannot be followed through on. We'll be looking for curriculum and perhaps working on our own (especially with Social Studies and perhaps Bible). I'm excited to be starting right away! In fact, I'll be meeting with another local teacher here (she's from CA, but is teaching at an International School in Tema) tomorrow for lunch. We'll be discussing curriculum and standards, and what it would look like to start this school.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning! Yesterday's flights were all really close to one another, so I didn't have much time to call or anything in between flights. I flew out from San Jose yesterday morning, after much craziness packing and repacking into my suitcases. I think I wrote about that yesterday in the airport. Then, I made it into Denver with enough time to grab a sandwich and load onto the next flight. I flew into Washington/Dulles with a little more time to spare and grabbed a convo with Yona and my Mom before flying out. Last night's flight was good. 10 hours on the plane, but it wasn't terrible. I sat next to an empty seat, but the lady two seats over was very nice. She is also a teacher (her name is Phyllis) and she travels in the summer different places to volunteer. Amazing! So, it was cool to chat with her and get to hear about her previous Ghana experiences. I was able to sleep (thanks Tiffany Timmings for the eye covers--so helpful), so I came in to Accra feeling pretty good.
I was a little nervous about customs, but it was a breeze. John and Stacy picked me up from the airport and we took off for home. It was so nice to be greeted so energetically (Welcome Home Sister!!!). As soon as we got to the Tema house, I got to meet all of John and Stacy's kids. They have 3 of their own and 3 adopted children (siblings of John's from Nigeria). From youngest to oldest, they are: Justice (almost a year), Caleb (almost 4), JJ (6), Miracle (8), Paul (11), and Rosemary (12). They also have a housekeeper named Helena, but they call her by a nickname (can't remember it right now). The kids are full of energy and I loved my time with them. It was very fun getting to know them all.
Right away, we discussed coming up with a different name for me because most people here don't understand the name Autumn. To them, it sounds like Adam. For Ghana, the people have nicknames for the day that they were born on. We looked up my birthday, and found I was born on a Friday. Therefore, my nickname would be Afi. So, the kids will either call me Auntie Autumn or Miss Afi.
After spending a little time at home, we took off for the Freedom Center. Here in Tema, the houses do not have addresses. Instead, they are known by which community they are in and which part of which community. So, John and Stacy's house is in community 3 (I think) and the Freedom House is in Community 5. I got to meet the 14 kids that live there and the house parents. They also have a full-time social worker that works with them and is also kind of their office manager. The kids are so cute and they were definitely curious about the new white girl, especially the little ones. Little Portia became my new best friend.

Tonight, we had a delicious meal--chicken, rice, and some kind of yummy, spicy sauce. Afterwards, we went on a walk to a local store. They don't have any dairy products here, but they do have some frozen yogurt type things that you can buy that they make here in Ghana. They sure are yummy! The kids got really excited about the video camera during the walk, so we'll probably have to place some boundaries on my stuff. I definitely had some sticky fingers this afternoon while they were searching through all the stuff in my room! Funny!

I will continue to post here as often as I can. I'm excited about what's ahead and know that God is going to do big things during my time here.

Please pray for wisdom as I meet with different people this week and we look into the best options for the school in the future.

Sending my love back to the States!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Today's the Day

Right now, I'm sitting in San Jose International Airport waiting for my first flight of the day. I'm heading to Denver first today. I got in a couple hours early to figure out my bags and make sure that they weighed the right amount. Amazingly enough, after several repackings (thank you Jenni, Kirsten, and T), my bags were alright! It took awhile though, so I'm glad that my friends were there to help out.
Emotions running through me right now: nervousness (that's kinda the main one), sadness (espeically when I had to say goodbye last night and this morning), excitement (It's finally here!), disbelief (It might not be real until I hit the ground IN Ghana), and just in awe of what is ahead of me this year.
Pray for me, and for the journey today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Leaving Tomorrow

I am leaving tomorrow for Ghana. Wow! It seems like it is something I have just been talking about for ages, but would never come to fruition. Can't believe it's actually happening!
On Friday, my friends Yona and Jake drove up from Southern California to spend some time with me up here. It really spoke volumes to me about their love. And yesterday, I had over 40 people stop by the Ivy house to wish me farewell. It was such a beautiful picture to me of how God has moved in community during my time in the Bay area.
The hardest part of yesterday was saying goodbye to the Koldings, especially knowing how much Brylie will change in this next year. I have had the amazing priveledge of getting to be a part of Bylie's life her first two and a half months. There hasn't been a week of her life that I have missed. It will be weird for me to see so many changes the next time I see her. To see her crawling, smiling, full of personality. I have been so lucky to have seen the little milestones of her life so far, and the rest will be witnessed via skype I guess!
It was so hard to say bye to Yona as well. The next time I see her, little baby Roberts will have been born and life will be so different in their home. I'm sad that I will have to miss her first moments of life, but I asked to be in the hospital via skype as soon as she arrives!
Wow! My life is going to be so different in these upcoming weeks and months. I know that God has fully called me, providing for me ABOVE AND BEYOND what I had thought possible. I think I struggle to put into words the feelings. . .and even to know exactly what I'm feeling. Excited. . .nervous. . .just walking forward into the world of "not knowing". It's a little scary, yet I don't really feel scared. I guess the next few days will bring forth the emotions that have been just sitting on the surface these past few weeks.
The next time I write, it will probably be from a far different place than East Menlo Park, California.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leaving Soon

I can't believe that I'm a week away from my big move to Tema, Ghana. I feel like it has been such a long process of praying and raising support, and now it's finally here. I feel excited, nervous, scared, but know that God has orchestrated the perfect timing for me to go.

When I went to Kenya six years ago, I remember returning from that country knowing that I would be returning to Africa. I fell in love with the people (especially the children) and the hearts that were open to recieving the love of a God that is so MASSIVE in his power, grace, and love.

And here I am, going again, and filled with similar emotions, except for the uncertainty of what the year will hold and what will realistically be able to be completed in this year long journey. I feel somewhat off-kilter knowing that I will never fully be prepared for what is to come because this is a journey of FAITH--and this work has to be done through the Father, and not through my strength or knowledge or experience.

I'm dwelling in the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of love, power, and self-discipline."

Yes God! I am living in those words that I will live completely out of your love, power, and self-discipline in this season!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Anything you can donate??

I am going to bring some supplies with me or have my friend who is coming in August bring some items with her. If you would like to donate any items toward my trip to Ghana, please drop them by the PCC office or mail them to the following address:

Peninsula Covenant Church
Autumn Buzzell/City of Refuge
3560 Farm Hill Blvd.
Redwood City, CA 94061

Here is the list of needs:
Children's vitamins
Adult vitamins
cotton balls
children's tylenol
children's ibuprofen
art supplies
construction paper
coloring books
pencil sharpeners
shoes--boys and girls--all sizes
clothes--boys and girls--all sizes

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting Ready to Go

Wow! The process of getting ready to go is an up and down rollercoaster ride. I spent the last three weeks with family and friends in Colorado. It was an AMAZING time. I am such a "quality time" person, and my time in Colorado literally fed my soul! I was so glad that I had the time to do that.

My trip started with a trip down to SoCal. I got to spend some time with Yona, Blabe, Jake, Eric, the Tyrees, my sister, and Priscilla Schubert. It was wonderful!

Here are the Tyree kiddos having a fun photo shoot. They are a blast!

And how can you not love Miles' face??
After some time in SoCal, I traveled out to Colorado with Kat, Isaiah, and Jess Nix to spend a few days with my family. It was such a beautiful trip out and really restful time with my family.

Later that week, the Beatniks all arrived at my house. It was so fun to spend time with them and my family! My parents were so moved by all of my friends. Here is our group at my family's church.

After a couple of days at my home with my family, our whole group got to head out to Katty's family ranch out near Alamosa. We spent the days playing games, hiking, fishing, going on walks, riding a train, and just spending time with each other. It was a beautiful time together!
This past Saturday, I trekked out to Denver to pick up Katie, Jenni, Bristol, and Lauren (and Sarah in Silverthorne) to come and spend some time at my house for the 4th of July. It was a blast! In between scavenger hunts, mini-truck races, swimming, games, and bumper boats, it was quite an adventure. So much fun! Here are a few pics from the scavenger hunt.

Chris and his team (Fierce Firecrackers) sing the National Anthem and try to draw a crowd.

Our group's (flying sharks) flag made from nature.

This group (The purple prairie dog pies) poses with Justin (the wearer of dreadlocks).

The boys of the team "Roosters" pose in a band photo. Very nice!
The next couple of weeks before I leave, I will be packing up my house and spending time with friends. Wow! I can't believe I'm leaving so soon. Continue to pray for me as I prepare to leave!