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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

School Update

Tuesdays are school update days. We are working constantly on school stuff as we are going to be starting up on September 14. I'm constantly thinking about things we need to do to train the teachers, things we need to buy to set up the classrooms at the Freedom Center, and ways to run my classroom (since it will be so different).
Last week, we went to Latae and met with a woman named Letitia who is a trained teacher here in Ghana and has been running her own private school in Latae for the past few years. She has come to join our team for this next year and we are excited to have her on board. She'll be teaching the first grade class (JJ, Miracle, and Michael). I'm glad to have her on my team because I feel like she is open to teaching in a new way (American curriculum) and she is also great at giving new ideas (whew!).
On Monday, we met with James and Gifty (an amazing Ghanaian couple that just have humble hearts for the Lord). We offered them positions the week before to work for our school and we prayed all week that they would accept. It would mean some big changes for their family (they have two kids) as they would be moving with us from Accra to Doryum in October. They ACCEPTED the challenge of coming on as Office Administrator (for James) and a kindergarten teacher (for Gifty). James went to school for business administration, but Gifty is much better prepared for human relations type work. But, she said she's willing to try and learn. I know that she'll be great. She'll be working with Abigail and DK to help them learn English and just basic skills. I think that she'll do better than she thinks she will, but it also means that I will have to do quite a bit of training as to how to teach and how to run a classroom.
Our school is going to look quite a bit different than most schools here (at least for this year until they are all caught up to grade level). We're going to be working completely in small group settings. I will be teaching 10 kids in my class, but their grade levels range from 1-5, and an 8th grader (who will be doing more independent study type stuff). It's going to be a challenge to figure out how it all will work and sometime this week I need to sit down and figure that all out.
Instead of running by grade levels, we are just going to be calling our reading groups by animal names and our math groups by color names. We don't want any of the kids to be discouraged by where they are coming from, only encouraged by what they are learning and how far they have come.
Today, I met with a girl who will be interning with us from NYU. She will be helping out on Tuesdays and Fridays for 5 hours each day, so I am excited to have the extra help to work on classroom prep and to help with small groups during those days. It will probably give me some time to work with the other teachers too. We'll see how it all works out!
In other news. . .
**It's been a joy to have Nina here. Even though we haven't been "doing" a whole lot besides computer stuff setting up for the school, she has been such an encouraging presence during her time here.
**We went for a walk tonight and locked ourselves out of the house. John had to break the lock with a hammer before we could continue on our walk. Full of adventure all the time!
**I'm enjoying hearing news of other people interested in coming to join on this adventure at some point during the year. That's exciting!!
**I get to talk to the Whelpleys tonight. YAY!

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Weekend of Fun

This weekend was a blast!

Saturday, we celebrated the birthdays from July, August, and September. We rented a bus and everyone piled in. We drove to the beach and the kids had such a blast (and I did too!). We spent some time getting soaking wet in the ocean, some kids buried each other in the sand, and there was a great game of soccer against some other beachgoers (our team won!). It was so much fun! We headed home shortly after lunch, where we rested and took showers. Then, it was back to the Freedom Center for some delicous dinner (jalof rice and chicken), an enormous birthday cake, and a dance contest. Caleb won the contest, but would you believe it, Nina came in SECOND! It was so fun!

Sunday was children's Sunday. Rosemary had been looking forward to it for such a long time. That girl can memorize like none other! She won all kinds of awards this week for all of her memorization skills! In any case, we got to see Portia and Caleb singing with their class. Paul , Aaron, and Grace all quoted scriptures with their class. Rosemary quoted a poem. They all did such a great job!

Then, last night, I got to chat with my prayer team back home via skype. It was awesome to get to see everyone's faces. I miss everyone so much, even though I am feeling more and more at home. It's a weird feeling. . .to feel so at home here, but still feel as though part of me is there too. Anyway, I got to chat with Kirsten, Jenni, Bristol, Gina, Charlene, Katie, and Lauren. It was so nice to catch up a little with everybody! And then, I got to chat with my Mom and Dad via skype too. It was such a nice way for me to end the weekend. I am such a quality time person that all that face to face time just felt like such a breath of fresh air to me!

It's Monday now. . .Nina's time here has passed so fast. I think we'll be working this week on getting some other stuff set up for the school. We'll see what this week holds.

I'll try to post tonight about one of the kids. . .my regular Monday post!

Friday, August 27, 2010


I forgot to write my typical Monday blog about one of the kids here. So, it's Friday, and I'll let you know about one of the cutest little boys around!

Justice is turning one tomorrow and he is John and Stacy's youngest son. He is just learning how to walk and it has been so fun to watch! The first time that he took more than one step in a row, the kids (Miracle, JJ, and Caleb) had a dance party. There was wild screaming and dancing (I mean, like, down on the floor spinning in circles). It was hilarious!

Justice's nickname is "Ju-Ju" (not to be confused with JJ, John and Stacy's oldest biological son).

He LOVES to laugh. He can be in the middle of a cry and if something is funny or someone pays him some kind of special attention, he starts to laugh. It's pretty cute!

Justice is a lounger. He will crawl around and then, all of the sudden, he'll just lay down on the floor for a "rest". It's so funny! And if he's tired when he's crawling around, all of the sudden, you'll just find him asleep on the floor. No bed needed for this little guy! He just goes to sleep wherever he lands!

Justice loves my glasses. Whenever I hold him, I have to keep his hands away from my face, otherwise, he will surely grab a hold of them. And he's strong! I have to wrestle my glasses away.

Justice is a BIG one year old! I mean, he's probably 30 lbs and he is going to be a tall boy. He's already wearing 2T at one year! Must be all that African food.

Because he is so big, he usually is dressed only in a diaper. The clothes make him sweat. But, when he is dressed up, he is pretty cute! You should have seen him on Sunday in all his best. Very cute!

Justice, though the youngest, is not willing to give up too easily! He already knows that to beat Caleb in a fight, pull his hair. To beat Miracle, bite him. JJ--well, he doesn't really fight too much with him.

All in all, the boy is cute! It's fun to get to watch him grow. He's pretty adorable.

Here is a pic of Justice and Nina!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little sun, a little fun!

Yesterday, John, Stacy, Nina, and I went to Latae which is a village up in the mountains here in Ghana. We went to go visit with Letitia, who is a teacher that John and Stacy had met at DTS here on the YYAM base. It was beautiful in Latae. From the rooftop of Letitia and Felix's (her husband) house, you could all the way to Lake Volta. Letitia said it was even prettier at night with the lights of Tema and Accra sparkling in the distance, the stars above. What a beautiful place to live. The rooftop was a little warm though! I got a little sunburned today. Of course, I usually wear sunscreen everyday, but just happened to not wear it yesterday. What are the chances, right? So, I'm a little pink and now I know, when I'm going to be out and about, sunscreen is key!

When we started talking more to Letitia more about Latae and the people there, we found out some things about Latae that are pretty heavy. There is a shrine there (many people, though they claim to be Christians, worship idols) and there is a deep spiritual heaviness in the area. They deal with a lot of craziness, but probably what they see most is sexual sin. Girls in the area usually get pregnant before the age of 16. There are stories of molestation and rape. There is just a heavy, heavy spiritual darkness over the whole area. Before the year is out, we want to return to pray over the land of Latae and claim it for the Kingdom. Letitia and Felix work hard to bring the light of the Kingdom there, but it can't be easy with so many battles going on around them!

After talking with Letitia a little bit, we began to talk about the school. She is very open to coming and partnering with us for this next year. She seems like she is always looking for new ideas on how to teach and is one of those "life-time learners". I think it will be great to have her on the team. She seems like she will bring lots of ideas! So, we found our first grade teacher. We still have to hear from Gifty and James (a couple we asked to teach and administrate the office) to see if they are willing to work with us in these roles this next year. We'll see! It looks like it's coming together!

We have also been praying about a name for the school. We've had lots of ideas pop up, and Stacy kind of had a vision of a mango tree with deep roots as part of our school crests, but we hadn't come up with a name we loved yet. Yesterday in the car, I was thinking about what we want for our students and just thinking about the people here that profess that they are Christians and then their lives are just so different. We really want them to be rooted in Christ. As I was thinking that, Stacy said, "What about Faith Roots Christian Academy?". I loved it and said that we can put Ephesians 3:14 under the roots where it says "rooted and established in love". John then said that he was thinking about that scripture just before I said it. So, we felt like God confirmed that!

Faith Roots Christian Academy
Where children are "rooted and established in love".

Love it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nina is here!!!!!

Nina flew in today and it was so nice to see a familiar face! We went straight to the Freedom Center and Nina got to meet all the kids there. We got to just chill a bit there and chat with the staff. Then, we came home and Nina got to meet all the Omorefe's. The kids were so excited to meet a new "playmate"! They were so funny. They started calling her Auntie Nini. That got a laugh out of us!

We got to unpack Nina's bags. WOW! Thanks so much to everyone who donated. It was like Christmas morning here at the Omorefe's! Special thanks to DEBBIE AND WYATT ANDERSON for all their gifts and last minute running around to find everything. You guys are amazing!

It was also really fun to find out that I get the BRACELET for the next few months. My friends from college (the Beatniks) and I have a "Traveling Bracelet" with all of our names on it. I get the priveledge of having it here in Ghana and it can travel with me as we start our school at the Freedom Center, move to Doryum, do outreaches in the Volta Region. . .wow, the sights this little bracelet will see in the months to come!

Tonight, we got to go for a walk after Nina's first African meal! (She liked the stew!) Nina was a little scared after hearing about the story of the dog mauling that took place at our next door neighbor's house on Sunday. But, we made it through our walk only seeing a couple wild dogs and they all ran away from us. (It's only the personal dogs that are trained to attack that actually "attack", most of the dogs here are harmless!)

We also got to play a game of Uno and Beans tonight. Fun way to end Nina's first night here in Ghana!

We are ready for bed and hopefully Nina will be able to get some sleep (even though it's 3:00 in California!).

We have a fun week ahead of us!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A month's time

I can't believe that I've been here for (on Tuesday) a month! It has flown by! We've made lots of trips into Accra, a couple to Doryum, had lots of visitors come through to volunteer or meet with John and Stacy about different things (like adoption), and we made our big trip up to the Volta region. It's been a busy month and I'm loving my time here.

Nina is coming tomorrow and I'm so excited! It will be nice to have a familiar face and to get to catch up with her. She has definitely had her share of excitement since I left and I can't wait to hear all about it!

Off to Accra today to register the school and back to the immigration office to turn in more paperwork. Cross your fingers. . .or just pray a prayer. . .that everything is in order and can now be processed!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Today was preparation day. Sometimes, prep isn't so fun. It felt very tedious to me today, but I know that if I spend a few days working on the tedious stuff (like downloading worksheets and standards, and working on our teacher training), it will pay off in the end.

Besides prep for the school, I've been trying to get some prep done for when Nina comes. It's a little hard to coordinate things that need to still happen back in Cali while I'm here, but I think it worked out ok (thank you Debbie, Charlene, and Blabe). Hopefully, Nina won't be completely overwhelmed by the packing process. It's a little difficult to fit everything in two bags under 50 lbs (kinda rediculous if you ask me). But any way you go, I'm excited that Nina is coming to spend some time here and meet the kids. I'm especially excited just to spend some time with her, get to hear about her engagement story, catch up on news from home, and just be with someone who knows me. I'm loving it here, but it's always nice to have a familiar face!

Off to bed. Gotta get some rest for whatever we have planned tomorrow!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday post--A Kingdom Culture

Thursdays (as a reminder to my avid readers!) are the days when I talk about what God's been doing in my life here in Ghana.
Lately, I've been learning a lot about culture. Not African culture, or American culture, but Kingdom culture. As I've been talking with Stacy and John, one of their biggest goals isn't to change human trafficking here in Ghana or to change the culture that accepts human trafficking, but to change the heart of the people and bring God's kingdom here in Ghana. That is really the only thing that will bring lasting change. When people begin to live out the Kingdom culture, then everything else will change--and it will be forever!
I've found out that while Ghana is a very "Christian" nation, many people also make covenants with other gods. I like how Stacy worded it today when she said that the slavery that we see here in Ghana is only the physical manifestation of the spiritual slavery that is here. So many people have made covenants with other gods--covenants with gods to get pregnant, to make the crops grow, to catch fish, and on and on--and yet, these people are in slavery. They need an experience with God that will break these chains, and THEN, and only then, will the culture be changed (when the Kingdom culture is brought which transcends African/American lines) and it will be a LASTING change (people freed spiritually and physically for life and for the generations to come).
Stacy and John have been praying for awhile now (and I am joining them in this cry) that they would be able to have a night of worship in the darkest community in the Volta region where they are working (Ada Kope). We are hoping to raise up some prayer warriors and worshippers to come with us up there and pray, worship, and just do battle over the area and with the people. The darkness needs to be broken and the power that the enemy has over these people needs to stop! Join us in praying for this to happen. We're looking at Thanksgiving week for this particular trip.
God is opening my eyes to what he sees and desires for his people here in Ghana. Oh, he loves them so much! Freedom, freedom, freedom from the chains that bind them--the spiritual chains that hold them captive!

Forgot about Wednesday, so here's your challenge!

I forgot to blog yesterday, so I wanted to give you a quick "African culture" challenge.

Driving. . .here in Ghana, the roads aren't in the best condition. People don't stay on their side of the road, they drive wherever the roads are easiest to maneuver. Also, whenever cars pass a road where a car might be pulling out, they honk to make sure that car doesn't pull in front of them. There is also honking when someone doesn't pull out in enough time. . .honking when driving next to a large vehicle. . .honking just because you feel like honking!!

My challenge for you, drive a little crazy today. . .and lay on the horn!

Can't wait to hear all about it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School Update Tuesday

So, Stacy and I sat down and talked about getting the school ready for starting in September. We agreed that morning classes were going to slow me down in getting the school ready, so I'm taking a break from morning classes until I can get stuff together for each of the kids and a plan of action for this next year. That's kind of a relief, because, even though I know the kids loved the morning lessons, it's been hard to keep up with things.
Flexibility is the key, I'm learning. There is always a change of plans and sometimes we leave for the day, or I can only test one kid.
This week, I will be meeting with Ivy, a woman here who works to register schools for Ghana. I'll also be meeting with a couple of people who we are thinking of hiring as additional teachers for the year. Hopefully those meetings will work out so that I can have a better idea of what to expect for this next year.
We are planning on using American curriculum (with some modifications for the culture), so there will have to be some changes in how things are taught here. I'm learning that things here are very much taught by rote memorization, and discipline is often brought about by caning. Our school is going to be very different. The children will be learning by comprehension strategies, phonics, and processes, rather than just memorizing. We are working on coming up with a positive behavior plan for the students instead of the caning that they are used to. It will be challenging at first for the teachers and for the students. Already, we've had to lay down the rule of "no canes" in the Freedom Center. We have to be careful not to be culturally rude, but also have to consider the long term consequences if caning were allowed. Though culturally accepted here, it teaches fear in students rather than a desire to learn for learning's sake. We'll see what we can do to change that and institute a more positive behavior plan instead.
Lots to do. . .little time to do it in. Better get to work!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Since today is Monday, I wanted to tell you all about one of the kids here at the Freedom Center. D.K.!! I've mentioned him before in some of my posts. Click on this link to see a picture: http://www.facebook.com/autumnbuzz#!/photo.php?pid=5310374&id=552826775&ref=fbx_album
He's funny, energetic, and talented. Here's what I know about D.K.

D.K. was rescued this year on Father's Day from his slave master in Adacope (the fishing village where we went and met with the chief on our trip a few days ago). He had been trafficked to the area and had been fishing the lake for five years at the time of his rescue (he's 11 years old). He was rescued with his cousin, Abigail. They both speak Ada (a local language) and are learning English. D.K. is a very eager learner. He has been grasping more and more of the language and loves to put it to use.

D.K. loves jewelery. Everyday, without fail, I'll hear, "Mommy, give it to me" as he tugs on my necklace! He's inherited a few things along the way because of his persistance!! He likes to wear necklaces, bracelets, rings.

He loves to play soccer and enjoys kicking the ball around at any point during the day. Even when it is really hot outside and all the other kids are indoors relaxing, you will find D.K. outside with the ball. He especially loves giving sweaty hugs and making you squeal!

Both him and Abigail have not spent much time around white people, so they both find my skin especially interesting. D.K. likes to poke at all my freckles and moles and pull on my arm hair (they don't have any). He says I'm "obruni-coco" (white person), to which I reply "obruni-tutu" (black person).

As I learned from my trip to Lake Volta, fishing kids have some really developed muscles. This is true for D.K. as well. He is very strong and I'm sure I would lose in an arm wrestle! For a child, he is very muscular.

D.K. is usually always happy and energetic. Occasionally, he has some anger problems where he just crosses his arms and shuts down until the problem is solved or goes away. We're still working on problem solving skills with him. Pray that his heart would continue to soften and healed!

This little boy is the face of human trafficking here in Ghana, but he is also the face of FREEDOM! Pray for more to be rescued, freed, and given the opportunity of a life, love, hope, education, and relationship with Christ!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catching Up

Today was just a day to catch up on rest and enjoy time together as a family. This morning, we went to Danny's church here in Tema (he was one of the on-staff volunteers that works with City of Refuge and went with us on our trip). We got to meet his wife and son (the baby is probably only 2 months old and so cute!). The bishop of the denomination was there to speak and he is also one of John and Stacy's good friends, so it was good for them to spend some time with him today. They needed the encouragement of a good friend as one of John's nieces died this weekend with complications due to childbirth. The baby and his niece, Rachel, both passed away. Pray for them and pray for Rosemary, Paul, and Miracle as they mourn the passing of their auntie.

This afternoon, I got to take a nap, chat a bit with my parents on skype, and play with the kiddos a little. After dinner (we had fufu--which I very much enjoy), John, Stacy, Heather, Kathy, and I drove down to the beach. I have now seen both sides of the Atlantic ocean! How cool is that? We got to walk along the water and I had some fancoco (chocolate ice cream of sorts). Yummy!

When we got home, we played some wii with the kids and they loved it! It was a really fun time with the family!

Tomorrow, I am off to the immigration office to meet with a lady about my papers and getting my work visa. PLEASE PRAY FOR FAVOR! I need to get this visa so I'm not paying for a renewal every month.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Witnessing the Faces of Slavery

Wow! Where do I begin? I feel like I have finally recieved a true picture of why God has called me here and the work that is ahead of City of Refuge!

After our outreach in Doryum on Thursday, we went home for some sleep before waking up at 12:30 at night to begin our journey to Northern Ghana and the Kete Krachi area where City of Refuge is focusing their outreach. We drove over to the Freedom Center to pick up the rest of the team, loaded into our tro-tros (vans), and took off. Now, the roads in Ghana aren't necessarily California freeways. There are potholes galore, and even though you are supposed to drive on the right hand side of the road, drivers have to drive wherever the road is passable. The road to Kete Krachi definitely was an adventure ride, especially as it rained the majority of the way. I was able to sleep a bit, but there was the occasional tossing around (and the thought that I might just fall off the seat altogether).

By almost 8 am, we were nearing Dumbai, which is a town that lives on the border of the river that we have to cross to get to Kete Krachi. John called the captain of the ferry boat to ask him to wait for us, that we were on our way. But, before too long, the ferry boat captain called to say that they were leaving without us. John practically begged him as we raced though the crazy streets of Dumbai to get to the shore of the river. The ferry had indeed left us, but John convinced the captain to return to the shore to pick us up before going across the river. The next boat ride wouldn't have been until that evening. We couldn't wait!

We drove onto the ferry and enjoyed the ride across the river. The only thing that was hard to take in was the line of fishing boats along the shore at Dumbai and the children that we saw out and about (even in the rain) getting ready for a day of fishing on the lake. I have known about this situation, have heard it from John and Stacy, have seen the pictures, but when you see with your own eyes the children in the boats, it makes it very real. There were only a few boats out and about on the lake since it was still spitting rain, but almost everyone of them had a child in the boat!

When we got across the river, we had to wait for a little over an hour to get off the ferry. They had run out of gas or had to fix something and couldn't line up correctly with the shore so that the vans could be driven off. One of our vans had also gotten a flat tire, so the guys had to fix that before we could leave the ferry. When we finally got off, we were hungry and ready for some lunch. We piled back in the vans and headed to Chinduri (not the correct spelling, but how it sounds).

We stayed at the Member of Parliment's house for the time that we were in Chinduri. He is not usually home as he works in Accra, but happened to be home during the time that we were there. He allows City of Refuge to stay at the house anytime they are in the area. Such a blessing! His house also had running water and electricity, which was very nice for that area. After a bit of resting, John took us to see the new water project that they've been working on for a business idea. They are going to be making and selling the purified bags of water and the single women of the area will be employed to sell the bags (make their own business out of it). After that, we sat outside the hut of a City of Refuge volunteer while the women began to make rice and fish for the feeding program we were planning for that evening. It was amazing to see how they made enough rice to feed 200 children over a fire. They are amazing cooks! But, as always, everything here seems to run on a different time schedule. The rice was supposed to be cooked and ready to go by 4:30, but wasn't ready until after sundown. Things tend to be a little more "go with the flow" here rather than "stick with the plan".

That night, after our dinner, we drove down to Benjamase, which is a fishing village right on Lake Volta. We had spread the word that we would be feeding children there and sure enough, even though it was dark, the kids were lined up and hungry! We set up the food and had the kids get their bowls from home. We had to be a little forceful, telling parents to move out of the way so the kids could get food. Some of the older fisherman tried to push their kids in to get food for them and some kids tried to make their way through the line several times, but it seemed like we were able to catch some of the tricky little guys. We were able to serve about 200 kids that night by the light of our van headlights!

After the feeding program, we got ready for bed and I think that I was asleep the second my head hit the pillow. I didn't wake up until everything began to get ready for the day the next morning (bright and early at 6:00 am). We had a 6:30 am leave time as we were going into Benjamase to take a ride across Lake Volta to the fishing village (Adacope) where City of Refuge is working to release all of the slave children of the village. When we got into Benjamase, we climbed on board this huge wooden fishing boat. We had to climb over these tall boards to get in, and it was spitting rain, but the ride across the lake was worth it. It opened my eyes to the reality of the trafficking issue here in Ghana. We saw only a few boats out as it was raining, but almost every boat out had a child in it. Some of the kids, we were guessing, had to be younger than 6 years old.

When we got to Adacope, we went first to the village chief's house. He lives in a compound of clay houses with his many wives and children. John and Stacy have been working with him for a long time, trying to convince him to release his own slaveboy (JoJo) and trying to get him to help them with the release of the other slave children in his village. It was surreal to sit down with him, all his wives behind him staring at the "obrunis" from the US as we talked to him about JoJo and the other children in his community. He said that he was willing (finally) to give up JoJo, but he had sent him on an errand to deliver a message to another village and he wouldn't be back for awhile. We'll see if the chief follows through on his word. After awhile, we began to give out clothes and provide medical attention to the chief's children. During that time, a slave boy had come in to the "kitchen" hut with a load of fish. He had just been out on the lake. John asked me to bring my video camera for documentation, so we went and recorded this boy. He was shivering from the cold of the lake, but also was so scared. Apparently, he had never seen a white person before and Stacy and I scared him a little bit. He began to cry as John questioned him about what he was doing out on the lake in the rain. When we began to examine him, he had sores covering his feet. My guess is that it was some sort of disease from the water eating away at his feet. Eventually, we were able to get some shoes on his feet, his sores treated with medicine, and a new shirt to take home. He was so scared that a couple of people had to help him back to his hut. I think he was scared that if his master saw his new clothes, he would know that the City of Refuge team had come (they are known in the area for rescuing kids) and would beat him for cooperating with us. We have to pray this little boy will recieve the chance at freedom! He was 10 years old. He had been fishing since he was 5.

While at the chief's home, we also talked with a man about opening a school in Adacope. We agreed to help open a school and would provide the teacher with training and curriculum for the school IF the village people would sign agreements that they would send their kids to school instead of out on the lake to fish. He said he would talk to the chief and see if it was possible to get a school built. We will have to follow-up on this throughout the year!

After visiting with the chief, we realized that with the rain dying down, the slave children had already been sent out to fish. As we walked back down to the water, we found flipflops all along the way--one pair was small enough for a 5 year old to wear. The children remove their shoes as they go fishing and come back to the shore with their fish and to retrieve their shoes. As we climbed into our boat, the true reality of this situation hit me pretty hard. I saw so many children out on the lake, and know that that isn't even a normal's day's number of kids (since it had been raining). I wanted to cry at the sadness of the whole situation, knowing that I can't be overwhelmed by the entire picture, but have to pray one child out at a time. God cares about each one of those kids out there on the lake, but He is calling us to rescue certain ones. Father, lead us!!!

We crossed the lake back to Benjamase and then headed back to Chinduri. After lunch, we began our outreach for the widows, single mothers, and children of the community. Minetta (a pastor from Detroit) led a workshop for the women about entrepeneurship. Heather, Kathy (two women from an adoption agency from Texas), Ola and I led the children's activities. After all of that finished, Yvonne (the nurse from Detroit) and the rest of the team helped with the medical outreach. The children's activities went much smoother this time. It was nothing like it was in Doryum. The kids were all sitting down and we had planned out crafts for the older and younger. After one craft, we took the kids and played some games with them (the olders learned freeze tag and the youngers played duck, duck, goose). Then, I sang some songs with them and Ola and Heather led them in another craft after that. It was quite a success. The medical outreach was amazing! Yvonne worked tirelessly and saw about 60 women and children (leaving her total of patients during her trip at 165--amazing!). We helped by handing out clothes and candy to the kids.

After we finished that, we were absolutely exhausted. We ate dinner quickly and raced back to the vans to head to Benjamase for a crusade. We worshiped with the local church there and a few of us even jumped in the dance circle. They had this drum choir that led the songs and it was awesome! Then, different members of the congregation would get up a lead a conga line of sorts (with much more rhythm and dancing). It was awesome! John and Minetta spoke about HOPE and we all had the oppotunity to pray for the people for healing and financial help. We even had one woman come to know the Lord. We need to continue to pray that her faith will deepen!

When the crusade was finished, we all went to bed. We were all wiped, but I know that I was so proud of the team for the work that we did that day.

This morning, we woke up early. (Danny--a staff volunteer--told us it was 6:30 am when it was actually 5:45 am. Shame Shame!) But, we got on the road in good time--which was good since our van kept breaking down. We made it to the ferry and across the waters without a hitch this time! We pulled into Tema around 4:00 today. What a trip!

It was so awesome to pull into the Freedom Center and be welcomed with such excitement! The kids all came running out shouting "Auntie Autumn" or "Mommy", as some of them call me! They were so glad that we were all home. They gave lots of hugs, and even a few kisses (thank you DK)! Abigail was especially excited to see me, which was nice! I think I see more and more healing in store for this young girl!

Sorry this update was so long, but I feel like this trip has really cemented in me the purpose for why I have come! I have witnessed the faces of slavery and there is no way I can turn my back. Every child is worth God's love and I want these children to KNOW and EXPERIENCE the love of their Abba Father. More and more I hear God's voice in Isaiah 61 ringing true here--release the captive. . .break the chains of darkness that bind them. . .give them gladness instead of mourning. . .a spirit of joy instead of despair. Beauty for Ashes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So, I wrote out this whole blog and lost in when my internet shut down. I don't know that I'll have the energy to rewrite everything. . .we'll see!

Today, we went to Doryum for an outreach with a team that is here from the States (Detroit, to be exact). There is a nurse with them, and she wanted to see women and children. While she was talking with the families, another lady from the team, a retired teacher named Ola, and I worked with the kids outside. We probably had close to 250 kids show up--a little unexpected!! We handed out paper and pencils and told them to begin drawing, and all of a sudden we were RUSHED for supplies. It was really overwhelming! But, eventually, we were able to get them calmed down and we had a little bit more fun with them. Ola read them a story and played some games with them and I sang some songs with them.

It was raining for most of the day, so after awhile, we sent the kids home as the rain really started coming down and the kids hadn't had their lunches yet. At that time, I got to visit with some really great people that were on our team for the day (all Ghanaian couples!). James and Gifty are a young couple that are just so gentle and loving and seriously love the Lord! I talked with James for a long time today. I also got to talk for a little bit with another couple that opened a school in their own village. Leticia (the wife) is interested in teaching with us. So nice! And I spent a little time with Lucy, Juanita, and Providence (staff with City of Refuge). They are so funny! Providence couldn't say my name today (they have a really hard time with "Autumn"), so I said that they could call me "Afi" and after that, they began talking to me more. They love to laugh and joke around (especially Providence and Juanita who are dating).

I need to go hop in the shower as tonight, we are heading out to Chinduri (that's not how you spell it, but that's how it sounds so that's how I'm going to spell it!) at 1 am. I have to go to sleep early to be ready for the big trip! We'll get to do some work with the fishing kids and I'm excited to see what God does. Pray for opportunities!

How did it go with any of you who tried to carry things on your head today? I'll get a picture posted one of these days! The ladies (and the guys too) can carry such high things on thier heads. It's pretty amazing!

Also, wanted to send you a link to a video I was able to upload on youtube (it took all night!). It's a tour of the Freedom Center (not all of it, but the rooms we are using for school classes right now). Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2XMtxr9icA

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Full Day!

Tuesdays I am supposed to update you on the progress of the school, but there is very little new information to add and it's been a very busy day, so I'll give you a brief update and then let you know what is up for me this next week!

This week, I worked on emailing out publishers, school districts, and schools that I knew to ask about curriculum for the school. I got a few responses, so I definitely have something to work from. I was also able to connect with a lady that's visiting here and knows someone from a local private school that might be a good connection. So, things are moving along.

Our summer classes are going well, though I'm having a difficult time getting as much done with so many different levels in the classroom. I will definitely need to sit down and figure this out before our September start date rolls around. Any ideas for how to manage combo classes? Send them my way!

I will probably not be able to blog again until Saturday as we are doing some outreach in the villages for the next few days. Therefore, I also need to assign you a Wednesday "African Culture" challenge. My challenge for you. . .try carrying everything on your head today. Most people here, especially if they are selling things, will carry the items on their head. They wrap a towel into a circle, put that on their head to kind of cushion the item that they are carrying (whether it be a basket full of clothes, a bowl full of water, anything!). I tried to get a picture, but forgot to get my camera out of the trunk when we were out and about today. Will work on updating my pictures so you can see what I'm talking about. We met with a nurse today that said some of the complaints that she hears from women has to do with neck and shoulder pain from all of the heavy loads that they carry on their heads. So, in today's challenge, attempt a laundry basket on your head. . .a bowl of watermelon. . .a bucket of water. This is an everyday way of transporting things here. It can't be too hard, right??

Tomorrow, we will be going to Doryum, a village located outside of Tema, to do an outreach. Doryum is where we will be moving at the end of October. It is a nice little village, quiet and peaceful. It definitely has a sense of bustling around in the center of town, but not much! We'll be doing an outreach with a nurse, and I'll be helping with activities for the kids. So fun! Then, we'll be leaving at 1 am (Thursday morning) to head up to the fishing village off of Lake Volta where John and Stacy are doing their work. It is exciting to get to see what they've been up to up there and the ways that they've influenced the community. We'll be doing more nursing clinics and also children's activities, a feeding station for the fishing kids, an entrepeneurship workshop for single mothers, and a crusade. Pray for opportunities and for God's presence to be made real there! The only way the fishing trade will stop is with CHANGED HEARTS!

Off to bed now!

Monday, August 9, 2010


On Mondays, I'm planning on introducing you to one of the kids from the Freedom Center or one of the Omorefe kids.

You can see a picture of him posted on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/photo.php?pid=5316064&id=552826775&ref=fbx_album

Today, I'd love to introduce you to Robert. Robert is 14 years old, almost 15. He grew up in a fishing village off of Lake Volta and lived with his uncle for most of his life. When he was younger, he was injured in a soccer game and his hip was displaced. Since then, he walks with a severe limp and, we believe, he's even getting artheritis in his joints.

Robert is very artistic! He loves to draw and is so creative. Out in the village, he would make nets for fishing, and here, he can make nets out of the littlest piece of string. It's quite amazing! He also makes cars out of tin cans. He can bead just about anything. He's pretty incredible.

I'm also realizing that Robert has a great sense of humor. Today, in morning class, Robert drew a picture of one of the other girls. Mary was really upset with the picture, but Robert thought he was pretty hilarious making Mary look like a man. Ahhh. . .what can you do with teenagers, right?

My prayer for Robert? I would absolutely love for Robert to be adopted by a loving couple in the States. Here in Ghana, while he is being well taken care of, the level of care for his condition could be much more effective in the States and perhaps he wouldn't have to deal with the pain that he currently has (though he never complains about it!). He is kind, gentle, funny, creative, and an all around great guy! I'm so impressed with him and his desire to learn and grow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Waiting and Working

John has been traveling the past few days, up to Chinduri in the Volta region to work on setting up their water business. It has been a crazy process getting up there and coming back. He was supposed to be back here today, but is still driving back. The boys were waiting and waiting for him! Hopefully, he'll arrive at some point tonight. We've been praying that the trip will be smooth the rest of the way!

As Sunday is a day of rest, today, I took a little nap and then worked on my "to-do list" that I've been writing for myself so I don't get side tracked. I emailed a bunch of school districts and publishers to ask about curriculum. We'll see what I hear.

Today for lunch, we got to eat spaghetti! Yum! Stacy found some Prego at a local store here and we definitely enjoyed the treat! For dinner, we ate eba--a Nigerian meal that you eat with your hands (my right hand. . .if you'd read my previous post, you'd understand). It was good, but it took a while for me to get used to eating it. It's like this dough ball that you pull off pieces and then dip it into soup and when you put it in your mouth, you just swallow, without chewing. The texture is very different, so it took a awhile for me to get used to it, so I ate slower than everyone else and it filled me up! I've enjoyed trying the new foods and I've enjoyed all of the tastes and flavors so far.

Tonight, I got to chat with Jenni and Kirsten on skype. So fun! And then, watched "The Proposal" with the girls. A nice relaxing way to end the evening.

A question for you. . .are you more a flavor person or a texture person when it comes to new foods you're trying?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A few things I'm learning along the way

So, yesterday (Friday) was my first day without internet access since I've been here and here are some things I learned about Ghana while I was out of the loop:

1) There are not many people that are too trustworthy here, so almost anything you want to buy long term is pre-paid instead of pay as you use (i.e. rent, internet, and even electricity).

2) "Lights out" is kind of like that season of time when California just shut off electricity for certain periods of time to save energy. Except, I don't think they do it here to save energy. We had "lights out" today.

3) I am realizing how much it has helped to stay connected over the internet (i.e. facebook, emails, and comments on my blog here) since my time here. I felt a little bit more homesick than usual yesterday (I feel homesick for a little bit of time everyday. I'm sure it will get better with time.)

4) Lights out nights are the perfect nights to get out of the house and go for a walk. Tonight, we went out for a walk at the Freedom Center. We stopped midway to get some frozen treats (I love this strawberry yogurt thing they have here. . .yummy!). The kids were so funny, fighting over a chance to hold my hand. And suprisingly enough, it was the boys who wanted to hold my hand the most! They are very loving!

5) This I didn't learn while being away from my computer, but thought you should know anyway. . .I will be gone Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (maybe Saturday too. . .not sure) of this week. Wednesday, we are going to Doryum with a group from the States to do some outreach. Doryum is where we'll be moving in October--a village about 20 miles outside of Tema. Then, Thursday and Friday we'll be up in Chindiri doing some outreach. That is the community that City of Refuge works with to rescue children off of Lake Volta. I'm excited to get to see all of this and will bring back pictures galore, I'm sure!

Tomorrow is our day to gather together and worship. Blessings on your Sunday!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday--A little of what God's been doing!

My second Thursday in Ghana. . .wow! In my post from a few days ago, I had mentioned that Thursdays, I would tell you about what God has been doing in me lately. This week, I have had little moments throughout my days where I have just felt a little homesick. Though I have loved being so connected through the internet, it has, at times, felt a little bittersweet as I miss home and people so much. But, God has been teaching me that He is the same, no matter where I am--He was with me in Colorado and in California and He is the same God that is here in Ghana with me now. Even this morning, I feel like He told me that my home is not in any place, but it is where He is. He is here, in Ghana, for me now, so I am here. I am following the heart of my Father and that is the best place to be.

I've also been dwelling in the words of Graham Cooke each night the past few days before I go to sleep. Such rich truth from his teaching here:

A brief update from today: I finally got to teach a little music today. I brought out my ipod and did some Bible time songs-- Mercy is Falling, Romans 16:19, and Every Move I Make. Even the staff got moving with the songs. It was so fun! Then, I passed out some instruments (thank you Carol Phelan) and they went NUTS! I'll have to have more rules for the instruments next time (a few tears were shed), but they had a BLAST! After awhile, we put the instruments away and went inside and began learning "We Are the World". The kids loved it, especially the older ones. We trying to learn it so that when guests come, they can sing for them. After awhile, we went back outside and sang some more songs and I taught them motions (songs like head, shoulders, knees and toes; peanut butter and jelly; and 5 little ducks). We had a fun day today!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday--time to get your African culture on!

OK. . .today is African culture Wednesday! My challenge to you. . .use only your right hand for the rest of the day. Here, it is unacceptable to shake hands, wave, gesture, or eat using your left hand. This will be especially difficult for you left-handers! You can still write with your left hand, that is acceptable, but try to do everything else with only your right hand. It has been somewhat of a challenge to remember to eat only with my right hand. The other day, we ate fufu (a mashed sweet potato that you dip into soup) and you need to make it into a ball with your hand to dip it into the soup. Of course, I did this with my left hand, not even thinking until AFTER the meal. . .whoops! Good thing I was in a. . .well, half-American home. If I had been in with a group of village elders. . .whoa. . .I would have been in trouble! Let's see how well you do! And if you especially want a challenge, eat food today that you don't use silverware for! Often times our meals are eaten with our fingers, so give it a try!

As for today's update, it was Caleb's birthday today! He is the Omorefe's middle son, and he turned 4 years old. We had a small celebration this morning and after teaching lessons at the Freedom Center, we went into Accra for more celebrating.

We had to stop by the Immigration offices first to get started on my work permit and to get the Omorefe's started on their residency paperwork. I turned my stuff in, but apparently, my Dr's note wasn't detailed enough, so I don't know if they'll need more information or something. We'll see what the process for that ends up looking like.

We went to the Accra mall for Caleb's birthday dinner. It was like walking into a mall in Orange County! It was very western, and very expensive. It felt so weird to have something that felt so much like home in a place that doesn't feel much like home to me normally. But, it was a fun trip. We had pizza and frozen yogurt. Yummy! Pretty much my first meal with any milk products since coming and my (as Stacy put it) "American food fix" for the month. Caleb was a pretty happy camper.

Because of our trip to Accra, I didn't get to do music with the kids today, but we'll try for it tomorrow. I'm going to try to teach them "We Are The World". We'll see!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's been a week! Can you believe it?

I've been here one full week! Can't hardly believe it! In some ways, I feel like I stepped right off the plane. In other ways, I feel like I've been here a long time and feel very settled.

Today was a very full day and I'm EXHAUSTED! This morning, we hung around the house for awhile getting some things together for the day. When we got to the Freedom Center, it was school mode. The kids had their books out, had just finished some multiplication tables, and were ready for my lessons for the day. We worked on making the calendar, we sang some calendar songs, and the kids had lots of fun.

In the middle of our project, a group came in that was touring the facility. They are from America and are working with the Ghanaian government to identify any orphanages that are unsafe, or have children that are not really orphans (It's a huge problem and something the government is investigating, especially since there have been adoptions of children that aren't orphans in the recent past). They seemed to really enjoy the Freedom Center. They will be in and out the remainder of the week interviewing kids. One of the girls was actually a student at Stanford University, so that was a fun connection!

We also worked on spelling and began reading a Nate the Great story and worked on comprehension and vocabulary. Tomorrow, we're going to be doing more vocabulary and phonics practice. We'll probably rotate spelling and phonics for right now. We'll see. . .

It was fun though because in between each subject change, I played different songs and made them get up and do the motions. They loved head, shoulders, knees, and toes the best! They were really funny! Even the older ones got really into it!

This afternoon, I tested one of the kids, Mershak. He is so artistic, and very detailed! It was fun to see him because he is usually so quiet. I didn't finish the test though as we were going to go play some soccer. Will finish tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we're going to do some music in the afternoon. I'm excited, but a little nervous. Sometimes the kids can be a little overwhelming when I pull out anything new (like instruments to play), so we'll see how it goes! Hopefully, it will be fun and the kids will enjoy it. We'll see, huh?

Soooo. . .since you've heard every detail of my first week here, I'm going to be starting something new in the next posts! That way, maybe you can experience a little more of my journey here, rather than just details.

Every day, I will post any interesting info that I experienced that day, but I'm going to try to incorporate a theme a day that will encourage you to participate in some way--either write back here or on my facebook link! It would be a fun way to hear how you are interacting with my trip and just to hear from you as well!

Monday--I will post the story and a picture (if I can get it to work) of a kid from the Freedom Center or one of the Omorefe's children.

Tuesday--I will post an update about the school and the progress with that.

Wednesday--I will post an interesting Ghanaian tradition or part of their culture--you have to try it out yourself, so you'll feel like you're experiencing something the way I am!

Thursday--I will write about something that God is challenging me with or teaching me.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--Free days, I'll just write whatever.

Sooooo, I'll see how the first week goes with this and if it's fun for everyone involved, we'll continue! Get ready for your fun Ghanaian tradition tomorrow! I've learned (or observed) a few already that I can't wait for you to try!

Off to bed! Tomorrow is a new day!

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Little Breath of Fresh Air

Today was a pretty great day! I was busy for most of it, but I'm excited about what's ahead. Whew! It's going to be a lot of work and, sometimes, I wonder how it's all going to come together, but I'm trusting that it will!

This morning, when we went to the Freedom Center, Joseph (the house father) was teaching the kids math. When he left (he went on a trip to get some work done with the village that City of Refuge working at up in the Volta region), the kids were just messing around and so I got out a spelling activity and started working on the kids with it. They did pretty well. We're going to have to work a lot on spelling, phonics, and vocabulary this year. As I have started to notice, the kids have learned words by rote memorization instead of learning the structure of the words, so sounding out is not easy for them (phonics). And, as it is with any English language learner, their vocabulary is limited (along with cultural differences so some words are not used here or are not understood in context; i.e. "basement"--they don't have basements or attics so have no context for what that would even mean).

After the lesson, we spent quite a bit of time coloring. I brought out my camera and Ben and Robert got some good shots with it (I got a few as well, but those boys love to use it!).

This afternoon, we had a "team planning meeting". All the staff at the Freedom Center got together and we put together a plan for the month of August of what to do with the kids since they are out of school and are finding themselves getting into trouble with nothing to do. We planned some activities and times that they are going to be doing things for the next month. I start tomorrow with teaching them reading, writing, and math in the morning. I have to teach K level through 4th grade level, so it's going to be interesting and we'll see what happens.

After that, Lucy (the cook at the Freedom Center), John, Stacy, and I went to the market in Community 1 here in Tema. It was the first time that I'd actually gone into the market stalls. It was very busy. Lots of people shouting out "Obruni, come here!" as Stacy and I walked around. But, we left with lots of food, some new pots and pans, a few dishes, AND. . .a guitar! Yay! Tonight as I was playing the guitar, it felt like I had just come home. Someone (thank you Carol Lee) told me that it was going to be very important for me to have my guitar with me while I'm here, and it's true. Tonight when I was playing, it just felt like I took a little breath of fresh air. (Thank you to those of you who made it possible for me to get the guitar!)

Tomorrow, I teach, so I need to get to bed. Good night!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Day of Rest

Day 6-- It's almost been one week since I've been here and if the rest of my time flies by like this week has, my trip is going to go by very quickly! Wow! I woke up this morning feeling 100% better. Appetite returned and my body feels much better. Thank you to those of you who were praying.

This morning, I was able to attend the worship gathering at Action Chapel International. It was fun to get to experience worship with the African body of believers here. Man, they love to dance! And they love to sing! Most of the songs, I wasn't familiar with, or they weren't being sung in English, but I was still able to worship along with them. They had several different people step forward to lead from the worship team and there was this tiny lady, couldn't be more than 25, that had a POWERHOUSE voice! You knew that every word that was coming out of her mouth was TRUTH. Wow! She was amazing!

After the service, the afternoon at the Omorefe's was very relaxing. Sunday's are for napping, resting, and getting things done. Stacy and I both sat down at the kitchen table and worked on school projects. I did testing for Miracle (it took me about 2 hours). Wow! That was a long test (thanks for Brigance and CORE tests Yona), but it gave me a great picture of where he is at and what he needs to focus on this next year. I'm thinking there will probably be a few kids (3 or 4) that are placed in the first grade curriculum, one or two in 2nd, and I'm not sure about the rest. Their last grades were third and fourth, but I'm not sure with some of them if those are proper placements. We'll see when the scores come out.

Tonight, John, Stacy and I went to the YYAM base to attend their night service, but stopped at the Freedom Center on the way there. Little Bene (he's 8), promptly got me a chair to sit down and hold Edwin (I couldn't help myself!) and Joseph and Teresa (the house parents) asked me how I felt and if I was feeling better. I feel like I am becoming more and more a part of this place. I think each week will get easier!

The YYAM service was awesome! It felt like a night service at Southlands. I loved the worship! And the message was out of Isaiah 43 (one of my favorites). It was good!!! I left encouraged and felt like God has spoken to me again and again this week that I am here for a purpose and a reason. He called, and so I came, and I feel like He is just going to bring me through some amazing things this year because of that obedience.

We'll see what this next week brings. . .