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, 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.


  1. Wow - this is so powerful Autumn. This is truly the reason we are called to be sons and daughters of God, to set the captives free! Thank you for inviting us into your adventure with God and testifying about the power and goodness of Abba God!

  2. Oh my goodness. I am enjoying reading your blog so much and learning about life in Ghana. And am so glad the little girls we wish to adopt are safe. It is heartbreaking to read about those children and the life they have been condemned to. How tragic. But wonderful to read about ministries like yours that are doing so much good and giving hope to the hopeless.