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, October 30, 2010

So Grateful for Friendship

I love living in community. . .I have for a long time! I love my friends and love to dig in deep to life and live it out with the people around me. Recently, I've been a little reflective about my friendships and grateful for the way that God has moved and deepened and strengthened us together. I was flipping through pictures on my facebook and just in awe of how God continues to let us live our lives together--in the tough times and in the times of celebration. I am really blessed with the friendships I have! I mean, really blessed. Some of my friendships going back 10 years ago, and some more recent, but all are people that I run to when I need encouragement, that I long to hear from (being so far from home), and friends that I know miss me as much as I miss them!

It reminds me of this verse:

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (New International Version)
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The italics were mine!

I have recently been reading a book by Shauna Neiquiest called "Cold Tangerines". It's just a collection of stories from her life (at least the parts that I've read so far) and then what God has taught her through these stories. One of the chapters talks about friendship. Here are some of Shauna's thoughts:

"Friendship is acting out God's love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other's lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God's love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God's behalf in the lives of the people that we're close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can't always see from where we are."

This quote reminded me of the Young Adults of Peninsula Covenant Church and my mini-family that I have there, the ones that I live my life out with on a day to day basis. I was reminded of the fall retreat last year where we talked about what God's love really looked like in relationship--totally sacrificial, for the benefit of the other person. And I remember living that out in the days that followed the retreat and how HARD it was and it was messy and it wasn't easy. . .and it's still not easy, but it is GOOD! I love that my community in the Bay area lives that out for one another, especially my little mini-family. We love and support each other in ways that don't make sense because we love each other with God's love. . .we are showing God to each other and that challenges me to be less of me and more of more the image of Christ to other's I'm in relationship with.
Here's a pic of some of my mini-family from PCC.

Another quote:

"True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they'll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it's something else, but if it's really love, really friendship, it's a little scary around the edges."

This quote reminds me of my group of friends from college, the Beatniks. When we first started hanging out, we did so in the name of fun and laughter and friendship. But, now, as I look back over our seasons. . .the sorrow of death, the grief of lost friendships, the joy of new additions (husbands and babies), the frustrations of lost jobs, infertility, lack of eligible males (*wink, wink*), crisis of faith, etc, I see that we really did take the risk of living out our lives with each other. We have crossed over into those "broken, and fragile parts of ourselves" and we haven't turned back. We won't allow it. We can't go back to how we first started because now it's real love, real friendship, and even when it's scary, we don't run away, but we run to each other, and to the foot of the cross!

Here are just a few of my beatniks, along with the most recent member, Brylie. She's soon to meet Isabella, who will be born today or tomorrow.

At the end of her chapter on friendship, Shauna tells a story of a friend who came to live with her and her husband for several months before finding a house of their own. When they left to their new home, they left behind a key to their new home, inviting them to be a part of their house just as they had been invited into Shauna's home.

This week, as I was home sick, I did a little packing. Rooting through some of my bags, I pulled out my keychain from home and what should be on the chain, but my friend Yona and Eric Roberts' home key. I don't know why I brought it to Ghana with me, but it reminded me of Shauna's story. I haven't lived in Southern California in over 3 years, yet when Yona and Eric bought their home, they gave me a key and each time I came to visit, I put it to use. Even now, Yona and Eric are in the hospital as Yona is giving birth to their first child, Isabella. My heart is in that tender place, longing to be there with them. I've lived through so many things with this couple and it hurts not to be there to celebrate the homecoming of their little girl. But, I know that even though I'm living an ocean away, I still have a key to their home and their lives.

Friends. . .what a blessing I have to have been given such friends!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another day at home. . .with a "little" company

Today, I spent the day at home again since my throat was still bothering me. And it's still sore tonight as I type this, but my energy is back and my head has stopped pounding and a fever hasn't bothered me since yesterday morning. I think it's going away. Thank you God! Got some antibiotics this morning and will finish up my antimalarial treatment and hopefully, then, I'll be better.

Today, I spent much of the day hanging with one of my favorite little guys, Justice. He's been sick too. . .teething, so he spent the day at home with Auntie Autumn and Auntie Helene (our house staff). He is so cute. When he is sick, he's really grouchy, but today, he wasn't too bad. He was just a cuddle bug. He'd snuggle up next to my neck and just hang out there. It was so cute! And today, I got to chat with my roomies (Jenni, Blabe, and Kirsten) and he joined me there too. When I would set him down, he'd just climb back in my lap or set his head on my lap. I kept thinking of my friend Christina who is a stay at home mom right now and how loved she must feel by such little trusting hands always loving on her! Little hands of love just make everything feel better!

Tonight, we made a quick stop by the Freedom Center to drop off some medication for one of the kids, and little Edwin met me at the door. The kids have missed me. It's nice to be missed. And I missed their faces! And Edwin's sweet hugs. And Portia's kisses.

Now, I'm in bed. Getting more rest is just what I need to kick this thing out of my system. And as I'm getting ready for sleep, I'm praying for another little girl who is going to be making her appearance tomorrow or Sunday--Yona and Eric's little Isabella. Can't wait to see that little face!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Home Sick. . .but now Inspired

Today, I'm home sick. Don't know what I have, but am being treated for malaria. They say there are 1,001 symptoms to malaria, so everything is treated first with an anti-malaria and then they try other things after that. Despite the sore throat and the aches and pains, I was listening to Brooke Fraser while I was packing up some of my things preparing for our move.

I found out about Brooke Fraser when she came with Hillsong United to San Jose a few years back. I'd heard that she was putting out her own album, but kinda forgot about the whole thing until recently. My friend Evan Kolding posted something about her on facebook a few days back and I always enjoy his musical choices, so I found her album and since then, haven't been able to stop listening.

Today, since I've been sitting around at home, I decided to check out her videos on youtube. I found this amazing interview with her about her album entitled "Albertine". It struck close to home. Wanted to share it with you. It's just so true. . .once you see, you can't NOT do something about it.

Part 1:
Part 2:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Challenge and Update

It's been awhile since I've given you a challenge. Here is this week's challenge:
TURN UP THE HEATER IN YOUR HOUSE! And in your car for that matter. On a normal day, my room in the house is about 86 degrees F. So pump up the temperature in your house. Take off the blankets and snuggle up only under a sheet (even that will feel hot in that temperature). And in the car, get the heat blowing and then roll down the windows to let it out (so, maybe you shouldn't try it for too long--it'll waste your gas), but both of our vehicles don't have air conditioning, so sit in the warmth awhile and see how you feel. When the sweat starts dripping down your legs, you'll know you've got it hot enough. I know a few people who are really going to love this challenge (sorry Evan, but T is pumping up the heat!).

As for an update. . .whew! It's been busy. We've only been having 1/2 days of school so we have time to pack. But, so far, the afternoons have been pretty uneventful as stuff in Doryum in taking longer than expected (welcome to village life). But, hopefully, tomorrow, we'll get some things moved over to Doryum.

Me, on the other hand, am going to stay home, get some rest done and do a little packing myself. I came down with some kind of bug, so I'm on medication and we'll see if I feel better tomorrow. Just hate sore throats, fever, aches and pains. . .all that jazz. Pray that it will be a fast illness so I can get back up on my feet with no problems!

Also found that there is some internet service in Doryum. We're trying to figure out how to do it for multiple computers, but we'll get some limited access. My posts here and on facebook might be farther apart and I'm not sure if the speed will work for skype, but we'll give it a try!

Until next time!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meet Evelyn

It's been awhile since I introduced you to one of the City of Refuge kids. Today, I want to introduce you to Evelyn.

Evelyn is 13 years old and she is a funny girl. She loves to cook and, if she could, she would spend all day in the kitchen.

Evelyn is learning how to read. She really doesn't believe that she can do much. She's been in school awhile and I think that she has just cheated her way through on tests and things, but now, we're really seeing what she's capable of. There's no more hiding. So, all we can do is start from the beginning, build her confidence that she is capable, and then, see her fly!

Evelyn loves to dance. She won't admit it, but she actually has some pretty great rhythm and how she dances is so beautiful! She just smiles from ear to ear!

Evelyn loves to laugh. Most of the time, I can't get her to stop laughing so that she will focus on her work!

Evelyn kind of takes a quieter role around the house. She is kind of unseen in a lot of ways, but she really is such a valuable part of the home.

I pray for Evelyn all the time. That God would speak to her about her value, how much He loves her, how special he has created her. I long to see her living out of who she is, not who she believes herself to be!

Here's a pic of Evelyn from facebook. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A busy life

Life has been incredibly busy lately and therefore, I haven't had a chance to write here lately. Sorry for the lack of updates. Here's a few things that have been going on with me lately!

*Spending a lot of time lesson planning and grading tests.

*Went to Doryum a few times this week as we prep for our big move. Monday we took the kids there to paint the school. We didn't finish, so we hired a couple of guys to finish up. It will be fun to have a building rather than just a couple of rooms in the house. That will help with the behaviors a bit, I think.

*Tuesday, we went to the Accra mall for chicken sandwiches and to meet with a possible donor. It was fun to get out a little bit, even though the donor didn't really work out.

*Thursday was another trip to Doryum with Taz and Sophie (two volunteers) to check up on some of the buildings that we were renting. It was a quick trip, though we got caught in some pretty crazy traffic on the way back.

*Saturday, we got over to the Freedom Center early to pray for Taz and Sophie before they left off for Togo. After seeing them off, we took off to Doryum. We brought some wood to the carpenter who is working on framing out the windows to our rooms in our school in Doryum. We also stopped by the house that we're renting. We don't have a second house yet, so we are all planning on living together for awhile at least. It's going to be a little crowded, but you gotta do what you gotta do! It'll be a new adventure. After stopping by the house, we took this guy to our land to figure out what it would take to clear the land and build a road. The walk to the property started out beautifully. The land had dried out to begin with and it was easy to walk. Then, once we got into the fields, it was definitely flooded! We slipped and slopped around for about half an hour before getting to our land. It was a fun journey. . .a muddy one. . .but it was good to see the land! When we got back, it was time for a bath and a movie. It was a fun day!

*This morning, we went to the church service and then, John and Stacy and I went to the Accra mall for some pizza. We added extra cheese and it was absolutely delicious! Just a little dose of something "American" delicious before our big move to the village. We checked out internet connections too for Doryum and didn't find anything yet. We are going to talk to another company, but I'm not sure what internet access is going to look like for us there. I'm hoping. . .

*A note for Joanna Suckow. . .I took my first dewormer since coming here. Every three months!

*This week will be a little crazy busy--well, not even a little crazy busy--it will be really crazy busy as we move everything to Doryum and a week from today, I'll be living in the village of Doryum. Crazy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Reality of it All

This weekend, City of Refuge sponsored "The Reality Tour 2010", a trip to Lake Volta for the NYU study abroad students. It was an eye-opening trip for the students and I think that us from City of Refuge learned a few things too! The purpose was for some of the students to film a documentary about trafficking on Lake Volta, but other students came along too for the experience. I think everyone was excited about the whole experience at the end.

We came together late on Thursday night (1 am Friday morning to be exact) and took off in a bus. Last time I went to the Volta, we had rented a couple of tro-tro's and I felt every bump of the ride, scared I'd be thrown off the seat. This one, the trip up wasn't so bad at all. I slept most of the way and got to share a seat with Danny who was fun to chat with a little in my awake moments (which were few and far between).

We made it up to Dunbai to cross with the ferry in really good time. Surprisingly the Volta river that we cross before getting into the region where we work (Krache West) was really flooded. Buildings were under water. . .houses were lost. . .part of the market buildings were flooded. . .wow! The rains has caused some serious problems with housing in the northern Volta region.

When we finally made it to Chinderi, and settled into the MP's house, (MP's are Members of Parliament--like a senator of a local area) everyone went to lay down after a quick lunch. Stacy and I took a walk to meet up with John and some of the other volunteers in the area. It was fun to walk around some of the town of Chinderi, see the new bank that was going in, meet with the area chief (and give him a promise to visit his palace later in the day). One of the volunteers, Mr. Bauwa, remembered my name from the last time he visited down in Tema and called me his new wife. Wasn't too sure about that one!

After some time of resting, we brought the team together to head to Benjamase to meet with the area chief (the one that we'd said we'd see him at his palace later in the day). When we entered his house, we found the chief in this huge chair and he was very traditionally dressed. He did this whole ceremony of pouring out this alcohol on the ground while he chanted some things. It was definitely interesting and something I'd never seen before, and the whole ceremony got John, Stacy, and I talking later about bringing prayer into our times with village chiefs. There was definitely some dark stuff going on, and since we didn't understand the language, we couldn't really identify anything that was happening. In any case, after some small talk, the film crew asked if they could film a little more privately, so everyone who wasn't part of the crew, went outside to wait in the shade. As we were waiting, a group of kids came and gathered around us. It's so funny. . .they know that we're the only white people for miles around, so it was an automatic draw. In some ways, I almost feel like I'm in the zoo at time! In any case, I got out my camera and asked if they wanted their picture taken. They all agreed heartily and we spent some time taking pictures and then showing them each their face. They were so funny! They thought it was like magic or something! Then, after awhile, I asked if they wanted to learn a new song. So, we sang a few songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and "Mercy is Falling". They loved it and they sang a few different songs for me too. When I got tired (probably 45 minutes into the entertainment), I told them to go play, but they still just stood and stared at me. Finally, some of the NYU students came over and said that it would be fun to do a round of "Hokey Pokey". THANK YOU!!! I had been trying to think of a game, but as the time went on, more and more kids came until probably 200 showed up and that just won't work for duck, duck, goose! So, we got them all in a circle and sang some hokey pokey. It was so fun! The kids loved it and I even had a great time! Eventually, the film crew came out and joined us and then we handed out some "toffee" (candy) to the kids, which they very much enjoyed!

After Benjamase, we went to Lonkortor, a local fishing village where John and Stacy have done some negotiations in the past. As soon as we walked out of the bus, it was as if the whole community suddenly showed up. They followed us through the village until we go to where the chief was located. Then, they gathered around us as we talked with the chief. It felt like we were fish in a fish bowl. Apparently, that's how this community is no matter how many people John and Stacy bring along. The whole village comes out when something happens! In any case, the conversation that night didn't go as well as planned. The chief wasn't being completely honest, and the light was fading fast, so we decided to leave and come back the next day. But, before we left, we set up a time to meet up with one of the kids that were trafficked to work on the lake so that they could meet up with him in the morning to see what life was like for him on the lake.

When we climbed back in the bus, I felt incredibly emotional. I felt like God reminded me of the question so many people ask, "Why does God allow evil to exist in this world?". I felt like He told me that he allows it because it was our preference, but also because we are HIS hands and HIS feet and what a privilege we carry in releasing the captive and seeing people freed by the redemptive love of Christ. Even when you stand in the face of such evil--where every right of the human is taken away--you just can't help but see God's plan at work. He calls US not just to rescue the slave, but to seek and save the LOST!

The next day, everyone got up early to meet up with the fishing boy from Lonkortor, but Stacy, me, and one of the other visitors stayed behind to get a little sleep and relaxation. It was nice to sleep in (until 7) and just have some quiet time. We had some good conversations and enjoyed each other's company. Before too long, the crew came back from the lake and were just overjoyed at the footage they got that morning. We whipped up a quick breakfast and then the NYU students decided to go for a walk through Chinderi. Little did they know that a group of white kids was definitely going to draw a crowd. Before too long, we saw them running down the street with 200 kids chasing behind them chanting something. . .some words that the NYU students had said to one another that the kids just kept repeating. It was so funny! The students stopped at the house and they told all the children to go home, but no such luck. They ran them back to the center of town and then had to have someone translate for them to send the kids home. So funny!

While everyone enjoyed some time with the kids outside, I got to work in the back working on our "Mexican Delight" meal. At the Omorefe house, we've created a version of a burrito that is absolutely amazing, and decided to share this with the students from NYU. So, we were boiling chicken, shredding chicken, seasoning chicken, and rolling up burritos for a good couple of hours. But, let me tell you, it was definitely a HIT! Everyone loved them! Even Juanitta, Daddy Joseph, Lucy, and Providence who had declared that HE WOULD NOT EAT THIS AMERICAN FOOD! They all liked it though and think we might see more of our "Mexican Delight" sometime!

After lunch, we climbed back in the bus for our trip to Lonkortor where we climbed in a boat and took off across the lake to Adacope (the village where Abigail and DK were rescued in July). It was a beautiful day on the Lake, despite the crazy flooding on the shores and the interesting way we had to get on and off the boats and not touch any of the lake water (it is infected with lots of bacteria).

In Adacope, we interviewed one of the fisherman, a man named Delali. He has three wives, 16 children, and 2 more on the way. He has a few children he's trafficked in to work for him. After talking we him, there was a brief interview with the village chief and then a local teacher also chimed in about the answer to this problem really being the education of the children. Lots of good footage and I think the students will come up with a strong documentary!

On the trip back across the lake, I was watching the sunset, and listening to the words of the chief over and over in my head. He had said that the issue of child labor and trafficking on the lake was a hopeless situation. That nothing would ever change. That this issue will never go away. It left me feeling so frustrated, so sad, and ultimately wondering, what will make this change? I felt like God clearly told me that the chief was not just talking about the hopelessness of the fishing situation, but the hopelessness of life itself for these small, poor villages. And really, what they need is not just to give up their trafficked children, but they need a KINGDOM PARADIGM shift! I felt like God said, "They are hopeless because I have not been invited there." After talking to John and Stacy about that, we really feel like the next step for Adacope isn't to rescue the kids there, but to do a crusade there--worship, prayer, a message, bring the light of the world to one of the darkest places I've ever seen. That's where real community transformation will happen. It begins in the heart and then into the actions of the people. If they understand God's love, then, they'll begin to change.

We spent some time that evening just chatting with the NYU students and debriefing from the weekend. Many of them want to come back to visit after their semester here in Ghana is finished. We'll see if some of them want to intern for a summer with our summer program. That would be awesome! And most wanted to go back and join their school's child trafficking club, bring more awareness to the issues at hand, and see what they could do to make a difference in the world.

The interesting thing about this weekend were some of the spiritual conversations we had with the students. A lot of them are really trying to define what they believe without stepping on anyone's toes. It was good to have conversations. . .to challenge their thinking. . .and to pray that they would be open to hearing from God. There's so much potential brewing in the pots of so many of the college youth of America. To make real and lasting change in the lives of people, they need to know the love of a God that is so much bigger than Lake Volta, than the NYU campus, than their own problems.

All in all, a rewarding weekend. It was exhausting and it's taken me days to feel semi-back to normal. Still working on that now, but with life and getting ready to move, and all that jazz, I'm still a little tired. The weeks to come will be an adventure! But, I guess most of my life is a little bit of an adventure since coming to Ghana!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Weekend To Remember--but maybe the remembering will come tomorrow!

So, I just came back from my second trip to the Krachi West district in the Volta region. We took some NYU students there to film a documentary. This trip was a little different for me from the last one. For some reason, I felt really reflective and feel like God was speaking to me a lot over the weekend. I want to write all the details down, but I'm so exhausted. I'm going to go to bed early and will hopefully come back here tomorrow to do some "remembering". For now, know that it was a powerful, life-changing trip for the students and more and more, we're seeing how awareness is really such a huge part of fighting this battle! Once you see slavery with your own eyes, you can't turn your back on it any longer. I'm excited to see what happens next!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Becoming a little more African

I have heard so many times the past couple of days, "Hello African Woman"! Mostly, I've heard it from Adaedae, our house helper. And now she tells me that the next step for me is marrying an African man. Whoa! Let's back up!

So, about a week ago, I went with Rosemary (the Omorefe's 13 year old) to a nearby hair salon to talk about getting our hair plaited (you know, the braids that they get put in their hair so they don't have to take care of it as often?). I was thinking of getting it done before my trip to the Volta (which starts in just a few hours!). So, I agreed on a price and we scheduled the time to come. I wanted longer braids, just because my hair is so short right now, I thought it would be fun to be a little different.

Monday, after school, I raced over to the salon by 4:00. I'd been warned that it hurt and people told me tortuous tales of pain and woe when they go to get their hair plaited (actually, it was mostly the boys who told those tales. . .how would they know??). Maybe it was because I was expecting it to be so bad, but in any case, once the braiding began, I wasn't that overwhelmed by the pain of it. It's like a little pinch on your scalp when it first starts, but it ends soon as the braid moves further from your scalp. I was full of excitement and enthusiasm when the whole process started. The hair I had chosen was kind of a brownish red extension, so I thought it would be fun to be a redhead for awhile. After a few hours of plaiting on the first night, we finally decided to end around 8:30 (with a short break for dinner somewhere in the middle there).

The next day, I went to school with my hair all wrapped up. The kids were so curious and the staff just laughed and laughed. I left right after school that day and headed out to the salon. It was another LONG day of braiding and when it got to be 9:30 pm, we ran out of extensions, so I had to wait ANOTHER day to finish up.

Finally, on Wednesday, I went in and the final extensions were put in. By that time, the extensions didn't hurt so much as my back and my neck from sitting in funny positions while the braids were being finished on the top of my head. After she finished the braids, she trimmed every one of them with scissors and then put them all in boiling water to kind of set them. Then, she coated my hair with some nice smelling lotiony type stuff and I was finally ready to be done. After so many days, it was such a relief to just be done.

Today was the first day that I got to wear my finished hair out and about. I got a lot of compliments and it is kind of fun. It's weird to look at myself in the mirror because it doesn't really look like me. It's kinda rastafarian, which isn't really me, but when I pull it back, it kinda looks more like me. We'll see how long I'll keep it in. It can be really heavy and a little itchy at times, so we'll see how long I can handle it. But for now, it's fun to do something different with my hair and it is nice not to have to wash it (at least as often. . .only every once in a while when my scalp can't take it anymore).

You can check out my pictures on facebook. 12+ hours and I'm loving it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wednesday Challenge

For your challenge today, it's time to get your hands a little wet. So, pull out your laundry soap, draw a few buckets of water, and shut off your washer and dryer. Let's do your laundry by hand!

There are washers and dryers available here, but the cost of electricity and water to run them is OUTRAGEOUS. So, almost everyone washes their clothes by hand. It takes a lot of scrubbing and a lot of time, but the end result is a clothesline full of clean clothes.

Here at our house, we hire help to come and wash since we are always so busy and there are so many of us (9 to be exact). So, we bring out our piles on Thursday morning and they're washed and on the line when we get home in the evening. It usually takes a day or so to dry in the heat, but sometimes, they get washed again and again and again when it rains on them and they have to be out longer to dry. A few weeks ago, the laundry was done on Thursday, but it rained Thursday night, so they had to dry on Friday, but it rained Friday night, and finally Saturday allowed them to dry.

So, save on your water and electricity bill this week and give washing by hand a try. I think you'll be surprised how EASY we have it in the States!

Monday, October 11, 2010

. . .time. . .

Usually, on Mondays, I introduce you to one of the kids. But today, I'm tired (teaching always makes me tired) and I'm realizing more and more how quickly time marches on.

Today, I got an email from one of my closest friends who just spoke of how much she misses me as time goes on. Another friend, when I left seemed barely pregnant, yet she's due at the end of the month. And my little Brylie Kay is growing by leaps and bounds each week when I get new pictures. In a way, it feels like I'm on some sort of extended vacation, but now that I'm teaching and leading other teachers, and overseeing interns and all that jazz. . .I really do WORK here and LIVE here. And everyday seems to pass quicker than the one before it. And everyday, I promise to get certain things done (lesson plans, tests corrected, etc) and everyday, time marches on. It almost feels as though I'll blink and my time here will be finished. While I miss everyone at home so much (and wish that I could just have my daily dialog with my best friends and my family), I am so grateful for where God has me RIGHT NOW. Wow! I'm so grateful!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Just a day in the life. . .

A few weeks ago, I posted about the day that the Semester at Sea students came to visit and we did a feeding program for 1,200 children in Tema New Town. One of the comments from that post was from one of my best friends, Christina Kolding, and she told me that she can't believe I get to live this life. Sometimes, my life here feels absolutely NORMAL, and yet other days, like that day a few weeks ago, or a day like today, I feel like I am living this crazy adventure that few ever get to experience.

Today, we drove out to Doryum, where we plan on moving at the end of this month, to discuss some paperwork issues that we've been having with one man who has been "helping" City of Refuge for the past year. We met up with the assemblyman (like the mayor of the town) when we arrived and then took him for a drive to see the houses we'll be renting and the work that needs to be completed before we arrive at the end of the month. I also got to see the building that we'll be renting for the school. It's an open air building, but I think it will work out ok if we put some misquito netting up in the windows. We'll have one room where we can lock things up as well, so that will be good.

Eventually, we ended up back at the assemblyman's house to meet with a man about paperwork that was being held up. After some long conversations, we were taken to meet with one of the village chiefs. He was sitting underneath a tree and after bowing and shaking hands, we were asked to sit down to discuss the paperwork that we need to begin building. This man, he was a sincere and well-educated man. He spoke English very well, and I felt that his heart was exactly in the right place. He spoke about wanting to leave a legacy for this community behind by allowing us to use the land to care for the orphaned of Doryum. I look forward to what is ahead for us there!

After our meeting with the village chief, John and Stacy took me to see the land that had been given to them. It was down this crazy, muddy dirt road. We are definitely PRAYING for a 4-wheel drive vehicle because there was quite a few times that I was praying we would get out of there without getting stuck. We didn't get out of the car because it was so muddy, but we did get a glimpse of the 20 acres that we'll be building on soon. Exciting!

And then, it was back home for school prep. Back to normal life. One minute adventures in the village, and the next minute, back to life as usual. I've got to use my time better during the week so my weekends aren't sucked dry by school prep, but I'm hoping that each week will get easier and easier.

Yep, just another day in the life of Autumn Buzzell. . .

Excited about Narnia

I've been reading "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" with my class so far this year. It is so funny to see them get so into it. It's a fantasy story of a magic land inside of a wardrobe with mythical creatures and animals that talk. Every day, I pull out the book and the kids get suddenly quiet and some of them pull their chairs right up to my desk. Everday, Paul gives me the summary of what we read the day before and then when we finish reading for the day, he begs for me, but it's time for lunch and the book has to be put away. On Fridays, we've been watching a bit of the movie--just the parts that we've read about. Everytime I turn it off, there is load moans for the crowd of kids watching, and they beg for more. But, I stick to it. We have to read the book first. Yesterday, Paul was even asking that we read more of the book right then so we could watch more of the movie.

Reading the book brings back so many memories for me. It brings back childhood memories curled up with the books of Chronicles of Narnia and then heading to the library to pick up the BBC versions of the movies to watch. It brings back memories of the cartoon that my brother, sister, and I would watch together over and over. And it brings back memories from just a few years ago when I spent the summer living with Kat and Isaiah. That summer was such amazing time with them and that was the summer that I reread the whole series before the first movie came out.

As I'm reading, I am just reminded how C.S. Lewis brilliantly wrote these little fantasy tales, but with such deep truth to them. And the way the kids are drawn into the story. . .if only others could be drawn so easily into relationship with our GREAT KING. Our lives really have the possibility of being such a great story (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) if only we can fully accept the love of a God isn't quite safe, but is so good (as they explain Aslan in the book).

I'm excited that the next movie in the Chronicles journey is coming out this Christmas. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VccQ10gDqr0

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Your Wednesday Challenge--on Thursday

Sorry, keep getting these blogs out late, but you know how life is. . .

So, your challenge this week--shut off the hot water. Here, the only hot water that we have is over a hot stove. So my challenge to you is to take a few cold showers this week (they are actually REALLY refreshing when it's hot outside), and if you want a warm shower, heat water on the stove and bring it with you into the bathtub in a bucket. Wash your hands in cold water. Wash your dishes in cold water. Just save on your heating costs this week, and "go cold"!

Can't wait to hear all about it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blabe-isms and Edwin

Usually on Mondays I feature one child that I work with here. But, this weekend, I got the chance to talk to one of my besties, Christine Blabe. She is amazing and funny and kind and I wanted to give you some of her "blabe-isms" here today, but she heartily disagreed, so I won't. I will tell you that I hadn't had the chance to talk with Blabe (her nickname) for months, so it was so good to get to see her face and hear her voice. I love Blabe because she makes me laugh. She says funny things that she doesn't even realize is funny. You could say that I'm a Blabe fan!

Anyway, since I'll avoid getting in trouble with my Blabey baby, I'm going to tell you about one of my other favorites in this world, Edwin. I have talked about him many times before, but he's never been featured here on my Monday blog, so it's his turn!

Edwin is my little man. He is a year and a half old and he is just plain adorable. Everyday, he seeks me out and runs to me with his arms up ready for a hug. He loves to just sit with me or play with me and he is just a little cuddle bug!

Edwin loves to eat! For such a little skinny thing, you wouldn't expect him to eat so much food. But if someone else has food and he doesn't, WATCH OUT! The tears will come. And who can resist with that bottom lip starts quivering??

Edwin is majorly pigeon-toed. Stacy said it was so funny when he was learning how to walk because he kept tripping over his own feet. It's too funny!

He loves to laugh! He is usually pretty giggly, though when he first came, he was a colicy baby and cried all the time. Thank goodness he's grown out of that!

He loves to play with the big kids, even if he can't keep up, he will try! The other day, the kids were all dancing and he tried to keep up, but he just kept getting stomped on.

He also has some personality and that's funny to watch grow. Yesterday, he wanted to be the one to open the gate for the car to be brought in. He had to use all his strength to push the gate. The boys also pretend to fight with him and they'll put their fists up like they're getting ready to box and guess what. . .he will put up his fists just like them. It's so funny!

When I wear necklaces, Edwin loves to play with them, as all babies do. But for him, he wants to share it with me. He'll put the necklace, if it's long enough, around both of our necks so that we'll be really close together. It's so cute!

Edwin's mom lives in Tema New Town where we have been doing our feeding program. She is BEAUTIFUL, which explains why Edwin is soooo stinkin' cute! She has HIV, so we're not really sure if he will ever be able to be returned to his mom full time, but she is a good lady! It is just such a sad situation.

I honestly would like to bundle this guy up in my suitcase and take him home with me! For now, I love just getting to see him everyday. I will be so sad to say bye to him in December (and to say bye to all of them). What am I going to do with myself?

See a picture of Edwin here:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Learning About How God Moves

Lately, it seems that every conversation that Stacy and I have, something or someone has come along that directly speaks to our conversation! Wow! It's just showing me a little of how God moves in seasons of our lives. Let me give you a few examples:

*After a couple Sunday's in a row of the prosperity gospel being preached at our church, Stacy and I talked about how that is such a problem with the African church (and just the church worldwide). That many pay for blessings, when God gives us his blessings for free. This past week, a man came to visit us to give us some donated items. He was a muslim and was converted to Christianity and is now a prophet of God! The words that he spoke were almost word for word the conversation that Stacy and I had previously had--that God's love is absolutely free and that God doesn't call us to be rich, but to bring ourselves lower--to serve the poor and needy.

*A little over a week ago, we began talking with one of our volunteers about connecting us with a really good lawyer. As we begin our move to Doryum and building on our new land, we need to have a lawyer fight for us to make sure that everything is done well. We also need someone who can help with the children's custody papers and eventual adoptions. Last week, a man came to speak with John and Stacy. He said he had heard about our ministry and wanted to do anything he could to help. He is a lawyer.

*Around the same time, Stacy and I were talking about supporters that their family needed to stay here full-time. Right now, they are living off of their savings, but that won't last forever. We were talking about God moving in heart of Ghanaians here to support their family and their ministry. This last week, John and Stacy went to visit the lawyer to talk to him more about the ministry and to hear what God is doing in his life. After talking with him for a long time, the man took out his checkbook and wrote a check for $1,000 US dollars before they left. He didn't hesitate to let them know that there is more to come too. WOW!

*Stacy and I were talking about the need for churches to really preach to the heart of the issues going on within the body. Here we see many Christians, but not as many CHRIST-FOLLOWERS. We want to see a revival in the church where people will lay down their life, their riches, their hearts before God. This morning, the guest preacher that came spoke about the same thing. He said the church needs to be unified (Stacy and I talk about denominationalism all the time), needs to experience more of Christ's love (we have been talking about the Triangle--for all those RWC peeps that know what I'm talking about), and living a holy life (we have been talking about not keeping any secrets, but speaking out the darkness in our lives so that we can experience freedom and telling our story so others can experience the same freedom in Christ). It was powerful stuff! Of course at the end, he asked for a donation and Stacy and I just looked at each other as we watched no one step forward. The Spirit was calling for people to be delivered, not for him to recieve an offering. In any case, God really reminded me that HE HEARS the desires of our heart for his church! And he's not just speaking to us, but to people everywhere for his church to dig deeper!

*In the same church service this morning, I was so moved by the worship and felt like God spoke to me about something I've really been struggling with lately. I've been a little homesick lately, but also feel so called here. It's been hard thinking about the future and whether God is calling me to be here longer or to go home after this year. This morning, as I was worshipping and praying, I felt like God reminded me of His Son's sacrifice--that he gave his OWN SON for me. It was such a powerful reminder. And out of that sacrifice, my only response is to give my WHOLE LIFE back to him, to sacrifce everything at the foot of the cross where Jesus sacrificed everything for me. I still don't feel like I have an answer for what the next year will hold, but I do feel like God will tell me when the time is right. He only wants me to listen fully and to be obedient to his call. Right now, his call is to simply BE where I am and DO what he's called me to NOW. Later, the call might look different. We will see what happens!

*We've been having some random donations come in--monetary and physical donations--to help with the ministry and the school. That's been a surprise and soooo good!

*Starting to get set up to build on our land. Have been supported by a group called YGAP from Australia. They are doing some pretty amazing things to help us with this building project. They have a couple of guys who are going to be riding bikes from Spain to Ghana--starting in November and arriving here in March--to bring awareness to the issue of slavery and bring monies into the City of Refuge. They are also having a huge fundraising banquet and the monies from that will be donated to City of Refuge as well. Wow!

*The Semester at Sea kids were really moved by their experience here and the leaders said that the kids went back "a family". We've even had some contact us already, wanting to come back and serve short term.

We are seeing God move in powerful ways here. Answering prayers and seeing our vision expanding for what God wants to do in this place and through this ministry. I can't say "wow" enough! It's constantly on my lips. God is good. . .all the time!