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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Monday, November 29, 2010

African Obruni

A couple of weeks ago, we went shopping in Tema to buy some fabric for some projects we wanted to work on. One of the projects was making me some of the traditional African dresses for when I go home, and for during my time here.

Tonight, Robert, the tailor, brought by my dresses! They turned out beautifully. When I came walking out of my room, the kids just giggled and giggled. They started calling me African Obruni. Abby was seriously so excited about me wearing the dresses to church on Sunday. She kept mentioning it to me over and over and then drag me room to room to make sure that all the kids and staff got to see my dresses. She's so cute!

So, when I come, you'll get to see my beautiful African dresses. And hopefully, by then, I'll have my hair all braided too so I'll really look like an African obruni. Watch out America. . .here I come!

P.S. If you want to look like an African obruni, you are in luck! I'm bringing some beautiful linen shirts back with me and some pajama pants made out of some really nice cloth. I am also bringing back some jewelery. If you're interested, I'll be posting prices soon and pictures of the items when I return back to the States. All proceeds will go to benefit City of Refuge Ministries. Those items that don't sell via internet, will all be brought back to the Bay area to be sold there. Keep your eyes open for pictures and prices!

I do believe in fairies. . .

After a few days of trying, I'm hoping this will post. . .Here is what I wrote on Sunday.

Every Saturday is movie night here. The kids look forward to it all week and once the weekend comes around, they are constantly asking what movie we'll be watching on movie night. Most of them want to watch "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" since we read it in class, but have never seen the whole movie at one time. Instead, we've been watching different movies and they seem to be enjoying it!

This week, we watched Peter Pan. The boy who never grew up. The kids loved it. And all day Sunday, they stomped around the house saying "I do, I do, I do believe in fairies". And it reminded me of the whole point of Peter Pan! The story is all about children, imaginations, good versus evil, growing up or staying the same.

Last spring, I went to see the play Peter Pan in San Francisco. It was in a round tent and CGI effects were put up on the walls so that you felt like it was night, or that you were flying, or that you were underground in Peter Pan's house. It was a beautiful performance! And when the part came where Tinkerbell dies, everyone in the house (almost all adults, mind you) chanted at the top of their lungs that they believed in fairies. There is some kind of magic in the imagination, in the innocence of children, and in the love of a good story.

Take some time today and live inside a children's storybook or movie. I think you'll be surprised at the smile that it will bring to your face!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Waking Up with Edwin

As you know, my boy Edwin has come to stay with me in my room. The first couple of nights were pretty rough. Last Saturday night, his first night with me, he had a terrible time sleeping. He went down ok, but then he woke up in the middle of the night and I was up with him for almost 4 hours. He was frightened by the storm, my strange room, and I think he was a little hungry too. A couple nights later, he got up in the middle of the night and I think he thought it was time to play! He came to my bed, and me, tired and not thinking, picked him up and put him on my bed. He was SOAKED. And I looked at the time. . .only 1:30 am. I wouldn't be able to wait til morning. It was time for a diaper change. So, I changed the diaper and laid him back down, but NO! He still thought it was time to play. He was giggling and laughing and everytime I tried to go back to bed, he would come over and laugh at the edge of my bed. That boy! Finally, I laid down next to him on his bed and rubbed his back and he finally went to sleep.

After those first few nights, he has been sleeping like a dream. A few mornings, I woke up before him and was able to get some things done before he woke up. And then the past couple of mornings, I woke up and he was already awake. He didn't come to my bed or anything. He was just laying on his bed, staring up at me waiting for me to wake up. It's so cute! And then, as soon as I say good morning, he just smiles at me.

Each morning, we've had a little wake up routine started. As soon as he (or I) wakes up, we smile and chat a bit (me doing the talking and him doing the smiling, since he hasn't said much yet). Then, he comes over to my bed. I check his diaper to see if anything is leaking (the trouble with cloth diapers). If he's leak-free, he comes and hangs in my lap for a little bit. We sing some songs, tickle his toes, and just have a little cuddle time. After that, it's off to the bath. After he's clean and smelling good, then we get him dressed and it's out the door. Usually, all I have to say to him is "Go eat" and he's running out the door for food. He LOVES to eat!

Even though it takes up a little bit of my morning time, I love my waking up with Edwin. That cute little face is enough to make anyone happy to wake up in the morning!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It was a Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day, I have come to realize, is a LOT of work! But, the rewards are amazing.

Stacy and I worked hard yesterday and today getting everything together for our Thanksgiving meal. In the end, we made sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad, fruit salad, snickers salad (it's pudding, whipped cream, milk, and snickers--and it's awesome), turkey, and then came dessert--pumpkin pie, apple pie, and chocolate cake. Yummy!

The guests started showing up mid-morning today and we decided to have a 2:00 lunch. So, by 2:00, everything was on the table, we were all dressed in some nicer clothes, and we were ready to chow down. I had the kids work this week on wall decorations (some different things that they were thankful for), so we had put those up on the wall. The power was out all day, so we had to start up our generator for the songs that the kids had prepared. Then, they each told everyone what they were thankful for. They were so nervous about it and had been practicing all morning, but they did so well and everyone loved it!

We all chowed down on a mixture of American and Ghanaian foods. And it was awesome! It really hit the spot! Miracle was sitting next to me and the whole time, he kept telling me how good the food was and how much he liked it (but then, he ended up giving me some of his American food so he could go get some jallof rice). And once the desserts were brought out, WATCH OUT! Especially our staff girls. . .they were so funny! Everyone loved the chocolate cake (thank you Aunt Peggy) and the apple and pumpkin pies turned out perfect (even if the crust was a little thick). It was a delicious way to end the feast.

After eating, we all hung out chatting and the kids turned on some music to dance to. Everyone just enjoyed a good time eating together. Later, Auntie Letitia's girls taught our girls the dance that they will do for the Christmas program. It's beautiful! And then, clean-up began.

By the end of the day, you saw us all in groups of a few here and few there, everyone tired and dirty. I mean, you should have seen Edwin and Justice. They just had a ball today! They were so dirty and both of them just cried and cried when they had to go get a bath. BOYS!

So, now, I sit here in my room (the power came back on about an hour ago), and I'm tired and weary, but I am SO GRATEFUL for my Ghanian family here. There were moments today that I really missed the Roberts (who I've spent the last few Thanksgivings with), and the other Beatniks. and friends A few moments today where I really wished my family were there. And then, there were these beautiful moments when I realized that these people have really become such a part of my life, that I felt at home. I don't think I've EVER sweated so much on a Thanksgiving. And I don't remember seeing fufu and green bean casserole on the same table before. But, these people have become family and today, I felt at home. I'm so grateful for this place that has really just embraced me!

And, I give thanks for YOU back in the States. You are the ones who love and support me. You, amazingly, know when I'm down and need to hear from you in an email. You send me packages and cards that blow me away. You encourage me, uplift me, and the thought of seeing you in just a few weeks is so exciting to me! It is amazing that I have such a wide-spread, world-wide family.

All in all, I recognize that God has given me joy because of the gifts of people in my life. Thank you for being a gift to my life. Tonight, I am worshipping God for this faithful love that is shown to me by his faithful people!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Challenge

It has been an incredibly BUSY Wednesday preparing for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I came home from school and made a couple of pies (which we have discovered takes about 3 times as long to cook in the ovens here than at home), green bean casserole, candied yams, stuffing, and then stuffed the turkey. Stacy, John, and I are still sitting up waiting for the next pie to be finished so we can put the last one in before going to bed. EXHAUSTED--it's already 10:30. Might be up til midnight before we get the pie finished and the turkey in the oven.

In any case, I wanted to give you your Wednesday Challenge. So, here, they don't drink water from the tap as it isn't purified water. Instead, they drink water from little plastic sachets. We just grab a bag, bite off a corner, and suck from the bag until the water is gone. We use these for drinking water, sometimes to wash hands if water isn't readily available, and even to brush our teeth.

Your challenge? Fill up a plastic baggie with water. Zip it closed. Then, bite off the bottom corner and take a sip. Use this bag to brush your teeth. And use it throughout the whole week to drink water. Let's see how well you handle this. Maybe it will save on your dish consumption during the week as you won't be using cups anymore.

Well, gotta get back to my pie. Thanksgiving tomorrow! Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The things we take for granted. . .

I've been thinking lately about the things we take for granted living in the United States. Here, life is so different. Even the staff girls have talked to me about how there is a machine to do EVERYTHING in the US. And I can't deny them that fact. Life certainly is easier in the US. In some ways, not necessarily better, but certainly easier. Here are some of the things that I've been thinking about lately. . .

--running water (we have it, but there's not enough pressure to actually shower, just enough to fill the tank outside)

--washing machines (Here, clothes are washed by hand. I have been lucky to have help washing my clothes since my days are filled with teaching, but imagine--especially you new moms who are trying out cloth diapers--washing everything by hand--wow!)

--ovens that mark the temperature (we're experimenting with our ovens this Thanksgiving. The ovens here are just fires lit inside a metal box pretty much)

--paved roads (you should see the road we take from our house to the main road after a rain--it's pretty nuts)

--reliable electricity (the lights go out, well, whenever they want to here--whether it's convienient or not!)

--internet (yeah, I can get on, but it takes me about 10 tries to finally get anything posted. The internet won't load things very often because of the slow connection speed)

I love Ghana, don't get me wrong. I love that life is, well, simpler here. I love the walks home from school with the kids and the dancing in the living room and the hugs and kisses and the way that I never leave a day wondering if I'm loved by the kids--it's just obvious. I love that I've been loved into this family. This life is beautiful--even though I miss some of the easy things in life that I took for granted when I lived in America. Yep, it certainly is a beautiful life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meeting Malvin

It's been a long time since I've talked about one of the kiddos here on my blog. Too many other things going on. But, today, I wanted to introduce you to Malvin.

Malvin is a year old. He came to the Freedom Center in February and Mama Theresia and Daddy Joseph took him in as their own son. The funny thing is that he really does resemble Daddy Joseph! I guess that is something that love does--changes people. Love really changed Malvin.

When Malvin first came to the center, he was so malnourished that he was basically all head and no body. Social welfare was assuming that they were dropping him off to die in peace. But, Mama took him in under her wing and within two weeks, he was gaining weight, his hair color had turned into the black hair of a healthy child, and he was beginning to look more like a normal baby.

Now-a-days, it's rare to see Malvin far from Mama Theresia or Daddy Joseph. They really have loved him back to health and they continue to care for him as their own son. Even though he is over a year old, he is just now starting to learn how to crawl and move around. Today I watched his tiny little legs crawl him over to Mama's lap when she came home from the market.

The funny thing about Malvin is that he isn't really fond of obruni's. Where Justice and Edwin come running when I come home, Malvin is usually okay with just a high five. I think the number of times that he has allowed me to hold him without screaming can be counted on one hand. But, he loves when I give high fives or tickle his belly--as long as he is on Daddy Joseph's lap while I'm doing it!

Malvin really is a Daddy's boy. He would sit on Daddy's hip ALL DAY if he could! But, since coming to Doryum, Daddy has been really busy with different building projects and he only spends his evenings with Malvin.

I'm excited for the day when Malvin will take his first steps. This cutie will be hanging with Justice and Edwin before too long!

Who would have thought lack of sleep meant powerful time with God?

My little Edwin has come to join me in my room on Saturday. That night was our first night and it was a rough one! It made me realize that hard and beautiful work of my friends that have become mothers in the past few months. I've only had just one night of being up with the little guy, and I cannot imagine spending night after night up late with feedings or diaper changes. Moms, you should be greatly appreciated for the huge and hard job that you have ahead of you! I have a new appreciation for the way that you love and nurture your children in the night. It's not easy!

Our power went out midway through the night on Saturday. Edwin got scared and I think he was a little hungry. So, I was up with him for quite a few hours. That left me with little sleep and a little foggy-headed as I headed into my Sunday. Lack of sleep effects me so strangely, usually making me an emotional wreck. It was no different Sunday morning. I kept telling myself to hold it together during the worship service. But, perhaps it was just what I needed. The worship was so powerful and I felt like God really ministered to me and spoke exactly what I needed to hear. That this life. . .it isn't for me. It is a life of total surrender and dependence on God. He leads, I follow. Only he is holy, worthy, and wonderful and my testimony is a witness to a life sacrificed to him.

So, Sunday afternoon, instead of being social with the kids much, I spend the majority of my time napping, prepping for school this week, praying and worshipping. I think that even though I was so tired from the lack of sleep the night before, God knew what I needed to bring me to a place where I could just rest before Him. He's good like that!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Holidays are Coming!

Wow! While it might feel like Thanksgiving in the States, here in Ghana, everything remains hot and humid and it feels more like the 4th of July than Thanksgiving time. Despite the heat, and the different culture, we are wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with our children. We know that the 14 children that City of Refuge houses (plus the 6 Omorefe children, making the total 20) have so much to be grateful for.
*Ghana is a peaceful country.
*Our move to the village was successful and everyone is healthy.
*Even though we have to haul our water, the fact that we have access to water is a beautiful thing.
*They have three meals a day, access to free education, and many mommies and daddies who love them and give them anything they need.
Because of that, we want to teach them the value of gratitude. This coming Thursday, we are going to have a Thanksgiving feast. We're inviting people that have really blessed City of Refuge with gifts and time and money. We are going to be hosting this huge feast (we are thinking of around 60 guests) and honoring those who have been such an important part of the life of CORM in the past 2 years.
As we have begun to put together the parts that will make this feast successful, we have realized how EXPENSIVE it is to feed 60 people. If you are interested in partnering with City of Refuge ministries this Thanksgiving to help us purchase some of the food items that we need, we'd love for you to go to our website at www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com and make a donation there.

I also wanted to remind you of our Christmas project. We're trying to purchase items for our children for Christmas presents. I will be bringing back these items when I return in January. We're trying to buy them useful items, but also things that they would enjoy! Here is the information about our Target List:

List Name:Christmas List
Created For:City of Refuge Ministries
TargetLists ID:012399302259148

Shipping address:
Autumn Buzzell
City of Refuge Ministries
402 Ivy Dr.
Menlo Park, CA 94025

If you live in the Bay Area and would like to just drop off gifts, please bring by your UNWRAPPED donations to the student ministries department at Peninsula Covenant Church (3560 Farm Hill Blvd., Redwood City, CA 94025). You can contact Kristin Fabbro for drop off times (kristinf@peninsulacovenant.com).

Thanks for your willingness to partner with us and love on the kids I am priveledged to work with on a daily basis! What a joy these holidays will bring to my family here in Ghana!

If you would like a list of items and names for each person that they are for, please respond to this post with your email address and I'll email you the list of what/who each item is for!

Learning to Trust

So, something that I'm learning about here in Ghana is the art of trusting others. Money is a big issue here. Not just because it's a third world country so there is a great deal of need (which there is), but because of the need, people are greedy and will do anything to get money--even if it means destroying relationships or losing out on the money you would have gotten just because you want a higher price. And the color of my skin can push this issue even further. (Little do they know, that behind me are 200 people that are giving a little here and a little there to support my time here. There's no way that I could be here without all of YOU!)

We've been facing crowding issues here at the Freedom Center--our new home in Doryum. With 30 people here and water coming to the tap only every other week, we've run out of water quickly. There isn't enough room for beds for all of the staff, so we have people sleeping in our van, on our living room floor, and in our office. We were looking at renting an empty house just around the road from our own house. The man said he'd rent it to us for 150 Ghana cedis, and then changed his mind and wouldn't take less that 400! Rediculous! So, John and Stacy have been out searching for another house, but there isn't much here. We're just kinda stuck in a financial conundrum--pay the man a crazy amount of money for a house that's only worth 150, or stick it out all here together.

We've also been working with a man who has been the mouthpiece of the village chiefs this past year. Yet, now, he's holding us back from getting our land registered because he wants to be in control.

Ultimately, it all comes down to money. . .but even more, it comes down to trust. And when you find those people that you can really trust, you hold on to them with all your might. We've found some good, trustworthy staff that we don't want to let go of--our teachers, our caretakers, our houseparents, our night guard, our maintenance man--all of them are men and women with whom we can trust, and that is where we place our time, and resources, and energy. If only these others would see that investment comes with TRUST, then, in the long run, they would be more than rewarded.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Veggie Delight

Since I've come to Ghana, I have sorely missed vegetables in my diet. Here, the only vegetables that we get are usually tomatoes and onions that have been cooked into our foods. I've been known to mention my longing for broccoli (I know, Blabe, I know! I really do want a bowl full of veggies!).

Well, yesterday, I got a vegetable surprise! The stew that we ate with our yam at lunch was made from the leaves of the coco yam. It was cooked, so it wasn't a raw veggie, but it tasted a bit like spinach. Yum!

Then, later today, John and Stacy and I headed to a dinner reception for NYU's New York Campus provost. Since we do volunteer work with NYU, they had invited us to come. On the way over, we stopped at a vegetable market to see if we could find some things that we'll need for our Thanksgiving dinner. While we waited to list out all the items we would need, we bought some carrots and chomped on those. I hadn't had raw carrots in a long time and they were delicious!

At the NYU dinner, the table featured some rice, fish or chicken, and bowls full of different vegetable salads. I tried almost everyone!

Yesterday, I was in vegetable paradise! We'll see how it effects my body though, going months without any fresh veggies to one day only eating veggies. . .hmmmm!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Your Wednesday Challenge

Your challenge this week is to TAKE IT EASY! Relax! Be flexible! Care more about relationships instead of time! In fact, this week, take your watch off your wrist and instead of watching the clock, spend a little time with the people around you--really being there instead of worried about the schedule of the day.

Now, I know that this is a really challenging Wednesday challenge, but here in Africa, everything runs with a little more laid back feel. Most people are NEVER on time, many take siestas during work hours, stroll instead of speed walk, and spend a lot of time sitting around chatting around the cooking fire or over a plate of food.

Here are some common ways that I spend my flexible schedule.
1) I wake up pretty early in the morning (around 5:30 am) and spend a few minutes just staring out the window and my amazing African landscape view. Then, I spend some time reading my Bible and journaling. By 7 am, I'm dressed and out the door to get some breakfast. I spend some time relaxing in the morning sun (by that time, it's usually creeping close to 90 degrees already) and eating my bread and drinking my tea.

2) When we lived in Tema, Stacy and the kids and I and occasionally John, would go for a walk several times a week. The walk to town is a little longer now, but Stacy and I walked into Doryum tonight. Only problem was when we were headed back, there aren't any street lights and we hit a bit of muddy road, but all in a night's walk, right? Spend some time walking with a friend this week. Night walks are beautiful and they're the perfect time for good conversations.

3)Usually once a week, something will come up where a teacher has to leave early or I have to leave early from school. We just cover the other person's class and off they go. Easy as 1, 2, 3. And speaking of school time (sorry for those of you who aren't teachers, just ignore this part), even school hours are pretty loosy goosy this year. Our break is supposed to be 15 minutes, but if all the kids haven't used the toilet, then, it's a little longer, or if the teacher's haven't finished up a conversation, then that's finished before the kids come in. And lunch, it can be up to 30 minutes late, so if that's the case, the whole schedule is pushed back a bit.

So, my advice. . .wake up early this week and spend some time with your eye pod, a good view of the outdoors and your journal. Go for a walk with friends. Take off your watch and really listen to the people around you.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This Thanksgiving. . .we want to THANK YOU!

So, as all of you already know, Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. For us here in Ghana, Thanksgiving day is just an ordinary day. But, this year, it will be one that we celebrate.

Yesterday, at our staff meeting, John and Stacy and I talked about the importance of a Thanksgiving celebration. We talked about the time of year when friends and family travel from all over the country to be near one another. We talked about a time of thanking God for the things that he has done throughout the year. And we talked about the foooooooooood!!!

This year, we wanted to teach our children about the concept of thanks-giving. They really do have so much to be grateful for! They have so many mothers and fathers that love on them all the time here at the center, they are recieving a quality education, they are living in a country that doesn't face conflict, they have been freed from slavery (for some of them) and rescued from an orphans life and given a family here. They really are so blessed!

We also want to thank others who have really been a valuable asset to City of Refuge Ministries. There are doctors and lawyers and friends who have donated their time, energy, and gifts to bless this ministry. We want to invite them to come so they can be honored for their gifts as well!

We would love for you to be a part of our Thanksgiving Celebration. We would love to put together an awesome buffet of food for our special guests--both Ghanaian favorites and some American ones too. We would love your help in providing funds for our special day. Would you pray about a one-time small donation to City of Refuge Ministries for our Thanksgiving celebration? About $35 USD would cover the cost of a goat. A little less than that would pay for a turkey. $15 would cover a green bean casserole or a sweet potato dish. $10 would cover the cost of a pumpkin pie. Please consider a small donation to help make our day possible!

Donations can be recieved by going to www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All for the love of...water!

So, since we've moved to Doryum, we've learned a little bit about water consumption. We have learned the Doryum only has water every other week, so on the week when it's turned on (even if it's only a trickle), we have to place bucket after bucket under the tap to save the water and then pour it into our polytank to save it for our use later. Last week, we ran out of water in our polytank, the water out of the tap was practically nothing and we were showering (and by that, I mean taking bucket baths) only every other day. Our laundry hadn't been done in almost three weeks, and we knew we wouldn't make it through the weekend (with the huge feeding coming up) without some water. So, a huge tanker came in and filled up our 600 gallon polytank. Water. . .awwwww!!! But, now, the issue is that the polytank isn't high enough to create enough pressure for the water to actually flow into our sinks and toilets. We have to put our polytank on a big stand so that the distance it takes the water to flow down will actually cause enough pressure to make the water flow into our house. I am realizing more and more how much I take water for granted in the States. Here, I look forward to my daily bucket bath and am lucky in the water in the tank of the toilet is enough to flush. Back home, access to water isn't even a second thought. And that makes me think about the people that don't even have access to the water that we have access to, or the money for a tanker to bring in water. Access to water. . .clean or not. . .is a huge issue in a third world country.

And yet, today, we had an over-abundance of water! While we were in our worship service in Tema (where the worship leader gave this obruni a tough time today--noting that I wasn't singing some of the Twi words to the song--he came right up and fed the line to me, so I could sing along!), it was raining here in Doryum. And I mean, it must have been really pouring down because on our drive back home, the sides of the road were flooded. There were streams of water where none used to be. And when we turned down the road to our house, we didn't get very far in at all, when the tires began to spin and we were stuck. John tried to power his way through the slick mud for awhile before we all decided to walk back while they dug the van out of the mess. We took off our shoes and went tromping through the slick mud--and I mean SLICK! This clay is like walking on ice when it's wet! Anas and Edwin went down, and Evelyn and Justice too. And even Caleb took a nice seat in a puddle of mud (though I'm not sure if his was on purpose or on accident!). We went slipping and sliding down the road and finally made it to the house. The van followed after about 30 minutes of digging and powering through the mud! Whew! Today, all I could think was that we NEEDED a 4-wheel drive vehicle. . .ASAP! And when I got home, all I could think was, "Thank you Jesus for the water I can use to wash off my muddy feet!"

Awww. . .water. . .

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feeding children and making a difference

Yesterday, we fed 1,300 children. . .well, about that many. Let me tell you the story.

This was the fourth feeding program that we have done since I have been here. Each time, the food preparation gets easier and easier, even if the numbers are bigger and bigger. This time, we worked together like a well-oiled machine. We were able to get about 36 boxes filled in about 2 minutes. It was pretty impressive! We were able to pack all 1,300 boxes of food before 11 am. I even had the chance to have a little rest time in the afternoon.

When the O'Leary's showed up (Remember Sydney who raised all that money for feeding orphans? They were the ones who raised the money again for this feeding.), we packed everything into our two vehicles and took off for Kpone. It was a bumpy road getting there and I wasn't sure if the 900 boxes in our car would survive. I kept thinking that I would suddenly be showered with rice if we hit a bump too hard. But, we made it Kpone and the children were so happy to see us.

When we got there, we wanted all the children to sit down. The last two feedings, they pushed up against us so hard that, we couldn't hand out the food very effectively. So, we got the children quiet and seated, but this time, the moms were the ones who really caused the problems. They started telling their kids to push forward to get the food and it caused a big problem. The kids wouldn't stay seated. They kept moving forward. And when we would go to hand out food, the moms would even grab food out of our hands to take for themselves. It was crazy! At the end, I had people stepping on me, pushing me, pulling me, and even pinching me, all to get a box of food.

Then, when the food had finished. We tried to hand out water sachets to the remaining children who had stayed behind. Some of the older boys were mad that they were not able to get food (we tried to limit the distribution to the really young kids this time), they took some of the water sachets from the other kids and started throwing them at us. Mama Theresia got hit twice! That was when we knew it was time to leave.

All of that made me wonder if it was really helpful to serve these children a boxed meal. The mother's in this village had such a poverty-mentality that I am not sure what good we did for them, or if it was more harm than good.

We need to figure out a better way to do this. Has any one of my readers ever had a successful feeding program like this in Africa? I would LOVE some ideas for a better, more organized way of distributing the food. We know that we need to show up much earlier than the children. We'd like to set up lines of some sort, but after today, we're not sure that the mother's would honor those lines. We need some ideas so that each time we do this program, it would be easier on us, and ultimately, more helpful to the children. We don't want anyone getting hurt because someone is pushing to the front to get food.

On another note, yesterday, I finished a book I've been reading for awhile called "Cold Tangerines" (Corinne, I'll email you about it in a bit!). I started a book that Donald Miller recommended on his blog, a book by Max Lucado called "Outlive Your Live". He said it was a must-read and he was right. Even in the first few chapters, I have highlighted and written notes and was reminded about my purpose here and the ways in which I want to leave a legacy.

The book begins with a fable called "Father Benjamin" and I'd like to share it with you here:

"Unfavorable winds blow the ship off course, and when they do, the sailors spot uncharted islands. They see half a dozen mounds rising out of the blue South Seas waters. The captain orders the men to drop anchor and goes ashore. He is a robust man with a barrel chest, full beard, and curous soul.
On the first island he sees nothing but sadness. Underfed children. Tribes in conflict. No farming or food development, no treatment for the sick, and no schools. Just simple, needy people.
The second and following islands reveal more of the same. The captain sighs at what he sees, 'This is no life for these people.' But what can he do?
Then he steps onto the last and largest island. The people are healthy and well fed. Irrigation systems nourish their fields, and roads connect the villages. The children have bright eyes and strong bodies. The captain asks the chief for an explanation. How has this island moved so far ahead of the others?
The chief, who is smaller than the captain but every bit his equal in confidence, gives a quick response: 'Father Benjamin. He educated us in everything from agriculture to health. He built schools and clinics and dug wells.'
The captain asks, 'Can you take me to see him?'
The chief nods and signals for two tribesmen to join him. They guide the captain over a jungle ridge to a simple, expansive medical clinic. It is equipped with clean beds and staffed with trained caretakers. They show the captian the shelves of medicine and introduce him to the staff. The captain, though impressed, sees nothing of Father Benjamin. He repeats his request. 'I would like to see Father Benjamin. Can you take me to where he lives?'
The three natives look puzzled. They confer among themselves. After several minues the chief invites, 'Follow us to the other side of the island.' They walk along the shoreline until they reach a series of fishponds. Canals connect the ponds to the ocean. As the tide rises, fish pass from the ocean into the ponds. The islanders then lower canal gates and trap the fish for harvest.
Again the captain is amazed. He meets the fishermen and workers, gatekeepers and net casters. But he sees nothing of Father Benjamin. He wonders if he is making himself clear.
'I don't see Father Benjamin. Please take me to where he lives.'
The trio talks alone again. After some discussion the chief offers, 'Lets go up the mountain.' They lead the captain up a steep, narrow path. After many twists and turns the path deposits them in front of a grass-roofed chapel. The voice of the chief is soft and earnest. 'He has taught us about God.'
He escorts the captain inside and shows him the altar, a large wooden cross, several rows of benches, and a Bible.
'Is this where Father Benjamin lives? the captain asks.
The men nod and smile.
'May I talk to him?'
Their faces grow suddenly serious. 'Oh, that would be impossible.'
'He died many years ago.'
The bewildered captain stares at the men.
'I asked to see him, and you showed me a clinic, some fish farms, and this chapel. You said nothing of his death.'
'You didn't ask about his death,' the chief explains. 'You asked to see where he lives. We showed you.'"

I love this story and it reminds me of the legacy that I want to leave behind. Even when I was living in Menlo Park and working in EPA, even with my family and my friends, even working in low income areas in Southern California. . .I want to leave behind a legacy that is lasting. I love that working here with City of Refuge, I get to see these sustainable projects take form in our minds--fish farming for the fishermen of the Volta, work for the single mothers through a fair trade company, feeding thousands of children, farming and rain harvesting and solar energy to make the Children's Village that we'll begin building soon a self-sustaining project, taking care of the orphaned, trafficked, and vulnerable children of the North Volta region--all of these things are touches of God upon this land. Father, will you help us, help me, make a lasting legacy in YOUR name!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Always Excitement Going On

You'd think that moving to a village, everything would slow down and become a little bit more "normal", but it seems like our lives have suddenly become louder and busier, if that is even possible.
The drama never seemed to end this week at the house. We have had some staff issues and that hasn't been the easiest thing to deal with. I guess it's all a learning process, for the staff, for John and Stacy, and for me. Sometimes, things just aren't easy when you're dealing with people, and cultures, and all that comes with working and living together.
In any case,tonight, the kids begged for it to be movie night since we'll be doing our feeding program tomorrow night and are expected to be out late. Right before I started the movie, John came running in from outside and said that he needed medical attention outside. Our night guard, Atta, had fallen and cut himself and was bleeding badly. Blood is not John's favorite thing to deal with, so he was a little frantic to get help. Stacy and Mama Theresia got the first aid kit and came running with all the gauze they could find and I finished setting up the movie for the kids so they would be occupied while we worked on the man. When I got outside, he had bled through a whole roll of gauze. Apparently, Atta had just arrived and bent down to pick up his suitcase and somehow fell on this iron canopy that we have outside on the ground. It scraped off a layer of his skin on his arm and punctured his arm, severing a vein. (Joanna, I was wishing you were there for this one. The amount of blood was crazy, but let me know if we did the right thing!). Stacy and I put a tourniquet on the guy's upper arm since he was bleeding so much. We rinsed his arm off and then wrapped it in gauze and then had him elevate his arm up above his head. Then, we put him in the van and John and Stacy and some other staff took him to the hospital.
The ladies all stayed home to work on the prep for the feeding tomorrow. We're planning on feeding 1, 300 kids in a fishing village called Kpong, thanks to Sydney O'Leary and all of her fundraising. Her family is back to pick up their kids (they're adopting two) and wanted to do a feeding while they were here. It seemed like the second the van left the driveway, the storm that was coming through tonight turned off our power. The kids, all watching the movie inside, were cast into the dark and craziness then ensued. I ran inside and found Justice crying in his high chair. Mama Theresia was trying to find a flashlight and candles and we were all trying to calm down 20 kids who really just wanted to watch the Hannah Montana movie. Needless to say, the power stayed out for about an hour and a half, just long enough for the kids to almost destroy each other and then to get ready for bed! Yeah, telling 20 children to stay away from fire is just. . .well, playing with fire.
Eventually, the power came back one, John and Stacy returned with Atta (he needed stitches) and everything calmed down. Justice was put to sleep, Edwin went to bed, and I got to pray with all the kids before they hit the hay.
What an eventful evening. Now. . .on to tomorrow. Should be quite the day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Challenge

So this one is another one that I've experienced new this week. I know that it's starting to rain (and snow) in some places. My challenge, set a bucket out under that gutter when it starts to rain this week. Then, use that water to to bathe with. Yep, pour that freezing cold water on your body and see how fast you'll finish your bath then!
This week, we were running low on water (did I tell you it's a week on and a week off here??) and so when the rain came, the guys went running out with our water buckets and our shower in the morning was rain water. Ok, I might be living in a place that is pretty much 90 degrees all day and all year round, but rain is still cold wherever you go!
Enjoy your cold shower and a great way to wake yourself up for the day!

The joy of prisms, boxes, and chickens

Today, after school, we all walked home. Let me tell you, it feels like a loooooong walk home with a generator in your hands. Eventually, the kids took turns carrying it on their heads, since that's the way they do things here. Poor Valentina was covered in gasoline by the time they got it home!

In any case, this afternoon, the house was filled with wonder and laughter. When we got home, the children all gathered in the hallway staring at something on the wall. The side door at the end of the hallway has a peephole and when the sun shines through, it casts a prism on the wall. The kids were amazed at the rainbow on the wall and took turns stepping in the way of the light so the prism would fall on them instead. They loved it! Especially DK, who seems more and more interested in learning every day! (In fact, today, he created his own homework, writing down the months of the year and putting them in order over and over and over again).

Once the kids finally got started on their homework, the babies were reaking havoc on colored pencils and exercise books, so I took Caleb, Portia, Edwin, Justice, and Malvin (Malvin didn't stay very long--he still isn't used to this incredibly big obruni--I scare him quite a bit!)into my room. I brought down a suitcase and the box my guitar came in and opened them up on the floor. Talk about not having to entertain anyone--that was fun for them for about 30 minutes, until the kids had finished their and Edwin needed a diaper changed.

Mid-box playing, chickens started coming in the house, maybe for an escape from the heat. The side door was open, and every time I turned around, I saw another chicken escaping down the hallway. One had the nerve to come almost to my doorway, before he went in the hall where we are storing a bunch of our unopened bags of stuff. She must have been too excited because she laid an egg right there before DK caught her and sent her outside. Then, the next thing I know, I hear laughing coming from the boys room. I guess that one of the chickens made her way into the boys room and thought that DK's cupboard would be the perfect spot for her new nest. Miracle came running to my room, laughing so hard, to tell me the story.

Ahhhhhh. . .the joy of children. . .and prisms. . .and boxes. . .and chickens. . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A New Day at a New School

We are finally moved into our new school and today was our first day back. It's so nice to have our own building, and there are so many new things to talk about with the kids. There's no water in the school, so the kids had to go to the bathroom outside today. Tomorrow, they should be able to use the toilet, just putting in water in the toilet's tank when they go number 2. We also don't have power there, which is ok since the lights usually bring more heat, but for our projector, computer, and speakers, we need a little power. So, we have a generator that we are bringing along for the times when we need to power up to teach a lesson or to lead our morning meetings. Today, I thought to myself a few times, "Wow! This is really different from teaching in the States." It would be so interesting to bring a few of my kids from past years here and see what they think. For us here, it's just normal. I am used to bucket baths, and filling toilet tanks, and power that isn't too trustworthy. Yet, I know that even working in more low income areas, the students expect certain things to be there (like power and working toilets). If only, for just a few days, they could trade places and experience life somewhere else, I wonder what they would think?

Today, I was thinking about a family that I've been so blessed to get to meet, the O'Leary's who are adopting from Ghana. They felt called to care for the orphaned as Jesus asks us to, so they are adopting a couple of children that were orphaned and vulnerable (they lived in the Volta region). As I looked at every face of the kids I was teaching today, I thought about the call of God to take care of the widowed and orphaned. Almost every child in our care, except for John and Stacy's biological children, are orphaned, some trafficked into slavery. And when I think about the struggles we're facing with discipline, and with teaching them what they need to know to be on level, and learning how to communicate best with my accent (yeah, our phonics lesson on "ir", "er", and "ur" wasn't too successful today), I think, "What a priveledge it is to get to be the hands and feet of Jesus" and I pray that God will continually be remolding and shaping me so that I am a better image bearer of Jesus so that I can love them more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A lovely evening

The weather here is cooler in the evening and the nights are beautiful. Last night, after a day where I wasn't feeling quite myself with a headache all day, we went and ate outside.

After dinner, the kids came outside to enjoy the cooler night air and some of the bigger kids put the little ones in all of our little push toys and pushed them around the yard. It was so cute! They little ones were just giggling and giggling when the big ones pushed them around.

Afterwards, we all gathered in the living room. At first, I thought the kids were just going to be begging me for a movie night (they love watching movies with the projector), but they didn't. Instead, we just played together. It was so fun!

After last night, I knew that this move would work out. I think I just needed that little reassurance that it wasn't just going to be crowd control, but it would also be fun and I would have the time to myself that I needed as well.

Today, we spent the day getting the school set up. We got it mostly put together, except for Uncle Mark's class (since he has no furniture yet). The rooms look so cute, much more organized, and I'm looking forward to the new space.

School tomorrow! We'll see how it goes in the new place!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Our internet is finally up and running. I'm so excited to check in on all the news from friends and family. It's so strange how even a couple of days has me feeling so disconnected from my loved ones back home.

We are finally moved into our home in Doryum. It was a crazy couple of days, with all of us waking up with aches and pains and suddenly muscles were sore where we were certain there weren't muscles before. Our first night in Doryum, I was more than a little overwhelmed at the task we had ahead of us. We had arrived at 8:30 in the evening, and as we drove into the compound, there wasn’t a spare foot that hadn’t been covered in tables, chairs, wood, bags of clothing, and children. The electricity was only at ½ current, light so dim, it wasn’t even worth it to have it on. The fans weren’t able to spin and night was hot and humid. I honestly thought, “What did we get ourselves in to?”. Everyone took turns in the bathroom, all lined up with our buckets of water (for water has not yet been brought inside the house) and sponges in hand. I watched the dirt of the day slip down the drain, the dirt of Tema, which I’ve called my home for the past three months, and imagined what our life would look like here in Doryum. As I laid down to sleep on a mat on the floor, my body was so weary, yet it took a while for my brain to slow down as I lay processing all that a move to the village will entail. Finally, sleep overtook me, and despite the heat, my first night in our new home ended in peaceful dreams.

When I woke up, I looked out the window of my new room. There wasn’t another house to take my view. No sound of cars driving by. The voices outside my window were those of little children just waking, and of breakfast being prepared, and of chickens (always the chickens). The view out my window was that of Africa. There isn’t anywhere else in the world just like this place. Trees that only belong in this landscape. High grasses. Bushes as green as if it were spring (though it seems to be summer here all year round). And the mountains, the beautiful mountains of this place. And I thought to myself, despite all the challenges that moving to this place might bring, this is just where we need to be.

The past couple of days have been a flurry of busyness. . .settling into our new rooms, unpacking, moving things around, creating room, and creating a home. It's definitely not quiet here in the house. The voices of 20+ children echo all the time, except for when it's time to sleep. I am never for want of company or a hand to hold. I get to spend more time with my little Edwin too. Every morning, his two hands that reach up for a morning hug are all that I need to remind me that this isn't about ME and space and so many living together, it is about THEM and their healing and loving them with the love of their FATHER in heaven. And now, with the house settled in, it is beginning to look more like a HOME. I loved the houses in Tema, but they were big and cavernous and now this is more like a home. Together, sharing the duties and living together as a family.

The other day, the NYU students came by to spend some time with the kids. Trevor and Sam said something about being recharged everytime they come to spend time with the kids. I replied telling them that I was glad that they were able to recieve so much from the kids. Often times, I feel drained after a long days work with all of them. And as I thought about it, I realized it wasn't because I didn't like spending time with the kids, but it is because we are a FAMILY now. I'm part of their family, not just a passing fad in their life. It's easy to laugh together, and it's easy to get tired with them, because that's what it's like when you live together as a family. I love that I get to be in this family for this season. What a gift!

Keep your eyes looking for pictures on facebook of the new place!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wednesday Challenge. . .and an update

So, this week, I want you to pull out a bucket and fill it with water. Bring it with you into the bathroom with a cup. Now, don't turn on that shower or even try to cheat with a little warm water in the bucket. This is now your shower water. So, scrub up!

This past week, here in Tema, we haven't had any water. Usually, we have water everyday here, so it's a little weird to not have access to any water. So, we get some water from our polytank to do our bathing and cooking. You just dump water on yourself to get wet, lather up your soap and shampoo, clean yourself off and your out of the bath pretty quick! I think it's something I'm just going to have to get really used to as Doryum has water access only every other week. Yesterday, we bought a huge polytank to hook up to the house for our water supply, but I don't know how well that will last for 30 of us in a house! We shall see, huh?

The move is going well. The Freedom Center is getting closer and closer to finishing. I think we'll finish it up today. Now, begin the setup process. The new house is just a mess. But, today, we'll be putting up curtains, setting up bunkbeds, laying down flooring, and all that jazz. Tonight will probably be the last night in Tema. I'm pretty sure that we'll be out in Doryum tomorrow night. So, after tonight, I don't know what access I will have to internet for awhile.

Yesterday, we discovered that we will definitely need a generator to run the house. The power is frequently off, but with large freezers and 30 people in and out of the house, we have to have access to power. We're discovering that we really are moving to the bush. Doryum is considered a developing area, but in some ways, Northern Volta is still ahead of Doryum with it's access to water and power. But, part of the reason for moving there is to help with community development. We'll see what happens once we move to this new community!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moving. . .moving. . .moving

The nice thing about teaching at a school with the same kids that you live with is that when something big happens, you don't have to call in a sub, you just cancel classes.

The other night, we got a call from the landlord of the Freedom Center and he wanted us out ASAP. He wouldn't budge on the time frame for us to leave, so instead of heading to Accra to work out visa/work permit things, we headed to the Freedom Center to move everything out. We had a busy morning, moving things outside the Freedom Center to be loaded into trucks later. When the truck finally came, we loaded up in the van and took off for Doryum.

Once we unloaded the first truck in Doryum, we had to wait for the second truck to arrive. It took about 3 hours of waiting, but the truck finally came. Today, we should have more supplies that we need to reassemble bunkbeds and hang up curtains and all that jazz so that we won't just be waiting around.

It's going to be really different living in the village. The water is only on every other week, so we have to bring in a huge storage tank so we'll have a water supply at the house. The power is kind of come and go. And there will be almost 30 of us living in one house for the time being. Internet access will be limited, at least for now. But, I know that God has called us to Doryum, so we're headed there. It really is quite a beautiful place. It's surrounded by mountains and sometimes the clouds creep down lower on the hills and it reminds me a bit of the 280 in the bay area where the clouds roll in over the hills. It's so pretty! And it's cooler there, which is nice, since it's been so warm here lately.

So, even though life is going to change a bit for us over the next couple of weeks, I think it's a good change. Hopefully, it will bring about a sense of great community between the two houses and we'll continue to see change in the kids as they go to school!