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, December 25, 2010

Christmas and the Beauty of Family

What a full day today! I love Christmas every year. It certainly has changed over the years, but some traditions never change!

When we were younger and my sister and I shared a room, we would have a terrible time sleeping on Christmas night. Eventually, usually around 3 am, my brother would come into our room and we'd kinda just hang out until our 6 am "allowance time" to get up and run upstairs to check out what Santa brought.

As time went on, even as a high schooler and into college, I still struggled with sleeping through the night on Christmas Eve. And even when my sister and I had seperate rooms and after I had moved out and on to college, I would bunk up with my sister on Christmas Eve and share the excitement of all that comes with Christmas with my sister!

And even now, an adult, each Christmas, Andrea and I move into Bri's room for Christmas Eve and enjoy sharing sleeping space and a little sister love!

This morning, we were up at 7 and downstairs opening up our stockings and seeing what Santa had brought the other kids. After a little pumpkin deliciousness (thank you Aunt Peggy), we opened up the rest of our family gifts and then it was time to get cooking. For our Christmas this year, we had a "multi-cultural Christmas meal". My mom made Chinese as well as Jenn (my brother Chris' wife). My grandma and Ray made a deep fried turkey and stuffing. And I made jallof rice, beans and plantain, and ground nut soup and rice ball. I have to tell you that it wasn't quite the same as in Ghana, but it was familiar enough. I added way too many spices and everything was pretty piping spicy! But, it was fun to try my hand at some Ghanaian recipes and to see what would happen. A few more times practicing it and I think I'll get it down!

After a delicious and VERY FILLING meal, we headed downstairs for gift-opening time. It was so fun to watch Kayden, my little 1 1/2 year old nephew opening gifts. He is just so stinkin' adorable! He would tear a tiny piece of paper off of a packacke, hand it to his mom, tear another little piece, hand it to his mom, until the whole package was unwrapped! He was so cute when he opened up the little african outfit I had got for him. He started taking off his sweater and wanted his new shirt put on right away. So cute!

After gifts, my mom and sister passed out puzzle pieces that Andrea, Bri, and I had made the night before. My mom wanted to play some kind of game that would demonstrate all the different families that come together to make one family on Christmas day. So, after passing out all the puzzle pieces, we all sat down to figure out how the puzzle would go together. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but after some time and a few hands helping out, we were able to put together the colorful Christmas tree puzzle!

It was fun to see my Grandma, cousins, and all the other family members that got come and celebrate with us today. I just love time with my family and Christmas is just one holiday that makes me feel so absolutely BLESSED to be a part of the family that I am a part of. Loving, giving, full of laughter, and always, always, always inviting more and more people to be a part of the family for our special day!

Merry Christmas to ALL OF YOU!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Worlds Collide, but mostly in my mind

I have so enjoyed my time at home and mostly feel like it hasn't been long enough, but there have been strange moments where some of the things I have learned or habits I have gained in Ghana come rushing through my mind.

For instance, yesterday, I was leaving my Grandma and Grandpa's house after visiting with them and I lifted my hand to wave goodbye and immediately I thought, "I'm waving with my left hand, HOW RUDE! Better wave with my right hand!". So I switched my hands to wave bye to my grandma. And that is when it crossed my mind that I was in America and it really didn't matter what hand I used for anything.

And then when I woke up this morning, my back hurt a little bit (which is pretty common for me) and my first thought, "My back is paining me!". And then I almost laughed outloud because it's such a funny saying in the first place, and then that it was my first response to the pain I was feeling.

And last night, I had some weird dream about rescuing children with Stacy, John, and the NYU volunteers from last semester. Random. . .

When I'm in Ghana, most of the ways I react to things are very American, and the things I dream about are all about my life here in America. And yet, I leave for even a short while, and I realize that Ghana has impacted my life in even the smallest of things.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I thought that it would be a tougher adjustment coming home than it has been. I've been enjoying a few things that I missed while in Ghana:

*warm showers

*lots of chocolate

*convos with my parents

*phone convos with my besties

*a few of my favorite tv shows

*Christmas music and movies

*quality time with my favorite people

The one place that has probably overwhelmed me the most has been Wal-Mart. In California, I wasn't really a Wal-Mart shopper, but here in CO, there is one in every town. When I first entered Wal-Mart, my first comment to my mom was, "This place is so big." It is overwhelming how much stuff is in that store--necessary and unnecessary STUFF--stuff that will be wasted and stuff that will be used. It just made me think. . ."Wow! We live with so much here in the States." I wonder what would happen if we set aside our wants this Christmas and thought about the needs of the world. . .hmmmmm.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I woke up early this morning, which is ok since I went to sleep so early, and after going to the bathroom, I peeked out the window and what did I find? Snow! It's been looking pretty dry here and a not so Christmasy, and a little snowfall was all I needed to feel more in the mood.

Will now take out the Christmas music, begin the Christmas cooking, and watch a few Christmas movies. The season has officially begun for me!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some sleep is all I need

It's been so nice to be home with my family these past few days. It has been pretty restful as I've been able to work on a few projects, wrap a few gifts, and catch up on a few of my favorite shows that I've missed out on (namely Glee and The Office).

The hardest part about being home, so far, has been getting used to the time change. I have been trying to stay up as late as possible so that I can sleep through the night and each day has been getting progressively better. By 3:00 in the afternoon, I'm absolutely exhausted (as that is 10:00 pm and my bedtime in Ghana). Each morning, I wake up a little bit later (from 3:30 am my first morning, to 5 yesterday, to 6 this morning). I think I'm settling in.

One thing I'm enjoying immensely--running water. And even better, running HOT water. I wouldn't need that in Ghana, but for Colorado, hot water is very nice! My feet never seem to be warm, so it's nice to enjoy a warm shower each morning.

This morning, I'm going to talk to Savannah's class (she's in middle school) about Ghana, particularly about child trafficking and the work that City of Refuge does in Ghana. I'm excited to see what questions come of my time in her class. Maybe, when I leave, there will be a classroom full of middle school abolitionists! We'll see!

I also get to spend my lunch today with Jenn, Chris, and Kayden. That will be fun! I'm excited to see my brother and his family. And Kayden, well, since I only see him every six months, it's crazy to see how much he grows! We'll also do a little shopping for our Christmas foods. We'll see what we get!

So far, being home has been just what I needed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coming Home

Yesterday afternoon, I left the Freedom Center in Doryum to come to Accra for the afternoon before my flight left last night. I had to keep telling myself, "You're coming back in a month." But still, it was difficult to say goodbye to my kiddos. When Gracie started crying and Robert couldn't even look at me when I left, I knew that it wasn't going to be easy to leave! And my Edwin. . .I can't even start with that one! He came walking into my room minutes before leaving, "Mama, Mama, Mama!!" (he usually calls me "mama" or "dada" which we figure is Edwin-talk for Auntie Autum). It was almost like he knew I was going to take off soon. It's weird how a few months pass and my life is so completely different than it was before.

A few months ago, I was living and teaching in EPA. I had roommates, a car of my own, and was living a pretty independent life.

Now, I've realized that my life is not at all independent. I have to depend on God to provide my every need. My funds come not through a paycheck, but through my community of donors in the States. My food choices is made by the Freedom Center staff who cooks each meal for the 20 children we house and the 10 staff members that are part of our ministry. My ability to shower comes down to whether it has rained enough, or the tap is running, or the tank is full. And even my sleep is dependent on how well my little Edwin sleeps. My life has completely changed.

And it makes me wonder how my adjustment this month is going to be. I know that Stacy was praying that it would be a smooth transition returning home, since my trip back is so full. And I pray the same thing too. But, I just wonder, how has my vision changed (not literal, but figuratively). As I view my American life, what will I see now? I suppose it's a different kind of journey that I will take on this soil.

As I look at my tennis shoes, now brown from the dust and mud of the soil of Ghana, I know that somehow these two worlds will collide, will mix together, will make a new me. And the process begins now. . .

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dancing Home

Yesterday, was my last day of teaching before I go home. I will be here all day on Monday, but I have a feeling that it's going to be kinda a busy day as I have to be at the airport early and need to make sure all my bags make weight!

In any case, yesterday was a fun day at school. The other teachers didn't show up until late, so we put together puzzles, played math games, and ate a yummy lunch together. Then, it was time to rehearse for our performance. I was worried that it wasn't going to come together because we practiced and practiced and they still weren't doing what they were supposed to do, but when everyone arrived to see the program, the kids did great! They all remembered what they were supposed to do and did everything well! The show was a hit. . .the only request was that it be longer with more dancing next time. We'll have to work on that for next time!

Last night, we celebrated the quarter's birthdays (October, November, December). Mershak, Portia, Mama Theresia and Daddy Joseph, and Stacy. We had a feast together, had a beautiful cake, and then we danced the night away. We had so much fun taking turns dancing and JJ won the dance contest for his amazing dance moves. Even Edwin enjoyed the dance party! He swung his arms out and turned in circles and then would walk back to his starting point with his hands on his head and the arms would start again. It was so funny!

What a night! It was a good memory to take with me when I go home in just a couple more days! How is that possible?? Time really does fly!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Challenge

This is the last GHANIAN challenge for awhile as next Wednesday, I will be back in Colorado enjoying time with my family. Perhaps I'll have to post an "American Challenge" for my family back in Ghana!

This week the challenge is for parents. So, if you don't have any kids, just enjoy the post!

Here in Ghana, there are no baby wipes for dirty bottoms and there usually aren't any bathtubs for bathing. Instead, a poopy diaper (cloth diapers mind you), brings you to a bucket of water. You stick the baby inside the bucket and rinse, rinse, rinse--the baby is clean and ready for a new diaper.

It's been funny getting used to this with Edwin. Babies here are so used to this process, then know that if you are coming at them with tissue, they'll bend right over so you can wipe their bottoms and they'll walk straight to the water for a rinse.

Bathtime happens usually right after dinner. The little ones don't head inside for a bath. Nope, they're plopped down in the middle of a bucket, soaped up, and rinsed off. The bath takes less than five minutes--there is no playing around with bathtime here. AND, it teaches water conservation (for those who like to recycle and keep the planet green).

So, your challenge? Grab a bucket and head out to the backyard the next time your kid has a dirty diaper. No bucket? The hose will do. Rinse of the baby in the water and then bundle him back up in the diapers in no time flat. And bathtime, head outside again!! Wash fast and make sure to keep the water limited to less than a bucket! Your child probably won't be happy with you (especially since it's COLD there), but hey, it's a once in a lifetime Ghanian experience!

Good luck moms and dads!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Adventures at Akosombo and Accra

Today was an eventful day. We had our field trip with the kids to the Akosombo Dam this morning. The kids were excited for the excursion and I was excited to see the place that makes up Lake Volta. Our tour was given, oddly enough, by a man named Freedom (interesting that he is giving the City of Refuge tour. . .coincidence?? I think not!). He was really great with the kids. He taught them a meaning of a dam, what the Akosombo dam is used for (hydroelectricity) and so much more! I learned that the dam was built by the French in the 1960s and it took three years to build. The electricity that is created by the waters at the dam is used for all of Ghana and is also sent to Benin, Togo, and Burkina Faso (who also dammed up some of their rivers to flow into the Lake Volta as well). Lake Volta is the LARGEST manmade lake in the world! That's pretty huge! It was a really interesting tour and we had fun afterwards, eating corn and coconut, chowing down on some tuna fish sandwhiches, and enjoying hanging out together.

This afternoon, I got a chance to rest a little bit, get some paperwork done, and spend some time in worship. That was good and it's much needed as the end of this term has been a little stressful getting everyone's work together and graded, putting together exams, and all that jazz!

Tonight, we were supposed to go to Accra for the showing of the NYU documentary (the one that they taped when we took them to the Volta region). Unfortunately, we got a flat tire on the van and we are out of spares, so we had to find another form of transportation. John called up a taxi friend and he set us up with a cab, but the taxi driver got stuck in traffic, so that meant, it was time for us to walk. It was already dark, so in our nice attire (we were all dressed up), we hoofed it to the village in hopes of coming across our cab sooner than we expected. The looks that a couple of white girls get stomping through the center of the village in our Sunday best, yeah, that was pretty priceless.

We were almost to the police station when a big vehicle started coming our way. Stacy and I stepped off the road to give them way, and found ourselves ankle deep in mud! I only got one foot in and it wasn't too bad, but Stacy, she really got it! Her skirt, her shoes--it was like she was stepping in quicksand! Even her shoe was lost for awhile, until John saved it from the mud. We sloshed our way to the police station and asked for some water to clean up. The policeman called for a little neighbor boy to bring us some water and we were able to get, well, most of the mud off! Then, it was time to just WAIT. By that point, the cabbie's phone network wasn't working (which is common in our village), so we couldn't tell where he was. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, the policeman pulled over a passing truck and asked if he could take us to the next village where we could pick up a taxi a little easier than in Doryum. So, we climbed in and took off towards Alfienya.

Of course, as soon as we got in the truck, the taxi driver drove by us! So, John called him again, his network finally up and running, and told him to meet us in Alfienya or we would find a different taxi. So, off we went in the little truck. The only time I looked ahead was when I saw the spedometer read more than 100 mph. After that, I just closed my eyes and prayed that we would make it safely to Accra!

After the man, our new friend Eric, dropped us off in Alfienya, we only had to wait for a few minutes before the taxi driver showed up. And we were off! We had to be in Accra by 8:15 pm, but being that it was already past 7, I wasn't sure we would make it. But, John called the NYU students and asked if it was possible to have a later start time. Luckily, they were able to switch some things around and we had until 9 pm to get to their place in Accra.

When we finally made it to Accra, we realized that finding their school building in La Bone would be the difficult part of the journey. We roamed around a bit before getting close and having someone come out to find us. We finally made it and the NYU students were so excited! It felt like a huge reception when we got there. All of our volunteers and our intern, all the kids that went with us to the Volta--it was an amazing entrance!

We found out that the sound system had blown before we got there, so none of the videos had been shown yet. We chatted with the kids and got to see their classrooms and where they had been staying for these past 5 months. It was fun to kinda put a picture to what they had told me about their stay.

We watched 3 films that the students had worked on during the course of the semester. The first was on the traditional religions of Ghana. It was interesting and eye-opening. The second was our film, VOLTA. The students did an excellent job of putting it together. They really tried to capture so many points of view in the 15 minutes that they had to display the issue. They really showed how it was an issue that is hidden but needs to be exposed. And I loved the way that they showed DK--a freed boy, able to attend school and learn and grow and play as he wishes! We were so excited with the outcome and the possibility of use for the film in the future! Way to go NYU film team!!! The last one was on the first president of Ghana. It was interesting too, but perhaps I'm biased. I have to say that I loved VOLTA the best! After the films, Rosemary got up to perform her poem, Phenomenal Woman. She did great! I was so proud of her!

At the very end of the night, we had to say goodbye to everyone. It was sad to see them go as we've so enjoyed having them around. What a blessing they've been to our ministry and our children. I think it was good that we finally made it there tonight. They were so excited to see us!

When all was said and done and we were home, at almost midnight, I thought about today's adventure and realize. . .well, just another day in the life here in Ghana! You never know what to expect! And. . .I think I like that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living in FAITH

Each season of my life, for the past 5 years at least, I have chosen a word to represent my walk of faith. Usually, it's almost as if God chooses the word for me as he leads me through different things. For almost a year, I was in a season of SURRENDER. I have lived through seasons of JOY, UNVEILING, and REDEMPTION. This season has been one of FAITH, as I've been recently reminded of (thank you mini-family--Jenni and the gals--you prayed for me with this word a few weeks ago in your message!).

Before I came to Ghana, Priscilla Tyree and another Southlander prayed over me three things: 1) Faith for finances, 2) Faith for opened and closed doors, and 3) Faith for the miraculous. Even though it took a great deal of faith and obedience to get me here, I feel as though, in some ways, I've forgotten to have faith for bigger things than what I already see in this day to day journey here. But, it seems, lately God has been reminding me to have faith for great things.

I think of the way that I lived even 6 months ago. I was dependent on a paycheck, on my car working when I woke up in the morning, on the water being warm for my shower, on the electricity that it took to turn on our heater in the winter, on a friend's voice over the phone when I needed a chat, on access to internet, and so much more. In so many ways, my life has changed. My dependency isn't really on temporal things. It's become very apparent that nothing in this world really lasts. The only thing that I can depend on is God and I can have FAITH that HE ALONE is working in the relationships that I'm creating here and that through Him, I'm leaving something behind that is real and lasting.

So, I guess I am living in faith. I just don't want to forget that! As I think about it, I see big decisions that are on my horizons, decisions about the next year, and I'm praying IN FAITH, that God will open and close doors as He sees fit. I'm praying IN FAITH over Edwin as I care for him on a day to day basis, that God will work miracles in his life. I'm praying IN FAITH over my time at home this Christmas that God will breathe on me his rest. I'm praying IN FAITH, that in this new year, we will see AMAZING things pop up at City of Refuge that even we can't understand--opportunities for exposure, for ministry, for evangelism, for prayer, for development, for God to be made known. And I'm even moved to pray (due to a sermon I heard this Sunday) IN FAITH for my future husband.

God, expand my faith. I want to believe in You for the biggest of the big!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Moments in a Day

Today, it felt like my day was made up of these absolutely beautiful moments. Here are few to share with you.

*A whole nights sleep with Edwin led to a smiling boy (and a smiling Autumn) in the morning.

*Paul and Robert helped me clean my bathroom and mop my room. They were just working together so well and were so cheerful cleaning together. So proud of the boys!

*Stacy came to get me to snap some pictures of the babies outside. John and Stacy bought a blow up pool yesterday at the market and you should have seen the fun that the babies had. Oh my goodness! Justice was a little fish in that pool. And Edwin kept putting his head in the water and then coming up sputtering and laughing. And Portia and Caleb loved to splash each other and then float around on their backs or tummies. It was adorable!

*We brought the NYU students here for their last day with us for the semester. Deloris and Tanji had a presentation prepared for the kids. They talked about loving themselves and having a vision for what they want to be when they grow up and going for that vision. The kids were really into it and they just LOVED it! It was awesome. And Rosemary really enjoyed it. She needs to be reminded of the truth she heard today from these girls!

*Stacy and I worked with Lucy, Lydia, and Anas to make our mexican burritos. I have to say that it was a hit!

*We got to chat with the NYU students about their experience and what to do for future volunteers. I think what they talked about will really help us put together a handbook for them and help us to develop our volunteer program even better.

*Eventually, the NYU students had to go back to Accra, so the kids gathered around around them and prayed over them and then John gave words to each of them. It was powerful. He really had it right for each of them. . .he knew of Jess's quiet and gentle spirt, Leila's intellegence and living from her heart, Tanji's passion for writing and the gift that it is, Candace's miracle of a life and to continue to live it passionately, and Deloris' love for others. It was just such a sweet time. Robert, my tender 15 year old, was crying. And Aaron, who hates goodbyes, was not enjoying being out and having to say goodbye to people who had really created a good friendship with him. We are so glad to have had these beautiful people as part of the CORM team this semester.

*On the trip back home from Tema, I was just reminded that God really does know me well. I love spending time with Stacy and John and he knew that he would be bringing me to my "heart" family when he was bringing me here!

*Our dinner time convo was about the Holy Spirit's work in the church and in the lives of people. It was such a good conversation and made me excited to see more of what God is going to do this year. One of the things that was spoken over me before I came was that I would need to have faith that God would do some supernatural things in my time here. I'm still living in expectation for that and am praying for more faith to see the Holy Spirit at work in my life and the lives of these children and the people that we minister to.

*Edwin went to sleep with no troubles tonight. Not a peep. He just went to sleep and I'm praying that he'll stay asleep til morning!

I loved my day of beautiful Ghana moments!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Challenge and other thoughts

Your Wednesday challenge this week is to sweep up after yourself. Here, people take pride in a clean house and compound. Since everyone is always walking around in the dirt, there is constantly a broom in motion either in the house or out around the yard. You'll even see people sweeping the dirt in front of their houses so that it is nice and neat.

The past couple of mornings, Edwin has been waking up at 4:30 am thinking it's time to play, so I've been awake a little earlier than normal. Around 5:00, I start hearing the swish, swish of the broom outside my bedroom door. The kids all have a designated area to sweep each morning. As soon as their eyes pop open, they are out and about sweeping up. When I come out with Edwin, all the rooms are swept and mopped, the front of the house is swept clean, trash is thrown in the trash pile to be burned, and shoes are all lined up in front of the step ready to be put on for the walk to school.

So, my challenge for you, grab a broom first thing in the morning. Do a quick sweep of the house. For those who have carpeting EVERYWHERE (which is practically non-existant here), grab a vaccuum and do a little "sweeping up" with the vaccuum. Or, even better, grab your broom and find some dirt that needs a little straightening out!

As for some other thoughts about life lately, it's been busy. Here are a few random notes about some of things that have been going on lately. I haven't been able to access my email or blog very regularly lately, so my posts are a little farther apart than usual. In any case, I'm hoping this one posts so you'll get to hear what's been going on with us lately!

We're getting ready for our final exams for the term next week. For me, that means getting tests ready for all the leveled students in my class and teaching the teachers how to use the new report card system and putting together standardized report cards as well. Ack!

We met with the chiefs of Doryum yesterday about an issue we are having with the land registration. It went well and John and Stacy will be meeting again with the chiefs tomorrow at 7:00 am. We are really praying that God comes through in a powerful way and brings the land registration forward so that the building permit can be processed.

As mentioned above, Edwin hasn't been sleeping that well. He's usually up at least once in the night and then up at 4:30 in the morning ready to go! So, I've been up early too. Tonight, I've turned on some worship music and we'll see if that keeps him asleep. He's a tosser and turner for sure and sometimes that even wakes me up because I think that he's gotten up, but he's just rolled another direction on the bed. Anyway, I'm hoping for a little more sleep tonight.

Some exciting news. . .My Aunt Peggy sent me this HUGE box right before Thanksgiving. It was AMAZING! All kinds of things for the school, and cake and brownies for us, as Velveeta cheese for us Americans who are missing it like CRAZY! The kids were so excited for the box to be opened (I kept them in suspense!). It was such a nice package and the kids have been excited to get their hands on some of the prizes that Aunt Peggy included in the box when they go to the treasure chest tomorrow with their Kind Cash (our money system). She sent those plastic rubber bands that are shaped like animals and all those different shapes. You know what I'm talking about? And all the kids trade them? Yeah, the kids are super excited for those.

In other news, I can't believe I'm leaving in just a little over a week. Today, Miracle and DK helped me empty out some suitcases and start filling them up with some of the gifts and items I'm bringing home with me to sell. Just can't believe that I've been here for almost 5 months. So crazy!

I've got to tuck myself into bed. The early mornings are getting to me about now! Goodnight!