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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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Leaving Home

You know, a child never really leaves their nest.

I left home at 18 years old to go to college. I left with braces on my teeth and wore overalls for the majority of my freshman year (you can take the girl out of the country, but never the country out of the girl...apparently). It was there that I met friends that I have now known for 12 years. We had all kinds of adventures and we eventually graduated from college, still best friends.I returned home to my family during the holidays and occasionally in the summer to visit, but my life was elsewhere after college. I worked in California, lived in California, and was a busy person.

And then comes the inevitable day when I got my first teaching job. I moved up the the Bay Area and taught 3rd grade in a low income community. And it was tough.
I think it's those tough experiences that push you back home. I remember calling my mom sometimes daily about some of my troublemaker kids. That first year was extremely difficult and exhausting. The holidays were opportunities to get away...to rest...to just "be".

Sometimes, I think that the farther you get away from home...the more you just want to be home.

So, when I moved to Africa, I think that my first few months there, all I could think about was being home...and comfortable...and with people who knew me well.

I think that even though I left home 12 years ago (is that really possible?), I never really left home. It resides here...in this place in my heart...

I still need my parent's wisdom.

I still need the laughter that only cheesy dad jokes can bring.

I still need the tears of a good story that my mom can tell.

I still need the music of a family singing and dancing together.

I still need HOME.

And I suppose that even at 30, when I've had so many other "homes" in my life...there is still something to be said for "home"...the place you grew up, the arms that have held you your whole life.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Autumn's Annual 2011

Every year, I try to put together a newsletter of events from the year before. Here is a little snapshot of my busy past year!!!

Autumn’s Annual


Seeing God’s Hand at Work in Ghana, West Africa

This has been an extremely busy year and quite an adventure!

As many of you know, I taught for most of the year and really enjoyed my daily time with the kids. I also cared for a small boy at City of Refuge, Edwin, for the majority of the year. Both of these duties came with great joy, but also great exhaustion!! The saying is true, “It takes a village to raise a child”. At CORM, we certainly do work together to raise our children and see God’s handiwork alive and well in their lives.

Here is a little picture of our lives this year.

In January, we dedicated our children’s village site to the Lord and broke ground for all of our projects. We started construction on our two houses and our school and got busy building! We had almost 40 workers on our site everyday digging foundations and building. It was amazing to see the progress as each week passed!

We had our friends from YGAP Australia (Y-Generation against Poverty) join us in February and March. We made a couple trips up to the Volta with them, did some feeds, brainstormed, and overall, were encouraged by their presence and support. We also had visitors come through from Ohio and Semester at Sea around that time. January through June…seemed like we had a constant flow of visitors! Which was fun, but busy!

In April, I was so lucky to be able to have one of my best friends, Katie Majewski, come and visit me in Ghana. She came out to help plan our summer day camp program. It was wonderful to have her out there with me. She made me laugh so much and it was so much fun to show her a piece of my life in Ghana.

April was also busy as we started up our single mother’s program called 7 Continents in Tema New Town. It is our answer to stopping the problem of child trafficking at the root of the issue.

May and June were busy months with more visitors coming through from Finding Refuge, our partner program from Semester at Sea, and my family coming to visit. It was so wonderful to have my mom, sister Brianna, and foster brother Chris, come and spend a couple of weeks with me in Ghana. We had dance parties, a trip to the Volta, games, walks around Doryumu, and so much more. We even got to take a trip to Cape Coast, which was really fun. I think they really got a little taste for my life there. It was such a joy to have them there.

In July, I finished up the third term of our school year. I taught a combination class of our City of Refuge kids. I had 9 students: 2 second grade students, 3 3rd graders, 3 5th graders, and 1 8th grader. It was a busy year, but I was so impressed with the growth of the kids throughout the school year. They did so well!

When the term ended, I took off for the States. I was close to burn out by the time I left, so it was so nice to just get a bit of a break and enjoy some time in all the places I consider “home” in the U.S.

I went first to my friend’s, The Roberts, in Southern California. We joined with our friends from college, The Beatniks, for 5 days up at Big Bear. It was wonderful! We rented a cabin and enjoyed each other’s company for the whole week. It’s so fun now that we have babies added to the mix too. Always someone to cuddle with!

After my time in Southern California, I went to Northern California to visit my friends there. I got to spend some time with PCC (my sending church); friends from my former school (Brentwood Academy), and got to get away with some of my best friends. My friends and I went away to a cabin for the weekend and it was amazing. We rented boats, sang songs and played games, and had an amazing murder mystery dinner one night. It was awesome!

My final trip in August was to Colorado to visit my family. It was beautiful in Colorado and I got to spend a lot of time outside with the fam. We went boating and mini-truck driving. It was such a blast!

When I arrived back in Ghana, it was a pleasure to meet our two newest additions to City of Refuge, Dora and Mary. They were rescued while I was in the States and they are just wonderful girls! It was also so fun to have familiar faces around when I got into Ghana—my friends Christy (from Redwood City, CA) and Tom (from Melbourne, Australia). It was so fun to have them there when I arrived. It gave me a few days to settle in before the busyness of the school year settled in.

With my new role as principal at Faith Roots, my responsibilities changed a bit at City of Refuge. Edwin moved in with Mama Theresia and Daddy Joe, which gave me an opportunity to get more rest. I went from teaching full time to principal all the time. The end of August and beginning of September ushered in time for SCHOOL, SCHOOL, SCHOOL!!! We had to get the school building ready for school to start, make sure teachers were trained, and register students for the term. It was a really busy “welcome back” to Ghana! My days were very long, sometimes quite tedious preparing, preparing, preparing. And, like any first day of school, September 7th came with butterflies in my stomach. About 35 students showed up that first day, but by the end of that first week, our school was already registered with 120 students! Needless to say, it was a pretty stressful first couple of months of school. My role was completely different, more was expected of me, and I was busy every day of the week. But, as time has gone on, I have been able to feel more comfortable in my role and seen the school progress.

The majority of our students have big needs. Many of them come from schools that gave them less than ideal educations (50+ students per classroom with very little quality instruction). There is a lot to battle with students coming from backgrounds like these, but we’re working on creating change! We’ll continue to pray that God will continue to work in their lives.

We had some big events near the end of the year. In November, our baby Princess was adopted out to a family from the States, the Beute’s. We were so sad to see her go, but know that she is being so well cared for and loved so generously in their home. We also hosted a Thanksgiving Celebration for all of our families at school as well as some of our friends living in Ghana. And, at the end of November, we finally all moved out to the Children’s Village site. We moved without electricity, having faith that God would provide it.

In December, John and Stacy and their kids left for the States. I was excited for them to get the chance to spend time with their family. What a treat! It was a little strange being there as the only “obruni”, but I enjoyed my time with the kids and especially liked living close to the school. We finished up our first term with relative ease and December 16th, I headed back out to the States.

I’ve been spending time with my family and loving it! It snowed within my first few days here in Colorado and it has been wonderful enjoying a white Christmas, playing in the snow, and participating in all kinds of our family traditions. I’m planning on continuing my time in the States with a trip to Portland, OR to visit friends, back to Northern California and my home church and friends there, and a final trip to North Carolina to visit my sister Andrea and friends. I plan on returning to the States a year from now, so it’s quite a trip this time!

This year has been a year of joy, heartache, passion, faith, miracles, and so much more! We’ve seen God’s hand at work and tried to follow where he leads. It definitely keeps us busy!

Wishing you many blessings for the 2012 year!


Autumn Buzzell

Keep in Touch!

If you want to be added to my monthly newsletters or monthly prayer team newsletters, please email me at autumnbuzzell@gmail.com.

Keep up with me at www.autumnbuzzell.blogspot.com.

To see what we’re up to at Faith Roots, check out: www.faithrootsinternational.com.

If you want to send a financial donation, write your check to City of Refuge Ministries, memo: Autumn Buzzell, to:

City of Refuge Ministries

PO BOX 91546

Sioux Falls, SD 57109

If you want to write a letter to me, send it to:

City of Refuge Ministries

Attn: Autumn Buzzell

505 Cave Creek Rd.

Loudon, TN 37774

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas! I love when family gets together and laughs so hard they cry. I love when little kids think every closet is an opportunity for hide and seek. I love that even across the country, family can join in the celebration via skype. And most of all, I love that the greatest Gift of all is celebrated around the world.

Happy Birthday Jesus! I love you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Snowy Day

Yesterday was so fun! I woke up and it was snowing. I love it when it snows. The way it comes down softly and covers everything with this white beauty. The only problem is that when it snows, it means that it's difficult to get anywhere...and you know that both of my parents were busy all day running kids here and there...didn't matter that it was so snowy!

In any case, I made breakfast for everyone yesterday morning (breakfast burritos...yummm!), then Bri and I decided to make a gingerbread house. So, we got out all the ingredients and cooked up a pretty yummy looking gingerbread house!

Only problem came when we started putting together the house with our awesomely sticky frosting. One of our roof pieces came out extremely warped and didn't match the back wall, but we just moved that part to the back of the house.

After that, we had to wait for awhile for mom to arrive back home with candy, so we started beading a little bit and I started prepping our dinner (I was working on making jallof for the fam).

When mom got home, we popped in "White Christmas" and Bri and I went to work decorating the gingerbread house. We made snowmen out of marshmallows, gates out of laffy taffy, and so much more! It turned out so cute! With a white chocolate christmas tree and snow out of coconut, the house turned out perfectly!
And the day was perfect too! Such a fun day with Bri!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Made it!

I made it to Atlanta. I had another crazy lateness scare on my way to the airport. The original taxi driver that we had called the day before to come and pick me up, never showed up. Never answered his phone. Just never showed up!!! Issues! So, we had to call another driver who was in another local village and it took him awhile to get to me.
In any case, I'm supposed to be at the airport 3 hours prior, but I made it pretty much two hours prior, but I still made it! I had to wait in traffic on the way to the airport, and when I finally got there, I got in the WRONG line (the one going to Italy...while that would be nice, I think I'd be a little overwhelmed showing up in Italy instead of Atlanta...little bit of a difference!). When I finally figured it out, they were just shutting down the check-in process, so I made it just in time. And surprisingly, I made it through immigration and security with very wait time, so I made it through with a little time to spare.
While I waited to board the airplane, I got to see one of our friends in Ghana, Chanda. Her and her husband work in a similar ministry in a village called Keta. She was heading home for the holidays and so it was good to chat and catch up with her a little bit. We didn't get long, but it was fun!
The flight was pretty smooth going. I didn't get a ton of sleep, but really, who does get that much sleep on those flights? And when I got into Atlanta, it was almost tear-jerking to hear Christmas music and to realize that in just a couple of hours, I would be home! (Well, more than a couple as I still have the long drive over the mountains....but close enough). And anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Christmas...the decorations, the lights, the music...I start really early getting "in the spirit". It's hard to do in Ghana while it's still hot and Christmas music doesn't play on any stations. But, coming in to some Bing Crosby...so sweet!
Heading out now...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This email made me feel so much better!!!

So, I started feeling a bit better today! The cellulitis, or boil, or whatever this thing is, has gone down a bit and while the pain is still there, the fever, headache, and exhaustion were gone today. Thank the Lord!

And when I came home from school today to check my email, I found an email from a boy that I met when I went to Kenya in 2004. That trip absolutely changed my life. I spent two weeks up in Northern Kenya with the Masaai and two weeks in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world, right outside of Nairobi. I LOVED my time in Kibera because I got to spend loads of time playing with kids and really saw the power of prayer at work in the lives of people around us. It was a powerful time.

One of the kids that I met in Kibera was a teenager named Vincent. He had dreams of going to University and when I left, we kept up occasional communication via internet. Today, I got some great news from him. This is what he wrote:

Hi Autumn,
How are you doing? I hope that you are well and that the Lord has kept you safely. It has been a very long time since we communicated but I believe that the Almighty has been your protector.

Tell me how you are fairing on with life. Are you still in Ghana? Do you have any plans of coming to kenya? Please let me know and I will be more than happy to hear from you.

Here in Kibera Kenya, the Lord has been more than faithful to to me and the Kibera family. Can you believe that I graduated from KENYATTA UNIVERSITY last Friday on 9th December? I tell you the Lord is just wonderful as He enabled me to score a SECOND CLASS HONORS (UPPER DIVISION) despite my poor background from Kibera slums! This reminds me of a this question that is recorded in the Bile: ¨Can anything good come out of Nazareth?¨ I am now a certified high school teacher and I want to go back to Kibera and help others like me overcome the slum challenges by being firmly rooted in God´s word as He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Autumn, I want to sincerely pass my gratitude in a special way to you for the words of encouragement that you gave to us when you were here in kenya. You told us that all is possible only if we put God First and surely Autumn, I can testify that it actually works to put God first.

Secondly, I would like to thank you very much for donating a laptop to me two years ago. This machine has gone a long way in making my journey at the university a success as it has helped me to type and submit my assignments in time. Thank you so much sister for your Christ-like heart of giving without looking back or sparing just like God who did not spare even His only begotten son for us to get salvation.

Autumn, I will be more than happy if you can spare just a minute to thank God for my successful completion of a Bachelor of Education degree at the campus because it has not been a walk in the park, you have been to Kibera and you know the hardships that people undergo there, hence it is not easy to emanate from such a background and successfully graduate at the campus!!

Lastly, may you pass my greetings to your family and the mission team that you were with and tell them that the Lord has been and He still will be faithful in all their undertakings.

May the almighty bless you abundantly as you continue serving him. I hope to hear from you soon.

Be blessed

In His service,

I'm amazed! And excited! And in awe of God's work in Vincent's life. If you think about him, would you pray for him today! And pray for more awesome stories like this to come out of our little school here in Doryumu. God is at work...all around the world. Love it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not feeling too red hot...but getting the job done

I had a boil that popped up on my neck yesterday. It's this massive thing on the right hand side of my neck that almost looks like a goiter. I kinda made fun of myself for it yesterday. I mean, it was a bit sore, but mostly just gross looking.

Today, there's no making fun of this massive thing. It kept me up occasionally throughout the night, whenever I rolled onto it (that and this one mosquito that I couldn't find that kept buzzing around my face) and so I woke up a little tired.

Early this morning, I got a phone call that our staff member, Millicent, was preparing to go to her home town (she's the one we took to the hospital on Saturday), so I needed to get some things ready for the day and get ready to take her someplace so she could take a car to her hometown. When I finally picked her up (around 7:30 this morning), my head had started hurting and I was wondering how I was going to make it through the day without heading back to my bed!

Millicent and I set out and I dropped her in Alfienya (a nearby village) to take a car. On the way there, the police were out again. I knew that if I traveled back that way, I would get pulled over. I saw the same policeman that pulled me over last time still out there this morning. So, I decided to make a quick trip to the pharmacy, and then I was going to attempt to find another way back to the school.

I drove over to our pharmacy that we always visit and on the way, wouldn't you know it, there were more cops on the road! I was praying that God would make me invisible (which is difficult to do since you don't see many white women driving big cars like this here in Ghana!), but I didn't get pulled over. I got my antibiotic and made it back through into Alfienya and then took this back road to Dodowa to avoid the cops on the way back to the school. It was very round-about and added an extra thirty minutes or so to my trip, but I kind of felt proud of myself for being able to figure out a way to get around those cops and to make it home safely. I was by myself and who knows what could have happened if I had been pulled over!

In any case, I made it home, singing Christmas carols (since they don't really play them on the radio here and I want to be in the Christmas spirit!) the whole way home.

Once back at the school, it was time to get down to work. I was hoping for a little down time today so I could get home and rest, but no such luck. It was the first day of finals and so I was busy passing out exams, getting together some paperwork for the end of the term, and soon, the kids had left the school and I was still working, working, working! Crazy how fast time goes when you're busy like that!

In any case, I took Mr. Francis and the staff girls into town and then headed back home and finally got a chance to lay down. I called my mom on the road and she said that the headache and exhaustion isn't really a side-effect of the medication, but means the infection from this boil has gone systemic. She told me that if I don't get better by tomorrow, I might need to go to the hospital to get an IV antibiotic put in. I hope that I can just kick it with this antibiotic that I'm on, some extra sleep, and some hot compresses.

Praying that I'll feel better tomorrow. This is not the week to be feeling sick for sure!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Days aren't always what you think...

This morning, I took a long time in getting out of bed. I woke up at 6:30 (which is an hour later than my normal wake up call--so I get to call it "sleeping in") and just lounged in my bed, checking email, reading a book, you know...the normal relaxing type things. My thought was a take-it-easy day. This was definitely a busy week and I needed a day of just hanging o
Then, I got a phone call at 8:00 am. One of our staff members, Millicent, had been heavily bleeding throughout the night and was now feeling weak and they (some of our teachers that she lives with) were going to take her to the hospital in a nearby village. Well, I asked them what they wanted me to do and they just said that they would see what happened at the hospital at Kodiabe and then they'd get back to me. They called shortly afterwards and said that there weren't any doctors at the hospital there, so they wouldn't admit Millicent. So, I was out the door and Nosa and I made our way to go and pick them up from the hospital there to rush them to another nearby hospital in Dodowa.

We met them coming on the road and we turned around quickly to begin our journey to Dodowa, but we had to stop by their house for a short time as she had bled through all of her clothes and needed to change (apparently, it was the 4th time she'd bled through everything that day). It was really bad!

I tried to drive carefully, but quickly, and we finally made it to the Dodowa hospital. When we got there, wouldn't you guess it?? There wasn't a doctor in, so they wouldn't admit her. But, they had to go and get her paperwork before they could "refer" her to a hospital in Tema or Accra. Rediculous. We were there for over an hour before we finally left with a referral in hand. It was a back and forth game...first saying, no we can't help you. Then, next, they'd say something about giving her medicine for the pain and to stop the flow of blood. Oh, it was so frustrating! How can a hospital run without a doctor? There were probably 50 people in the waiting room...and this was the EMERGENCY ROOM! Just crazy!

On a random side note, while we were waiting for more information for Millicent, I looked into one of the rooms there and there was this white lady in there. It's not often that I see other white people in the area, so I couldn't help but stare a bit. She was INCREDIBLY thin, like starving thin! Her husband was with her and they looked to be Mennonite (which is actually quite common here in West Africa), but I was surprised at how thin she was and kept wondering why she was here in Africa when she was in that kind of condition. She seriously looked like pictures that I have seen of women with severe eating disorders. Scary!

Off that tangent, we finally left the hospital with nothing more than what we had come with...such a frustrating experience. So, I took Millicent home and she said that she was planning on going to her hometown as they knew about this situation (apparently, this isn't the first time this has happened--something about family planning and it messing up her body). But, she slept this afternoon and took some pain medication and the bleeding slowed down and she decided not to leave. I felt so bad for her. I know that she wasn't feeling well and just didn't know what to do about the whole situation.

When we got home today, I decided to make some pizza--upon the request of Lucy (who, incidentally happened to take a weekend this weekend). So, I whipped up some pizza dough and pizza sauce (which is easy to make, but definitely takes more time than just opening up a can like you can do in the States!) and used Velveeta (I know, who makes pizza with Velveeta, but when that's all you have, then that's all you have--and people here don't eat cheese, so it doesn't even really matter to them one way or another!). I tossed it in our bread oven and in 20 minutes...it was done! It didn't taste too bad either! Most of the kids loved it, though DK still has a hard time eating cheese and the new Mary couldn't stomach it at all either!

I also made some bread while I was making the pizza. It turned out beautifully and I'm looking forward to some fresh bread tomorrow morning for breakfast!

For dinner tonight, I tried something new. Nosa made this Nigerian soup called Owu soup and it was pretty yummy. You eat with with boiled plantain. I really enjoyed it! I was nervous to try it, but it was delish.

Afterwards, I went with Mary, Mary, and Dora and went and walked the field. After awhile, Nosa got the kids singing and dancing on the basketball court. So, Mary, Dora, Mary and I went to join them. We sang and danced and sang some more. Then, Uncle Atta (our security guard) went out and started singing and dancing again and we started all over again. After awhile, Edwin came out and joined us too (which meant after about a loop and a half, I had to carry him), but he loved clapping and dancing on my back as we made our way around and around the basketball court. It was awesome and a great way to end the day.

So, I'd planned on spending a relaxing day just hanging out at home and instead it was a bit of a go, go, go day. But, what started out as a frustrating morning, ending with a joyful end! There are pieces of my life here that I wish I could just capture for people and take it home and show them it...there are times when it is so absolutely beautiful and breathtaking to be a part of this culture. And there are other times when it is absolutely frustrating! But, tonight, was just one of those moments where I wish all my friends and family had been there to witness and join in and be a part of it. It was awesome.

So, to end tonight, all I can say is "PRAISE THE LORD" because even with all the troubles that surround us...He is still Lord!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The One Week Countdown

Today is Friday, December 9, and that means that I am ONE WEEK AWAY from heading back to the States for a little R and R and a little facetime with all my besties!! So looking forward to it! My time in the States is usually filled with quite a bit of CORM business, but it also has these deliciously wonderful moments of awesomeness with friends and family and those are the moments that I hold tight to when I'm here and missing a little flavor of home.

In any case, even though this day begins the one week countdown, I was INCREDIBLY busy today! Today was our Christmas program and it was a busy day from the time it started until...well, until about an hour ago!

Nosa, Paul, and I left the house early to go into Doryumu to find a canopy to set up on the BB court for the program. We also had to pick up chairs for the program, so two trips into Doryumu and back and it was 9 am and I had to get a bit of work done. I wrote all of Rosemary's exams and did a few other things to prepare for the day and for next week and before I knew it, I looked at my clock and it was past 12. So, I headed to the house to make my lunch (Fridays are banku at school, which isn't my fave, so I usually make my own something or other) and then, it was back to finish up a little bit more work before the program started. Once it hit 1:00, I was outside (as that was the starting time for our program...but like all of our programs...we always start late...TIA). I got the kids all set up and ready to start before parents began showing up and then Mr. Francis led the program.

It wasn't very organized, unfortunately. Those who up next were never ready on time and were always talking during the on-stage student's performances. It was kind of a frustrating end to all of our hard work these past few weeks because the performances just couldn't be heard over all the voices. Next time, we'll have to figure out something different. This one just didn't work out as we had planned. But, in any case, at the end of the program, we were able to give out awards to the students and provided them with a small gift, courtesy of Evangelist Sandra Riley. They were all so happy and it was such a great way to end the program.

After the program, I was off again...picking up Lucy and Portia from the market, filling up the gas tank, buying tomatoes, dropping off the canopy and chairs, taking our food to the freezer over at our old staff house, and finally home again.

It's been an exhaustingly looooooong day, so I'm going to hit the hay.

And the countdown to HOME begins...6 more days!!!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

School Inspection

We had our school inspection today. It was kind of a nerve-wracking experience for me. I didn't sleep well the night before just thinking about what was going to happen that day. I just didn't have a clue, and if you know me, I am not very good with the unknown.

In any case, Mr. Francis and I went and picked up the ladies from their office in Dodowa. We brought them to the school and the first complaint we heard was that we didn't have any signboards up to advertise where the school was located. We told them that we've been working on that one for awhile, but getting our artist to follow through with actually coming and completing his job...that's the hard part.

In any case, they were really impressed with the grounds of the school. When we told them that we were a K-6 school, they weren't really happy as most schools here start with preschool and each year, will add an additional class. Well, we never do anything in small parts here. We jumped in fully with a preschool through sixth grade program and intend to continue on to junior high next year.

We took them on a tour of the school, visiting each class and the restroom facilities. Then, we all sat down together for a little chat. Most of the stuff that they brought up was really small and inconsequential. Sometimes, the things that people worry about here are really silly. They can be so formal and so informal at the same time. In any case, the big things that they were worried about was 1) the fact that we're operating all these classes without starting with just one class at a time, and 2) the fact that we're using international curriculum.

We talked to them about the fact that our students won't be writing the B.E.C.E. (which is the test that they take after finishing 8th grade here) and they were very upset with that. They wanted us to give them proof that the parents have approved of this and that they agreed with the curriculum that we were offering their children. They told us that we had to resubmit our application and put all of things things in our application and that we needed to decide if we wanted to offer a Ghanaian curriculum/American curriculum system in our school or if we just wanted an American school. If we want an American school, then we won't be approved by the Ghanaian government. So, we're going to have to work through this process very carefully.

You see, the thing is...we want QUALITY. And the curriculum that I have seen here in Ghana...oh, it frustrates me! Sometimes there are visible errors in the government approved curriculum and this is what is taught to their children. I want our students to learn what is taught to them and know if well. So, it's a debate for me. Yes, I want their culture in their education, but I have to be careful too. I don't want to sacrifice quality just to appease these Ghana Education Service big wigs.

Mr. Francis and I brainstormed after we dropped the ladies off and I think we came to the conclusion that we will have to have the parents sign something that shows that they have understood our course of study and that their child will not be eligible to write the B.E.C.E., but will continue through their entire senior high school program if they are accepted into our school. Then, we'll probably offer, as an option for students, holiday classes or after school classes that teach the Ghanaian curriculum. Those students who are admitted into those classes will be given the option of taking the B.E.C.E.

We'll see how the new presentation is received at their offices.

The ladies were most impressed though with City of Refuge Ministries. I told them about our work in the Volta, in Tema New Town with our single mothers, and here in our children's homes. And then we took them for a tour of our children's home and, of course, Malvin and the staff girls were all there to greet us. They were really impressed with the ministry and how far we've come in such a short time. That was really encouraging and perhaps will help us to go farther now that they've seen the progress that we've made.

I'm so glad that first inspection is over. I know that there will be more to come in the future, but thank goodness that one is over and I can worry about other things for now! So many things to get done before I leave in ONE WEEK!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trouble with the Past

We've been facing some challenges lately with one of our kiddos. Abigail came to us over a year ago and when she arrived, we knew that she had faced a really rocky past. She had run away from her slave-owners three times and we knew that she had a past history of stealing. All of that came with her when she arrived, yet a year ago, we noticed a change in Abigail. She stopped stealing, started really enjoying living her life with us, and was so much happier than when she had first arrived.

But, this week, her past caught up with her in a big way. I don't even remember how it all came out, but it was one thing after another until a whole list of problems came up, all having to do with something missing and it all involved Abigail.

We found out that she had been stealing from other students in the school, from us here, spreading rumors about different things...all kinds of trouble. It really confused me because I had seen such a great change in Abigail's life, and all of a sudden, she was returning to where she came from.

So, we addressed it in a big way! Abigail lost a lot of priveledges, gained some extra chores, and ultimately, lost a lot of trust in the house. Saturday, after finding a few more things in her possession, I went through her whole cupboard and came out with half a large Ghana-Must-Go bag of stolen items. Even some things that she took from me...socks that she must have taken from the clothesline...so much of the stuff was really strange for her to take.

In the end, the staff girls and I talked with her for a little while and she finally admitted to the stuff that she had taken. She had previously been making up a lot of stories about where the stuff had come from. And finally, when she admitted to it, we realized that this is really something that has come from the past and is just so difficult for Abigail to break off of herself. I could tell that she felt bad, but she didn't know how to stop.

So, the staff girl's and I just prayed over her. We prayed that the enemy would take his hands off of Abigail...that Abigail would hear the voice of the Father over anything else...and that God would speak to her of HIS LOVE and her identity in Him.

I'm continuing to pray healing over Abigail and will trust that with all the healing that we've seen before, she will be healed completely from this problem. The past doesn't have to control her any longer!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the Omorefes

I have been in Ghana for a year and a half (give or take a little bit), and I have had the absolute priveledge to travel home every 6 months or so. It has been a welcome relief and such a blessing to be able to see my family and friends for a little interm break every so often. What a joy! This next trip back will be my last for an entire year. I’m a little nervous about being here for a whole year without returned back home (as I so enjoy my break times with my friends and family and crave that relational time!), but I am looking forward to what will happen here with CORM this next year.

John and Stacy and the rest of the Omorefe family left yesterday (Saturday, December 2) for the States. It has been TWO WHOLE YEARS since they have returned home. They have made so many sacrifices for their family so that they could move here. I’m often in awe of the things that they have chosen to do instead of the way that they could have lived back in the States. But, when God calls you into something, you have to listen (I know this from experience!!).

I’m so excited for them to get the chance to go home. I’ve been praying that they will find the time to REST amidst all their traveling and responsibilities. I also know from experience that traveling home is not always easy! Sometimes, it is as much work as being here and doing the ministry work here. There are certain things expected of you, and in so many ways, and so many different time, you just have to be ON. That part is difficult. Sometimes it seems like you simply can’t be yourself, but you have to be City of Refuge Ministries. I’m praying that they’ll be able to manage that back and forth time—know how to set boundaries to rest so that they can come back here refreshed for more time of ministry.

And I’m praying that JJ, Caleb, and Justice will simply ENJOY time with Grandma and Grandpa Corbin. Justice won’t even remember them, so it will be such a special time for them. JJ has been talking about snowmen for weeks now, so I know I’m going to see some tanned Omorefe children out in the snow on facebook sometime soon.

In any case, now that they are gone, we are here by ourselves now and have to kind of fill in these big shoes. Nosa has been amazing and runs the place with a quiet efficiency. Aunty Lydia has gotten the house in tip top shape in no time flat and everything sparkles by 8 am. I try to step in where I’m needed—a little time with Malvin and Edwin usually helps Lucy and Portia out a bit—running errands in the car, entertaining kids with basketball games, etc!

Out of the Omorefe children, the transition is a little different. They are moving from a house with 22 kids to a house with 3 (now that Justice, JJ, and Caleb are gone, there is only 3). I think Miracle feels lost the most though. He had to fight for attention (in sometimes really crazy ways) this past year, and now that we are in one home again, I think he was expecting to get all this attention by being the youngest of the Nigerian Omorefes. We’ve had to kind of lay down the law with him, and with Rosemary (about kitchen rules) and Paul (about working with the other boys when there are jobs to do), but for the most part, the transition has been pretty easy.

Things are running…it’s different these days, but it works. I think that part of the reason that it’s working so well is the very reason that we DID live together for the past 13 months. We saw each other on good days and bad days, sick days and happy days. We kinda figured out how we all operate and we are now a team. Sometimes, it wasn’t easy to forge the team. We definitely saw our share of not so easy times, but we are working it out and I’m pretty proud of my Ghana family. When the going gets tough…the tough gets going…that’s how the saying works right? And we’re living it out for sure!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Big Move

Without electricity and without internet, well, it leaves someone a little behind when it comes to updating her blog. So, I am going to be writing some blogs on my computer and posting it whenever we decide to get our internet up and running again. In any case, I wanted to update my blog for those of you who follow and know that we were planning on moving to our Children’s Village site this week, even though we don’t have electricity yet.

Our lease on our current place ran out at the beginning of November, and that put us in a bit of a predicament as the ECG (Electric Company of Ghana) have been dragging their feet at giving us numbers. It’s been extremely challenging and John had his hands full as he was back and forth between Accra and Tema and our own Doryumu in the weeks before our move. We were really trying to get here on the site before Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving came and went with no move towards electricity. And with the impending lease (here, even if your lease is expired, you are given three months to move out), we knew that the move was “better late than never”.

So, we packed up everything and we moved out. The 29th of November was the last night that we spent at our old home in Downtown Doryumu. And when I spent my first night in our new house here at the Children’s Village site, I was reminded about that first night that I spent in our old home. I remember that we had moved very late in the evening from Tema and we didn’t arrive until pretty late at night (like after 10 pm) to our new house. I remember driving in through the bush and thinking…what have we got ourselves into. Then, piling everything in my room and hoping that I would be able to sleep. Our beds were just mattresses on the floor and the electricity was only at half-current that night, barely moving the fan in my room. I remember waking up in the morning to the sun shining through my window and thinking, “Now, I really am in Africa”, with this beautiful sunrise coming up over the hills behind the house. It was scary, and exciting, and unknown all at the same time.

And that house held a lot of memories! That is where we lived with Baby John and Baby Princess, whom both have gone to live with their families. And that is where we hosted hundreds of volunteers in the 2011 year…Australians, Americans, Chinese, Bristish, Ghanaian…you name it, it feels like the WORLD came to us this last year. And that house is where I spent 8 months taking care of my boy Edwin. It was a difficult, and beautiful, season of my life. In some ways, I miss the time that I got to spend taking care of him, but in other ways, I’m seeing the blessings of boundaries in ministry. That house is where I kissed my boys goodnight every night, and prayed for our kids, and joked and laughed, and even shed some tears. It’s where Katie came to visit me, and my mom, and Brianna, and Chris came. It’s where Christy and Victor lived out their time (even without me there). That house held a lot of joy…and a lot of people!! At one point, we were over 40 living in one house.

And now, we’re here. Only 13 months later, we have 2 houses and a school built (well, part of a school!). And isn’t God good? It’s amazing to see what he has done in that time. Just amazing!

And my first night here, well, it held a little trepidation. I wasn’t sure about the “no electricity” thing. I mean, how would I deal without computers and my phone and internet and all of that…but we figured out a system. We use the generator for a couple of hours every evening to charge things up, and by 9:00 pm, we’re in bed and the generator is off. I thought it would be miserable at night without the air of the fan, but the weather at the site, for the most part, cools down at night. It’s a little buggy, but it’s been beautiful!

I’m looking forward to heading home to pick up a few things to decorate my room. I got some curtains when I came last time, but they don’t quite fit my windows, so I might be looking at doing something else…we’ll see! But, in any case, for some reason, this room really feels like my own place. I’m looking forward to making it mine.

So, here we are…making it, without electricity! I don’t think I ever would have thought I would be in a place like this, but here I am…and I’m realizing, yet again, that what I thought was impossible, well, it really is possible!