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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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Many Hands Make Work Light

Wrinkled fingers. Soapy hands. My wrist begins to burn from the small rash I can see coming to the surface beneath all the rubbing. But, I look around and the children are chatting together. I have my ipod playing and we're all singing along to a few of my favorites (Jesus Culture, Brian and Jenn Johnson, Katheryn Scott, and Gungor were just a few that played today).

Today, was my first day washing my own clothes. Usually, our house help washes my clothes, but since she's been sick, the responsibility for clean clothes fell on Rosemary. I wanted to try my hand at it as it is difficult for me to let others do everything for me all the time. I often feel bad, even if it is part of the culture.

So, we gathered together my clothes and headed outside. Rosemary taught me how to scrub the clothes with the bar soap, how to scrub it over my hands to get the spots out, and after washing it a first time, you have to wash it a second time, then rinse it then hang it up to dry. It's hard work. But, the second that the kids saw me out there washing with Rosemary, I had immediate help! Abby, Miracle, Grace, Mary, and Paul all came out to wash a little. Even Portia washed a sock (that was about as long as her attention span lasted!).

The saying that "Many Hands Make Work Light" is surely true! I looked at my pile of clothes and thought that there couldn't be any way that I would be able to wash all these clothes by myself. And I didn't even need to consider it. . .sore hands and all, it was worth it for clean clothes and company of kids!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Something New

Today was my first experience here in Ghana with something new. John and Stacy had to go to Cape Coast today to help out an adoptive family get their little boy. So, we took a taxi to Tema to drop them off at the bus to Cape Coast. I went with them to get some medicine from the pharmacy in Tema.

So, after dropping off John and Stacy, I headed to the pharmacy with Daddy Joe. And then, we headed back to Doryum. It was the first time that I went somewhere without John and Stacy. We had to drop Daddy Joe off at the land, and so I took the taxi by myself back home. I was a little nervous about riding with a taxi driver by myself, but it went ok.

When I got back home, being the only American there, Mama Theresia didn't know what to cook for me, so I got to cook my own lunch. I don't get to do much cooking here (mostly because I don't know how to cook many of the foods that we eat here), so it was nice to just cook a little something for myself. And tonight, I get to do some chicken and potatoes (Jenni--just like the ones I taught you to make!). So, it's kinda fun to have a little different day today.

The rest of my day, I have been spending time with my old friend, Season Two of "The Office". The past couple of nights, I've had a little bit less sleep time with Edwin, so it was nice to just have a little time hanging out and resting today. Edwin has started this new thing at about 2 am. About that time, he starts chanting, "Auntie Autumn" until it gets to a loud cry if I don't come down off my bed and rub his back and head. When I come down to his bed, he rolls right up against me and occasionally decides that the most comfortable position for him is to roll right up onto my head--yeah, not so comfortable for me. So, I have to pull him off, calm him down, and try to get him to sleep. This process takes about 2 hours. Yeah, I'm hoping that it is easier tonight. But, because I'm a little over-tired, I've enjoyed a little time with the Office, relaxing, laughing, and remembering watching all these episodes with Jenni and Katie, some with the Koldings, and some with the Roberts. It's been fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Challenge

Your Wednesday Challenge includes something that is a little challenge for your sleeping habits. This problem was recently rectified in my room (thank you Johnbull), but it definitely is (or was) part of my nightly adventures!

So, the bed that I have here in Ghana looks like most queen size beds. But, you know the bed frame that we typically have in the States, where you have some boards that go across the bottom so that the mattress doesn't fall through?? Well, my boards weren't quite long enough, so if I shifted too much in my sleep, the boards would fall off one side of their little ledge with a loud BANG and DOWN I'd fall.

If any of you have read my blog in the past, you know that I already have a little guy in my room that sometimes keeps me up at night. I was always worried that if those boards fell too loudly, he'd be up, which means I'd be up, and it would cause a huge problem. So, when I'd come to bed, I would check the boards and try to get them as centered as possible, then I'd creep up on my bed and once I laid down, I tried to stay in that same spot as much as possible. It was quite a feat and only occasionally would I fail in my mission!

The other night, the middle board fell in my bed and when I lifted my mattress to shift the middle board around, the first board fell as well. Issues. I had to take my mattress completely off my bed frame (this is in the middle of the night mind you, with a baby on the floor next to my bed), put the boards back on the frame the best I could and then try to get the mattress back on without moving the boards. You could imagine the drama that was going on inside my head (since I had to be as quiet as possible so Edwin wouldn't wake up)!

So, your challenge, figure out a way to make the bottom of your bed fall out tonight when you lay down to sleep. It's quite an adventure, let me tell you! And the louder it falls out, the better and more realistic it will be!

Thanks to John, my boards are now nailed to my bed, so hopefully, no more falling out of bed anymore!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


So, I haven't posted about a Freedom Center kid for a looooong time! When I was home over Christmas, I heard mention for a couple of people that these were their favorite posts, so since I didn't get a chance to post one yesterday (my typical Monday post), I wanted to post one for you today.

I'm pretty sure that I haven't posted about Grace yet. I love Gracie! She is pretty amazing! Here are some of the things I know about Grace:

*She loves to laugh. When she laughs, it's more like a cackle. It rises up out of her belly and knocks her off her feet. She kinda stumbles around when she laughs and it is absolutely contagious!

*Gracie is super smart. She is competitive too. If someone did better than her once, she's going to make sure that she does better the next time.

*Anytime that Gracie starts to understand something that she didn't before, she'll say, "ehhhhaaa", like the lightbulb just went on for her. It's so fun to watch!

*Gracie loves to help out in the kitchen and I halfway think it is the joy of more adult companionship (she's a mature 13), and halfway because if she helps in the kitchen, she'll get the leftover food! That girl loves to eat!

*Grace's name is Grace...but I like to call her Gracie. Somehow fits her!

*Grace loves to memorize. I can usually count on her to have her memory verse (no matter how long) memorized to a T come Friday morning!

*She loves movies. She doesn't usually get to watch them that often as she is always in the kitchen, but she does enjoy watching them. Often, when I watch movies with her, she is asking me a million questions (she gets nervous if there is a hint of suspense in the movie) and then saying "Awwww Auntie Autumn" when I tell her, "Watch and see!!".

*Her name really does fit her well. She doesn't easily anger. She forgives freely. When she's sad, she just has a graceful way of shedding tears. She quite lovely!

*Gracie just brings joy whereever she goes. She's helpful. She's kind. She's a hard worker. And I enjoy having her around!

See Gracie here:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Big Picture

So, sometimes, I'd like to demand of God to see the big picture of my life. He only gives me about a year at a time (you will go here, you will work here. . .etc). Sometimes it is frustrating and I have to be continually reminded (thank you Mom) that God works with me on a much smaller scale. And it's true that if I were to be given the WHOLE vision of what is ahead of me, I'd probably want to skip a few steps to get there.

The thing about the big picture is this. . .I want to see the end result of the work that I'm doing. I want the happy ending. I want to know the future before the present.

This season of my life, God is teaching me about the word DEPEND. I think this whole big picture thing has something to do with this word too. As I depend on God to see the big picture, I am going to give it a try to just be satisfied with his "bite-sized" chunks of the present that he gives me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Finding My Voice

I began leading worship a few years ago. Before that, I used to do a lot of small group speaking, telling my story, and praying for people. Once I started leading worship, it was like, somehow, my voice wasn't quite as free. I found it harder to speak up and speak out--even though I taught in a classroom all day and led worship often, my voice seemed a little lost in the crowd.

Today, I was challenged to find my voice again. Evangelist Sandra Riley is here with us this week. I totally love her. She's funny and smart and so encouraging. It's been a blast having her here with us. In any case, we took her to speak to a small group of women in Larteh. Her words were so powerful, and reminded me so much of my journey. I found myself brought back to the places where Christ has met me, taught me of my worth, freed me from the lies of the enemy.

At the end of her talk, she called up Stacy to speak, but Stacy pointed to me. I shyed away and refused to go up. What would I possible have to tell these women? So, Stacy went and spoke--spoke about speaking the truth out and the speaking out dark places to give freedom for the light to come in--spoke about encouraging one another in community.

After we were headed back home, Stacy said the reason she called me up to speak wasn't to embarass me but because she knew my story. Sometimes I forget that speaking up, even when it feels so difficult, can bring freedom.

All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend while I was at home in the States. . .about remembering. Jill Farmer (a dear friend and past roommate) told me that God has her in a season of rememberance--remembering what God has done for her in the past so that she can live in that right now. And maybe I need to do a little bit of remembering as well. So much of my life here has been in the NOW that sometimes I forget the story that God has given me, the work that he has done, and the freedom and confidence that comes along with telling his story of redemption in my life.

So, I'm going to be keeping my eyes open for those opportunities to share my story, and I'm going to pray for the confidence that I need to find my voice again, and I'm going to trust that as I place my story in the hands of God's people, that as James 5 says, healing will come.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A New Normal

When I was home, I got this response a lot when I told people about the work that we're doing here in Ghana, "Oh my goodness! That's amazing! I could never do something like that! You must be an amazing person!". To tell you the truth, it kind of overwhelmed me. I kept thinking, yeah, the work we do is pretty cool, but when you're here and it's your day to day life, well, it just seems NORMAL.

I was talking with my friend Evan Kolding while I was home, and he gave me some good insight.

He said that before I left, getting the funding and starting a school in Africa seemed IMPOSSIBLE. But, now, I have done it (not me alone, but with God's help and the help of his community!!), so now, the impossible has been made possible. What wasn't normal to me before, has now been made normal.

To continue my journey on the path of living our this "new normal", I am going to have to be stretched and challenged to dream up the next "impossible" journey and reach for even another level of impossibility.

His words made so much sense to me. And as I think about all the people who were amazed about the journey that God has me on for this season of my life, I realize that their journey's can be made up of that new normal too!

When I began teaching in EPA, I was living in San Carlos, a place of wealth compared to where I was teaching. I struggled heavily with the juxtaposition between where I lived and where I worked. So, I made a decision (when a room opened up) to move to East Menlo Park, the city next to EPA to live in the community where I worked. Any changes I would make, I knew they would directly effect the community in which I lived. For many, the thought of living in what was thought to be an "unsafe" community was scary and unreasonable. But, for me (and the girl's that I lived with), it was simply a new normal.

And so, maybe you're not called to live in a low-income community or move across the world, but you are called to something. I'm realizing that what we think is impossible, God sees as possible. And once we accomplish the impossible, our normal changes. By living a missional life (aware of the impossibilities that God places in front of us WHEREVER we are), we can all be challenged to live a "new normal".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coming Back

It's been awhile since I've come to blog and I figured, "It's about time"! As usual, I hit the ground running! My time back in Ghana has been as busy as ever.

I loved my time at home, but it felt good to be ready to come back here to Ghana. I was missing the kids and feeling like I needed to get back into the life I was leading here.

When I was stepping off the plane, a man in front of me asked if I was visiting or coming home. I love that I was given that option. . .most people just look at the color of my skin and assume that I'm just visiting. But, it was fun to say, "Nope, I'm coming home. I live here in Ghana."

My time coming back has been pretty busy. The day that I arrived, John and Stacy's pastor from Sioux Falls also arrived. She's here to do a crusade in Larteh, a village up the mountain from us. Unfortunately, her flight was delayed 2 1/2 hours, so we hung out at the airport until 11 pm and then didn't make it home until 1 am. I was so tired, but was just glad to be home. When we pulled up, the van woke up some of the kids (or they just waited up to see me) because some of them came out of their rooms to say hello. I told them I'd see them in the morning, and it's a good thing I locked my bedroom door because Caleb and Portia tried to come in by 7 am that morning!

My welcome back was pretty awesome. A bunch of the kids practically tackled me and Edwin came running shouting "Auntie Autumn, Auntie Autumn" (which sounds more like dada dada).

My first day back, we headed out the land and got to see all that they have been working on since I've been away. They don't have machines to put a foundation here, so it's all being dug by hand and the cement is being mixed and poured by hand. Pretty amazing. Our fifteen classrooms are dug and and they're working on putting in the foundation. So amazing! They also are started on the first safe house (which they are building by faith as funds haven't come in for that building yet) and the Omorefe's house (which is made possible by one generous donor!!). So awesome.

That night, I got to hand out the gifts to the kids. We started with the photo books and the kids were seriously IN AWE of them! They all traded them around and loved looking through all the pages. One of the girls, Gracie, came up to me with tears in her eyes. There was a picture of her with her Madam (the school teacher that was taking care of her before she came here) and she said that she was so glad she got to see a picture of her and that she misses her so much! For all the work those books took to put together, the outcome was so worth it. The kids LOVED them! For those of you who donated towards the cost of the books, thank you thank you thank you!

I also got to hand out watches to the kids, sports bras to the girls, the little computers to Caleb and Portia, stuffed animals to the babies, and gifts for the staff. They just loved it. (We saved some of the gifts for later and some, I was not able to fit in my bags--another trip!) I was also able to bring some things for our school to be used in this next term. So awesome! And seriously, the kids check their watches like every minute and make sure that it's still set correctly. I have at least three kids a day who want me to check and make sure their watch is set correctly. So funny! For those of you who donated items for the kids or the school, thank you thank you thank you!

Besides that, we've been busy with Pastor Judy, John and Stacy's pastor from back in the States. We are doing a crusade in Larteh with her on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday, we went to church up near Larteh to introduce ourselves and to tell others about the crusade. I sang a song too and it looks like they want me to sing more at the crusade. I still have a cough, so I hope that it goes away before all this begins!

Edwin came back in my room just a couple nights ago. The first night was perfect. No problems at all, but last night, now that was another story. He woke up in the middle of the night crying and didn't go back to sleep until almost 5 am. I was seriously SO EXHAUSTED trying to put him back to sleep. I've learned a bit about sleeping patterns of babies when I was home (thank you T, Yona, and Debbie), but it's so different here. When you're in a house with 30 people, if a baby is crying for 4 hours, it keeps everyone else up too. I thought about letting him just cry himself back to sleep, but then his cries turned to screams and that just can't happen. So, then it was lights on and reading books. Nope, that didn't work either. Lights off and quiet music. Nope. I finally got him down with some rocking, but the second I laid him down, he'd wake up and cry again. So, I finally laid down next to him and gradually went to sleep. Wow! A crazy night of sleeping!

This morning, I'm getting caught up on my emails and facebook and blog. And hopefully, will be getting this messy room picked up too. My bags are still not fully unpacked (as I've hardly been home to unpack them) and I think that after such a crazy night of sleep, I just need a day to chill!

School was supposed to start up tomorrow, but we postponed it until next Monday (I love Africa!). We'll come back to do training on Thursday and Friday and then Monday, we'll be back to school. That will give me some time to get some of the prep done that I wanted to do too.

A busy week lies ahead and I guess I better get started on it. Will try to get back into blogging as time goes on.

OH, I got a new phone since I've been back too. If anyone wants to get a hold of me that way, just let me know and I'll send you the number!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Babies and Friends

I seriously love spending time with my friends and their babies! I know that having a baby and the newborn stage is incredibly difficult. I don't know from my own experience, but I've witnessed a birth and know that was hard and I've seen my friends struggle through the first months of baby-hood when everything is confusing and sleep is hard to come by. I suppose that being an auntie has its priveledges--we get the joy of babies without all the confusion of trying to figure out sleeping patterns and bedtime routines. I love chatting it out with my friends though and I feel like I am learning at the same time as they are. I suppose I'll learn some so that when I get back to Ghana, I'll be a little more familiarized with sleeping patterns of babies so I can monitor Edwin a little better.

When my friends got married, I was able to walk through that whole process with them and learned a lot about relationships that hopefully I'll be able to use in my own future relationships. And when my friends got pregnant, I walked along side them there too and learned a lot and saw the miracle of life in the birth of Brylie Kay and Isabella Grace. And now, I'm learning that mommyhood is tough, really hard, but some of the most rewarding work that you can do. I love seeing my friends as mommies. It's weird how babies change people, but I have seen such a beautiful side of Christina and Yona--this lovely grace, and a sense of awe in their little girls, and exceeding joy. I love how they look at their babies and it is exciting to me to get to witness this part of their lives.

I love that during this time at home, I have had the chance to get some really awesome one-on-one conversations with people. I am definitely a QUALITY TIME person. If someone doesn't call or email or spend time with me, I feel like I've been left behind. What a JOY it has been to spend a little time with people I love. I got a lot of time at home with my family and I love convos with my mom and my dad and sisters. I got time with some high school friends, Erik and Jamie. And now, since I've been back in California, I have had time with my small group girls, my roommates, some beatnik friends, Nina and the wedding crew, Mark, Carol, and rest of the prayer group, the Tyrees, and coffee with a couple really awesome ladies (Marilyn and Cil). It has been such a breath of fresh air for this relational girl. I have love, love, loved it!

Thank you my Father for just KNOWING ME. . .for knowing what I need and for giving it to me in abundance! I love you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Busyness of it All

I know that in Ghana, I am going 24/7. I am up early, working with something or someone until I go to bed at night. But, I am realizing that I have learned to set boundaries for myself in Ghana that helps to protect my need for time alone and refreshing. I find that I have a much harder time saying "no" here in the States.

This past week, I spent time with so many friends, got to catch up on news from people that I haven't seen in 6 months. It really was a joy of a week (as I'm such a quality time person). But, my inability to set boundaries for myself because there is just so much to say "yes" to, has me worn down and weary. I know that if I had been able to even pull aside an hour a day to have to myself, it would have been a week where I would have felt more able to engage instead of stand to the side as I had to do at times this week.

But, God is so good and He really knows me. I love that about Him. Last night, I got to be a part of a great worship night. It was seriously so refreshing and such a beautiful time of worship and community and prayer. God just kept telling me over and over again. . ."I know you". I knew I needed to slow down, to spend some time just resting in His presence, but it took me "scheduling" it in to hear God say that he knows me.

Today, I got to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world. Yona and Eric Roberts and their little girl Isabella, and T and Evan and their little girl Brylie. It was so fun to have some baby lovin' time. Made me miss my boy, Edwin, and the other kiddos back in Ghana, but it was such a fun day of loving on my little nieces. What a joy to be an Auntie!

I'm praying that this week is a little bit more restful and just a refreshing time of hanging with friends, reconnecting, and processing more and more of my time in Ghana.