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, February 27, 2011

Sick Day

I am not a huge fan of being sick. I don't know who is. A couple of nights ago, Edwin started to get a cold and he was up in the night coughing. Since he was up in the night, that meant that I was up in the night and definitely had a few sneak coughs to the face.

I think that, mixed with a busy schedule and not enough sleep, has led to a cold of my own. Friday, I started to come down with a sore throat and yesterday, a runny nose. But, today, I woke up and got ready for church only to climb out of my dress clothes and return to my bed after being up coughing and blowing my nose most of the night and a slight fever upon waking this morning.

But, the day of rest was good for me. I think that I probably need a day of rest more often! And, I got to talk to my parents for awhile, which was fun. I love getting to hear what is going on at home and knowing how better to pray for them and for my foster family and friends there.

Tonight, we took the new australian girls (they came in Saturday night) to the land. It was getting dark and with the most recent rains, we were unsure of the roads. The school is really coming together! We have 7 classrooms, bathrooms, and the office buildings with walls going up. So exciting!

When we were leaving, it was dark and, wouldn't you know it, the van got bogged down in a muddy place and couldn't get out. We all got out of the van and started gathering sand and brush to lay beneath the back tires. Finally, thanks to Tom's skills collecting trees (yes, he practically pulled down a whole tree), we were able to get out of the mud and back to the house. What an adventure for the girls first full day here!

I'm praying that tomorrow, I'll feel better as the Ride West Africa boys are coming in and we are having a big celebration! Pray for sleep for both Edwin and myself! I think that will be the key!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Challenge

It's a simple challenge today.

Since coming to Ghana, my hair has been a mess of crazy humidity induced frizz and curls. As a result, most of the time, I wash my hair and then throw it back in a ponytail to avoid the inevitable frizz that will naturally come as soon as the humidity of the day arrives. I didn't bring with me a curling iron or straightener and very little hair product. Just the natural look for me now!

So, your challenge is to ponytail it this week. Don't worry about doing your hair, just throw it back and take off for the day. Enjoy the extra moments of time that you have NOT doing your hair!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Magic of Song

Yesterday, I did something I don't get the chance to do very often. I went in my room and working on a song that I've kinda put on hold for awhile. Something very different came out of it from the last time I started working on it. It's still not finished, but there are some good things going on with it.

You know, when I first came here, I was told how important having a guitar would be for me. I began to realize how much of an intravert I was almost immediately, needing a little bit of space (and sometimes a lot of space) everyday, was pretty important to my sanity. I have found that spending some time singing with my guitar is just like a magic salve on my soul. Even if it's just a few minutes singing a familiar tune, or hours (like yesterday) working on a new song, all I need is time with my music.

When I lived in the States, any of my roommates could attest to the fact that singing was just like breathing for me. I was always, always, always singing something! And once I bought my car and spent so much time roving around in it, I found that a lot of my time in worship and music was in the car. Here, my time to sing is a little bit more reserved. I think I need to make time for it more often. It felt so refreshing yesterday to get some time with my guitar and journal!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Post- Meet Valentina

It's been awhile since I've talked about one of our kiddos, but today, I wanted to introduce you to Valentina.

Valentina just turned 13 (on Valentine's Day--hence Valentina). She is a hard-working girl who loves to be in the kitchen with the staff girls.

Valentina is a pretty responsible girl. She always does her homework and she even helps out with taking care of Portia, one of the younger kids in our center.

Valentina is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to her grades at school. She works really hard on her spelling words every week. Though she is still struggling with comprehension, she is showing more and more improvement in her reading skills and I love it when she finally understands something because she gets so excited! She really excels in math and understands those concepts much easier than any other subject.

Valentina loves to "be in charge" which can sometimes be a really positive thing and other times, can be a problem. She is a very capable young lady, and I think that is what plays into her in charge attitude.

Valentina loves to laugh with and goof around with Grace in particular. She loves to make jokes and sometimes, when you get her laughing, it's hard to make her stop.

She is definitely in the pre-teen years and her moods fluctuate like crazy at times. She can be happy and up one minute, and angry and frustrated the next minute. You never know which minute you'll run into her!

Valentina is a very good runner. She's tall, so she has these incredibly long legs. If she trained more, she'd probably make a great long distance runner! She can definitely keep up with the boys when it comes to soccer and running.

All in all, Valentina is a talented and passionate person! It's fun to have her around.

Here's a picture of Valentina (though since facebook started posting the pictures a little differently, I hope that it comes through for you!)


Friday, February 18, 2011


Have you ever read "The Five Love Languages"? I don't think I've read the whole book, but pretty much, it is about how people give and recieve love. The book lists 5 ways to give and recieve love: quality time, words of encouragement, acts of service, gifts, and touch.

When I learned about these gifts, it was a goal of mine to look at my friends and family and decide who has which gift--how can I love my friends and family in the way that they best recieve love? I had lots of conversations with them and I think that it has deepened many of my relationships because we have been able to love each other better than before.

For example, my friend Blabe. . .she is a touch person. She likes to hug and cuddle. Me--NOT SO MUCH! But, when I'm around Blabe and I know that she loves to hug, I wanted to work on that in myself so that I could better love Blabe! (I have a LOT of touch friends--Bristol, Evan, Tony, etc. . .not an easy thing for me, but something I'm definitely working on all the time!).

As you've probably read here (I think I've mentioned it at least 3 times here in my blog), or know about me, I am a quality time person. I mean, BIG quality time person. I have noticed that about myself EVEN MORE since I've moved here to Ghana. For me, quality time means any time that someone takes out of their day to spend with me. Now, being so far from home, it looks a little bit different for most people to "spend time with me". Now, it's an email update on the life of a friend. It's a text keeping me updated on the moment by moment life back home. It's the facebook comment that tells me I'm missed, or loved, or some funny anecdote about the day.

This week, I have spent a lot of "quality time" with people and I have loved it! I got to talk with Kat and Isaiah, Jenni, and my mom on the phone. I texted back and forth with Yona a bit. I got emails and messages from Katie, Bristol, Gina, Joanna, and T. I felt connected and loved. It's surprising how much this stuff makes a difference in my days!

When I was talking to Kat this week, I was telling her about my word for the season, "Dependence". This season, returning to Ghana, has been a little more of a transition than I expected. Kat told me that "dependence" is the perfect word for this season because it's not just about my loneliness or longing for a partner in this life ministry--it's about being in that place and depending on God to fill that need in me.

So, even though I have felt so loved by the people around me who love me well, I know that a big part of feeling loved for me needs to be my dependence on God who provides all of my needs. I need to work on spending more "quality time" with God so that I can be filled in that way--and then won't require (though I'd still enjoy it) it from so many back in the States. Good word, Katty!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Challenge

I haven't posted a Wednesday Challenge for a couple weeks, so it's probably time to do so!

This week, your Wednesday Challenge is all about bathroom usage.

When I first came to Ghana, my first few weeks of teaching, I was totally confused when the kids were constantly asking me if they could "Go greet their Grandmother". I was so confused as I knew that all of our kids didn't have parents and why on earth had all their grandmother's showed up on the same day? I soon found out that that phrase meant that the kids wanted to go "#2".

John likes to use his own phrase to refer to his bathroom usage. "Visiting the Vice President" is his term for going "#1" and "Visiting the President" is "#2".

Your challenge. . .try to put one of these terms in your vocabulary this week! See if anyone gets a little confused, or adds it to their vocabulary too!

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day

The past few years, I have spent Valentine's Day with some of my best friends, lovingly referred to as "The Beatniks". Each year, we travel to somewhere great to spend President's Day weekend together. And each Valentine's Day, we dress up nicely and the boys bring us all roses (whether we're single or married) and we go out to dinner somewhere nice. I have been thinking of some of the highlights of the past few President's Day weekend trips. . .

*Last year, we gathered in Carlsbad, CA and got to spend time together. I loved getting to hear T talk about her pregnancy and at that time, we had not yet met Brylie Kay...to us, she was still BK--Baby Kolding (or Beatnik Kolding if you held true to the Beatnik family rule). I can't believe that now she is a bright, beautiful baby of 9 months!!! And Yona was pregnant as well--though I'm not even sure that she knew at the time. And Isabella Grace has also joined the beatnik family!

*A few years ago, we all rented a cabin in Tahoe. We spent time out in the snow and cozied up together in this amazing house. We got to spend a lot of time worshipping together and cooking food. We even had a real Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner together with a turkey and everything. It was such a refreshing weekend!

*Before that, we spent quite a few years heading out to the desert to Palm Springs. We had our favorite Mexican restaurants that we went to and we had our favorite place to karaoke. We've had quite a number of memorable events there: Evan's first Beatnik weekend away with all of us, Joanna mooning Ev at his first beatnik weekend away, random illnesses, some beautiful hotels, and awesome memories!

*We've even been camping a few President's Day weekends (though that tends to be a little chilly since it's in February and even California can get a little cold in February).

In fact, this is our first time NOT doing the President's Day trip in years--since my junior year of college 8 years ago. Wow! It's weird to think of all of the changes that we've all experienced and it's even weirder to think that we won't get to be together this weekend--and I suppose that is why this Valentine's Day has been a bit melancholy for me.

Kat and Isaiah now live in North Carolina and are only able to get out to California the occasional summer. T and Evan have now moved back to the Bay area and with T staying at home to take care of Brylie-girl, the weekend away just wasn't quite as feasible. Yona and Eric have Isabella now and getting that girl just comfortable with the normal life schedule has been a hard row to hoe. And Joanna is working to get back into her nursing school classes. Blabe, well, I'm sure Blabe would have been down for anything--and Jake too for that matter! And I, well, now I live in Africa and I'm afraid that weekend trips just aren't in the budget anymore.

Life changes and while I love so many of the changes--marriages and babies--it is so difficult to be so far away sometimes. This Valentine's Day, I would have loved to be eating Mexican food with my beatniks, a rose in my hand, a smile on my face, and the full knowledge that these friendships will never end.

And while I know that they will never end, the change is inevitable.

I am looking forward to our week-long annual trip this summer. Maybe we won't be celebrating with roses and Mexican food, but the family of friends--that will be just beautiful!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Birthday Fun

Today in my birthday and I'm 29 years old. Wow! How is that possible?? Wasn't it just last year when I was declaring to my class that I was a decade old?? Wow!

Anyway, I got a full night's sleep last night, which is a huge gift in and of itself. The night before was terrible--with Edwin up for about 5 hours in the night. But, today, I am feeling rested and felt so celebrated and loved.

The kids sang happy birthday to me and gave me lots of hugs. And then, Rosemary and some of the other kids helped me do my laundry (which is a huge gift too, since we do it all by hand). After that, John and Stacy and one of our Australian volunteers, Jess, all went to Accra for a little birthday fun! We ate pizza and we went to see a movie, The Tourise (so good!). It was such a fun afternoon.

I also got to have a little time on the phone with my fam and friends that called in to sing me some birthday wishes.

I have felt celebrated and loved today! Thank you to those of you who sent a little birthday cheer my way!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Everything is a little slower these days. . .

And by the title. . .I mostly mean the internet! This week has actually been a very busy week, so I haven't had as much time to post anything, which has worked out since it takes me about three hours to do what I used to be able to do on the internet in 1/2 an hour.

At the end of last week, we recieved the newest member to our little tribe here, baby Princess. She is nine months old and has hydrosyphillus. She has been in the hospital her whole life, abandoned by her mother. She is absolutely adorable. She has a huge head and a tiny little body, but she's definitely hungry and we're trying to get her body caught up with the rest of her. She has this tiny little cry that she gives off occasionally, but it seems that for the most part, she's a pretty content little thing! Will try to post pics to facebook soon.

We had Semester at Sea come yesterday to visit us and it's so interesting the difference between the group last time that came and this group. They seemed like they enjoyed themselves, but were much more reserved than the last group that came through. Some of them had lots of questions and were really interested in what we are doing here. We had them come to the school in the morning and hang with the kids, playing futbol and playing games. Afterwards, we went home to help with food prep for the feeding program we were planning on doing later in the day. The kids played around with some of the SAS students, and they sang along to High School Musical (a new fave here) and danced and played. We took them out to the land to see the projects going up there. That was exciting to talk to people about what we have planned there and to see things coming up (even if some of them are just being built on the FAITH that monies will come through when we need to make the payments). We went to Tema New Town for our feed and while it was still chaotic, it was the LEAST chaotic feed yet. We discussed with one of the local pastors what it would look like to have him help us register the kids so that kids would get only one meal (some ended up getting quite a few). Then, we took the SAS kids back to our place for baths and debriefing. I think that it was a really positive experience for most of them. My thoughts about the others that weren't too engaged were simply. . .if you want to influence others and be influenced yourself. . .you have to be OPEN.

On another note, another reason I've been a little slow this week is because I have some crazy foot issue right now. I got some random toe fungus that started out as blisters on one toe and have just spread to all my other toes and once the blisters pop, they open up the skin to this raw raw skin underneath. It is SO PAINFUL! It's been a little challenging to walk these days and I have to keep my sandals on, so my foot has been stepped on by little feet more than my fair share lately. I'm praying that my new meds will clear it up soon. It's so painful!

Tomorrow, I'm going to Accra to work on my resident's permit. Pray for favor there! We're also going to be picking up the first member of the Australian team. She'll stay with me tomorrow night and then the next night, will join the rest of the team over at the guest house. The rest of the team comes in on my birthday on Saturday. We'll pick them up in Accra that morning and I think we're planning a celebration for that day! Wahoo!

Well, it's dinner time and I have to run. Will catch up as the internet allows!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A little Catch-up--Monday Student Post/Wednesday Challenge/and School Update all in ONE!

It's been a few days since I've posted, so I figured it was about time for a little catch-up here on my blog.

My usual Monday blog passed me by in a flurry of baby love around here. An adoptive parent came to pick up her son after a six month wait, and she came to join us here for a couple of days starting on Sunday.

Usually on Mondays, I tell about one of the kids at the Freedom Center. Today, I will be talking about one of the Omorefe kids, Paul. Paul is Johnbull's younger brother from Nigeria. He is 12 years old and loves all kinds of things.

*Paul loves a good story. When we were in Community 3 in Tema and would go on our nightly walks, even though Miracle would often be the one following along with the stories that I told, Paul was the one who would ask for more stories. He loves hearing any good story!

*Paul can be rather dramatic. I remember the first time that I asked him to quote his memory verse, he put on this face and said, "My name is Paul Omorefe and my bible verse is. . .". He likes speaking in front of others, even though he doesn't necessarily like the process of memorizing things that he needs to speak in front of others!

*Paul likes to be the first one chosen in any schoolwork competition. When it comes to reading comprehension, he's a pro! Still gotta work on spelling and vocabulary, but he loves to learn!

*Paul likes to laugh and when Rosemary (his sister) is in a good mood, she and Paul will joke and laugh together for a long time!

*Paul is a great older brother. He takes care of Justice, Miracle, JJ, and Caleb at different times. He loves to be helpful. Sometimes, he does the typical older brother thing and gets in trouble, but for the most part, he is a great older brother!

*Paul LOVES to watch TV. He loves movies. He loves African TV. We usually have to set limits for him because he loves it so much. But, I think that in some ways, it has encouraged his imagination to grow!

*Paul's newest love is riding his bike. He's getting faster and faster on that thing! I think it's encouraging him to be a little more active.

*I would say that Paul's best friend is Aaron. They get along pretty well and seem to share a lot of the same interests.

*All in all, Paul is a helpful and fun-loving boy. He is enjoyable to be around and I'm blessed to know him!

Here's a picture of Paul:

Now, as for my typical Wednesday blog--a Wednesday challenge--this one goes out to Evangelist Sandra Riley who was here visiting a week ago. We were talking about being able to know when to hydrate and when not to hydrate depending on the types of bathroom situations that are around!

You see, when we head up to Lake Volta, it is a 10 hour stretch of nothing but the bush. On those trips, I tend to drink very little on the road so that I don't have to "go" in the bush (I'm always a little nervous about the strange reptilians that could live in the bush!). By the time we make it to Chinduri, I'm thirsty and ready to hydrate myself once more (since there is a toilet and running water in the place where we stay).

Now, this isn't to say that I wouldn't go in the bush if it was an emergency, just a preference toward the easier (and safer) way to go! (So, Joanna, don't think I'm stuck up. . .just want to avoid snakes and other animals from coming near my hiney!).

So, your challenge, this week, is to limit your intake of water to limit your number of times you have to use the bathroom. Not that you should be dehydrated, but just measure out when you are going to have access to a toilet and drink then, and when you're on the road, cut it off a couple hours before hand! It might be easier here, since the humidity saps so much of the liquids from you, but it's worth a try there!

Now, on to the school update. I haven't really done an update on the school in a LONG TIME! We started up school again last week and it's been going really well. I structured our time a little bit more so that we can have more instruction going on, and perhaps better instruction. That was well recieved and I think that it's been going well.

As for the new school building, the foundation is almost ready to be poured. The guys work so fast and I'm excited to see it come together more and more each day! We will have 15 classrooms, a computer lab, library, and administrative buildings. Our hope is eventually to house 300 students within the walls of the school.

So, because the building is coming up so fast, my job just got bigger. I need to start thinking about getting the school registered and things put together for next school year. I have a lot to figure out with testing (since we are using an American curriculum). So, I'm hoping to meet with another International School in Accra to figure out how to go about doing all of that stuff.

The challenge for me is to actually find the time to think through what needs to be accomplished, teach and mentor at the same time, oversee interns, take care of children, and all that this life requires. When you come here, your job isn't solely listed out in a job description. It comes with changes and challenges. And maybe this is all where dependance on God (my word for this season) comes in to play! I absolutely CANNOT do this on my own. I need a BIG God to handle this BIG season of my life. I just cannot do it alone.

As the months come and go, I realize that this job grows, but so does my faith. It has to grow. . .as my "normal" changes, as the impossible becomes possible, my faith has to grow for bigger and better things ahead. And I know that with God, and his faithful people around me, this school will come together and everything will happen just has He has given the vision!