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, June 30, 2011

Living Life during the Rainy Season

I feel like I've only experienced just a small picture of what the rainy season here in Ghana is like...until today.

The sky has been cloudy for a couple of days and the heat hasn't been too oppressive, so I have been expecting the rains to come again, but man, did they come today!

This morning, we made it to school before the rain started. First, just a little downfall, and then a steady flow, and before long, it was pouring down. Off an on, all through the day, it was just like this. Now, normally, the rain soothes me and it's a great time to just pull out a book and read. But, lately, when it rains, my biggest concern is how long it is going to take me to get back home.

I don't live too far from the school, but the steady rain creates major chaos on our roads! Clay is primarily our topsoil, so when it rains, the roads turn to...well, the only thing I can compare it to is black ice--minus the cold factor. It's a slimy mess where you have to take off your shoes and slip and slide your way back to the house. And arriving home without mud completely caking your feet and possibly your backside it somewhat of a miracle.

Today, just as we were ready to leave the school, the rain really began to fall. So much so that I had to take off my glasses to "see". I swished my way to the house and was seriously dripping as I stepped into the house. They even sent Aaron our with an umbrella, but it wasn't in enough time. I was soaked! I am wondering, even now, how John and Stacy are going to be able to make it back in their 4 wheel drive (yes, the roads are like a river) and even more how Daddy Joe is going to make it back from the work site today. Whew! It's some crazy business out there today!

It has been quite a season of life these past few weeks. I've had interview almost everyday (and interviews in this weather is never easy!!). Sometimes, the interviewee will come into the office for our interview, only to have to move around the office as the ceiling leaks in various places and they kept getting dripped on. Not very professional on our part, but what can you do!

In any case, we did find people to fill most our positions--despite the rain, bad roads, and leaky roof! We just have one more position to fill, but that's not too bad for two weeks worth of interviews!

This week has been a little up and down for me...battling another week of exhaustion which just led to a little bit of a grumpy teacher in class and a tired auntie at home...and then a bit of a sick Autumn...runny stomach is no fun! Still getting that taken care of, but hoping that 5 day weekend will help me get a little bit more rest. Ready to start that NOW!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Believing in Faith

We are walking forward in faith with this school...after all, it is called FAITH ROOTS INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY! I received this encouragement today from my friend Israel:

Mark 11:22-24

New International Version (NIV)

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly[a] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

So, we're asking for provision for our school and believing that it has already been set aside for us! Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Joanna...and all the other letters!

So, Joanna sent me this mysterious letter back in February. Our mail system has been EXTREMELY difficult to work with and I have not been able to get any mail since January.

Today, we went to worship with our family at Action Chapel and we received all the letters that we've been missing out on! It's was AMAZING to go through letters from Barb Barens, to get Brylie's one year birthday invitation (still can't believe that she's that old), Nina and Eric's wedding thank you, and Joanna's 17 page letter of amazingness.

Seriously, it made my day...it made my week! I love hearing from all of you and hearing about what is going on in your lives. Joanna wrote me every day for a week letting me know moment by moment what was going on so that I wouldn't feel left out of anything. It was AWESOME! I seriously do feel like I miss out on so much (which is why I'm on the internet more often than I probably need to) back home, so it was awesome to get the everyday thoughts of one of my best friends in the world.

So, to those of you who have written...thank you! I love being in all of your lives and thank you for keeping me in yours!

Will the school actually open??

So, we received some tough news today. The group who has been fundraising for our school will not have enough money fundraised for us to open in September. We have already hired some staff for the upcoming year, so this is a frustrating prospect to be faced with. We have enough money to plaster the walls, but need some help to put on our roof and to finish furnishing our classrooms (doors, toilets, sinks, chairs, windows, etc), about $45,000 worth of work.

Will you be praying for us? We want to walk forward in faith and just agree that school is going to start on time in September and pray that our funding will come in.

If you feel called to donate towards our school, we'd love to have you partner with us in that way. You can donate online at www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com. Just make sure to list "Faith Roots International Academy Building Fund" in the note line. If you'd like to donate by check, please write checks out to City of Refuge Ministries and send them to:
City of Refuge Ministries

PO BOX 91546

Sioux Falls, SD 57109

Thank you for your prayers and support. I am truly hoping that this school can open in September for the 100 students that we are beginning to enroll this next week!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at autumnbuzzell@gmail.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011


This week has been such a busy week and I'm so glad that it's Friday. Fridays are wonderful days as they are early release days, we all get to leave around 2 instead of 3, and we have PE, which is something different and the kids all enjoy it!

Today might be different though as it rained like crazy last night. Even this morning it was still sprinkling a bit. I'm thankful that the power stayed on through the storm though. It's so difficult to sleep without a fan going!

I have one more interview today and two on Monday and then we'll be one step closer to starting up our school! Very exciting! We need a few more teachers, so I'm still trying to recruit some more help for the school in that way. But, for this week, we have had a great response to our plea for help!

Gotta go get ready for school. Maybe we'll be making a little bit of jewelery tonight to send back home with our volunteer, Sam (who happens to live in Oakland and can get it to Bristol in a heartbeat). Jewelery making always calms me down a bit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Feeling Old

I was just laying down before coming to get a little bit more work done before I get to bed and...well...I know it may be a little vain...but, I feel old!

Our intern, McKenzie, took some pictures of Edwin and I today and I just couldn't help looking at the wrinkles around my eyes. It got me thinking about my almost 30 years of life and even thinking about how much I feel like I've "matured" even since coming here. I feel like I've been stretched in so many ways, but parenting 22 children...well, it just makes one tired!

I know that I won't even be thinking about this in the morning, but just for a brief evening...I'm feeling old.

Here is the offending picture (even if it is cute!):

Putting it All Together

Now is kind of my "Go" time...I have interviews everyday after school this week. Every evening, I've been working on getting stuff done for next year. I spent last night working until 10 pm on class schedules. That scheduling stuff is kind of challenging! Especially when you need to fit in things like PE and Chapel at odd times of the day (early in the morning when it's nice and cool). But, I think I worked it all out. Now, it's just a matter of getting it down in my computer and putting together a Master Calendar. Tricky, tricky! Now, I know why people buy software to do this stuff. It's a lot of work.

I'm excited though because we're going to be hiring an office administrator who will be starting very soon (perhaps next week) and then I can hand over some of this stuff to them. That will be very helpful!

I've been very blessed lately too because I have such generous friends. This week, I asked on Facebook for a couple of different donations--some teacher training books and some Bible Study materials for our teachers next year--and it was all donated in one day! Such a blessing! Israel, Meghan, Lindsey, Sheryl, Joanna, and Yona all pitched in to make it happen. And then, Nikki, a friend from back at PCC, has donated copying of all of our teacher's handbooks. Such a gift! I'm just continually blown away by the willingness of people to give!

So, hopefully, by this time next week, we'll have an administrator working for us, our school staffed with teachers, and quite a bit of this admin work finished!

Here's hoping I can continue to be as productive as I was yesterday!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy's Day

Today is Father's Day and I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about some great people that have been Fathers in my life in some way or another.

Firstly, my own Dad is a pretty awesome Dad! He has a great job...selling mini-trucks and taking care of kids. He's pretty amazing at both too! I love just getting to chat with him and he can answer just about any question that I have with such great wisdom. I love how he is always encouraging me too. He tells me all the time that he's proud of me and that just makes me feel so loved! My dad is pretty funny too...in a corny joke sort of way. He loves to tell just rediculous jokes and I love it when he gets to laughing really hard at something. He just has this great belly laugh. I'm so blessed with such a great dad. Thank you God for my Dad, Dan Buzzell!

Some other influential fathers in my life...well, most of the fathers in my life have been spiritual leaders at one time or another, so I'm just going to list a few people that have been a part of shaping me (and some are more "brother" than "father", but you get the idea!).

Thinking back through the years, Roger Ferguson was probably my first spiritual father. He was my paster growing up and the man that baptized me. So, thank you Roger for guiding my childhood years with your wisdom and for continuing to lead the body of Clifton Christian Church in truth and grace!

Other spiritual fathers came in my life came around the time I went to college--I think of Graydon Jessop, Mike Maiolo, and Chris Weinand--pastors that all led me during different seasons. Thank you for your fatherhood over your churches.

George Tyree was a great father and his prayers were powerful! Before I moved to NorCal, his prayers over me were about learning the Father love of God and his ministry to his family, his church, his friends, and our small group was an absolute blessing and grew me during a season when I really needed connection with a family. Though he is no longer with us, his father presence still impacts my life today and the love of his family still continues!

Tony Gapastione (though one of those guys who is more brother than father) has really led me through many of my seasons of change and growth as a believer. His words of truth have broken down walls, led me into seasons of growth and seasons of challenge, and his friendship is an abosolute blessing to me. I also love how he parents his kids and loves his wife. The way that he prioritizes them is such an absolute blessing to the body at PCC!

Mark Weber became a friend and father through prayer gatherings together. Through his teachings and prayers, I have been learning to live in more freedom in my life with Christ, living into the giftings of the Holy Spirit. I feel challenged by him, encouraged by his faith, and honored to be called a friend!

Johnbull Omorefe (again more brother than father) is such a great friend! I respect his leadership, am encouraged by his words, and feel blessed to partner with him (and Stacy) in this amazing ministry.

There are so many more "fathers" out there that have been a part of shaping my life, but I wanted to close this post with the fathers of my group of friends from college, The Beatniks. Joe Nix, Bud Suckow, Dave Preston, Eugene Kolding, Mr. Richman, Dave Van Wormer, and Mr. Blabe have at one point in time or another: opened their home to me, given me bear hugs, encouraged me through notes or emails, come to special events of mine, given me money for something or other, and a million other ways that they have fathered me through the year. I am so grateful that my family of friends has taken me in as one of their daughters.

Happy Father's Day to you Father's out there! Be blessed! We certainly are blessed because of YOU!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Learning the Balance

It feels like I'm always learning to balance things there. There are a million and one things that constantly need doing. There are children who need attention, beads to work with for 7 Continents, and ideas to brew upon, and things that I need to learn how to cook. There are things to do for school, preparations that need to be done, children to put to bed, and visitors to meet with. Endless possiblities of things that need to be done!

I'm definitely learning that there has to be a balance here or exhaustion sets in! I am feeling really worn out these days. Even though my family is gone, I still haven't been able to have Edwin come back into my room quite yet as it's still a mess and I just can't get my act together enough to clean it. Besides that, I just don't know yet if I can handle middle of the night wake up calls. I'm just too tired. I'm hoping that it will get better soon and I'll have a little bit more energy. Until then, I'll just try to reserve what I have for the kids and for the school.

I can't wait until I go home...I'm getting ready! I think a little time away is just what I need.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Going home...

My family is leaving tomorrow and it's crazy to think that they've been here for two weeks. Time has flown by in a blur of busyness, children's activities, and life here at City of Refuge. I think they had a fun time, though the heat sometimes bothered them and the kids tended to be a little overwhelming to Chris and Bri. But, they got a taste for the "good life" and I hope that God really moved something in them!

These past couple of weeks have been really good for me too. I think it has made me look at myself in a new light. Sometimes I feel bad because I feel so worn down and can be really withdrawn at times, but I think that I'm realizing now that my family has seen life here, that that is just totally normal. If I didn't feel worn out, that would be a surprise. I think, ultimately, I just was able to feel like it was OK to feel worn out...it's ok to need a break...it's ok to ask for help...I'm ok. And when I think about Edwin, I especially feel like I was really encouraged in my relationship with him. So often I can feel really worn out with him, but I felt really encouraged that it's ok to feel worn out with him at times and to ask others to help with him and because of that, it made me feel closer to him. So, I think I was able to handle more of Edwin simply because I was getting the help that I needed with him.

My mom is going to have a hard time leaving tomorrow. She has just so enjoyed life here these past couple of weeks. She's become really attached to a lot of the kids, especially the boys. She's decided she'll be coming back here next summer...no matter what! These kids are as much a part of her life now as they are mine because she knows their stories, she's seen their faces, she's lived life with them. It's been a rich time!

I'll miss my family when they go, but it is a relief to know that I'll be home in a little over a month! Wahoo!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lack of Internet...but we're still having fun!

We have had some major internet problems this week, but I wanted to give everyone a short update on our family adventures this past week while the internet is (somewhat) working!

Tuesday, June 7: I had to teach and the fam wanted to run some errands, so they all headed out with John and Stacy while I spent the day at the school. When they returned, they were a little disappointed that they weren't able to get to as many places as they had wanted, but such is life in Ghana. Things never really happen as you have planned. In any case, we enjoyed a nice evening together before hitting the hay!

Wednesday, June 8: John went and picked up some yeast and flour for a fun little treat for us and I had the kids take their midterm exams. After school, my mom and I (and Lucy and the rest of the kitchen crew) helped us make pizza which we shared out among the kids and the staff. It was yummy! My mom had brought mozzerella, cheddar, and PEPPERONI with her. So good! Then, we set up to play a game with all the kids. After the game, we sang some fun songs and my mom taught a lesson (just like at a Wednesday night youth group). Afterwards, we taught the kids about smore's and we went out and roasted marshmallows and made smores. They were certainly a hit and it was such a fun night! The staff and all the kids are just loving my family! My mom has been referred to by most of the kids as Grandma and Chris has already received several marraige proposals. It's been so fun!

Thursday, June 9: We had a midterm holiday, so a group of us (from Finding Refuge and Cornell) made our way to Cape Coast to enjoy some time at Kakum and Elmina Slave Castle. It was a great day and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The drive back was a little tedious as we were stuck in traffic for most of it, but we enjoyed ourselves. Most of the van ended up singing (very badly, I might add) different songs throughout the ride home. That was an adventure all in itself!

Friday, June 10: We stuck around at home mostly. It was fun to play with the kids and go for short walks and just enjoy home life. It was a fun day! In the afternoon, I read to the kids from the Chronicles of Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My mom and I took turns reading until we finished the story. She had brought the movie with her and the kids were begging to watch it for movie night. We made it through the last six chapters and the movie, though a little disppointing--it just wasn't as good as the book or the other movies--still made for a fun night!

Saturday, June 11: We stuck around at home again. We wanted to take the kids for a walk to the site, but when John and Stacy arrived home, they were able to take them out there to play a little bball. It was a pretty easy going day. I felt very Ghanaian as I put Edwin in a sling (on my back) because he was being extremely fussy, and cut the banku into balls for all the kids. More and more, I'm seeing Ghana becoming part of me...

Sunday, June 12: This morning we had church here at the house and then we all left to go pick up Heather and Laura from the airport. Our other guests (Jeremy and Kristin and their family) had missed their flight, so John and Stacy will head back to the airport tomorrow. We picked them up and then headed to the tourist market. The people there were a little pushy today--perhaps because they don't get much business on Sunday or perhaps because of the rain. In any case, Chris, Bri, and my mom were able to get quite a few fun things and got to barter their way into some nice prices! Afterwards, we headed to the mall for some food. Then home for time with the kiddos and dinner. Edwin was really sick this morning, so I was so glad to see that he was feeling so much better tonight when we got home--besides the fact that he was really fussy. Still haven't figured out how to handle all of that.

Well, time to go to bed, but just wanted to update everyone on the family fun here in Ghana!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Family Fun

Oh, it has been CRAZY busy since my family has arrived in Ghana and we have been having so much fun. Here's a little outline of the family fun that we've had so far:

Wednesday: I had the chance to meet up with a group (thank you Stephanie from Finding Refuge) from Azusa Pacific who were working at a school in Accra and they had some books to donate for us. So, we made the trip into Medina early on Wednesday to pick up the books they had for us. Come to find out, they had BOXES UPON BOXES of books for us. So exciting! Curriculum and supplies and Stacy said I looked like a kid in a candy shop. So fun! But, it did create a bit of a luggage problem for getting things home. But, we got to the airport, met up with the family and Daddy Joe met us at the airport to bring all the stuff home in taxis. Wow! The things that my mom had donated were amazing. SIX BOXES of supplies, food, gifts, just amazing! (Thank you to all of those who gave toward City of Refuge through my mom!) After sending our stuff home, we took them to the bead market in Accra (called Aglaboushi or something like that) to get more beads for seven continents. Then, back to the airport to pick up more guests coming in to spend a couple of weeks with us! It was a FULL day and we didn't make it back home until late at night.

Thursday: My mom, Chris, and Bri all came to school with me. That was fun! We played review games and got ready for exams that we're having this week. My family got to meet all the kids and my mom was just loving all the kiddos.

Friday: My mom and Chris came to share at morning meeting and then they went out to the children's village site to help finish painting the basketball court. Bri stayed behind to visit with Adjoa and the rest of Letitia's girls. She's been emailing Adjoa for months now and they were so excited to get to hang out! She had a blast...especially when they got to make different clay figures as our art project that day. So fun!

Saturday: At 1 am, we left for Krache. Poor Bri got a stomach flu on the bus ride up (it's been going around here amoung our visitors) and so we had to stop a few times to throw up. Poor girl. But she sure was a trooper and eventually just got a bag. Chris hardly slept at all on the 10 hour journey. Not fun! But, we made it up to Dambai in time to cross on the ferry and then got to rest once we got up to Benjamase. That afternoon, we went across the lake to Ada Cope. Unfortunately, due to some arrests of fishermen earlier last month, some of the fishermen we regularly meet with "went out" for the day since they knew we were coming. Frustrating working in this "relationship building" rescuing business. But, if we want to change the culture...it takes time...love...and lots of understanding. We'll try again next time. That night, we played a mega game of spoons, only with toilet paper rolls instead. Let's just say that Nosa and Chris were definitely feeling competitive and Bri and I were definitely on the losing side! That night it rained like crazy, but at least it cooled the night air down a bit.

Sunday: We prepped for a feed of 300 in Brafrey and met with the village chief there in Benjamase. He's been bugging us about becoming a little more settled in the village there, so he gave us an acre of land to put up our Research and Rescue Facility. Now we just need the funding to do that! After getting the food prepped, we at lunch and headed out to Brafrey. When we got there, we were expecting 200-300 people and we saw probably 1,200 people. Wow! It was overwhelming. We all had to stay in the car so that a few people could set up the line for the feeding and deworming. My mom worked with a lab tech that came from the West Africa Aids Foundation to test Hepatitis with the single women. She was BUSY! Let me tell you...it was a crazy feed and we saw lots of hungry, hungry kids and lots of moms, but it was a good feed. When we returned, we were all tired and just showered and went to sleep.

Monday: We left early to head back to Doryum. It was a pretty easy ride until we were about halfway there and our AC belt broke and we had to open windows instead. It was quite a hot journey, but we made it back in one piece.

Tuesday: I went to school today while my family all went with John and Stacy into Tema. It was quite a day for them running errands and just kinda hanging out in the car, but it sounds like my mom had a few good conversations with some of our volunteers which was really great! The made it back tonight and hung with the kids until another bug infestation came along and sent them running to the room (well, the kids kept putting the bugs on them...so that sent them running). School went well for me today and it began to rain right near the end of the day so the walk home was literally through a river on the road. Wow! But, I finished printing all our exams and I'll look forward to Thursday and Friday when we can take a little break!

There's a bit of what we've been up to so far...pictures on facebook to come!