Thursday, July 28, 2011
So maybe tomorrow I will have the energy and time to go through pictures (of which I only have a few since I forgot to bring my battery charger for my camera with me to Big Bear, arggg) and go through my stories of this past week to share with you.
Let me just tell you...I have come away filled, encouraged, and more in love with my beatnik friends than before. I just love these people and am so glad that we were able to spend some time away together. It was beautiful...
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Oh man, Isabella is so cute! I just love her little grin. She still has issues with her stomach at times and that can be really frustrating for mom and dad, but she is at this pretty great age where she's pretty happy most of the time.
Sunday, Jake, Jenni (who was in town for the weekend), and the Whelpleys came over for lunch. It was fun to see everyone and such a great time to just hang out with some of my besties. After the Whelpley's left, Jake got out his camera and we did a mini-photoshoot of Isabella. That little squirmy worm was hard to capture on film, but you can check out some of them here:
Monday, Yona and I took little Isabella to the park and enjoyed a little train ride and a little time at the zoo. It was a fun afternoon and Isabella especially loved the train ride, while Yona especially loved the black bears. In the evening, Eric's sisters came and joined us for dinner.
Today, I got up early for breakfast with Priscilla Schubert (which was so fun) and came back to a little Rango (which I think was a little adult in it's humor, but the artistry was simply amazing!). In the afternoon, we went to lunch at Don Jose's (an Autumn favorite) and then to Micheal's to pick up a few things for 7 Continents. This evening, we went to the Matheny's house for Kat and Isaiah's meet and greet. That was fun and it was good to see some of the peeps from SoCal that I don't get to see very often.
It's been a joy so far to be here and I'm loving every minute of my time here. Now, off to bed. I think the jetlag is still hitting me pretty hard, so I gotta get to sleep when I can!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Ghanaian taxi drivers just can't be trusted! The run on African time...to the extreme. We told our taxi driver to arrive at 5:30-6:00 last night to take me to the airport. My flight, leaving at 11, but having to go through customs and all that for a direct flight is a mess, I had to get to the airport by 8. The guy showed up right at 7. I won't lie...I was a little stressed out that I wouldn't make it in time.
The kids rushed the car for hugs and kisses and I was so sad that I had to miss putting them to bed. Some of my favorite times of the day is praying for them every night and giving them a kiss on the head. The boys especially like the kiss part. Too funny! But, they got multiple kisses before I left and I rushed out of Doryumu like a crazy woman!
I was more than a little frustrated with the taxi driver. We ran into a little bit of traffic, but he definitely sensed my frustration and we were able to make it to the airport in record time (though there were moments that I thought I wouldn't make it there alive...the driving was a little crazy to get me there on time!). We arrive at 8:20, still in good time to make my flight.
I had to reorganize my bags a bit because of the weight limit (the jewelery is heavy), but I switched it all around and made it fit. Let me just tell you...my carry-ons are pretty heavy!
My flight was fairly easy. At first I was seated in a middle seat and I was thinking, "Great, I'm never going to get any sleep on this flight." But, I had a great conversation with a lady sitting next to me and right before the flight left, a steward moved me to an empty seat (with more leg room--praise the Maker!). I watched Jane Eyre (upon Katie's recommendation--thank you Katie, it was great!) and then tried to catch some z's. I probably got 5 or 6 hours of very COLD sleep, but that's not too shabby!
Looking forward to time with friends when I arrive in LA. I have to battle CARMAGEDDON with the 405 shut down, so a shuttle is taking me to Yona's, but other than that, I think this trip has gone pretty smoothly.
More updates soon...
Saturday, July 16, 2011
The joy they bring is so sweet.
I think back to a year ago when I was preparing to come here, unsure of everything and sad about leaving behind one of my best friend's who had just had a baby (my little girl Brylie) and my other best friend who had just told me she was pregnant. I was sad about leaving my job and the staff at Brentwood. I was sad about leaving behind my church, my house, my friends, my family. It was difficult and the season of "sadness" lasted so long. But, I know that I have been called here. I see that now. And I look back over this past year and see that changes that have happened in me and the opportunities that I have been given and though my life is SO DIFFERENT from the one that I lived in the States, I call this year a blessing.
I know that my life here is "on" 24/7 and I am excited for the rest that this trip will bring (Lord, I'm praying for REST and not for busyness!), but I will miss these children, my friends, and family here in Ghana. This year has brought change and I can't go back to how I lived before. My eyes are opened...
Now, I really see where Paul talks about our home not being of this world. My home has to be a longing for heaven, when all the people from all of my "homes" can once and for all come together.
I love this song that Sara Groves sings "Every Minute" and there is this one part that is my dream...and I know that it won't happen until we are all truly "home", but it is a beautiful dream. And so I leave you with these lyrics:
And I wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place,
And know each other and love each other well.
And I wish we could all go camping,
And lay beneath the stars,
And have nothing to do and stories to tell.
We'd sit around the campfire
And we'd make each other laugh,
And you're the first one I'm inviting.
Always know that you're invited, my friend.
And at the risk of wearing out my welcome.
At the risk of self-discovery,
I'll take every moment,
And every minute that you give me.
Every moment, and every minute that you give me.
Every moment, and every minute that you give me.
Justice is the toddler's ringleader for sure! He has leadership skills up the wazoo, but the only problem is that sometimes he leads the other boys straight into trouble. Whether it's playing a game of "atooooo" (which means hug) where they all crowd around each other and hug (TOTALLY CUTE!), or whether he leads them in a game of pinch and slap (the trouble I was talking about, he is still as cute as can be! Justice is known for never wearing any clothes and it's difficult to even put him in clothes because of his distaste for them. So, most of the time, you see this little blond-headed cute waltzing around in just his diaper. Justice can also get dirtier than any of the kids in a matter of seconds! His favorite place to play is the dirtpile out front and the dirt usually ends up on his head. He is almost two and has an amazing sense of humor. He likes to laugh and tickle and play chase games. He makes hilarious faces and poses just like his Nigerian papa. Two of his most famous stories of silliness include his muscle man phase where he went around showing his muscles, the veins popping out of his head while he grunted to give us the best pic of his big muscles. To funny! Of course, all the other babies got in the action too. And now, the latest one has been his marching. John will call out, "left, left, left, right, left" and him (along with the other babies) get in a line and start marching. When "attention" is shouted, they all put one foot down with a stop and "salute" brings about a very cute salute (Justice's salute is done by grabbing his nose and them throwing his hand out--don't know how he got the nose idea, but it is funny!). In any case, this little leader will definitely grow up to do something fabulous!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I remember when I first came, I was searching for a doctor, somehow, someway, that would be able to repair the damage done. I wanted to get him adopted out to the States so that his medical care could be better taken care of (you don't even want to hear the horror stories of the hospitals in this country!). But, despite all of our efforts here, Robert remains--a boy with faith the size of a mountain and a contagious joy! (New development: Robert might possibly have to opportunity to be checked out by a doctor in Tennessee thanks to our friend Kristin.)
Robert is my goofball prayer warrior. This boy knows can pray! And he prays with great faith! And he prays all the time! I love Robert's heart for the Lord. He is sensitive to the Spirit and I've learned that Words of Encouragement are his love language. You say something negative to him and it sticks with him, but you tell him something positive, and it will make his day.
I remember one of my first weeks teaching here, when we were still living in Tema, Robert had gotten in trouble for something in class and despite his age (he had just turned 15 at the time), tears welled up in his eyes, but he absolutely refused to talk to me. After awhile, he came and said, "Auntie Autumn, when I got in trouble, it hurt my heart and when that happens, I can't speak for awhile. I'm sorry!". I melted at that. After that, I have found that it is easier to deal with any behavior problem with Robert with a soft word rather than a harsh one.
Robert is a HUGE class clown and as the oldest among the kids at City of Refuge, he definitely leads the boys into some goofy trouble at times. But, he has turned into a pretty decent student. He is extremely behind in his school work (only at a grade 4 level), but he works hard and I'm proud of the work that he accomplishes.
I pray, along with Robert, that one day, God will heal him. That one day, he will walk normally again. That one day, he will live without pain. But, until that time, I know that my boy will have faith the size of a mountain and contagious joy, bad leg and all.
Abigail was rescued last June, about a month before my arrival at City of Refuge. She was enslaved, from our knowledge, for about five years. She was trafficked from a fishing village on the oceanside called Lalonya and taken up to Ada Kope where she and DK and their older cousin were all rescued. We know that she was primarily used as a domestic slave, drying fish and selling in the markets. We don't know in what other ways that she could have possibly been used, but we know that from her anger, she didn't live an easy life.
When Abby first arrived, her grasp of the Twi language was practically nothing and because of that, she had a lot of problems getting along with the other girls. Often, she could be found outside singing, lost in her own world, shedding tears for a childhood that had been stolen from her.
As her grasp of language began to grow, she showed a lot of behaviors that a small child would show. Portia would come running and shouting, "Carry Me!", and Abby would do the same. She would lay on your lap if you sat down next to her and she just longed to be loved, cuddled, held, babied. I remember one day specifically when Abby came shouting "Carry Me!", so I picked her up on my hip, just like I would do with the babies (except it's much heavier with an 11 year old girl), and rocked her back and forth, back and forth, back and forth as she laid her head on my shoulder. After a good fifteen-twenty minutes, we went inside and she laid down on my lap and I stroked her head. John and Stacy both had similar experiences with Abby as well and I have to believe that these sweet moments brought such healing to our Abby-girl!
Now, you will see Abby, for the most part, a happy child. She does still deal with anger sometimes and let me tell you...this girl has a powerhouse voice that you can hear from far away when she starts shouting. But, the laughter overpowers the shouting. And her singing now isn't filled with the longing for a childhood, but the joy of claiming back what rightfully belonged to her. She attended school this year for the first time in her life and began to learn to read and write and was very successful in mathematics. She's growing into a beautiful young lady.
I'm blessed to be a part of this beautiful girl's beautiful story.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
This picture shows Miracle, Caleb and JJ. The Omorefe boys are balls full of energy, each with their own sweet personality, and they are so much fun! Today, I'll celebrate them in all their glory.
Miracle has this sweet way about him. He loves to be loved and because of that, he comes up with all kinds of stunts to get a little bit of attention. He's a funny boy though and he loves to laugh and giggle and especially loves to be tickled! He has shoulder displasia, but you wouldn't know as he is as active as he can possibly be and he never wants to be left out of ANYTHING! He is a competitive little boy and he never lets anything hold him back. His best frienemy is Micheal. They have this wonderful love/hate relationship--one minute playing together to their hearts content and the next minute, beating each other up. Such boys! My favorite things about Miracle are his hands in mine...he loves to hold hands to and from school and he's my little pal on the way home, usually chatting, along with Mary, about the latest and greatest story or tale of woe.
Caleb is a touch boy. He loves hugs, kisses, and loves to play rough. He has a spunky attitude and it's hard to keep up with him as he is going, going, going all the time. Sometimes the spunk is hard to control and turns into 4 year old temper tantrums, but when he's able to be calmed down, he turns into moldable jello. My favorite time with Caleb is right when he's going down to sleep, he wants a big hug and a kiss and wants to pray together before going to sleep. As much as his stubbornness can be frustrating, his sweetness melts my heart!
JJ is just flat out adorable! He is such a fun kid! This boy has learned so much this year in school. You can sit down with him to read and he can read just about anything that he sets his mind to. I'm proud of his accomplishments! He is such a funny boy too! He loves to dance and frequently gets lost in his own imagination. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to be inside his head for just a moment. I'm sure his mind is filled with such adventures. JJ isn't what you call a risk-taker (he's a first-born after all and us first-borns are known for playing it safe), but when he feels safe, you can find him doing something a little on the wild side! He can be more reserved than the other Omorefe's, but that makes his shows of affection all the more real. What a sweet, sweet boy!
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Today, I stood out on the porch as the rains fell and watched all the kids outside with Nosa and John as they danced and played. There are moments here when I get these pictures of what heaven must look like...kids dancing in the rain with full joy on their faces with their Daddy. I love these little glimpses into heaven.
Evelyn is a joyful girl (on the left). She says that her favorite thing to do is laugh...and it's really true! She loves to laugh! Evelyn was challenging when I first arrived in that she was never confident of herself. She didn't believe that she could accomplish much of anything in school, so she wouldn't even try. Instead, she would copy off of other people. Today, she is confident--though sometimes she still doubts herself--happy, learning well, a hard worker and a joy to be around.
Mary is a ball of hyperactivity (second to the left). She will talk from the moment she wakes up until the time she goes to sleep, but I have to admit, she is pretty amazing! I love getting to teach her, despite all of the interruptions she tends to cause. And at the house, she pretty much has adopted me as her big sister. Every day, I hear "Auntie Autumn, a hug, a hug" and am squeezed so tightly I lose my breath. And though she is hyper, if I catch her in the right moment, she is beautifully teachable. Although her "little sister" attitude tends to get her in trouble with the other kids, she really is a joy and the house wouldn't be the same without our hyper girl.
Grace is definitely a teenager (second to the right). She goes through these crazy mood swings, but she is an awesome girl. My favorite part about Grace is her laugh. She laughs with her whole body and it is so awesome. Her legs come up, her hands fling out, and the laugh that comes from her body could shake the room. She is so helpful and loves to work in the kitchen. Her newest obsession is chewing gum--to the detriment of all listeners nearby! She chews that stuff with a vengence and I've had to threaten gum removal because of all the loud smacking. But, every day, she is begging for another piece, and who could say no with that big grin! She is a smart student too and really works hard at school.
Micheal has learned so much this year (on the right). As one of our 7 year olds, he is a pretty active little fellow! He's hard to keep up with...moving this way and that, playing ball one moment, playing swords the other. One of my favorite moments so far this year, though it probably wasn't that safe, was when Micheal and Miracle were caught at school "sword fighting" with machetes. All I heard was "FOOOOORRRR NARRRNIAAA" outside my window. When I looked out the window and saw what was going down...well, I had to keep my composure. I mean, in the States, you would never imagine such a scene...but mix up the cultures here and that is what you get! They're obsessed with Chronicles of Narnia. In any case, Micheal is our little mischievious guy. He's sneaky and therefore doesn't get in trouble probably as much as he should, but he's just so cute when he flashes that grin. I'm excited that I get to see him grow another year and see how much he'll continue to learn!
Well, as much as I thought I was going to write on each person today, my energy is gone and my work is calling my name, so I'll try to continue this blog tomorrow where you can get an update on another group of our kiddos here at City of Refuge. I love my Ghana family...what a pleasure to get to be a part of this life...despite all the struggles, it is such a joy and the work is so rewarding!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
About once or twice a week, I take the little kids and we go for a walk. We just walk in the same big circle, down our dusty (and sometimes muddy) road, and through the field back to our house.
This week, Edwin came to me and said "walk"...his language is really growing and I'm surprised everyday what he's learning! So, I set off with Caleb, Portia, Edwin, Malvin, and JJ.
These walks are such a joy. The little kids don't mind the shortness of the walk, they just love to tell stories and walk around with their auntie. And for a moment, I'm transplanted back in my childhood--playing in the countryside around our house, imaginations going wild and just enjoying life with my siblings.
This week, our walk consisted of:
--hunting lions in the bush (Portia was the lion)
--chasing little frogs down the road (Portia, Caleb, JJ, and Edwin were the frogs)
--leading my pet puppies back home (Caleb, Portia, and Edwin were the puppies). That one lasted long enough for Caleb to "walk" into cow manure with his hand and then we had to head home for a little clean-up from our walk!
When we go for walks, I see the beauty of being a child out here. I see the joy of a run full force down the road. Every stick as a sword, calling out "For Narniaaaaaaaaaaa!" with a full voice. The sand on the road is an excuse to take off your shoes and run your toes into it. The high weeds are a good hiding place, and of course there are always "snakes" to kill (we've never really had a snake...but lots of pretend ones are killed admidst the bush on our little walks).
Even if I get caught up in the busyness of life here...I'm grateful for these moments where the clock seems to stop and we can just BE...I'm living grateful for these kids, for the freedom to BE kids, and for the joy of simplicity.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Last week, at JJ's birthday party at the mall, I took a few minutes out to work on my kindle with the wireless internet there. Now, that my Kindle is registered, my books are all downloaded and I'm ready to read.
It's been a fun new distraction...and I really mean distraction. I have a million and one things to do before I head out this next week and yet, most afternoons, you will find me reading Pride and Prejudice instead of writing tests and working on paperwork for the school.
I suppose that it is a little bit of an escape for me from the craziness of life here, but I think I'm going to have to hide it from myself to finish up what I need to get done to be ready to get out of here by next weekend.
So, thank you IRS for the Kindle and the welcome relief that it brings. Now, I must set it all aside to get ready to come home.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Here are a few of my 4th of July cravings today:
*fresh corn on the cob
*red, white, and blue
*jamming on guitars (thanks to my brother Chris)
*chasing kids around (mostly Kayden)
*and so much more
It makes me a little homesick to think about all these things that we do to celebrate the 4th of July in the States...I miss that summer feeling of excitement and the smell of the BBQ grill and the fresh fruits and vegetable piled high on the table every night for dinner.
The past few years have been filled with very memorable 4th of Julys!
Last year, I had an amazing summer with friends traveling out to Colorado to spend the holiday with me at the Buzzell home. It was a blast! I picked up Bristol, Katie, Jenni, and Lauren from the airport in Denver and we met up with Sarah on the way over the mountain. Yona and Eric (pre-Isabella) also drove over from the Nix Ranch to join us for a couple of days. We had such a blast on the 4th--doing team activities like a scavenger hunt and mini-truck decorating.
The year before, it wsa Bristol, Jenni, Charmaine and I making the trip out to Ohio to hang with Lauren and Katie at their home for the 4th. What an awesome holiday that was! We had a new adventure everyday and I think I experienced more in that week than I did that whole summer. We ate ice cream from just about every shop in Cleveland and ate so much we ended up in food comas almost everyday. We saw the beautiful countryside and enjoyed time with the Majewski's crazy family. What a blast!
And the year before that, the Koldings were married on the 3rd. So, naturally, most of us stayed around to celebrate on the 4th. It was such a blast to celebrate with friends that are like family and watch the fireworks that covered the whole valley of Pheonix from the balcony of the Preston's house. Then, I made the road trip up to Flagstaff to hang with Jenni's family, along with Katie, Lauren, and Christy Lynch. What a blast that was! We roadtripped all the way back home and that was an awesome memory with some of my most amazing friends!
This year, my 4th of July is completely different. But, perhaps this year, I experienced just a taste of what it felt like for the forefathers to sign our Declaration of Independence. No, I didn't sign any documents to free an entire country--but I work daily with children who now live in freedom when even a year ago, they were enslaved. And I'm praising God that I get to see liberty first hand...in the eyes of a child named Abigail...and DK...and Mershak...and all the rest. What a priveledge!
I have quite a bit of work to do before I take off. By the time I return, at least this is our prayer, we'll be moved into the new house at the land, so I need to have my room packed up as well. I also have to get the school packed up as we'll be moving out of the building by the end of next week (Wow, this year went fast!). I have twice-weekly meetings with our new school administrator, so I will have to make sure that he has enough to do while I am gone to see that the school is well set for when I return. And I have my own packing to do for my trip home. I want to bring some things back to sell (which means, I'm working on a lot of different jewelery designs and we're working with the ladies of 7 Continents to produce better quality products). I could keep the list going and going and going...but I won't. Pretty much, it comes down to the fact that these next two weeks are going to be busy!
I'm excited about the chance to go home though. I can't wait for my beatnik week away--to see my little baby girls growing up so fast (Brylie and Isabella) and to see the Whelps and Joanna who I haven't seen in an ENTIRE YEAR. I'm so excited to see friends in SoCal that I haven't seen in awhile and to catch up with what is going on in their lives. I'm excited to hang with my NorCal friends and to get some one on one time with some of my closies. And I'm looking forward to time at home with my family before returning here. I'm excited about telling people about the work that is happening here and the things that we are seeing God do.
And...honestly...I'm excited for the rest! I'm just weary...this year has been amazingly good...but it's also been amazingly busy and I'm looking forward to a small season of REST.
But, until then, it's back to work! Let's see how much I can actually get done today!