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, October 30, 2011

The way God Answers

So, we have been praying at City of Refuge for God to raise up churches to help take care of the food part of our living here...and yesterday, he totally answered our prayers!
We were invited to a church to come and be a part of their Thanksgiving services. I loved being a part of their worship, hearing the testimonies of the people there...it was such a joyful service. And then, they had John get up and speak. It was a powerful time. And near the end, the brought in bags and bags of rice, boxes of indomie, corn dough and cassava dough, yam, water, sugar, soap, milk, milo and more!! It was awesome! It seriously brought tears to my eyes to see the ways that this small church came together to provide for our kids.
When we got a chance to stand up and thank the congregation, our words were so simple. All I could say was that each week we gather together in a worship service, but this...the way they gave so freely of what they had...this is being the hands and feet of Christ, this is what it means to be the Church.
I'm praying we'll continue to see this kind of favor over City of Refuge as God works through churches here to provide for the needs of "the least of these".

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Crazy Friday...make that Thursday

This week was a four-day week as it was midterms. It was quite a busy one as Mr. Francis was gone dealing with some family business all week. Usually, when he is away, I spend much of my time in the office, but this week, I also have some formal observations to get done and it seemed like the kids thought this would be the appropriate time to all act like wrestlers in a boxing ring. Whew!

Yesterday was the craziest day of all! Stacy and John came with me in the morning to meet with some parents about a note that some of the kids had been passing around in their class earlier in the week. Dealing with that issue was going to be difficult enough as it was, so I called in reinforcements. It was kind of funny because Stacy was asking what she could do early in the morning before school started and there really wasn't anything that I could give her to do, but the second school started up in the morning, we were busy until long after school had ended for the day.

First of all, it was the last day of mid-terms, so I had told the students that I would be going through their exams to see who had done well. So, I went through each and every student exam (just so you know, that 80 students with 6 exams each). Yeah, that took me awhile. I also had to finish up testing the KG1 and KG2 classes (that's preschool and kindergarten). I wanted to see how much they had learned so far and the results that came of those tests, well, that is a whole other issue in and of itself. Then, it was time for kind cash store. Stacy had been working all morning on our library books, labeling them and getting them ready to be set up in our store room (our temporary library). When she finished with that, she set up for kind cash store and all of the sudden, we had whole herd of problems come up right at the same time!

First of all, one little boy that we've been working with in our 1st grade class, Simon, hadn't earned enough money to go to the kind cash store, so he decided to run out of his class, lay down on the floor in the middle of the hallway and roll around crying at the top of his lungs. So, I carried him to the office where he proceeded to roll around on the floor, knock things off a table, and then try to bite me for the next 20 minutes. In the middle of that, a knock came to the door of my office stating that the Ghana Health Service was at our school coming to vaccinate the children 5 and under. They needed to know the ages of all of the children, but since I had a child going crazy in my office, I didn't have the time to get out my files to look up children's ages.

Finally, close to 3:00 (the close of our school day), John came up stating that the bus was still broken down (the bus we have hired is a hunk of junk and breaks down usually once or twice a week) and he'd have to take trips of students home. He got Simon in the car and took him home with a whole bunch of other kids.

Then, it began to be time to clean up my mess. I hadn't had the time to do any accounting for the day and I just had to shove it all in my backpack to take it home, but when it came time to lock-up, I couldn't find my keys. Ahhhh! It was so frustrating. I had been so flustered with Simon's knock-down-drag-out fit, that I couldn't even think straight. Finally, Stacy found them, sitting on my desk where I usually put them. Thank goodness for her calm state of mind, because I was more than a little flustered yesterday afternoon.

But, I was thankful that it was only a 4-day week and I came home and was able to just relax a bit. I played with the babies (I seriously LOVE hearing Malvin, Edwin, and Justice giggle). Then, I had Dora and Portia do my hair (Portia said I looked like a chicken...I don't think that is a compliment!). Then, I played a couple games of cards with Grace, DK, Miracle, and Micheal, and then it was off to bed, where I only stayed up about 30 minutes before I was asleep (8:30 pm...I know, I'm lame).

And today, I get to relax. Of course, I have some work to do, but all in all, I get to relax and I think that's just what the Dr. ordered!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birthdays BIG!

Lydia turned 29 yesterday and we had an amazing party! Lucy, Lydia, Mama Theresia, Aunty Millicent, and Aunty Portia were cooking all morning long. The food looked amazing and by 4:00 pm, everyone was ready to dig in!

Everyone got dressed up, gathered underneath a big canopy and we all listened to music, drank sparkling juices, ate, and danced. It was an amazing day!

So, even though I am too exhausted (probably from all the food and fun!) to write much today, I just wanted to write this post to wish Lydia a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Snakebites and New Babies

So, this week, I experienced a few "African" things that I have yet to experience.

Thursday was our monthly PTO meeting and we had a pretty great turn-out. The meeting was full and the parents were all participating. Near the end of the meeting, one of our guardians of one of our sponsored kids (John Apaw) decided to leave a little early. She has to be nearing 90 years of age and she got a head start on the crowds. Well, she barely got down our road when a snake came out from the bush and bit her. John, the brave boy that he is, took her walking stick and killed the snake. By that time, word had reached us at the meeting and as the meeting closed, everyone rushed to her aid and got her in a vehicle to take her to the military hospital. Once they got to the hospital, they told us that there was no anti-venom there (a very foolish thing since they train their men and women in our bush which is where the woman was walking). So, they took her all the way to Dodowa (another 45 minute drive). By the time she got to the hospital, her blood pressure was too high to give her the anti-venom, so they had to give her a drip and wait for her BP to come down before they finally gave it to her. John has been going every day to check in on her and they still haven't released her. She is the primary care-giver for John and another little boy (probably 2 years old). Stacy and I had even talked about her that very day that we don't know what will happen to him if she was to die. Well, she's getting better and hopefully will be out of the hospital tomorrow. I felt so bad for John who had to stay home from school to care for the little boy. What a life!

Then, last night during our prayer meeting, our neighbor called us. They are a young couple (the wife is only 18 and was pregnant with her THIRD). Around 2:00 am they called and Amelia had gone into labor so John and Stacy raced down to take them to the hospital in Dodowa. Here is the healthcare system in Ghana: When they got to the hospital, they wouldn't admit her because she hadn't been to any prenatal classes there. So, they told us we'd have to take her to Accra. Mind you, this is the emergency room of the local hospital and Accra is an hour and a half away while Amelia is in labor (3-4 minute apart contractions). Stacy and John really spoke up about it and finally they admitted her once they said that they needed to report this hospital for it's lack of care of patients. When John and Stacy went in to see the labor room, the night staff was all ASLEEP in the room. Yeah...crazy! In any case, Amelia had a fine baby girl and she came back home this morning. We went to see her today and the baby is beautiful. They live in a tiny little room (her, her husband, and now the three little children) with just mats on the floor. So, we went through some clothes to bring them over there for them. The new baby will get her name at her naming ceremony after 7 days.

After these two incidents, I realized that this community is beginning to see us as part of their own. Who do they call on to help them? The NGO down the road. So, even when it's difficult here, I can see that we are beginning to look more and more like the hands and feet of Jesus to these people. And, I think that is what it's all about.

PillowCase Dresses

The lovely ladies that partner with us in TN have been making some adorable pillowcase dresses and I had the opportunity to share them with some of our kids at Faith Roots. Hopefully, soon, we can get a few more to make sure that all the girls at Faith Roots gets one, but just wanted to share with you a few delightfully cute pictures of some of our kiddos in these adorable dresses.

Thank you TN ladies!!

Being Reminded of Sweet Times

Last night, we had an all-night prayer meeting at our house to pray about our electricity getting put into our Children's Village site. We have already seen some advances coming out way...the Director of Ghana Electric feeling called to help us on our project and asking us to bring a letter to see if we can get the government to bring in the electricity with only a small part of it being provided by us. We'll see...

But, last night, it reminded me of sweet times of worship and prayer that I experienced with Mark Weber and his family when I was living in Northern California.

My first year living in the Bay area, I lived with the Lee family. They are a sweet, older couple who have intensely beautiful hearts for the moving of the Spirit. They opened their home to Christina and I and we both lived there for a year. During that time, we started meeting for prayer meetings with Mark about once or twice a month. At first, I was a little nervous about the prayer meetings. I hadn't ever been to meetings like that before and there was a lot going on that made me uncomfortable or simply made me wonder...

But, as time went on, I was able to discern the difference between praying in the flesh and praying in the Spirit and began to really hear God speak more and more. It was a powerful season. Eventually, I began to lead worship at the gatherings and that brought about an amazing season of worship for me. I was in my first year of teaching and I was completely overwhelmed with the work that I was doing, but when I began to lead worship, God showed me a new way to connect with him and brought me to a deeper place in relationship with him. At first, I was always nervous about my guitar skills, but over time, I became more comfortable and was able to lead more and more as the Spirit led me.

Those prayer nights were incredibly sweet. The house would be full of worshippers and then we'd break into groups and pray for each other. I felt God's presence so deep and heavy in those times, so rich and sweet. And then, when people began to disperse, there was always a small group left that would stick around and pray deeply together. We would hold hands, swaying in the movement of the Spirit and pray healing, wholeness, and the love of the Father to be poured down on each of us. Sweet, sweet, sweet time!

Then, Christina and I, who each had our own room during that time, would both crawl into her bed in the early, early morning (usually around 2 or 3 am) and talk about what we saw and experienced and we'd get excited about how God was moving in and around us.

That season was certainly a precious time.

And last night reminded me a bit of that. I mean, it was done in the African way, but we were all up, praying and singing and shaking things in the heavenlies. It was a sweet time. It was an honor to stand alongside my kids and see them rocking things in the supernatural with their prayers.

Little Mary Osei, her heart is growing for the Lord and the way that she was praying and worshipping last night was powerful.

And our 16 year old Pastor Robert knows how to pray and preach and he just desires to see God's kingdom here on earth.

And Uncle Nosa, even though he hasn't been feeling well this week, he was calling out prayer with a voice so much more powerful than his normal speaking voice.

God was present. He is real. And He's moving. So, we are trusting that this sweet time of prayer will bring about so many things for us in our physical world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

At the advice of a friend...

So, every month, I send out a newsletter highlighting the things that have been happening in my life. Along with it, I usually send out some prayer requests about things that have been going on in City of Refuge and in my own life. The month of October was no different. My normal email was sent out, but I got a response that really moved me this month.

I was commenting in my prayer requests that my life has been extremely busy and I've found it difficult to have regular times with God. It's been frustrating and probably part of the reason I'm overwhelmed much of the time. I also commented on our need for electricity to get out to the children's village so that we can move! Our houses are almost completely ready. Windows are in...they're painted...all we need is electricity and we are there!

One of my friends, Eric Roberts, emailed me saying that maybe our lack of electricty and our lack of spiritual connection is somehow related. And I took that to heart. I brought it up with John and we are praying it out this week. Today, we fasted and prayed for our electricity to be brought out to the land. And we're going to be doing the same on Friday.

And already, we're seeing some possibilities. We found a guy at the electric company in Tema that told us that our electricity going in is actually a project for the Ghana Electric Company and that they should take care of the primary cost of putting in electricity. So, we're praying that this will happen before we leave for Christmas. Our goal is to move in by Thanksgiving, but we'll see what happens. We're hoping that this prayer will move some things in the heavenlies and get these electricity poles in the ground!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Different Life

Sometimes, I look around at my new office and I think about where I've come from. I listen to the children's voices echoing down the hallways and I think about the places that I've been before. I look at the faces of our teachers and think upon the faces of the dozens of teachers who have been a part of my life.

Sometimes, it's weird to think about where I've come from...and how I've gotten here.

After going to Kenya in 2004, I always knew that I'd return to Africa, but I don't think I ever imagined that I would be doing what I'm doing today. I remember the struggle of getting into my teacher credentialing program, of finding a job, of just the stress of the job once I found one. Even when I was considering coming to Ghana, I was unsure of how long I'd stay here.

And here I am...still in Ghana...doing something I never thought possible. I look around at my school sometimes and I'm amazed at how far we have come from last year. Last year, just three teachers and myself in a little blue school house. Last year, I taught with no curriculum...just assessing needs and filling holes. And this year, a building, 10 staff members, working toilets and running water. This year, an office, tutoring groups, 120 students. I look around so often and I'm simply AMAZED at what one year can do.

When John and Stacy told me we were putting together a school...this is so much bigger than what I had in mind.

And yet, so often, I think...what if my teacher friends were to come here. What would they see? Would they see our wooden desks...or unfinished buildings...or our lack of electricity? I think about the 15 BOXES of supplies and books that I packed up from my classroom in EPA...my bins...my stools...my supplemental materials...and I see such a difference from where I came from to where I am now.

I miss the relationships from that time, and sometimes I wish that I had some of my materials here to help aid in the process of learning (what I could do with some bulletin boards and some sound/spelling cards), but I love what we are doing here.

Since I returned...well even before that...but since I returned in August, it has been a busy and overwhelming road and so often I have said to myself (and sometimes to other people), "I don't think I can do this!". But, here we are and for the first time, today I felt like this is all possible. I know that it's a difficult road (starting up a school in a country that is so different from my own), but it is possible. We will make this thing work! We will see it through to the end and we will be successful! This is possible! Not on my strength alone...if it had just been me, I would have stayed with the one-room school house model as I was too overwhelmed with the project to dream any bigger...but God is working in His mighty way to see this thing through.

And I keep thinking, I'm pretty glad that God dreams up bigger things for myself than I would have thought possible because this life is pretty amazing. Beneath the struggle and stress, there is this blessed, amazing promise...God is FOR ME.

And so I leave you with this song, by one of my favorite singer/songwriters/worshippers:
So faithful, so constant
So loving and so true, so powerful in all you do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move, You love for me to sing to You

I know that you are for me, I know that you are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are

So patient, so gracious
SO merciful and true
So wonderful in all you do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move and you love for me to sing to You

I know that you are for me, I know that you are for me
I know that Yow will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Wishes

So, I had a pretty normal weekend here. We made a trip into Accra on Saturday to pick up some stuff that had been brought over by adopting parents. We got to hang out with Emily and Kitt as well and had an awesome dinner at one of our new favorite places to hang out--Melting Moments.

I had a weird experience while we were in Accra though. We went to a hotel to go pick up some packages that a family had left behind for us. It was at this ritzy hotel, but I really had no idea what to expect until I walked in. I seriously have never been in a place that nice in my entire life. And when I glanced out the back windows, they had this huge pool. All the staff were wearing uniforms with this kente cloth sewn in. When I walked in the front doors of the hotel, I had this crazy amount of anxiety bubbling up inside of me. Such a weird response...but it almost made me ANGRY that there was a place that nice here. It made me think, "what are people doing when they visit here?". Are people just coming into the country and saying, "I made a trip to Africa this week" and staying at these extremely, over the top nice hotels, when right outside the front gate, there are homeless children playing in the street? It was just shocking! I seriously felt like I couldn't breathe.

When I went home over the summer, most people asked me how my culture shock was and honestly, I don't experience much culture shock when I go home (if I don't count my trips to Wal-mart as culture shock experiences). But, yesterday, and that hotel, that was a culture shock experience for me. Extreme wealth meets extreme poverty with no answer as to why. Why would someone come to Ghana and think they are tasting the culture by staying in a place like that. I honestly felt ashamed of my white skin--of my own culture--of the wealth that comes from America and Europe. The money that is used for even one nights stay in a hotel like that could feed hundreds of children in Tema New Town. It's a shame...

So, my first weekend wish--that people would come to Ghana and experience the truth of life here...that they wouldn't hide themselves behind walls of gradeur, but experience the people and the life and the joy and the sorrows of this beautiful country and that they'd use their wealth to benefit this country instead of line the pockets of the already wealthy here.

Second weekend wish--electricity at the Children's Village site, that way my weekends can be my weekends and my weekdays can be my weekdays. The minute we have electricity out there, I'll be doing all my computer work during the work week instead of in my evenings and weekends and then I can actually have more of a weekend.

Well, this post turned out to be more negative than I intended. I actually had a good weekend. It was restful in parts, fun in other parts, and altogether, enjoyable. So, third weekend wish--one more day to add to my weekend!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Water...and all it means to use here!

So, here in Doryumu, we get water every other week. One week, we'll get water running into the house and enjoy showers and the ability to wash your hands...in the sink. The next week, we'll use the water that we saved from the week before. We do bucket baths and all that jazz.

Well, this week is supposed to be our ON week. But, Sunday, our normal water day, came and went and still NO WATER! So, we've been without water now for two weeks. I am so glad that we have water running at the site, because that allows us to fill up buckets to bring back with us and we are able to take baths occasionally throughout the week.

But, I'm literally PRAYING for water to come soon because I have to wash clothes like crazy and I know that if I try to wash them with kids around at school, I know that I will have about 100 students wanting to help me wash my "delicates", which I'd rather not experience!

What we take for granted in the States, like regular access to running water, we value here!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Lately, I have been reading a lot of fiction and, though it serves a purpose to get my mind off of the craziness of my life at this moment, I decided to jump into a book that my mom brought for me when she came to visit me out here that I just haven't started yet.

Little did I know that it would rock me and bring me to tears in the first chapter.

The author, David Platt, talks about different experiences within the American church and the church abroad. He challenges us to leave it all and follow Christ. This part really got to me:

"But I want to know him. I want to experience him. I want to be a part of a people who delight in him, like the brothers and sisters in underground Asia who have nothing but him. And I want to be a part of a people who are risking it all for him.
For the sake of more than a billion people today who have yet to even hear the gospel, I want to risk it all. For the sake of twenty-six thousand children who will die today of starvation or a preventable disease, I want to risk it all. For the sake of an increasingly marginalized and relatively ineffective church in our culture, I want to risk it all. For the sake of my life, my family, and the people who surround me, I want to risk it all."

In so many ways, I feel like I have risked it all...but yet, have I? I still have a storage unit of stuff back in the States and I make trips back and forth to visit family and tell people about the work that is being done here. Am I really risking it all? I want to be...I want to be willing to lay it all down for the sake of the thousands of children that are dying world-wide. I want to be willing to lay it all down for the 120 children who I see everyday--the ones who go home to single mothers, the orphaned, the abandoned, the trafficked, and needy. Oh God, help me lay it all down. I want to risk it all for your kids, your kingdom, your love...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A New Picture

Today, Stacy and I headed to Accra to do a little bit of shopping for school. We are using an American curriculum at our school, and as thorough as it is, it is also lacking in many ways. So, today, we went to find supplements for math and social studies.
Stacy and I don't really get out much by ourselves, so it's always fun to do something different by ourselves. Well, right off the bat, we told our taxi driver to go to the WRONG part of Accra. Whoops...we just blamed it on the fact that we're obruni's who don't know Accra very well. Oh well!

We finally made it to the bookstore though and spent a good amount of time perusing until we found just what we were looking for and the things that we'll eventually need to add to the list of books and supplies we'd like to find for our school (like a money poster based on Ghana's money system).

After making it through the crowds of people back to our taxi, we saw a copy shop and I had MASSIVE amounts of copying to do this week as most of our teachers are finishing up their units and needs tests run off. I remember that when I worked at Brentwood, I would have a good hour of copying to do each week, but it is a different story when you don't have a copy machine at your school...when you don't have curriculum for each student...yeah...just different! We were at the copy shop for probably 3 hours today copying stuff off.
While we were waiting, we had an interesting opportunity to view something that we have heard about here in Ghana, but we haven't really seen in action. It seems like every time we turn around here, we see the great need and wish that we could stretch our hands out in a million different ways to influence the people here...to help...to touch...to guide...to love...but it just isn't possible for us to do it all!

Today, we saw a picture of the Northern Region girls down here in Accra. Months ago, we had heard stories from a friend of ours about how girls from the Northern Region of Ghana are sent down here to Accra to find work. They come down to Accra, and suddenly have lost all their support systems, have to find a place to live and a job. Most of them end up selling small things on the street or in the market, like bags of water or biscuits. They sleep anywhere they can find a space, which puts them in extreme danger of so many things. Many of them are raped in the night or are easily swayed by the lies of some man and end up getting pregnant. Then, they have to carry babies on their back, their loads on their heads, as they walk around selling all day. Most of them are Muslim and speak a different dialect than many who live in Accra. And when I say that these are girls, I’m talking GIRLS!

Today, Stacy and I sat in the copy shop and watched some of these girls come back after a morning of selling. They came to get food to eat and rest a bit before they headed back out to the market. I would guess that the girls were 12-16 years of age. They sat down on some rickety carts sitting against a block wall where someone had scrawled “Do Not Urinate Here” and ate, laughed and told stories together, and one tried to sleep. Their clothes were torn and dirty, the work of days and days out and about selling. Their children were being taken care of in a nearby house and every once in a while, one would come out to see their mama. Then, the girl would throw them onto their back and wrap them up in cloth and take them back with them to the street.

Watching them today, I reminded me so much of our girls here at home. Some of the girls were saw today were probably about the same age, yet you could tell that they had lost their innocence. Their eyes were older…tired…and yet, there was something in them that still longed to play and be kids themselves. Oh, the work that needs to be done here.

It’s so true what the Bible says…the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.

Even this week, our old pastor from Action Chapel, Community 9 in Tema came to see me at the school and he was telling me about villages around our area that are simple mud huts, no electricity or running water…here in Ghana only 45 minutes from a developed city, there are still people living in absolute poverty. The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.

Today, we went to Accra to run errands, but we got a picture of something that we had never seen before—the life of a group of women—girls really—the joy and sorrow of their life and the lives of their children. Oh, Ghana…what will we do to end this cycle of poverty?