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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Wednesday, November 23, 2011


All around the USA, families are coming together for their Thanksgiving Celebration. I LOVE Thanksgiving...I just love warm, family gatherings! If you know me, you know I'm a quality time person and Thanksgiving is a day that is just made for me. You gather around a table with all your loved ones, and you thank God for the things that he has done for you that year. You laugh and you eat and you play games.

Some of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving dinners were set up in our garage growing up. Our entire extended family would come for the big day. We would have ham and turkey and all the fixings and we'd have to borrow tables and chairs from our church to fit us all at one looooong table in our garage. It was so fun! Afterwards, there was the inevitable "I ate too much" walk, where we'd all bundle up and stroll down the street with our pants unbuttoned. And then, we'd have a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit. I always like to be on my Uncle Ed's team. He knew ALL the answers! And as we grew older, my brother Chris would bring out his guitar and we'd gather around and sing sings until our voice was tired and our fingers sore.

When I went away to college, money was tight and I could only afford the trip home at Christmas, so Thanksgiving often meant following one of my friends home for Thanksgiving. There was a couple Thanksgivings with Katty's family in Arizona, and one with T's family where Joanna and I both went (I remember that my arms were sore from carrying all of HER bags after the Black Friday sales!).

And when I got a job and my own place to stay...well, money was still tight, so Thanksgiving kept on being a holiday where I didn't stray too far from where I lived. I spent two Thanksgivings at Yona and Eric's. We went to Eric's firestation and enjoyed a yummy meal there. And then then the typical family affair with Yona and Eric's families both coming together and the Roberts siblings hanging up Christmas lights after everyone else had left.

But now, Thanksgiving is very different. I mean, first of all, most people here don't even know what a turkey is. They're imported birds over here, so they're kinda few and far between! But one things that Ghanaians do understand...it's the term "Thanksgiving". Today, I went class to class to talk about giving thanks and what it means. We talked about what we were thankful for and sometimes I'm still amazed at what we, in the Western World, continually take advantage for. Today, our list of items that we should be thankful for included: water (we only get running water every other week, so we're thankful the times that we do have it!), food (some of our kids only eat the lunch that we provide at school for their only meal of the day, so they're pretty thankful!), clothes (most of our kids have their school uniforms to wear each day at school), shoes (even just the flip flops on their feet are enough to be thankful for), their parents (and the ones without parents were grateful for their grandparents, aunties, and uncles who care for them), our school (without electricity, windows, or doors, but is bringing a quality education to 121 students on a daily basis), and most of all, we were thankful to God (who has brought us this far and will continue to guide us for the year to come).

So, Friday, we'll celebrate our own version of Thanksgiving. All the kids and their families are invited. We'll all bring food to share and dance and celebrate, because for these families, we really do have a lot to celebrate!

And this weekend, we'll be moving into the houses at the Children's Village, with or without electricity. But, we're just thankful that we have a house to move to and that God has provided for us in more ways than we can even understand. God is good, so we'll praise his name.

Thanksgiving Ghana-style...here we come!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

One Incredibly Busy week---with no internet...

Sorry for those of you who follow my blog. It has been an INCREDIBLY busy week and our internet has been down, so I've been trying to keep up via my phone, but that just doesn't workwhen it comes to typing out a blog. So, I'll try to give you the week in snapshots...

Monday was Daddy Joe's birthday. The kids woke him up early with Happy Birthday and then John and Mama Theresia really got him wet with buckets of water first thing out his door! It was a fun day though as all the kids prepared birthday cards for him and that night, we all sat outside together and then ate cake together. Daddy Joe gave a speech to all the kids at the end of the night talking about how they should make better choices for their future. It was a sweet time of family celebration.

Tuesday, Kristie and Sydney O'Leary and the FTO team came out to the school to visit with the kiddos. It was such a joy to have them here. It was a amazing because the last time that Kristie was in country, we hadn't even started building, so to see the growth that a year could bring...that was pretty cool! Our students were all prepared with little speeches or songs for our visitors in every classroom. I was so happy with all of our kiddos and the way that our teachers interacted with our visitors was such a positive experience. After they toured the Children's Village site, we all took off to visit 7 Continents. I hadn't been there since I returned to Ghana in August. It has been an incredibly busy few months!! And the place looked amazing! The ladies are doing an awesome job creating their bags and our friend Angie Doe has been organizing the jewelry room and it looks beautiful!
I was so impressed by how organized the place was! And Robert, our sewing trainer, is coming up with some new designs and the bags are turning out just lovely. Excited to see what we'll have when we come home for Christmas!

Wednesday, a lovely new friend came out to visit us. Her name is Rebecca and we got connected through a mutual acquaintance named Dan. Her and her friend started a project here in Ghana called ABAN (check them out at www.aban.org) that works with young single mothers or street girls. Most of them were recruited into their training program from Accra. We were excited to connect and see how we could partner together to better each others programs. She spent the majority of the day touring around at our 7 Continents location in Tema New Town and then
came to the Children's Village site for a bit before heading out to return to their place. She was super sweet and we're looking forward to visiting her project probably in the next week or so!

Thursday was our PTO meeting. I've been enjoying our PTO meetings, for the most part. There are parts that I don't understand as they only translate so much of the meeting for me, but Thursday's PTO meeting was incredibly discouraging to me. The parents brought up the issue of discipline in our school, which is already a sensitive topic for me as I feel like I'm constantly battling with the teachers about how to use our discipline system effectively (CONSISTENCY IS KEY!!). But, the parents came to us practically begging us to allow our teachers to cane the kids. They said our disciple wasn't harsh enough and we don't want to be known as an undisciplined school. I was already a little sensitive about being called an undisciplined school as Mama
Theresia had made a comment to me about that earlier in the week, and then again with all the parents. Schools here require students to remain sitting and silent at all times and while I believe there is a place for that, I also see how so many students here lack critical thinking skills because the teachers simply teach and teach and teach and the students do none of the learning on their own (rote instruction). I tried to stress that to the parents, and they finally agreed that they understood why we wouldn't cane, but we needed to come up with harsher punishments for our students. It left me feeling tired and weary and sometimes I wonder how to bring Kingdom Culture to a culture who resists change so strongly. Needless to say, it was a frustrating end to a long day...

Friday was our field trip for our P1-P6 classes. The students were so excited and everyone was in uniform and they looked amazing! The buses were running on extreme Ghana time. Students had made it to the school by 7 and we didn't end up leaving the school til 9 something, but that's how it is here...TIA.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Full Moon

The other night, we had a full moon. You always know that on nights with full moons, you'll have something weird happen, and this is exactly what happened!

John, Stacy, and I traveled to Accra on Thursday afternoon to welcome Kristie and Sydney O'Leary into the country. They had just arrived and we wanted to say hello. It was so wonderful to see them and a few other friends of theirs who came with her. And what a beautiful picture to see Kristie and Sydney with their new family members. Their court had just happened and they have two new children to add to the O'Leary family. Beautiful! The picture of adoption is just beautiful!

We went with them to CKO as well and got to see all the children there. So many little guys at that orphanage. I'm so glad Feeding the Orphans has partnered with that orphanage. They need all the help they can get!

After CKO, John and Stacy and I headed out to dinner at Melting Moments. This is a new restaurant that we found a few months back and it is yummy!! We ordered our food and we were just waiting for it to come in when a couple of guys walked in and Stacy and I could have sworn that one of them was Rod Stewart. Seriously, he looked exactly like him. They walked in, asked to see a menu, and when Stacy and I started talking about him, the two guys started whispering and handed back the menu and laughed. It looked like they didn't want him to be identified, so they just took off. So, we got to talking and talking about the whole thing and Stacy seriously researched pictures on Rod for the rest of the night! I mean, he's in Vegas for most of his nights in a week, so I can't imagine what he'd be doing in Ghana...but who knows!
Then, as we were talking, another customer got up to look at some of the delicious desserts that they had in their dessert display. She seriously walked just like my Grandma Wimmer. She stood like her. Her body was just like my Grandma. The only thing that was different was her face...and well, the fact that she was black. So, we talked about sighting Rod Stewart and my black grandma that night.

On the way out of the restaurant, we drove past this girl that was literally wearing this dress that went down to, well, pretty much covered her butt and that is as low as it went. Stacy and I were talking and saying that she needed to put on some clothes when John told us that she was a prostitute. We looked around and saw probably 6 more girls in very similar clothes on the same area. Let me tell you about where we were driving...one of the wealthiest areas of Accra--East Lagon. This place is where all the foreigners live (well, not all...as we don't live there). A lot of foreign dignitaries live there, visitors, important people from other countries. And here, there are prostitutes in the middle of their neighborhoods. It made me really sad. I've heard how college students come here and sleep around with guys (which is part of the reason why young college aged Americans or foreigners get hit on so much), but for older family men to go looking around for this on the streets of Ghana while their families are at home in their country...oh, this world sometimes makes me so sad.

It seems like I always get more and more of a picture of the work that needs to be done. And it's not just here in Ghana. There is work all over the world to be done. People need to know about Jesus because the way that so many people are living...it will kill them. And Jesus is life.
Needless to say, we had an interesting night on Thursday. We saw the FTO gang (which was super sweet), Rod Stewart, my black grandma, and prostitutes. Yeah, I'd call that a night!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Letters and Ghana

So, I'm realizing that while everything in Ghana takes forever and seems extremely disorganized, in one main way, they are very formal. And that is the art of the "letter". To do ANYTHING here in Ghana, you need a letter.
Last week, Mr. Francis went to the Ghana Education Service (which is the NATIONAL office that controls all things education in this country) to check up on our private school certificate. Unfortunately, the head of the office has taken an extended leave and now, all of the sudden, our paperwork that we submitted in JULY is now missing. TIA, right (This Is Africa).
So, we sent him back today with the paperwork so they can make sure the process is finished up right and wouldn't you know, they wouldn't accept the paperwork without a cover letter. So, they made Francis leave so that he would have to go all the way back to Accra another day to turn in that letter. Oh, my goodness! It was so annoying!
Well, John and Stacy made the trip to Accra today too to check in with the Ghana Electricity Company and wouldn't you know it...they wouldn't meet with them today about supplying our electricity until, you guessed it, they brought with them a letter.
So, I guess we'll try this whole thing again. Sometimes, all you can say is TIA!!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

So incredibly blessed...

This weekend is a busy one and added to a busy week...well, I'm just ready to take a little time to rest and relax and a little time to celebrate all the goodness that is happening here!

Yesterday, Evangelist Sandra Riley came in. She came with Pastor Judy in January and when she saw our projects here, she was excited to see what she could do to help our school.

Would you believe it? She showed up with EIGHT brand new laptops!!! EIGHT! It's amazing! And she came with 120 student sized white boards. And a bunch of other incentive items...wow! I was blown away! So exciting to have someone bring all these things for our kids to see that our school is investing in their lives and encouraging each child's growth! So, so, so blessed by her!

And then, today, we also had the pleasure of LOUISE from Australia coming in. She is working here in Ghana and coming to visit us occasionally on the weekends. Such a joy! The kids were FREAKING OUT when she came in...so excited to see her! It will be great to have her around for the next six months. I think she's fallen in love with Ghana!

And tomorrow, Baby Princess' adoptive parents are coming to pick her up. Princess has been with us since the end of January and it has been such a joy to see her grow, become healthier, take on a bit of a personality. It is such a blessing that she is being adopted though. She will be in such good hands, close to a children's hospital (she has hydrosyphillus for those of you who don't know her story) and her family loves her! So, they'll be with us for a couple of days, we'll throw a big going away party for her on Sunday, and then she will going home. We'll miss her here, but knowing that she's going home to be with her forever family...that's a beautiful thing!

So, yeah, big weekend ahead, but it's good! Though my work here is sometimes incredibly overwhelming, I love being a part of this family!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our Kids

I just realized how really great our kids are! Sometimes, it can be so frustrating working with kids who come from backgrounds of such great need. They are always asking for something more, when compared to so many, they have so much.

Well, tonight, Stacy and I went for a walk and when we returned Abigail and Ben both came to me asking if they can give clothes to some of the kids at school who don't have much. They had them all set out on their bed and knew exactly who they wanted to give to!

So so so sweet.

This is what makes it all worth it. To see our kids giving back to those who are in EVEN GREATER need! I feel blessed to get to witness our kids being the hands and feet of Jesus.