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!

Get Involved

Learn More


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Steps Forward...One Step Back

Sometimes, working out here seems like it is two steps forward, one step back.

I see a child progress on an exam (like Mershak placing SECOND in his class during his midterms) and in the same week, seeing teachers literally asleep on their desks.

Yesterday and today seem like the same story.

Yesterday, we met with a parent of a student here at our school to let her know that we have found a sponsor for her child. Usually, we always start these conversations by talking to the parents about their lives...who lives in the home, where is the father, what work do they do...these kinds of questions.

This particular mother had an incredibly sad story. She had 5 children and her husband passed away a few years back. He died in an automobile accident. So, she was left to support her five children by herself. Anna, the child that we have in our school, is her youngest. Last year, one of her kids started having convulsions and she took him to the hospital. He was in the hospital for a whole month before he was brought home. One day, he said he wasn't feeling well again and she said that he should go inside and rest. She went outside to wash clothes. When she realized that he'd been sleeping a long time, she went inside to check on him and saw that he had had another convulsion and when she picked him up, she found that he had died. He was 8 years old. This happened in October or November of this past year. And we kept wondering why she was unable to come to our meetings...the poor woman had experienced such grief!

So, when we told her about the sponsorship, she was so happy! It was such a relief for her and she just grinned from ear to ear.

After that, we asked about her work and we found out that she sold cassava and corn dough, but it wasn't making enough to put all of her kids through school. So, we told her to go ahead and bring in a CV and we'll consider her for our Save a Child Pure Water program (a woman's empowerment program) that we are starting up in April/May of this year. At that, she began to weep. I can't imagine the incredible burden that she has had on her shoulders, but to be able to provide a steady income for her family, that would mean more than words could express.

So, it was a beautiful moment with this lovely lady.

And today...the two steps back came quickly! We found out that a former parent had been talking to one of our current parents and that he was saying that we don't teach in our school. His daughter was in our school and did very well, but with a new curriculum, there is always a learning curve. In any case, living in a small community, we will face a ruined reputation quickly if word like this spreads around.

So, be praying...sometimes living here is a bit of a battleground. We might win one battle for the sake of a child or to help a single mother, and the next minute, we lose a battle based on false information...

But I guess with 2 steps forward and one step back...we are still moving forward a little at a time and that is still a positive thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Restoration theme?

I barely finished writing my previous blog, when I was surfing through the regular blogs that I keep up with.

Chris Weinand is the lead pastor of a church I used to attend when I lived in Southern California (wow! Was that really 5 years ago??) and he is currently in the UK teaching at a conference. I was encouraged by these words from today's blog...

"Apostles are known biblically, not as CEO styled leaders of organizations, networks or even movements. Biblically they are driven by a love, deep and sublime for "all" the churches. They are held captive by this love that compels them. They are in a deep love affair that the Father gives them for the churches they serve. They have dirty fingernails because are trench diggers. Paul says that apostles work with foundations... that is what they do. They are not roof wetters, champagne poppers. They have dirty nails from being in the trenches of the churches they love and serve to ensure that the foundations are true, biblical and fully Jesus.

So, how do we know who is an apostle? Two simple ways - look over their shoulders to see what they have built - strong, sturdy, Christ focused churches that live for reasons beyond themselves; and look at their fingernails - they are in the trenches forging foundations that are essential for each specific church's future. They are intimately involved with these churches, not figure heads or distant administrators.

My pained hearts appeal - let us not lose this great moment of divine restoration again. For the sake of these churches, we simply have to get it right this time."

Sometimes, it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day trench-digging around here...it's encouraging to hear that this work is part of the work of a Father who desires divine restoration of his people to himself...thanks Chris for your words. Powerful reminder, again, of the restoration work of the Father that is happening world-wide!

Reminded of Restoration

I know that I've been out of the blogging loop for quite some time. I was talking to John and Stacy about that last night and said that world traveling will kinda do that to a person! I mean, I have been through the States (making trips to 4 different states during my time there), to Ghana, to Australia (by means of London and Singapore), and back to Ghana in 2 months time. Yeah, it's been a busy season. There are so many things to say about my travels, but this morning I felt the need to write something else.

This morning in our worship service here at the house, Lydia stood up to tell a testimony about some reconciliation that happened between her and her father. She told how her relationship with her father has always been strained and she doesn't remember a time when her father has ever hugged her. Recently, her father was in a car accident and Lydia when to visit him in the hospital where he was pretty ill. Because of his fever, he couldn't even recognize Lydia which really hurt her. She came home and talked to John about it and he knew that there was more going on than just the father not recognizing Lydia. As her story poured out, he saw the hurt behind this relationship. He prayed for Lydia and told her that she should go back. He told her to bring a gift with her, something her father would really like, and go back to just tell her father that she loves him. And she did this on Friday. When Lydia gave her father the gift she had brought for him, he began to weep. He gave her a hug, one of the first in her memory.

I was so blessed by her story. It reminded me of God's Father-heart for restoration in the church, restoration in families, and restoration of souls. Reconciliation and restoration is not easy. Oftentimes, it requires one to lay down their pride, to set aside their own desires, and to just surrender to whatever outcome may come.

I remember a season when God really taught this lesson to me. I had been working at PCC for the second summer as an intern and it was a really tough summer. I was challenged in ways I'd never been challenged before and I left in a really discouraging way, with some cruel words from the lady that I was living with at the time. When I left, I told myself, and I guess God too, that I would never return to that area. The lies that were told to me had broken down my confidence and I began to believe that everyone felt the way that that one lady felt about me. But, when I finished my credential program and began to look for work, the only place that had a teaching position open was the bay area. And so I moved back. The week that I got there, I was so welcomed in and loved by the people that I thought had believed all these lies about me. Restoration. And yet, there was still this fear of running into this woman who had said such cruel things to me. And so, I felt convicted that the only thing I could do was apologize for what hurt I had caused her and hope that forgiveness would follow. I didn't have a way to get a hold of her, so I emailed her, apologizing for what had happened the previous year and letting her know that all was forgiven on my end. I never heard from her again, but I was released. The bitterness and hurt of those words no longer ruled in my mind. Restored.

And then I think of two of my precious friends who are really living in an incredibly painful season of life right now. In so many ways, the grief of their season could make them turn their back on each other, on their faith, on life...and yet, they walk forward in hope. I'm incredibly blessed by their faith in the RESTORATIVE GOD!

And as I look over my kids...our 23 children here at CORM with all their varied pasts and pains and hurts...all I can see is hope. Their future is so bright and their eyes are alive because God has restored their past...and will continue to restore it.

Today, I am living in Psalm 139, reminded of how God rescues, restores, and knows us from before we were even formed. His story, the one that is at work in my life, is always working towards restoration, and I am so thankful for that!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Back in Ghana

I know I haven't blogged in weeks and it feels so strange to be back in Ghana after an amazing vacation in Australia. There is so much to tell and I'm not even sure where to begin.

My time in Australia was amazing. It was relaxing and exciting and fun and full of laughter and in so many ways...I simply felt loved and at home. It's amazing how the world really can become your home. I am constantly telling people how my homes just keep expanding...Colorado, California, Oregon, Arizona, North Carolina, Ghana, and now Australia...it's amazing how life just widens and opens up to amazing new possibilities.

I don't really even know what to write about my time in Australia. I had an amazing time with Christy and Tom and Carllye and her family. Christy and I had an awesome visit to Sydney (which perhaps should be included in another blog post altogether), and I rocked out my 30th birthday at the St. Kilda festival with some of my YGAP friends. It was just an amazing trip.

The not-so-amazing part was the 40+ hour journey to get back home. I had the 28 hour flight (or so) between Melbourne and London and then a seven hour layover before flying to Ghana. Let's just say that I was pretty messed up when I got back to Ghana.

I had about one day to get over the jetlag though as Semester at Sea groups came through all of last week, about 150 volunteers in all. I kinda headed up the groups on Thursday and Friday as Stacy and John had a crazy group of 75 volunteers on Monday (while I was still traveling back). Yep, it was a busy week.

I had this weekend to rest and relax though and then got back in the swing of things today. Seems like everything ran pretty smoothly while I was gone, but I was glad to get a few things in order today.

Perhaps I'll find the energy for future postings about my trip to Australia, but for now, it's to bed I go. My bedtime is drastically earlier these days as my wake up call comes at 5:30 am (something my vacation mindset has not really allowed me to see lately!). So sweet dreams to all my friends in all my homes around the world...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Journey through the City of Melbourne

Today was pretty fun! I started off my day preparing to go to Planetshakers Church in East Melbourne. I'd researched all the routes I should take and when I got to the train station, I figured out an easier route, so I hopped on a train and off I went!

When I got off the train in Parliment Square. A beautiful fountain was there, but it was just a beautiful part of the city. Lots of things to look at and architecture and parks and churches. Very nice little walk!
Here was a church on my walk to PlanetShakers. Isn't it lovely?
I joined PlanetShakers for their church gathering and it was so nice. I loved getting to experience being a part of a body here in Australia. There was awesome worship...lots of dancing at first and then just a deeper more prophetic worship time came later. Very sweeeeet time with the Lord!
After the service, they called all guests to come upstairs and they gave me a free CD and some goodies and I got to talking with this really nice lady. She was from England, but came to Australia (first New Zealand and then Australia) to work as a midwife. It was fun talking with her about her job and then what we do in Ghana. So cool how God just connects people together with similar hearts. She gave me some good ideas for things to do in the afternoon, so I decided to try them out.
I took a walk into the City and found a little cafe to eat in for lunch (the picture below isn't the cafe, but just one of the quaint little streets that I strolled down this afternoon).
Now, Melbourne is known to have some pretty crazy weather (they say that they can get all four seasons in one day) and today really proved it. It was blustery and windy all morning and then after lunch, the showers started pouring down, so it was the perfect opportunity to find a movie theater and watch a movie. I saw George Clooney in "The Descendants"--a sad movie, but it was good too.

After the movie, the rain was still coming down, so I decided to make my way back to the house. I only made ONE wrong connection and had to backtrack a bit, but finally got back to the house pretty successfully! Everyone was so friendly when I asked them about which train I needed to get on and such. Love that!

Tonight was so nice. Carllye's mom made dinner for me and her dad, Gordon, and we just chatted and chatted and chatted. Such a nice family! I'm loving staying here! Just feel so at home.

I think I'm getting such a different experience than most people who come to Australia. I feel like I'm getting this picture of just normal life here in Australia and it's been beautiful! I'm such a relational person, but can be quite shy at first, so it's been so lovely to just get to spend some quality time with new people. I love this extended YGAP family...just so gracious and wonderful!

Christy comes in tomorrow and we'll see what that will bring!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Resting...just what I needed!

At the end of my trip to the States, I was a little stressed. I had done quite a bit during my time in NorCal and North Carolina and had averaged about 5 hours of sleep a night (I am definitely an 8-hour girl), so heading back to Ghana where I was sure to be worn out with the busyness of life there, I was a little stressed.

It has been INCREDIBLY nice to just spend the past few days hanging out and experiencing just normal everyday life with my friends here. Life with Tom and his girlfriend Rhiannan was really easy going. We just hung out at the exhibition, got a few things done, but mostly just hung out and talked to people. It was great! (You know I love talking about Ghana!) And yesterday, I moved into another YGAP'ers parent's house, Carllye Elder, and it has been so welcoming! I slept in a beautiful bed, have a bathroom to myself, and Carllye and her mom took me shopping and we just wandered around this morning getting a few things done, but mostly just wandering! This afternoon, I went for a bit of a walk and spent some time in a nearby park writing in my journal and reading "Kisses for Katie". It was just so nice!

Tomorrow, I'm planning on heading into the city on the train and going to Planetshakers in the morning. We'll see what else pans out for the day, but that's the start of what I want to do tomorrow.

It's been so nice to just take this whole trip really easily and not have everything planned down to the final minute (which, as you know, is typically like me!). I'm a pretty structured person, so this has just been wonderful to just hang out, no expectations.

The week ahead will probably feature some more trips and such around the country when Christy arrives, but even those are pretty much play it by ear things.

This trip, so far, has been just what I needed!

Tom Goldner...is amazing!

Last night was Tom's exhibition and it was awesome! I had gotten into Melbourne yesterday morning after I had accidentally missed my flight from Sydney to Melbourne the night before. We spent most of the day at the ygap offices where the photo exhibition was being held, and let me tell you, Tom did an amazing job! He picked the perfect photos to be a part of the show and it looks amazing!

The grand opening was last night and we probably had close to 150 people walk through the doors (the counted 120, but it definitely felt like more than that at times!). A few different people gave some quick speeches (I was one of those quick speeches...I think I kept it under the 4 minute time limit and hopefully gave them enough info about what the monies are going to!!), and then the floor was opened for purchasing. You would never believe how much money came in...over $23,000 in ONE NIGHT! And you know what, Tom's work was worth it. It is a wonderful exhibition.

Wanna know who's picture sold out first? PORTIA...wouldn't you know it! She steals everyone's heart!

Well, for those of you who don't get to be in Australia to check out Tom's amazing work, check out www.photoforfreedom.com or go to Photo for Freedom on facebook and see it there. So awesome!