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


Thursday, March 29, 2012


There is always this time of the year where I feel the weight of everything coming down on me and I feel like my mind can't hold all of the lists of things that I need to get done...the lists of things I want to accomplish...and so the lists of things explode all over 80 different random pieces of paper and my organizational skills disappear as the lists scatter around my bedroom and office, house, and computer. And then I have to find the list that I need to be able to cross off what I have accomplished. It's all a little overwhelming!

Today, Stacy and I talked about another exciting opportunity (though it might be another thing to add to my list of things to do) that I would like to try out. I have had an incredibly difficult time getting my teachers to understand the training that I've given them and having them implement it in their classrooms. What I'd like to do is some sandwich courses and perhaps some night courses that are more academic and practical for our teachers. They need to learn some basic child development and psychology as well as teacher training courses (management, early literacy, etc) and perhaps if my training took a more academic approach (which they take very seriously here) and they were able to have it work towards a teaching certificate (like a credential in the States--though they don't need a BA here first), then there might be a little more background knowledge (and critical thinking skills) available for them so they will be able to understand the reasons that I'm asking them to teach the way that I'm asking them to teach. So, that is an option we're looking into for the next academic year.

And wanting to do preschool centers/activity based learning next year...
And preparing the August Day Camp...
And preparing for next academic year...
And getting teachers and students ready for the end of Term 2...

It's just a little overwhelming...but I have to say...even amidst the busyness and the overwhelming list writing...I feel like we're making headway...a little bit at a time!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Grateful Heart

So, the past two days have been absolutely miserable nights of sleep. Extremely hot and humid...no air flow...misquitos buzzing around head all night. For two nights in a row, I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep and hoping and praying for the slightest of breezes to cool down my body enough to fall back to sleep.

This morning, I woke up grumpy and complaining about the heat. I woke up praying that we would just get a little bit of rain today or that electricity could be promised to us this week. Anything...

And then, we got into our worship gathering at our house...our topic? A Grateful Heart.

We read from Psalm 103...from Psalm 42...and from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17...and I got the picture. The word says, "Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Wow! My job in God's great big world is NOT to teach these kids or to be doing the work that I am doing here. It's NOT to rescue children. It's NOT any of these things...though this is certainly the place and the things that God has called me to...his WILL is for me to give thanks in ALL circumstances...to PRAY continually...and to be JOYFUL always. Wow! That's hard!

In 100 degree heat with 100% humidity...it's really hard to be joyful and thankful. But, you know what, the more I thought about it, the more I was grateful!

We have a house...a beautiful house to stay in...and even for some of my own students, that is more than some have. I have running water. I have a toilet. I have SO MUCH!

And I think about these kids...they have more than they've ever had in their life. But, even more than that, they have freedom and an education and more love from more people. It's so beautiful to get to see what they have now.

So, when I look at all that I have, my only response is to be GRATEFUL! And to be filled with JOY! And to thank God in my daily prayers because what else can we do?

Thank you God for what you've given me and help me to walk in gratefulness in this season!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Defeating the Lies

Stacy, Rosemary, and I have really been working hard these past few weeks and we're hoping that it will continue after Andrea leaves.

It isn't the first time that I've attempted this weight loss thing...I mean, I have been big my entire life and losing weight has been an on again off again process for the majority of my life. It has been at times a frustrating process, and often one filled with more discouragement than encouragement.

There have been time though when the weight just seems to fall off and I can walk happily knowing that the work is paying off.

I think this time around has been difficult for me in a lot of different ways. I've come to realize that the battle of weight loss is so much a mental, emotional, and spiritual journey as much as it is a physical journey. I recognize the need to battle this thing out...to finally get to a healthy place...and it's crazy that I'm finally doing this in AFRICA at the age of THIRTY, but here's to a new decade of health and life to the full! Despite the age (my knees are definitely feeling it!) and the heat of Ghana, my biggest enemy in this whole thing has been the lies of the past.

It is the strangest thing...

For some reason, I am able to make it through every circuit and weight lifting workout without a hint of defeat, but when it comes to our running days...that is a different story.

It's like every lie that I have ever believed about myself suddenly comes to the surface and slows me down.

"You can't breathe, you better stop."

To which I reply, "Keep going, you can make it. BREATHE!"

"You never have been able to run, what makes you think you can do it now"

To which I reply, "I'm not that nine year old anymore, believing the words of a PE teacher who didn't know that two decades later, I could still hear her words in my head."

"You're too big to run."

To which I reply, "It's got to get easier, if I just keep going."

It's a constant battle of the mind and a constant state of prayer to make it through these workouts. But this time, I am going to make it through. I have to! It is time to defeat these lies that have haunted me for the better part of 20 years and walk this out into a life of health.

So that is what I'm praying in Jesus name...that as I go through this process, I will finally be released of every lie that I have held on to for so long and just live into the identity of who I was created to be.

Will you pray for me in the journey?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seeing Change...cra cra cra cra (little little)

I've been meeting with a lot of parents lately to discuss the possibility of retention or students who are simply showing low performance.

Today, I met with Mama Happy. Two of her kids are attending Faith Roots. Prior to attending, they were living with their grandmother in the Volta region. Both of them had pretty shaky school beginnings. They both came in unable to read, write, and had very little number sense. I sent Christopher to 2nd grade and his brother Simon to first. They were both put in our afternoon small groups led by our school's special education teacher. She worked hard with both of them, but we had our share of difficulties, especially with the younger one, Simon.

Simon threw a few fits during his time in school with us. He has learned some, like the basics of holding a pencil, writing on a line, and the majority of his letters, but for a first grader, it's just not enough. We had to let the mom know that if we didn't see considerable improvement in Simon over the next school term, we would be retaining him this year.

But, Christopher...now Christopher is soaring! He has moved up to the more advanced afternoon class. He is writing and beginning to read. He is enjoying school and showing more success on classroom exams as well.

While it is always a frustrating situation to have to explain to parents that their child is not succeeding, it is always exciting to bring the good news of a child who is progressing.

Let's just say that Mama Happy was certainly happy when she left my office today. And I'm happy knowing that what we are doing is bringing change in some of these kids lives. I might have to face a battle everyday for various different reasons, but I can proudly say that we ARE SEEING CHANGE...and I guess that's what we're all about!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Perpetual State of Sore

Lately, I've been living in a perpetual state of sore muscles.

We have been lucky enough to have a volunteer come and work with us for a couple of months as our PE and Health instructor at our school. Andrea Elizondo recently graduated with her Bachelor's degree in Community Health and Physical Education. She came just wanting to work with our kids and she is amazing. Not only am I seeing our students more active, but I have seen how quickly she has been adopted into our teacher's hearts and how encouraging she is to our own children (like Dora and Mary) who are just beginning to learn English.

I have found her encouragement to be extremely helpful to me as well! Not only has her beautiful spirit sought answers for how God is moving in her life, but she is also extremely encouraging to Stacy, Rosemary, and I as far as our own personal goals.

Over Christmas, Stacy emailed me about wanting to start to work together to lose weight. We both got fitness balls, resistance bands, jumpropes, and mats to prepare for our weight loss journey. The problem came when we both arrived and never figured out a time to work out together...whether from lack of desire or lack of timing. Good intentions...but nothing ever happened.

Well, our friend Andrea put an end to our procrastination. The first day of workouts began a couple of weeks ago with circuit training. It was 2:00 pm and after about 25 minutes, the heat was getting to me and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish. But I survived the 45 minute workout session to find myself pretty sore the next day.

This week, we've finally gotten our schedule together. 5:00 pm workout sessions (one day cardio and one day circuit training) Monday through Saturday. It's not easy and everyday I wonder if I'll make it through. Our cardio training has been these run walk sessions (30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking) and near the end, it is extremely hard to finish well. I keep having to command my legs to keep going! And the circuit training--well, that's where my muscles have been experiencing the most work!!

But all in all, even amidst the crazy sore muscles, I am so thankful for Andrea. This is something I've needed to do for a long time and have just never had the motivation to do it. Without her pushing us, especially Stacy and me, we wouldn't have even started it to begin with. She's been incredibly encouraging and supportive in trying to help us reach, or at least get the foundations to be able to reach, our goals.

My hope is that we can continue this all, even after she leaves.

I wonder how long it will take for the soreness to just turn into some powerful muscles...until then, I'm afraid I'm stuck in this perpetual state of soreness!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Need

My eyes continued to be opened to the vast need in our village. Each day, I'm confronted by a new story and the choice to do something about it.

Yesterday, the mother of one of our students came to let us know that she has been working on getting enough money to pay her child's feeding fee (50 peswas a day--which is about 0.31 cents), but she is just not making ends meet.

Last week, a grandmother and mother of a student came by to visit with us regarding the academic progress of their child. We discussed it with them and encouraged them to continue with what they are doing at home while we will continue to work with her here at school. When we began to ask about the family, the mother began to cry...and then the grandmother began to cry. The husband (the grandmother's son) had died 5 years ago. As the primary caregiver in the family, the two women have worked together to provide the best that they can for their daughter and granddaughter. But it is a struggle, doing hard manual labor, the work of a man, to provide for their family.

Another mom came to explain her family situation and the reason why she has been slow in paying school fees this term. When she started to speak of her husband, who died in an accident a short time ago, she couldn't contain her tears and cried so much that she couldn't finish her story.

This has become a common theme in our school office.

We are looking forward to opening our single mother's program here in our village (a pure water packaging company) as jobs are scarce and families are struggling and the need is just so great.

I love the opportunity to get to help the women in my community...to meet them and hear their stories...and to know that there is hope in the midst of such great loss.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Seeing the Unbelievable

I feel like a new person these days...

We've just came back from about a week and a half of crusades, church gatherings, and conferences with Apostle Judy Shaw, Apostle Lawrence Hardy, and Prophet David Wingler. It was an absolutely amazing time of worship, healings, and God's movement.

There was some things that I got to see that I had never seen in my whole life.

One night, we saw a lady who had been deaf her whole life, be healed.

Another time, a man came in on his son's back one night and the next day, he walked in by himself.

And during a time of ministry with our staff, we heard words from Prophet David about each person that there is no way he could have known about each of us, but just prophesied things over our future that was so rich!

I walk away so encouraged and challenged and ready for what is ahead...I'm dreaming bigger these days because of seen that God...well, He can do anything!