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, June 27, 2012

The Process of Healing

The work that we do here at City of Refuge, well, oftentimes, it seems so heroic.  But really, our work is very little about the investigations and rescues that we do and so much about the after-care that children are provided. 

Our investigation process can be a long process with many pieces and sometimes, not very many answers.  It can be frustrating.  It can be beautiful.  It can be sad.  It is all completely overwhelming as we talk about "changing culture" not only changing lives.  And most of the time, we don't have solutions to the problems that communities and families face when they give up the children that really present their livelihood.  Or even if we have ideas, it's the process of putting them into play in these fishing communities that also presents a problem. 

We have been working on some rescues and investigations for OVER TWO YEARS and others have taken merely an hour.  They all vary and they all face different problems and situations to find out the truth of the matter.

But, even longer than the investigation and rescue process is the healing process for the children who are rescued.

When I first arrived at City of Refuge in July 2010, DK and Abigail had been rescued only a month before.  Abigail would have these painful moments of crying where only she resided and no one could enter into those moments or even bring her out of them until she was ready.  She didn't know Twi and since DK was the only other person at CORM who understood Adangme, she would insult him up one side and down the other.  And then came the stealing...urges so powerful and obvious that we didn't even know how to address it. 

She was like a little child in so many ways, begging to be picked up and held like Edwin and Portia (who at that time were 1 and 3).  And so, after awhile, John, Stacy, and I began to hold her.  We began to pick her up and rock her like a baby.  We would sit down and put her head in our laps and caress her and whisper to her how much God loves her.
Our happy Abigail this Easter

Eventually, she began to understand Twi.  Then English.  Eventually, she began to move forward in school.  And the fits of crying began to decrease.  The insults stopped.  Her smile began to light up her face and a different girl came out of the shell that we had rescued.  Only the anger remained.

We still don't know all of Abigail's story, only what she has seen fit to disclose.  But, we know the abuse was great.  And we know that if her anger could be transferred into strength of character, well, I would trust her to lead her people into revolution!

Handsome DK
And DK, well, he adjusted right away.  The chance to go to school was a life-saving grace to him.  In the 2 years that he has been in school, you wouldn't even recognize the same boy as the one before.  He speaks with grace.  He understands what he has been through and he is fighting for the future of others.  He writes with compassion, love, and humor.  This boy is a leader through and through and I can see him standing and proclaiming FREEDOM over the lives of others his whole life!

Dora, Dora
When Mary and Dora were brought home, their transition was literally hours.  By the evening that they were brought home, they were dancing at CORM's nightly dance parties.  Their first words, ashamedly, were from the 1980's anthem "I WANT CANDY", which they chanted through the house during their first weeks with us.  But, even if their transition was easy, the trauma is still there.  Dora, our forgetful girl, struggles to remember the face of her siblings whom she visited several weeks ago and cannot speak her own language even though it is used in our classrooms on a regular basis.  She goes through seasons of incredible attention-seeking behavior, to hiding herself in tears that too easily come.  And Mary, our happy girl, well, she is still scared that if she is ever taken to visit her family, that she won't be able to come back.  The fear of being sold again haunts the word "home".  So, making her feel safe is a priority for us.  Safe and loved!
Smiling Mary

Florence, Hannah, Sammy (in back), Alex, John, and Benard
Our new kids aren't the exception to this rule of PROCESS.  Raphel transitioned well, but being on his own for so long, he struggles to follow rules and the structure of a school day, while beneficial, can sometimes be a challenge for him. 

Benard, while painfully quiet the first few days, now walks with this funny little sideways swagger as he feels comfortable in his new home.  Mama Theresia confidently tells me that these new children are "all trouble".  Which is pretty common among newly rescued children. 

They fight, well, like siblings.  And snce they only hear the Adangme language, they are easily frustrated.  They argue and fight over toys.  They shout and knock heads and insult each other.  This part of the process is always painful and leaves us, the caregivers, wondering when that little change will happen.  That change that comes when the children finally realize they are HOME.  They don't have to live in survival mode any longer.  They are home and they are loved...unconditionally and completely.  The moment that they understand God's everlasting pursuit of THEM, that is when the change happens and that is the moment that we simply have to wait for.

The first few days with our newest rescues, Florence, Hannah, Sammy, Alex, and John were especially challenging, especially for the girls.  Little Florence is probably 7 years old, but her malnourished size looks closer to that of a five year old.  She fears everyone.  Her first day here, she isolated herself away from the others, had a hard time eating what she was given, got still at any little touch, couldn't play, but merely sat.  It was painful to see her fear so evident.  And little Hannah got upset about not attending school right away and cried for the whole morning her second day here because she couldn't go to school with all the other CORM kids (we have them transition here for a few months and teach them basic English skills before we send them to school). 

While Benard and Raphel got into the habit of daily hugs and kisses from all of us here, the new kids have a hard time even recieving touch. 

It shows how deep their previous abuse was, how completely foreign the idea of affection is to them.

But, I know that this process of healing is gradual.  It will take time to earn trust.  Their felt needs have to be met before any other need can be addressed.  They need to know that they WILL be fed three times a day.  They need to understand that we WILL be there for them day in and day out.  They have to come to understand that they have been GIVEN back their childhood.  They have to learn how to play.  They have to learn how to speak.  They have to learn how to recieve love.

And this process isn't easy.  It requires wisdom and grace and ultimately, we have to be filled with God's love so we can OVERFLOW upon these new little ones. 

I've never been here before when so many have been rescued and I love to see new lives being born.  And I'm trusting that this process of healing will be evident in these kids' lives over time.  After all, God called his Holy Spirit the "Comforter", so I'm praying that the "Comforter" will be so very near in the months ahead.  Near to these kids, and granting wisdom and discernment to us who are walking them through this process.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so thankful for your heart Autumn. The Lord has orchestrated your presence in the life of these precious, beloved children. You are the hands, feet, comfort and voice of Jesus to them. Thank you for living all for Him alone!