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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Monday, August 6, 2012

Our August Volta Trip--A trip of Hope

This weekend, we went to the Volta with our volunteers that are here for the GhanaAugust Day Camp.  For the first time on one of our trips up there that I have taken…it was actually quite slow.  We didn’t do a feeding program.  In fact, we didn’t have a lot to do at all.  We just focused on the rescue of one particular boy and a small education program with a local village what we are working with.  It was pretty relaxed, which is nice for a trip to the Volta.

The trip to the Volta always begins at midnight.  We leave then so we can make it to Dumbai where we catch a ferry at 8:00 am to the other side of the lake.  Then, the journey continues to Benjamase, a two hour journey from the ferry.  Once we arrive, we settle in, eat a little bit, and then sleep…something that we are just not able to do much on the bumpy, long, middle of the night ride up to the Chimaru district of the Northern Volta region.

In the afternoon, we walked down to the lakeside and boarded the boat for the OuterBank, a village called AdaKope.

We have been working in AdaKope since early 2010, when DK and Abigail were identified, negotiated for, and released.  Since then, we’ve done education in that community, visit there once a month, and have negotiated for the release of several other children. 

This community has been incredibly difficult to penetrate and it is with great frustrations that we have been returning time and time again, only to find the child trafficking situation worse than before and highly negative reactions to our arrival (like hiding the children, or even snatching them away from our very hands). 

We were hoping to rescue two particular children from AdaKope during the course of the 18 child rescue that began in May, but these two particular children (trafficked by slavemaster Delali), have still not been released.  Yet, others were identified and have been fought for.  We were able to identify Sammy and his older brother Kessi, which we had discussed with their slavemaster years ago when DK and Abigail were rescued.  When they had been identified several years back, we had been told that they were the children of one of the slavemasters, though their physical condition showed otherwise.  This time though, we found out the real story, and their mother signed over guardianship to City of Refuge for both Sammy and Kessi.  Unfortunately, though we had been able to rescue Sammy the day the mother signed over release, Kessi remained trapped in the debt of his father.  Time and time again, he was fought for, only to be left behind again.  The mid-July trip, Kessi was leaving with the CORM group, and he was literally taken from out of the hands of our team and led back home, his mother receiving beatings along the way.

So, John and Stacy went and met with the head of the household in a community down here on the oceanside and begged them for release.  They granted the release of Kessi and let the slavemaster and the mother know that he was to be released.  So, upon our arrival in AdaKope, we headed straight to Kessi’s mother to find out where he was, to issue the release agreement from the head of the family, and to bring Kessi home.  We found out that he was out on the boat and was headed in soon, so our boat went out to meet him and his feet did not even reach his village, but went straight into the boat.  We didn’t want to risk him being taken again, so his mother came out to the boat to wish him farewell.

Through her tears, her heart was clear…get him to a safe place.  And we promised her, when she is able to find a way to run away from that place, she can come back anytime to get her children.  She loves her kids, cherishes them, but the cultural guidelines for marriage have made it impossible for children to do anything but work for the future of the new marriage’s children.  We are praying for her freedom, so that her family can be back together again.

On our way down to the boat, we saw two young girls.  One was brought to the village chief (who ran away when he heard the boat engine coming across the lake) to receive healing from the fetish priest in their village.  She is mute.  Israel came and prayed over her, but we couldn’t take her with us until permission is granted by the chief. 

The other girl was a young girl names Agnes, maybe 13 or 14 years old.  She was brought from the north (a primarily Muslin region of Ghana) to work for a man in AdaKope.  He knew that he was in trouble when we identified her and quickly signed over her release.

The next day, we slept in, hung out with the kids outside the gate, and then went to a village called Grubi to meet with the village chief.  A couple years back, John and Stacy went to that village to discuss the issue of trafficking.  When they arrived, the people didn’t want to listen as they were worried about their crops.  It hadn’t rained in a long time and as farming is the primary source of income in the area, the people needed rain.  So John and Stacy prayed, and that night, the rains began.  They rained out the crusade that John and Stacy were leading the next night.  The rains came and didn’t stop until late in the evening.  And then, the people POURED in for the crusade.  They came to hear the word of an almighty God that can answer prayers for rain.  They came to hear about the issue of trafficking.  Their ears and eyes were opened. 

So, we’ve returned to this community to begin work with fishermen who have moved into the community and have trafficked kids in.  We discussed with the chief the work that CORM does and then offered a solution: teaching the fishermen how to do fish farming instead.  So, that community will be our pilot community for fish farming.  Now, we need to find trained individuals who can help us to pilot this program, can train our on-the-ground volunteers how to oversee the project, and then begin the work of eradicating this issue from this community.

After the meeting and spending some time playing with the children of this community, we took off for home and spent the rest of the day napping, playing with kids, having conversations with each other, reading, and even into the evening, catching fireflies.  It was a reflective journey for me as I watched a very scared Kessi and kept praying for understanding and healing.

We left early on Sunday morning to meet the ferry for the trip over to Dumbai.  We got on the road and with all the rains that had poured down during our time in Benjamase, we realized that the roads were in very poor condition.  Covered in puddles and slippery mud, we began the careful journey to meet the ferry.

At one point, the entire road was covered in a puddle, so the driver chose to drive through on the right side of the road, only to discover that the puddle was extremely deep on that part of the road and the bus immediately gotstuck up past its wheels in mud and water.  So, next, began the adventure of figuring out how to get our bus unstuck and still make it to the ferry in time.  Amazingly enough, about 10 women just appeared on the road to help push us out and a couple of motorcyclists stopped as well.  We flagged down a four wheel drive vehicle, hoping to hitch up our bus and have them help push us out, but they sped on by.  So, we all got out of the bus and with 20+ people along the sides and at the back of the bus, we pushed…and pushed…and pushed.  In the end, it looked like the bus just kept getting deeper and deeper and we were going to be stuck for a long time.  But, we tried again…forward, reverse, forward, reverse…push, push, push…and suddenly, WE WERE FREE!  Covered in muddy water, but free. 

At that point, we had about 15 minutes left to get to the ferry, but the ferry was going to be arriving to load in only 5 minutes.  So, John called the ferry captain and told him to wait for us.  We arrived late and pulled straight to the front of the line as Johnbull ran up to the ferry to convince him to let us on.  (As a note, if we didn’t make this ferry ride, we’d have to wait until the evening to go.)  And we got on, with a lot of grumblings from the others who had arrived two hours before to wait for the ferry, but we had favor and made it on!

Our arrival home from these trips is always one of my favorite parts of being away.  We pull into the children’s village and the kids begin jumping up and down, wave their hands, and run after the bus.  When we all unload, we are in for hugs and kisses and stories about the weekend we were away.  I love all the loving.  It is a feeling of unadulterated joy to be given so many hugs and so much love!

It was fun to see Sammy following the bus in bouncing steps, hoping for a sighting of his brother Kessi.  And Kessi had saved him some of his Sprite, happy to see his little brother.  Abigail saw Kessi and ran to the house to let DK know that he was here, smiling ear to ear, happy with the release of yet another one of her friends.

And sweet Agnes looks like a different girl even one day later.  The girls celebrated the arrival of a new girl (of which there have been only a few with these 18 rescues) and got her clothes and settled into the new room.  The quick smiles and goodnight hugs last night were such a joy to experience. 

I talked to Stacy this weekend about the hard work of after-care for these kids.  The childlike freedom is such a pleasure to witness, but it’s the after-care, the actual healing that becomes the hard part.  To confront their past, allow grace and love to do its work in their life, and walk forward ready to take on the world…that is the hard, day in and day out process of after-care.

I celebrate these children’s rescues.  I celebrate the smiles and the freedom.  I celebrate.  And I look forward to the day when they are grown and can look back and say, “That was the day I became free!”.  Praise God that he is a God of Justice…and Freedom…and Love.


  1. Beautiful!~ All of this is water to my soul, thank you for all the work and love you are pouring out in Ghana. Love you!

    1. Can't wait for the day that you guys will get to come out and be a part of it all out here, even if it's just for a little while.
      Love you!

  2. I am so excited to hear of these rescues! Thank you for sharing, Autumn. I was so anxious, especially about Kessi, after our trip a couple weeks ago, and it's such a relief to see that God still moved; still pulled him out of bondage and into a new life. THANK GOD for his freedom! So excited!!!