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


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Early Morning School

This morning, I made it to school early to get our attendance sheets printed out. 

I love early morning school life.

Only Rapheal Addy and Rapheal Kporti were in school.  They were busy sweeping classrooms, singing and talking with one another.

The hallways were quiet.

The sun barely touching the corners of our courtyard out my office window.

I powered up my computer and finished up the work that never seems to get done the day before.

The sound of water trickling through our water filters is an almost soothing sound.

The whole school world seems at peace.

It's lovely.

Preparing for a Month

It's only 2 1/2 more weeks before I head back to the States for TWO MONTHS.  I can't believe I'll be back for that long, and right now, it only fills me with worry about how the school will do while I'm away. 

It's been a rough couple of weeks on this muscle that I have called TRUST.

And I suppose that muscle will continue to be stretched and worked for as long as I live, especially as long as I live and work here.  Sometimes that stretching is a bit painful.  But, it's necessary.  And in the end, we all learn.  We all grow.  We all learn.

In any case, as I prepare for the month that I'm gone, I'm trying to think of the daily little things that have to get accomplished around here...the things that I run out of time to do.

...the library...well, that place is in a constant state of inputting books and shelving new items!

...the behavior management...a daily part of the job as principal, not fun, but there all the same...

...one on one meetings with teachers to mentor and disciple...

...observations in classrooms...

...the budget...

...contacting parent's about missing fees...

...comforting children who have gotten hurt...

...conducting weekly meetings (2 times a week)...

...overseeing sponsorship information...

...communicating with sponsors, volunteers, and staff regarding the school...

...weekly leadership team meetings....

...overseeing the running of the office and its personnel...

...putting together the data for the students behavior and academics...

...purchasing needed items...

...working with GES to get our licensing...

...filtering water for classrooms...

And it feels like about a million other things fill up my time here. 

How do I prepare for the unknown? 

I've been walking through my daily to-do's and trying to think of everything that could possibly be needed while I'm away, and prepare for that.

It's overwhelming to think of being away from the school that long and not know how things will go, but I also know that I am in desperate need of time away and I know this time away will be so rich for me.

Praying for God's wisdom to follow me as I figure this all out.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 2

It is hard to exercise when you are sore.

My legs feel like noodles when I'm finished.

But, I'm feeling good.

More energy.

More sore.

But good.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finally Deciding

Today, all of us girl sat down at lunch and we finally decided that we have to work together to get this weight thing under control. 

I mean, Kathy, Emily, and Holly have no worries.  They want to be more active and they are joining Stacy and I in that journey.

So, we decided that we were going to start working out at 5:00 pm each night Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and at some point every Saturday.

It's just what I needed to have done to finally get rolling.  It's been months since I have made the time to actually exercise.

I think it will be a good way to build community...but an even better way to get rid of some of these extra pounds and unwanted flab.

Finally decided...it's time to buckle down and just get to it.

Tomorrow starts, DAY 1.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reflecting on Singleness

I had a frustrating interaction with a local pastor on Friday, right near the end of our celebration time.  Coming on the heels of some really damaging information we recieved earlier in the week, I wasn't able to figure out how to deal with my emotions.  Am still figuring that out...

Yesterday, one of the local pastors came to chat with me a bit while we were packing everything up from our big celebration.  I tend to be very careful with what I say to certain people, not sure how they will handle the information, so I always try to be wise with my words when handling conversations with this man. 

Anyway, we chatted for awhile about various issues, and then he started prodding at my relationship status.  I am always careful around this issue, especially here.  When I told him that I was single, he asked me, "Why?  Don't you want to be married?" 

I know it wasn't his intention to be hurtful, nosy perhaps, but certainly not hurtful.  And perhaps that question wouldn't seem hurtful to many.  But, to me, it stung.

I responded that for now, God has called me here in my singleness.  When God calls me into marraige, I will follow after Him in that too. 

To which the pastor responded, "Then, you need to be praying for a man who has a heart that loves God to pursue you."

Another sting.  Another barb.

Not intentional, but hurtful all the same.

Of course I want to be married.  I long to be married.  I long for a family of my own.  I desire a husband that loves God and pursues him relentlessly.  I want children of my own.

I have dreams, have always had dreams, of being a wife and a mother.

I think, being here, has, in some ways, intensified those desires only because I long for someone to partner with me here.  The ministry can be extremely lonely...especially in a foreign culture and as a leader. 

Of course I pray for my future husband.  Almost daily, I pray for the man that he is now and who God is shaping him to be.  I pray for his heart, that he would be growing in maturity so that he will be able to lead well.  I don't know who he is, but I pray for him all the time.

Today, I was asked how many kids I would want when I was married someday.  I had to think about my answer, knowing that probably two years ago, I could have said my answer promptly, but knowing that I'm getting older and can't have the 5 kids that I longed for in the past, I had to answer a brief, "I'm not sure anymore."

I am busy here and this isn't something that is constantly on my mind, but I'm feeling a little raw with the emotions and awareness of my singleness today.

I pray that someday I will be married, but I know that there is a chance that I won't.  There is that chance.  And I think it's in that chance, that fear lies.

Predatory.  Filling my mind with the fear that I'm not good enough.  And so I wait in that, to hear the truth.  To believe the truth about myself again.

I trust in the promises of a Father who is good.  So, for now, and as often as I will remember, I will lay aside the fear of the unknown future ahead of me and trust that God has all under control.


These Boots Were Made for Dancing

Yesterday, we hosted our annual Thanksgiving Love Feast for our children and families at Faith Roots.  It was also an anniversary celebration of ONE YEAR, moving to the Children's Village. 

I can't believe that a year ago, we were beginning to load everything into our bedrooms here at the Omorefe house, the children were moving into their new home.  Everyone was excited about getting our own houses after crowding together in one house for a whole year.  We moved out here without electricity, trusting that it would happen in the weeks to come.  We didn't know that we would be without electricity for over 4 months.  We lived through the hot season, with the misquitoes buzzing around our faces, and we celebrated Easter weekend, when we finally got electricity into our houses.  You should have seen the dancing that day.

In so many ways, it seems like that move-in day was just yesterday.  And then, in other ways, like it happened years ago...a distant memory.  So much happens here in a day, it's hard to think that that was just a year ago when we were all living together.

And God is good.  He has provided in miraculous ways.  We have 11 classrooms and a fully functioning library at our school, compared to the 6 classrooms from last year, and the little blue school house from the year before.  We have another house with 17 new kids.  We have full-time volunteers here with us for a year.  We have a volunteer and guest house.  God has provided ABUNDANTLY in one year.  And all we can do is praise him!

And so, yesterday, we praised him in the dance!  We put on our dancing shoes and we danced until our feet hurt so bad we had to sit down.  The teachers danced, the students danced, the visitors danced...we danced until we couldn't stand, ate and drank some water, then danced some more.

It's rare that I get to have that kind of fun with our students.  They mostly see me in a different role, dealing with behavior issues or observing a teacher.  So, to get out on that dance floor, to tickle the little ones until they laughed with tears running down their faces, to soothe some of those who fell down and got a little scrape, to hold the babies when they're so tired they can't keep their eyes open.  It was a pleasure...

And I'm definitely feeling the exhaustion from two extremely busy days.  Feeling the need to withdraw and rest.

But, so blessed to celebrate with the dance...celebrate with Thanksgiving all that God has done for us this year.  Such an honor to get to be a witness to his hand at work here at CORM.

Therapeutic Thanksgiving

I love to cook.  Someone asked me on Thanksgiving, this year, if I was a therapeutic cooker.  I suppose I am. 

I love getting my hands dirty cutting fresh fruit and vegetables.  The dicing of a million tomatoes for a fresh spaghetti sauce.  The smell of garlic and onions grilling in a pan.  The special dance that Gracie does when she is helping cook something she knows is going to be "sweet".  I love kneading bread dough until my arms ache knowing that it will only be that much softer when it's out of the oven.  I love the sights.  The colors.  The smells. 
This Thanksgiving, I took the day off to prepare for our Thanksgiving day feast, knowing that we would have almost 50 people over for our big day.  After a delicious meal of chicken noodle soup and apple fritters (thanks to Stacy), Kathy and I prepared pies, apple and pumpkin, the night before.  Smells of cinnamon apples drifting through the kitchen with a little Micheal Buble Christmas, was just thing to put me in the Thanksgiving mood.
A batch of pumpkin cinnamon rolls were rolled up, baked, and frosted with a caramel frosting, ready for the breakfast of champions Thanksgiving day.
Thanksgiving day, I woke up excited for the feast, knowing that about 10 hours of cutting, peeling, baking, were ahead of me.  I put the YGAP team to work peeling sweet potatoes and potatoes.  We chatted and told stories, while I mixed up a batch of bread dough for rolls (ahhh...love the smell of yeast as it begins to work its magic!).  We listened to Christmas music as the turkeys were brined and ready for the oven.  Lydia and Lucy popped in throughout the day to taste and smell and see the goodies being whipped up.  They cut and prepped and helped with everything, lightening the load and enjoying the new foods we were whipping up (the rolls were especially a hit!).
By 5:00 pm, our friends had all gathered, the turkeys were perfect, the food set out (along with about 20 POUNDS of mashed potatoes...we overestimated on the potatoes a bit!), and it was time to taste.
Half the fun of cooking is to see the faces of those enjoying the foods.  And enjoy we did.  We stuffed ourselves silly with green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, salad, rolls, and more.  It was a holiday meal for 50 (though we could have probably fed 100 with that mound of mashed potatoes!). 
So, though I took the day off of work from the school, and even if I was on my feet for the majority of the day, walking back and forth from our outside bread oven where everything was cooking up, it was a therapeutic day.  A joy.  Family, fun, laughter, food...the makings of a great holiday!  Oh, and dancing.  You can't forget the dancing!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It All Makes Sense

Today, I found out some extremely disappointing information that took my breath away really.  It was overwhelming to hear of the betrayal, the trust that had been broken, the lives that have been hurt because of someone's greed.

I have yet to even know what to do with the information.  How do I process through something this huge when I placed such valuable trust in this person's hands?  How do I trust again after time and time again, false motives prove to be behind so many people's desires to come and work for us here. 

It's overwhelmingly frustrating.

And yet, all the pieces of this puzzle from the past couple of months...and even throughout the past year, has begun to come together.  It is starting to  make sense. 

It makes sense why things were stolen (and even down to WHEN they were stolen).

It makes sense why certain lies were told.

The defensive attitude.  The quiet conversations.  It all makes sense.

But, that doesn't make it hurt any less.

And I keep facing the same problem...I'm going to have to give my trust out again and again and it will probably continue to be battered and broken at times. 

But, I will learn.  I will be more careful when I tell my secrets.  I will watch carefully and see who will earn my trust.  I will, unfortunately, have to be someone who cynically looks at people's intentions.

I don't like that.

I don't like that I am becoming jaded...harder in some ways.

I don't know how else to protect myself.  I'm not sure how else to protect the work that we do here, and ultimately, the lives that we interact with and change.

And so, I pray that God will convict.  I pray God will change this heart.  I pray for God to heal the ones who have been hurt in this.  And I pray that HE will make all things work together for HIS good!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Made to Crave, Post #6

Last week, I read a chapter from the book called "But Exercise Makes Me Want To Cry"...and I almost cried at the title!

It's almost like I've been dreading this chapter coming.

I've been through seasons where I have been motivated to exercise, I'll lose weight, feel great...and then something else sets in and it's the same cycle again...weight gain, frustration, and the motivation is absolutely gone.

It would help if I found some exercise that I absolutely LOVED to do...but there is not a single exercise that I can say that I enjoy.

And then again, many people would probably say the same thing, yet they buckle down and do it.

So here it is, in Lysa's words (italics mine):

"If I was honest with myself, my issue was plain and simple--a lack of self-control.  I could sugar-coat it and justify it all day long, but the truth was I didn't have a weight problem; I had a spiritual problem.  I depended on food for comfort more than I depended on God.  And I was simply too lazy to make time to exercise."

It's painfully true.

And I mean painful.  It makes me want to cry.  And the tears come not because I want to depend on God more, but because I have to let go of my old friend, my old habits, and I'm just not sure how to do that and feel comfortable.  THIS feels comfortable.  Dependence on God...full dependence...well, that's scary.

Psalm 86:11-12 says, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O LORD my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever."

She writes, "An undivided heart.  That's what my whole journey in conquering my cravings was about.  When it comes to my body, I can't live with divided loyalties.  I can either be loyal to honoring the Lord with my body or loyal to my cravings, desires, and many excuses for not exercising."

I think I'm beginning to see more and more how much these things are damaging my relationship with God. 

I long for intimacy with God.  I long for that time when I can sit at my Father's feet and worship.  Yet, this thing IS an act of disobedience.  How can I enter the courts when I daily choose other things over God? 

I can say it was a difficult choice to move to Ghana.  I can say it was difficult to sacrifice my life to teach and lead here.  And yet, the harder choice, it seems, is to live my daily life by honoring the King.

I know that God is fully honored by my obedience.  Yet, I forget to walk in it.

Stress comes in.  Time plays a role.  Chocolate...yep, that's part of it.  But, really, this is an issue of the heart.  I can't live with a divided heart...choosing to serve God with my life, but not serving him with my body.  It doesn't make sense. 

And yet, the internal battle to sacrifice this, to lay this down, to be motivated to change...it's warring inside of me even as I type this post.

Years back, when I was a summer intern at Peninsula Covenant Church in the Bay area, Tony (the young adults pastor) taught us an illustration he referred to as "The Triangle".  An upside down triangle was handed to each of us and we were told to think of as many sinful behaviors as we could think of at the bottom, the point of the triangle.  We listed all the normal "sinful behaviors" that we could think of...you know, those really "bad" sins.  (I'm pretty sure I didn't write "overeating and underexercising as a sinful behavior!)  Then, Tony talked to us about how we often deal with changing behaviors when we talk about our walk with the Lord.

God, help me change this behavior.

I need accountability so I can change this behavior.

But, the behavior never changes, or if it does, it often morphes into something else.  The behavior is always a sign of a deeper issue.

At the top of the triangle, we wrote in "God's Love". 

Until we fully understand God's love for us, his children...his individual...never-ending...powerful and mighty love...our behaviors will remain the same.  But out of his love for us, we walk into the truth of who the Son of God is, the sacrifice He made for us helps us to walk out our lives in and new identity, obedient to what we are called to, which changes our character, and then our behavior.

So, when I see an issue of disobedience in my life, I can't force myself to change that behavior.  I have to go back to the root.

I have to ask myself, What don't I understand about God's love?"...and He meets me where I am and changes me.

In so many ways, I feel like I walk in the freedom of God's love concerning who I am, my identity in Christ, my understanding of his expanding love for me...

I mean, I have moved to Ghana as a full-time missionary.  I share with teachers and children, everyday, the love of the Father.

Yet, it is physically apparent that I don't fully walk in that.

I need to be reminded of who I am in Christ.  I need to be reminded that I am loved by the God of the Universe.  I need to see his love as a change agent in my life and let THAT lead my heart...not my desire to forcefully change my motivations.

Oh, Father, change my heart.  Reveal to me more of your love.  I long for change, but I know that only comes from you.  Give me an undivided heart for YOU ALONE.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When Missing Home is Too Much

I've written here so many times about missing home and the change and transitions I am constantly going through as I live my life apart from the many that I love back in the States.

But, I often forget that this place is often nothing like home for our kids either.  Our kids were brought here as orphans or abandoned or trafficked children, taken from villages that they know and understand, to a place that is almost a third culture.  It is different.  It's not "home" in many ways.  They miss their homes and what is left of their families (no matter how they were treated) and they mourn the moments they miss, too.

This afternoon, our girl Evelyn came to me in tears.  Her teacher had said that she'd been crying all day and he couldn't console her. 

At first, she started talking and I couldn't understand her through her sobs.  I thought maybe she was talking about someone taking something from her and she was mad about it.

But eventually, I heard the words "brother" and later "I just miss home".

And so I held her.  15 years old.  Missing home.

I can't imagine.

I'm twice her age.  And I miss home.  I have a hard time controlling my emotions and figuring things out.  I can't imagine how hard it must be for her.

When Evelyn was brought here, she left behind her brothers, though she didn't live with them for much of her life.

The past few nights, she's been experiencing dreams where her brothers are killed.  She keeps waking up afraid.  And she mourns the relationship that isn't there.

And I mourn too.

I hugged her and assured her that we would get in contact with her family so she could talk with them.

That stopped the tears, but I know her heart is hurting.

And I know the enemy will continue to plague her with nasty nightmares to scare her away from relationship.

Oh, my dear girl, I treasure her.  And I will be praying for her heart...

When I'm missing home, maybe I can go to her for a hug. 

She certainly understands.

All the Clutter

I've figured out something about myself.

My external life often mirrors my internal life. 

Our school administrator left us in August due to a shoulder surgery that he is still working through.  Since then, I had moved out of my office to cover the front office and deal with all the things that came through our doors.

As volunteers continued to flood through during the summer months, my office flooded with donations, unsorted and overwhelming.

I had had my computer stolen and with that, I had a backlog of so many things to make up before school started again in September.

And on top of all that, planning a staff training for two weeks, hiring a whole new group of teachers, registering new students...let's just say that those first few months of school were immensely busy.

I was tired.

I was worn out.

I wondered if I could even continue.

My head was so full that I couldn't remember simple conversations and interactions I had had. 

I couldn't follow through with the promises I made to the teachers.

I felt impossibly overwhelmed.

And my office was this secret place tucked back in the corner that I dared not even put my head into for fear of it being "the straw that broke the camel's back".

Stacy came in to clean the office, not once, but two times, only to have it fill back up again.

Holly came in to do the same thing, only to see it covered in boxes and stuff the very next day.

And so I stayed out of there.

My office mirrored my head...and unfortunately, my heart.

For the longest time, I lived in "burn-out mode", not feeling a way to escape.  I just dealt with it.  What else could I do?  Who else could I turn to?  There was no one else who could be held responsible to run this place except for me.

And then, I got that time in Morrocco.  And then time with Marilyn and Sarah here.  And finally, Ella was hired to assist things in the office.

And if was as if I could breathe again. 

All those things fell into place so that I could do that job that I came here to do.  I have been able to pray for, to minister to, to partner with, to support--more than I have ever been able to do before during my time here.  I feel like I'm finally falling into a rhythm--a good one.  One that I can dance and sing to for a lot longer!

And it's showing up in other ways too...

This last week, I spent countless hours cleaning out my office, moving stuff to the resource room, logging stuff into the computer in the library.  And things are getting clean.

For the first time over 3 months, I am sitting at my OWN desk to type this blog.  I conducted one-on-one meetings in my OWN office...where I can see the floor...where my shelves actually make sense, and where boxes aren't overwhelming every space.

All the clutter is getting cleaned out...and it feels good.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Job Well Done

Today, I set out to work on my budget.

I sat down with my books.  My black and blue and red pens.  I got out my paperwork on salaries and social security. 

And didn't get any of it done.

Today, I had one on ones with staff.

And in the end of the day, I can say without a doubt...job well done.

Tears were shed.

Burdens shared.

Life bared.

Decisions made.

Love and grace given.

Today...yes, today was a job well done.

Created for More Than This

This morning, we were confronted with a very difficult situation.  One that I cannot explain here with many words, but only to say that we have mourned for one of our staff members today.

This morning, we pulled her aside and talked with her about the situation she found herself in.  We mourned her choices.  But, I think what we mourned most wasn't her behavior or her choices, it was that she had no idea that she was created for so much more.

Sometimes I wish that others could see what God has given us eyes to see.

I wish that this woman could open her eyes, look into the mirror, and see the one whom God created.

I listened as Johnbull talked to her as a father, drawing her close to his heart, and Stacy held her hand and spoke truth.  And tears spilled down my cheeks when I spoke over her the truth of Psalm 139 which says,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
As I read those words to her, I felt like she NEEDED to understand her identity in this.  That God is with her in every choice that she makes.  He sees even in the darkest of places. 
And most of all, that HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
I talked to her about being single here and the difficulty it can be to be in ministry and single, but that God has designed a perfect plan for her life...HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
We gathered around, affirming the truths of her character, rebuking the past that comes too often to haunt her, reminding her again and again HE CREATED HER FOR SO MUCH MORE...
And it was in that moment, I realized that THIS is why we are here.
It is to rescue the lost and the broken.
Sometimes, the lost and the broken look like a small and scared boy fishing with his master on a lake.
And sometimes, the lost and the broken look like a full-grown adult making choices that will forever alter her future.
And we have a choice to close our eyes to the needs in our very own family...or we can rescue.
We can speak life.
We can impart truth.
We can love without bounds.
We can speak with eyes to see God's creation...and that they were created for so much more than what they are comprimising for.
And so we do.  And I pray, we will continue to do so.  With arms wide open.  With eyes wide open.  Fully prepared to battle for the truth...for our kids, our staff, our families...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Library

A few years ago, I was holding school in a little blue house without electricity and running water.  I didn't have a curriculum, much less access to many books.

But, what we did have, we used! 

That year was magical!  We read books.  The kids expanded their vocabulary.  They began to imagine things for themselves.  They began to really dream and become children again. 

I knew one day, after reading that day's passage from one of the Chronicles of Narnia passages, that we had finally broken through to the kid's imaginations when outside the creaky window doors, I heard the clash of metal and "For Narniaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...." being screamed.  When I peeked out the window, Micheal and JJ both had machetes and were using them as swords.  I put a stop to that, but laughed at the whole idea.  They were beginning to dream.  It reminded me of how it is in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when the snow begins to melt and Father Christmas comes with good gifts.  These good gifts were imaginations, the ability to dream and write, joy in childhood, and an understanding of a greater truth--that God is the author of all stories and He is telling one in THEM!

And when we moved here, there just wasn't a place to even put the books, nevertheless have the students and teachers handle them in a way that kept them in good enough condition for the future.  So, they sat in piles, in boxes and under mats in our teacher's lounge for over a year.

And when my good friend, Sarah Tallmadge, decided to come to Ghana to visit us here at City of Refuge Ministries, I knew the perfect project for her.

It was a culmination of so many things.

Over a year ago, we had a library program called Alexandria (an amazing software program!!) donated to us.  But, we didn't have a computer to load it on to and we didn't have the hardware to set up a library...and we didn't have a room to house the books.

Then, a friend of the ministry, Evangelist Sandra Riley, fundraised for 8 computers for our teachers to use.  Last year, we didn't have electricity here at the school, so the computers were set aside, and now, they have been taken out and put in the library for students and teachers alike to use.

And for over a year, a group of life-long learners from the Semester at Sea voyage in the fall of 2011, have been sending us small batches of books to help fill out shelves.  We have been able to get curriculum, chapter books, picture books, and so much more from these generous donors.

Kathy (left) and Sarah putting the finishing touches on our computer table before the grand opening.
And then, Sarah came and grabbed a hold of the vision of our library with two hands and ran with it!  She was able to raise support to purchase the hardware and the labels and all that was needed for our library to get up and running.  And she came and spent her full two weeks breathing life into that space. 

That beautiful space!

Now, walls covered in shelves.

Books available for teacher's to increase their knowledge of teaching.

Books available to open WORLD's for these students who previously didn't have access to anything like this before.

When Sarah spoke to the students the afternoon of our grand opening, she told them, "This library is for you so that when you read these books, you will know how much God loves YOU."

And that is true.  We prayed over the library...over the doors...over the entrance...over the shelves...that when students walk in, they would know the love of Christ that brought them to this place for this time. 

We prayed that students would have a whole world opened to them.

We prayed that students would feel confident in beginning to read, knowing the support is there for them.

Such a sweet, sweet blessing to have so many pour into this place so that we can bless GENERATIONS of children through this library.

Books ready for students to read!

Thank you that have given....that continue to give...and will give in the future.  You are an enormous part of making what we do here possible!

Made to Crave, Post #5

The past few days, I have been really struggling with my body image, and so this chapter was certainly timely in it's truth.

Entitled "Making Peace with the Realities of My Body", Lysa talks about the realities of her "tankles" and how God helped her to fully appreciate her body for how it was created while walking out her life in obedience toward good choices she made in how she fed her body.

There has to be a "shifting in motivation from the delight of seeing diminishing numbers on the scale to the delight of obedience to God."

And it's so true.

I fully realize that my issue with food...with my constant need to consume entertainment (as a way to turn off my mind)...it comes down to obedience. 

This weekend was a little weird for me.  I am trying to establish a Sabbath day for myself.  I don't do any work on Sabbath days.  I relax.  I watch TV.  I play my guitar.  I clean my room.  I cook.  I spend time praying for people on my prayer wall.  I communicate with family and friends back home.  I delve into the word.  I read.  All these things are restful to me, but I try to do it all by myself.  I know my "introverted" need to get some time alone every now and then.

Usually, I walk away from my Sundays feeling good, but this week was a bit rougher.  The night before, I had said goodbye to my good friend Sarah as she traveled back to the States.  And then, I got to talk on the phone to my dear friend Yona before she went in to deliver her baby boy, Corbin.  Both of those things, for some reason, "gave me permission" to be disobedient to what God has called me to.  And Sunday, my Sabbath day, I went a little crazy.  I ate massive amounts of dark chocolate.  I lazed when I could have been doing something a little more productive.  I struggled on the brink of depression.  And it was because of disobedience.  I know what God has called me to in this season, and yet, I chose to eat and eat and eat until I didn't feel so well because I was sad. 

So, instead of facing the scale, and the frustration that would surely follow...I need to walk in obedience to what God has called me to in this season and ask myself these questions:

"Did I overeat this week on any day?
Did I move more and exercise regularly?
Do I feel lighter than I did at this time last week?
Did I eat in secret or out of anger or frustration?
Did I feel that, at any time, I ran to food instead of to God?
Before I hopped on the scale, did I think I'd had a successful, God-pleasing week?"

If I answer these questions correctly, I will have been walking in obedience.  Because it's not about the number on the scale...it's about walking in obedience.

When I look at my week this last week, well, I can honestly say that when it came to walking in obedience...I failed...miserably.

And, I have walked humbly to the throneroom of the Father, wanting those selfish desires, that immediate rush to the chocolate instead of to the Father, to be thrown from me.  I want to talk in obedience!

I rested in the truth of Psalm 103:1-5 while I read through these passages:

"The body God has given me is good.  It's not perfect nor will it ever be....But my body is a gift, a good gift for which I am thankful.  Being faithful in taking care of this gift by walking according to God's plans gives me renewed strength to keep a healthy view of my body....God hasn't cursed your body with certain flaws.  God has revewaled the benefit [of how I've been created].  Oh what freedom!  What redemption!  What a sweet gift!... 
I've found my beautiful.  And I like my beautiful.  I don't have to hold my beautiful up to others with a critical eye of judgement.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.'"

I want to walk the road of obedience.  I want to find the beautiful in me and carry it with me...not allowing anyone or anything take that away from me.  I want to trust that God can carry the burdens that I carry so far away from my world back in the States.

Lord, help me walk this out, trusting that what you created in me is good.  And help me to walk out in obedience the path you have set before me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Sammy is sitting in the middle with the funny grin!

I haven't done a blog on one of our kids for awhile, so I figured it was about time.  Today, I wanted to write about Sammy.

Sammy is an amazing little boy.  I was able to be there when he was rescued in the month of June.  Sweet, smiling, quiet, playful...even a little sneaky sometimes.

Sammy came to us because he was in a pretty bad situation in a village called AdaKope.  We were fighting for his brother, Kesse, but the fisherman refused to release Kesse to us.  Sammy was released though.

FTO volunteer, Michael Lown, made an instant connection with Sammy.  He hung out with him, carried him around, played football with him...instant buddies.

And when we finally brought him home, his face lit up seeing DK and Abigail as they were from the same fishing village.

Sammy was still concerned for his brother and asked about his mother often.  He called his mom back in AdaKope to let her know he was ok and asked when Kesse would be coming.  Little did he know that we had quite a fight ahead of us to bring Kesse back home with us, but he would come eventually.

Sammy has made incredible growth since coming to City of Refuge.  He can shout and fight like all our other boys, but almost everyday, we see new things in him!  His sweet smile, his willingness to help, and now, we are seeing his quick to learn attitude.  He has even surpassed other students in his class as he has started to grasp the English language and can now perform pretty well on exams.

Sammy loves to play football and most afternoons, he will be seen outside playing football with all the other boys.  He's fast moving, and quick to laugh.  He loves to be hugged and tickled and loved on, but sometimes hides behind a facade of shyness.

I'm so proud of Sammy.

When we rescued him, we were looking back through past pictures of him from years before when we had visited AdaKope and almost two years ago, we had taken a picture of Sammy identifying  him as a boy in need of rescuing.  Then, they had told us that he was the chief's son and so we weren't able to take him.  But, discovering the truth (that his mom had been brought into a marraige after her first husband died and now the boys worked for their step-father--a very strong and evil man), we were able to bring him out.

And he's thriving.

From a place with no school.  No clean drinking water.  No church.  No life.  No opportunities for anything other than FISHING...Sammy is free.

And as he continues to walk into who he is meant to be, I am overwhelmed...and overjoyed...that for Sammy...freedom means endless possibilities to become anything he wants to be...freedom means a chance to dream.

Could I have Served Them You?

Today, tears sprang from my eyes as I read a blogpost from Katie...you know, Kisses from Katie...Katie.

I wanted to share it with you...just so real and special and even though my experience here is different, Oh, I long for the same thing...

For more from Katie, check out her blog at http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/.

My kitchen is painted yellow.

Because yellow is the color of sunshine and of joy and because yellow is my favorite.

It’s never quite as clean as I want it to be in here.

Tonight as I stand in the after-bed-time quiet my eyes follow a trail of red footprints across this floor that is supposed to be white and the tears well. So many memories held here.

This kitchen, this is there I serve. Many days, this kitchen is where I live. These counters, nicked and crumb covered, the sink, one side piled high with drying dishes, they could tell some stories. They’ve seen my joy as I gaze out the window at my laughing brood and raise still-soapy hands high in praise. They’ve seen the tears fall in defeat over the just-peeled carrots and the open pages of Psalms. They’ve heard my tongue snap in exasperation as another child screams through the kitchen and my whispered repentance later as I beg Him to make more of me. These walls have held late night laughter with dear friends and early morning remorse over broken dreams. They’ve held confessions and achievements and words, oh so many sweet words.

The memories flood too quickly to contain them all.

I see the night I came home and walked into this kitchen defeated and without a 4 year old and sweet friends gathered around to make super and their silence meant more than words.

I see our first Thanksgiving here, mom pulling the stuffing out of the oven, kids dancing happy and people – oh so many people – who I love and so much joy spilling out of such a small space.

I see myself standing here in the wee morning hours that shouldn’t even count as morning yet whisking high calorie milk for a child just barely clinging to life and I hear my loud cry for Jesus to save Him.

I hear the pitter-patter of little feet over the bubbling of the coffee pot and the excited voice of my littlest as she announces that the chicks have “popped” in the first light of the morning, and I feel the way His mercy has washed over me in this place.

I see hundreds of cooking lessons, little bodies crowded around a big pot, eager for their chance to measure, to pour, to stir. I see birthday cakes, so so many birthday cakes frosted and decorated with butterflies and flowers. I see whole wheat bread warm and rising in this oven, daily, and marvel at how He has been our daily bread.

I see the day when the full weight of her past threatened to knock the breath right out of me, how I pressed my palms hard into these counter tops and willed myself to keep breathing and questioned everything that I knew to be true.

I see the girls, gathered around the open computer screen and hear the voices of my mother and father and brother streaming across space and time zones and my heart aches with missing them but rejoices for love that bridges even oceans.

I see people. Homeless mothers who have found their way to better life here. Children who have healed and become whole here. Friends who have found rest, family who have so greatly blessed, people I have loved, who have loved me. People who have known the Lord in this place.

I have set foster babies on these counters next to casseroles for neighbors. And right here on these counters I have typed it all out, our lives, the beautiful and the ugly, between the stirring of the pots and the wiping of the noses, and the words turned to pages and the pages into a story.

It’s almost too much this passing of time, the dying of dreams and the budding of new ones, this growing of babies into children and children into women and hearts to maturity. And I cry because I want to hold it all forever, His goodness in this place. I run fingers over knife-worn counters and time runs too fast. And people are sent out from here. People heading home and people heading off to new futures and one day, these girls, too. I serve meals in this kitchen but I want to serve them what counts. I want to offer them the living bread, the only food that truly fills.

I have laughed here, I have wept here, I have created here, oh, I have prayed here. And here in this place, I have known Him more. I haven’t always done it right and some days I feel that I haven’t been enough, but I know that He has. He has. Right above the oven are painted the words of Acts, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and generous hearts… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” and I know it like I know my own breath and the warmth of the sun on my skin, time passes, and they will go, and only He will remain.

My eyes find the trail of footprints leading to the door, and through bated breath I ask it, beg it, “Lord, if I could have just one thing, could I have served them You?”

Made to Crave--Post 4

I haven't been able to get into this book much lately with friends around and getting back into my routine after Morocco, but I was able to spend a little bit of time dwelling in Made to Crave this week and wanted to share some of my thoughts going through it this week.

When I went to Morocco, all good intentions went out the window with the chocolate that Marilyn brought and it has been hard to get back to a place mentally, and probably spiritually, to be ready to work on this.

This week, I read a chapter entitled "I'm Not Defined by Number"...the battle of the scale.  The scale has not been my friend for many years.  In fact, there have probably been entire years of my life where I haven't even set a toe on the scale for fear of what it would tell me. 

Lysa says, "Like many women, I'd struggled with a flawed perception of myself.  My sense of identity and worth were dependent on the wrong things...If I sensed I wasn't measuring up, I kicked into either withdrawal mode or fix-it mode.  Withdrawal mode made me pull back from relationships, fearing others' judgements.  I built walls around my heart to keep people at a distance.  Fix-it mode made me overanalyze other people's every word and expression looking for ways to manipulate their opinions to be more pleasing toward me."

Wow!  I totally identified with her fix-it and withdrawl modes.  So many times, I drew away from relationships out of fear of what people thought or how my weight might influence that relationship.  I remember my time in high school, I had ONE good guy friend.  It wasn't out of opportunity...it was out of shame for how I looked.  And college was much the same way.  By the time I reached my senior year of college, I had gotten to a place where I felt loved by God the Father and that helped me heal some of those relational holes with men.

But even my relationships with women were affected by my weight.  Entering college, I suddenly had a personal bubble a mile wide.  Hugs were just not given very often and my friends physically had to force hugs at times.  Eventually, I became more comfortable with hugs, but it came with the understanding that people wanted to hug me because that was how they wanted to show me love...and that they loved me...all of me.  I had to get over the concern that it was uncomfortable for me to hug because of my pouchy stomach or any other concern with my body image.

And fix-it mode...well, I still think I suffer from a bit of fix-it mode.  I am a fixer.  I want to fix problems and MOST OF THE TIME, that is to overcompensate for things that I don't do well or don't like about myself.  I work so hard sometimes so that I don't have the time to exercise.  I do certain things very well because I know that physically, I can't do that all that well.  And I sometimes, that is to manipulate people's opinion of me.  I am not at a healthy weight, but maybe people don't see that so much when they see me with kids or leading teachers or playing games and laughing. 

But, wouldn't it just be better all around if I didn't lean on this fix-it mode or withdrawl mode and depended on God to show me my worth and to make me into a healthier person?

Lysa summarizes a passage from Isaiah 45:2-3 in this way, "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places so that yo may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name...I'm not taking you on this journey because I need you to weigh less.  I am taking you on this journey because I desire for you to be healthy in every sense of the word. I know your name.  Now rest in the security of My name and all that it means to your identity."

Yes!  I need to step into that.  I need to believe that for myself more and more.

She says, "We can step on the scale and accept the numbers for what they are--an indication of how much our body weighs--and not an indication of our worth."

Whew...so hard to do.  And yet, it comes down to believing the truth.  We should be asking ourselves when the lies come into our heads about our own worth as daughters of the King,

"Are you true?  Are you beneficial?  Are you necessary?"  And if the answer is no, then we don't open the door of our hearts. 

We need to be asking those questions again and again.  And believing that truth for ourselves again and again.  I need to be asking when the lies come in hard.  Is this true?  Is this beneficial?  Is this necessary? 

And not just to the cravings...yes, ask these questions when the cravings for a handful of chocolate or that extra large serving of rice and stew or a nightly snack when I know I don't need it.  But, I feel like I need to ask these questions even more so that I can discern the truth from the lies that so frequent my mind.

Are you true?  Are you beneficial?  Are you necessary? 

My worth will never be indicated by the numbers on the scale, but by my name inscribed in the Book of Life.


I've been trying to practice some better communication skills with our volunteers by conducting one-on-ones with them each week.

Marilyn talked to me about this while she was here and I thought it would be extremely beneficial to helping solve our communication problems. 

But, I didn't realize that it would be such a time of encouragement to me as well!

For anyone who knows me well, or has read this blog much at all, you will know that I'm a major "Quality Time" person (love language).  Sometimes, it is quite difficult to find quality time with people here as it is so busy that the time that you have, you just want to relax and not do much at all.

But, the past two weeks, I have been making it a practice to do one-on-ones with our current volunteer staff, Kathy, Holly, and Emily.  It has been really fun for me.  I feel filled when I spend time chatting about life, struggles, encourage and make plans for the future.  To be honest, I feel more ME!  And that's just exciting.

So, while our one-on-one's started happening with the purpose of having better communication with volunteers, it really has served a greater purpose.  I think they are being heard and I am able to feel more at home in this role here. 

I'm starting one-on-one's with all my staff next week.  I think this is going to be a challenge to follow through with the time constraints, but I'm excited to see what happens, how we all grow from it and hopefully it will be an encouraging experience for all of the teachers...and for me as well!