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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Thursday, January 10, 2013

SoCal Memories

My time in SoCal is rapidly coming to an end.  I am realizing how fast time really does fly.  I wish I could just stop the hands of time...just freeze these beautiful moments.  I just want to savor them for a little bit longer.  Just one more day...one more hour...

But, it's not possible.

Time does move on.  And with it, the tears that inevitably flow as I will mourn the time that has passed so quickly.  The moments and memories that have been shared.  The conversations.  And yes, the tears. 

It's been so sweet.

This time in SoCal has been filled with laughter.  It has overflowed with babies and little girls and bounce houses and parks.  Late night conversations.  Lots of food.  And friends, so many sweet moments with friends.

I arrived here in SoCal on the 2nd, after a bit of a crazy morning in North Carolina.  (I had lost my driver's license...don't ask.)  Lunch was at Islands, one of my faves, with Corbin, Isabella, Eric, and Yona.  Oh, it was so good to see my friends again.  To just look into Corbin's face.  To smile at Isabella's curls. 

Joanna came in the next day.  And then T, Evan, and Brylie.  And a trip to the Tyrees.  Hang out time with that family and the Matheny's.  Good conversations.  Delicious food.  Laughter and pictures and catching up. 

The next day was park day with the Koldings.  The girls rode a train and horses.  We went to a zoo.  We ooed and awwed over little Corbie.  We laughed at our little ones.  We reminisced about the time before.

It's crazy to think that it was 13 years ago when we first met in college, Hope International University.

Joanna and I shared a class and fast became friends.  She had some wild roommates, so she frequently stayed in my room.  We stayed up late, chatted late into the night, shared classes and dreams and laughter.  She was my best friend that year.  A shoulder to lean on and sometimes to cry on.  And now, 13 years later...well, it doesn't look much different.  We might be older.  Our dreams a little different.  But, we still stayed up late chatting into the night.  She is someone who can make me laugh harder than most.  She is honest.  She is beautiful.  I just treasure her friendship.

Yona was loud and confident, knowing exactly what she wanted to accomplish during her time in college.  Ever the achiever, she was also the life of the party, enjoying life and what was given to her.  Our first year together, we went on a roadtrip through Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and back to California.  That trip cemented our friendship.  Yona's boldness is always something I desired for my own life.  A beautiful example of living life to the fullest.  And now, I see her as a wife and a mom.  Times certainly have changed!  Her children are beautiful.  And to see her look down at her little son with such love, it's precious.  I don't know who I'd be without Yona.

T was quiet the first year I met her.  She was never one to draw attention to herself.  And yet, such a faithful friend.  I didn't know her all that well until after our roadtrip that spring break, but after that, Joanna, T, and I were pretty inseperable.  Her witty sense of humor, her abilty to be quick to laugh, her words of encouragement--and then her faith.  At first so quiet and small...growing and growing and seeing that faith draw others into the love of Jesus too.  Amazing!  We shared a lot of memories those years at Hope.  Some of the best years...and yet, some of the greatest heartache.  But, they shaped us.  And after Hope, we moved in together...the woman who I lived with the longest--probably 7 years of my life was shared with her as a roommate.  And now, to see her be a wife, a mother--to see how far God has brought her and how He has grown her.  She is an amazing example to me and such a faithful friend.

I look at these ladies (and the others that couldn't be around--Katty, Blabey, Abby, JenSin, Venissa, MollyMac, Morgs...and the many others that at one time or another called themselves "Beatniks") and I think to myself--they have helped to mold and shape who I am today.  Their friendship.  Their love.  Their grace.  Their words of truth.  Their encouragement.  They're my sisters, in every way that is truly important.

Coming together now is so much harder.  We live on different coasts, different continents, different States.  Some have kids or jobs with long hours, fiances, missions...it's not easy to get together these days.  But, oh, it's so sweet!

Last Friday after the park, we celebrated Jake's birthday.  Last year, around this time, I was in Portland with Jake and Joanna, celebrating his day.  It was so fun to be here again to celebrate with him.

The next day, the whole crew headed over to Jake's apartment for breakfast and then out to the OC Swap Meet for a time of hanging out.  Jake's apartment was so nice.  Such a pleasure to get a picture into his life like that.  And the girl's loved it.  Brylie and Bella danced their way around his kitchen island at least a hundred times that morning!  That night, Jessica Mahan, a friend from Hope, came and visited.  So fun to get to enjoy those moments with old friends.

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of going to Southlands with the Koldings.  Oh, it was so good. 

I often say that I love our church gatherings in Ghana, to see the kids dance in worship and for them to get a greater understanding of who God is, but it just doesn't speak my heart language.  So being at Southlands felt like my heart language was being spoken...I felt overwhelmed by the Spirit, empowered by the worship, rocked by the message, loved by the arms of my church family.  So sweet.

The Koldings had to return home on Sunday so the rest of the week was with Eric, Yona, Joanna, and the occasional drop in by Jake.  I got to have an amazing lunch with my friend Kim and a night out with my dear friend Cilla. 

This trip has just been feeding my soul.

Everytime it nears the end of the trip and prepares for the next part of the journey, I just say to myself, "I'm not ready yet."

It's just been so sweet.

I know that school is starting up again in Ghana next week.  My prayers are with my staff and especially with Stacy as she gets things ready for them to start up again.  I know that it's not going to be easy without me there.  The staff and students are so used to me around.

But, this is just so sweet.  I am not ready to leave.  I am already writing with tears in my eyes as I have just said goodbye to Joanna and as I think about saying goodbye to Corbin and Bella and Yona and Eric tomorrow.  So hard.

I love how God has called me into service in Ghana, but sometimes the goodbyes here remind me even more of the great sacrifice he has called me to.

Oh, I will miss these loved ones.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Second Leg of my Journey Home

I just finished up the second leg of my journey home, a fast trip to Tennessee and North Carolina.

My original plan was to visit the Miller family, some of my good friend's who are amazing supporters of what we do in Ghana and they are the family that has been working on adopting Portia for the past couple of years.  Portia was supposed to be home in October...and we waited to hear word on her visa...nothing came.  Then, Thanksgiving...no word.  Finally, Christmas...still nothing.  Finally, this week, we hear that their exit interview has finally been completed and they are coming home tomorrow.  Too late for me to meet up with them, but so happy and excited for our Portia girl to finally be with them.

I had also planned to meet up with the O'Leary family, the beautiful family that runs our partner ministry, Feeding the Orphans, but found out that they were going to be out of town, visiting family. 

So, plans changed and changed again.  But, I love traveling, so the journey began.

On the 28th, I traveled with my sister Brianna and my mom to Denver to go to the airport.  It was a fun trip.  Hanging with Bri in the backseat watching movies, helping her drive part of the way, enjoying conversations with my mom.  Sweet last moments with my family.  And then, a trip to Sweet Tomatoes (or Souplantation for those of you who know it as that)...delicious.  Finally, the airport.

And it was there that the craziness began.  I got all my stuff checked in and then found out, to my dismay, that my flight was delayed 2 1/2 hours due to a crew being late.  And then, not long after that announcement, my flight was canceled.  So, I began the process of figuring out what to do next.  I'd arrived at the airport shortly after 5, had scheduled to have a hotel and rental car available on the other side when I arrived in Nashville around 11 pm.  And here I was, in Denver, without a way to get to Nashville at all.

After standing in a customer service line for what seemed like forever, I finally got my flight changed to a red-eye flight to Nashville completely missing my "sleep" window at the hotel, but made it into Nashville by 8 am, picked up my rental car and got on the road.

I lasted about an hour out of Nashville when I discovered that only sleeping on my little flight into Nashville...well, that just wasn't going to do.  So, I pulled over into a rest stop and tried to sleep.  I slept for 2 hours holed up in the front seat of my rental car (and am thanking God for my little eye mask that let me get some much needed sleep), and woke up mid-afternoon and ready for the last leg of the trip.

I finally made it into Elizabethton, where my friends Kat and Isaiah were staying with family, right before dinner.  It was a joy to have finally made it and be welcomed with hugs from the kids, lots of warm hugs from Kat and Isaiah, and a great big welcome from Kat's brother and sister-in-law and Isaiah's mom.  We ate good food, played games, and then sat down to enjoy some pretty interesting TV...Duck Dynasty...let me tell you...reality TV sure has changed since I've been away!

The next day, we went to JP and Becca's church, shared some lunch (and some laughs with the kids), packed up the cars, and headed back to NC.  It was a fun drive, getting the opportunity to catch up with Katty.  We laughed and talked and possibly shed a few tears.  It was just what this quality time girl needed!

And by the time we made it to Winston-Salem, we were ready for a stopping point.  We got out, did a little walk around, and then quickly got back in, in search of coffee.  It was cold there!  Coffee was a bust, but we eventually found a cool restuarant and ate some delicious pizza, and then it was time to get back on the road.

We made it in late to their house, returned my rental car, and just rested.  I was so tired still.  That long night before Nashville, the drive from Nashville to Elizabethton to Raleigh...all of it was just exahausting.  So, I slept in...and it was wonderful.

The next day, Kat and Isaiah and I went to breakfast (it was delicious--some place called La Farm), and then we went to the store and prepared food for our New Year's eve celebration.  And then, we all decided to take a nap.  Except, I was the only one who fell asleep.  I had such a weird dream (that my cold had gotten so bad that I couldn't talk, and I kept crying out for Katty to help me, but I couldn't speak).  When Isaiah woke me up (with the flash of his camera and the ending of the movie--thanks Zay), apparently I had made all kinds of weird sounds in my sleep.  Oh joy!

New Year's Eve was a blast!  We went over to Kat and Isaiah's friend's house, Meghan and Paul.  Jill, Katty's co-teacher, and her husband and their little baby, Bryson, were also there.  It was so fun to get to know Kat and Isaiah's friends.  We played games.  Ate too much food.  And just laughed and enjoyed each other's company.  It was such a treat!

We spent the night there since we were out so late and their place was a little far from Kat and Isaiah's house.  I slept so well, wrapped up in their daughter, Violet's, comfy bed. 

When we got back to the Whelps, my sister came over to spend the day.  I got to meet her little dog, Bearcub.  She is such a mama to that dog!  It was fun to spend time with her and to get to welcome in the new day, relaxing in sweats, playing games, and just enjoying time together.

And that was my last day in Raleigh.

The next day, we got up really early to head to the airport.  We were all packed up and ready to go when I realized that I had lost my CA driver's license.  I looked high and low...coat pockets, suitcases, backpacks, everything was searched.  But, it didn't turn up.  We needed to get Cathy (Isaiah's mom) to the airport, so we just left.  I was in tears, thinking of how to deal with the situation when I decided to do one final search of my backpack (after Katty had prayed for me to find it), and wouldn't you know...there it was...at the bottom of my backpack, where I had already searched.  But, there it was!

So, I flew off to California, leaving behind Kat and Isaiah to begin school again.

It was such a precious few days with them.  I couldn't have really used at least two more good days with them, but such is life. 

It was a joy to just get a few moments.  These treasured memories. 

This year, I'll be praying all kinds of things for them, but at the top of my list is their new baby.  They're now on the waiting list (private in-state adoption) for a baby and I'm praying their new little one comes soon.  Such a blessing their little gift will have in Kat and Isaiah as their parents.  They are just treasures!  I can't wait!