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, February 28, 2013

A New Voice

Maybe these guys have been around for awhile...but they are a new voice to me. 

A voice that has been piercing through the lies, bringing truth. 

I've spent hours worshipping, listening to the voice of the Father in these lyrics.

Just wanted to give you a little taste...

Will Reagan and the United Pursuit--Endless Years Album

Take a Moment
Take a moment to remember
Who God is and who I am
There You go lifting my load again
Take a moment to remember
Who God is and who I am
There You go lifting my load again
Take a moment to remember
Who God is and who I am
There You go lifting my load again
No longer am I held by
The yoke of this world
Come upon you the yoke of Jesus
His yoke is easy and His burden is so light
His burden is so light
You’re lifting my load
You’re lifting my load
No longer am I held by
The yoke of this world
Come upon you the yoke of Jesus
His yoke is easy and His burden is so light
Your love carries
Your love carries me through
All the valleys and the darkest places

Give me a Song to Sing
There's not a prayer I've prayed
That You haven't heard
Not a tear I've shed
That You didn't feel
You're the God who comes to raise the dead
I know You'll raise me up again
I know You'll raise me up again

Who can praise You from the grave
to see the life you gave
Just to see the life you gave

Just to see the life you gave
Every fear in me You've put to rest
It's the song sing I bring
Of Your faithfulness

And every tear has led my feet to stand
Where the ocean meets the land
Where the ocean meets the land

Sink or swim I'm diving in
Where the river starts rushing
Where my heart starts beating
For the rhythms of the testing
And the songs of the trials
I will lift a cry up to You
Sung with hope inside my eyes

Sink or swim I'm diving in
To the passion of Your heart
Where love starts

I lift my hands if my hands fail me
I'll bend my knees if my knees grow weak
I'll raise my voice and sing, I'll sing
I know that You love me

Give me a song to sing (x3)
And I will sing it

Give me a song to sing (x3)
And I will sing it to You God (x3)

Give me a song to sing (x3)
And I will sing it

Give me a song to sing (x3)
And I will sing it to You God (x3)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When God Speaks

I've been in a place where I am learning to listen more.  I'm trying to pull back a bit.  To sit in places of silence.  To hear more from the Lord.

Sometimes, waiting to hear from God is difficult.  After all, I live with 40+ kids running around on a day to day basis.  So quiet...well...it's pretty unheard of here.

But, God doesn't require just a quiet space alone to speak.  He requires a quiet heart.  Open ears.  A willing spirit.

And He's been speaking.

The past couple of days, we've had a YYAM team with us here, helping out at the school and loving on our kids.  Last night, they led a worship gathering for all of us as staff and our older kids.

The Spirit of God was so sweet.  So pure.  So powerful.  So present.

Worship started and tears just began to flow as the Holy Spirit began to speak.

And God gave me words from three different people that were so beautiful, so perfect.  It could only have come from Him, because the YYAM'ers for sure didn't know anything about these conversations.

God spoke of His pride in me.  That He sees.  That I am not forgotten.

God spoke about the way that I have served here, giving me permission to dream my own dreams again (a word that I felt God had begun to speak to me while in the States).  That what has been accomplished so far is only the beginning, and I am to push through, to persevere and endure (a word God continues to speak since I have been back in Ghana), and I will see even greater things come.  And then the words of Ephesians 3:16-21, spoken over me since 2004, a reminder that the same God that worked in me then, is still at work in me now.

God spoke that I have an anointing of healing--not in the physical realm only, but in the hearts of people.

God spoke that He loves me...He loves me...He loves me.  He knows my struggles and my trials and He is with me.  I am not alone.  He is pursuing me, romancing me, desiring a greater intimacy (also a word I had heard during my time in the States).

I felt like tears could not be contained.  It was just so sweet.  So deep.  So precious.  So real.  So good.

And this morning, I had no words except, THANK YOU FATHER.  God is good.

Love Does, Post 2

More from my new favorite book...again, quotes in no particular order or context...

"Because of our love for each other [between his wife and himself], I understand just a little more how God has pursued me in creative and whimsical ways, ways that initially did not get my attention.  Nevertheless, He wouldn't stop.  That's what love does--it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end.  When you go after something you love, you'll do anything it takes to get it, even if it costs everything."

"Jesus seemed to say that all we would need to do is to scrape together the pieces of our lives that had fallen on the ground, bring those pieces to Him, and He would start using them.  Jesus didn't say He would ice over the grit of faults and failures either; He said He would use us in spite of the grit and faults and failures.  What we would have to do is decide to move from the parking lot to the party.  And He said we can't do that by just believing all the right stuff anymore; Jesus said He'd help us start doing the right stuff."

"Maybe God is doing some inexplicable things in your life.  Each of us gets to decide every time whether to lean in or step back--to say yes, ignore it, or tell God why He has the wrong person....We were all meant to save many lives.  God is always trying to save lives, and it seems like He usually uses the least likely people to do it.  So the next time God asks you to do something that is completely inexplicable, something you're sure is a prank because it requires a decision or courage that's way over your pay grade, something that might even save lives, say yes."

"I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does.  It doesn't come in an envelope.  It's ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen.  It's the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day.  Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I've seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live."

"The one who has invited you is way more powerful than any of the impediments we think we're facing, and He has just one message for us.  He leans forward and whispers quietly to each of us, 'There's more room.'"

"Words of encouragement are like that.  They have their own power.  And when they are said by the right people, they can change everything.  What I've found in following Jesus is that most of the time, when it comes to who says it, we each are the right people.  And I've concluded something else.  That the words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life."

"Religious people say that Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  I agree.  But there's more.  Jesus invites us to stand at the door of His house and do some knocking too.  And when He opens a door, He wants us to bring all of the faith we have to Him, even it it's a dime's worth.  And He promises that He will trade up with us--because He Himself is what we have the chance to trade for.  And what we'll have to give in exchange for knowing Him is everything we've accumulated during our lives and are standing on the porch holding on to."

"What I like about Jesus is that He didn't try to recruit people or use spin.  Neither He nor His disciples ever said they were going on a mission trip, because they weren't.  He just invited everyone and said they could follow Him."

"I trust God because He's the best author.  I think God doesn't spell out everything for us in life, but He does tell us how we can write our lives better; and trusting Him implicitly is always the right place to start."

"Jesus was always talking about a reverse economy.  He talked about how if you want to receive, you give.  If you want to lead, you follow.  That the poor are rich and you only really live for certain things if you are willing to die to them...we have more power than we think to make our own rules about life to live out the economy that Jesus put in place.  We each get to be the storekeeper, at least figuratively, and we decide who gets what and what things are worth.  We get to decide that people, including ourselves, are worth more than other might figure and that following Jesus means doing the math differently sometimes.  Because actually we're all on the same side of the counter when it comes to needing a little help and grace."

"I want to leak from having been hit by Jesus.  From having something crazy happen to me, something that flipped my life upside down.  I've met people like that, people who leak Jesus.  Whenever you're around them, Jesus keeps coming up with words and with actions.  I don't suppose everybody gets hit by Jesus, but those of us who have talk about Him differently.  We start steering funny; we start leaking where we stand.  And it's because we got thrown from our lives in a terrific collision."

"Jesus doesn't invite us on a business trip.  Instead, He says let's go after those things that inspire and challenge you and let's experience them together.  You don't need a lot of details or luggage or equipment, just a willingness to go into a storm with a Father who's kicking footholds into the steep sides of our problems while we kick a couple in ourselves too.  He guides us into those footholds with His strong hands while we're safely tethered to Him by a bright red rope of grace, which holds us securely.  Somehow in all of this, the terrain we navigate doesn't seem as scary either, because when we're on an adventure with God we're too excited to be afraid and too engaged to be thinking of anything else."

"[The disciples] didn't need all the details because they were on an adventure with a father who wanted to take them.  You don't need to know everything when you're with someone you trust.  That's probably why Jesus' disciples never said they were on a missions trip.  I think they knew love already had a name and they didn't need a program or anything else to define it.  We don't either.  The kind of adventure Jesus has invited us on doesn't require an application or prerequisites.  It's just about deciding to take up the offer made by a father who wants us to come."

More to come...


How Far We've Come

I do this every once in a while.  I reflect on what has happened since I've come to Ghana.

Yesterday, I was reminded of it again.

We have a YYAM team here and they have been bustling around the school, teaching art, helping with sponsorship letters, tutoring, blessing us...

One of the team-members encouraged me yesterday stating that he had been to several schools during his time in Ghana and this school FEELS different than all the rest.  I can take pleasure in just that simple statement.

Yes, we have SO MUCH WORK TO DO.  I see it everyday.  I see it in our teachers getting used to a new way of instruction, curriculum, discipline.  I see it in our students, struggling against all odds to even learn to read.  I see it in the way that our teachers and students behave--the need for discipleship--to know their true identity in Christ.  We have so much to do.

But, we have come so far!

In so many ways, it's been an incredibly FAST journey, but in many, many ways, it has been a journey built on tears, and sweat (lots of sweat), brainstorming and working, hours and hours of putting things together to make this possible.  I have felt ill-equipped, but that's when God shows his strength best, I think.  In the ill-equipped, ordinary people of this world.

I came to Ghana, desiring to do a bit of tutoring.  God brought me to Ghana to do far more than that.  I didn't even have a dream for what exists today.

My first months of teaching were an enormous struggle.  10 students and I crammed inside a tiny space.  The heat alone should have been enough of a threat, but then you put in the language barrier, the teaching style (and learning style), the cultural differences, the discipline differences, the colors of our skin...none of it was easy.  It was all hard.

But, perseverance was key.  A word I seem to be hearing so often these days.  Persevere.  Push through.  Endure.  The other side will bring out dreams that have yet to even be dreamed. 

I digress.

And then, we all moved to Doryumu, preparing for our big build.  Packing close to 40 people in one house.  Back then, it seemed like "alone" was a word that didn't exist in our language any longer. 

I spent my days teaching in our little, blue schoolhouse.  No electricity.  No running water.  No curriculum.  Just me, a couple of other teachers, and our kids.  Those days came with a lovely simplicity though.  We learned from each other.  We worked through our strengths and our weaknesses.  We lived life together.  Rainy days brought rolled up pant legs as we slid our way home through the muddy clay.  Afternoons were typically perfect opportunities for "Lion Hunts" with my little Portia, and her crew.  Evenings were filled with the cheery laughter of Edwin, Malvin, and Justice as they learned to walk in that place, and races ensued. Nights were filled with one of two choices, either the sweet sleep of my boy Edwin, or his whimpering cries through most of the night.

And then, my first year was done, and we moved on to open our school to the community.  We brought in 100 new students, a whole new teaching staff.  We changed, and grew.  I didn't know how we could start a school with 120 students without windows and doors, running water, or electricity.  But, we did.  And it worked.

And this year, the changes have been different.  Somehow more challenging for me.  Because the challenges haven't necessarily been in the infrastructure, but in the hearts of the people. 

For the most part, our structure is good.  We are running.  We are seeing our children grow and learn.  There are things we are constantly working on to create a better environment, a better education for our kids, but we are seeing growth.

It really comes down to the discipleship of our staff and children.

Oh, my heart aches to see the struggles.  To walk side by side some of these teachers when the news of some illness has captured them.  To see them settle for anything less than God's best for them.  To watch them walk out their life without a true understanding of their identity in Christ.  How much God loves them. 

I look back and see how far we've come.  It gives me hope for the future.  And it also reminds me that in this season, it isn't only about the education of these kids, though that is why we've all gathered, but it is about the future of these lives.  And I can trust that while God leads in this place, his Kingdom purposes will be completed.  Come, Jesus, Come.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Love Does, Part 1

So, I'm obsessed with this new book.  It is just...well...speaks straight to my heart.  I think the author's favorite word is "whimsy".  And I think that is part of why I am loving it so much right now.  I desire to live a life of whimsy.  I want to live a life that is incredible.  I want to see God in the ordinary moments of my life.  I think this is even part of why I love Pride and Prejudice...and well, at this moment, pretty much anything BBC puts out...it all has this air of whimsy...of a beauty that we can't quite put our finger on...on this gentle pursuit of life.  I love it.  So, I thought I would share some of my favorite's so far out of this book.  These quotes really have no connection to one another...just little nuggets of joy that I've found so far.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary Way
By: Bob Goff

"Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the kind of things that love does is something most people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget."

"I learned that faith isn't about knowing the right stuff or obeying a list of rules.  It's something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice.  Perhaps that's why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel--God with us.  I think that's what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us.  It's also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people...But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.  It's a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright."

"People who follow Jesus, though, are no longer typical--God is constantly inviting them into a life that moves away from typical...What Jesus said we could do is leave typical behind.  We could leave all of the comparisons and all of the trappings and all of the pretending of religion.  Jesus told the people He was with that it's not enough to just look like you love God.  He said we'd know the extent of our love for God by how well we loved people."

"Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving.  It's about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light.  That's what I want my life to be all about--full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.  I want to be engaged to life and with life."

"Failure is just part of the process, and it's not just okay; it's better than okay.  God doesn't want failure to shut us down.  God didn't make it a three-strikes-and you're-out sort of thing.  It's more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.  And all of this without keeping a meticulous record of our screw-ups....I've realized that I used to be afraid of failing at the things that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter."

More to come...



My life is in a transition right now.

It's this funky place where new roles are being defined and, yes, it is a little scary...overwhelming, sure...exhausting, you bet.


I've been trying to carve out these chunks of time to just hang with my Savior.  And they've been rich and sweet and filled with real emotion. 

I've been learning to rest.  That is something different for me here.  I'm not sure quite how to do that well yet.

There is still some anxiety.  There is still some of that "figuring it out" as it goes along.  But I'm feeling better about it all.

It seems like there are seasons where transitions are just so much more difficult than the season before.  This has been one of them.  But, I know, because I trust in my God who has called me here for this time and place, that I'm going to come out stronger in the end.  We all are.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Ministry, for some reason, is often heaped with guilt.  It is the lie that keeps people striving and working instead of resting in the promises of God.  It is the lie that ministry requires complete sacrifice of self and welfare for the needs of others. 

The truth is that guilt is not from God.  The truth is that Jesus requires sacrifice of self to Him alone, which doesn't necessarily mean ministry.  And sometimes that sacrifice of self means learning to take care of the basic needs of you.

It's not an easy pill to swallow.  In fact, I often listen to the lie of guilt over the truth of the Father.

He values me.  Why would I not value myself?

Wouldn't I be able to more effectively minister...more effectively lead...more effectively live wholly...if I were able to fill myself up in the Lord, take care of my need for intimacy and truth, and then give out to others?

To live in a place of fullness is not an easy task.  It's hard.  It requires laying down certain things to pick up better things.

This Sunday, John was speaking from Acts 20, and as I read on in the passage, I saw this...

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that savage wolves will come among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!" Acts 20:28-31

This past year, I faced a lot of wolves in among my flock.  I battled.  I rallied.  But, I was, honestly, really discouraged.  People I trusted took advantage of me, of this place.  It was frustrating.  It was hurtful.  And I wasn't sure how to handle the bitterness that I felt sneaking in.

I felt beaten down by the wolves that had been invited in. 

But, when I read that passage, I realized part of why I couldn't recognize the wolves among the sheep. 
It says, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock...".

Uhoh.  No guilt there.  Just truth.

I have been known for working too hard, for not taking care of myself, and this past year, I came dangerously close to giving up.  The "giving up", it turns out, didn't really have much to do with my role here, which can be incredibly overwhelming, but the fact that I wasn't caring for me in the midst of the ministry.  I wasn't keeping watch over myself.  I wasn't spending the time praying over our school.  I wasn't spending the time caring for my needs.  So, while I was caring for the flock, wolves slipped in, and I couldn't even recognize them.

So, all guilt aside, this year has to be different.  I have to protect my flock.  And that has to start with me.

I have to be "on guard".  And perhaps that is going to look a bit different than in the past.  Yes, the work is still here, but it's time to prepare this place well so that it's protected from the wolves.  I'll stand at my post, on guard, but hopefully that strength will come from a place of wholeness sought after in time taking care of my relationship with Jesus and me.


Almost every season of my life since 2004, I have chosen a "word".  These words represent ways that God is working in me.

My first word was Redeemed.  And, wow, I felt the power of that word.  God is a God who rescues.  Who redeems.  Who is purposeful in his redemption.  He is the kinsman redeemer coming to save us from our own poverty of spirit.

Some of my other words brought on equally challenging, but sweet, seasons in my relationship with Christ.  Joy-full.  Unveiled.  Expectation.  Trust.  Obedience. 

Some seasons have felt rather wordless.  Perhaps the busyness of life robbed that still, small voice that gives each word, that filled each season.

My time back in the States was beautiful.  It was filled with time with friends, and laughter, and the voice of the Father.  I hadn't intentionally listened for that voice in quite some time. 

I traveled through my journal that I had written in this past year, seeing the HUNGER for something more in my relationship with God...the cries of my heart over and over again...I want more.  Yet, I didn't take the time for more.  I didn't know how to seek "more".  I didn't know what more could look like here, where my busy life, the importance of this work, seemed to take priority.  And so, I was left unsatisfied.

But, again, the cry came up.  The longing.  The desire.  The need for more.

And the word that came out of it...intimacy.

That's a bit of a scary word.

It means vulnerability.  Openness.  The ability to sit in the stillness and just listen.  It means relationship.  Depth. 

Last year, I struggled with my singleness.  I longed to share my life with someone.  To have someone be a witness to the ins and outs of me.  I longed for relationship...for intimacy.  It was as if this great mystery of "the one" would solve all these longings and needs in my life.

But one of my dear friends told me that if the greatest mystery of our lives was to find our mate, well...we're bound to be disappointed.  Once we find the person we want to share life with, the mystery is gone.  And left behind are still the same desires and longings and needs.  And they can't be met by any one person.

The greatest mystery, she told me, is relationship with Christ.  The more we know of him, the more intimacy we find with him, the more the mystery is unfolded.

And so, I'm entering a season of wanting more...and then doing something about it.  Of sitting in the stillness and listening.  Of digging in deep.  Of separating myself from some relationships only to be filled up by THE relationship that's most important. 

It's a season.  And I know that this withdrawl from certain things and people won't last forever.  But, I feel like I am in preparation.  That this is necessary for wherever or whatever I am going to do next. 

It is not just needed, but completely necessary.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Back in Action

The voices from the classes pierce my office as I sit and reflect on my time home and the year ahead of me.

I hear the teachers reading out midterm questions to the students.  I hear the children echoing back their readied answers.  I hear laughter and excitement at the thought of a job well done.

It's good to be back.  To see the sweet faces.  To savor the hugs and kisses and hands of my little ones. 

I look out over my school...it's hallways filled with the voices of children...the future.  I feel blessed to be called into this place.

I'm back.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Heading Back

There isn't much I can say on here.  I'm heading back to Ghana on the 13th.  And while I am excited to see my kids, to get back into the swing of things...I am going to miss this.

Nasiah May Kolding, my dear strong friend, Christina, and me on February 8.
Yesterday, I had the sweetest privilege to get to be a part of my dear friend's 2nd child's birth.  I was there for Brylie, and what a joy to get to be a part of it again.  A whole new journey.  Words can't express the beauty of God's little miracle, Nasiah May.

And I look around at the amazing experiences of the past couple of months.  The beautiful conversations.  The sweet sweet time with some of my favorite people.  Being silly and celebrating laughter.  The independence of your own car...your own room...your own...life.

I have TREASURED this time.

There really is no other way to say it.

It has filled me.

It has given me joy.

I have shed more honest tears than I have in a long time.

It has been healing.  God has spoken again and again and again.

I am blessed.

And heading back to Ghana...well, I'm excited.  But I'm also a little sad.  A little scared.  A little nervous. 

I am feeling a little like I'm mourning this life, this life that I left behind almost three years ago.

But, I know that I will go back to Ghana a little more whole than I left it.

And that is good.

It is so good.