My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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.


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