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


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I think whatsapp is a miracle.

Everyday, I get to be a witness to the lives of my friends and family back home because of this lovely app on my phone.

I have a couple of groups on my phone and there, we post pictures, videos, even voice messages, that make me laugh, encourage my spirit, and even makes me shed a few tears as I think of the distance between us all.

Somehow, this has covered some of that distance. 

I got to see my friend's baby, Corbin, laugh and giggle.

I prayed for my other friend's baby, Nasiah, as she was taken to the hospital with a bad cold.

I laughed and giggled when, for nearly a whole day, we posted old quotes from our quote board that used to hang in the apartment that some of us shared.

Yep, whatsapp makes me pretty happy!

Even if the miles are so far away, at least I can talk in some way to the ones I love and miss everyday.


I have been praying for an answer for something for a little over a week now.

I haven't gotten my answer yet.

It's been hard and a little frustrating because I just want to know what to do in this certain situation.

But, yesterday, I read this out of Sarah Young's Jesus Calling and it was so good.

"Listen to me continually.  I have much to communicate to you, so many people and situations in need of prayer.  I am training you to set your mind on Me more and more, tuning out distractions through the help of My Spirit.

Walk with me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans.  I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning.  When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice.  A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control.  Turn from this idolatry back to Me.  Listen to Me and live abundantly!"

I still don't have my answer.

But, I am learning the art of surrender.

My thoughts have been so preoccupied with my plans, that even in praying for His voice to speak, I haven't stopped to listen.

So, in the midst of all of my desires to plan and make a decision about this one thing...I am simply quieting my mind to wait for the voice of my Father.

Busyness Brings You Back

A couple of weeks ago, we had groups from Semester at Sea come through to volunteer with us.  Three different groups of over 30 students, staff, and life-long learners in each group, came to join us here at City of Refuge.  A few even came to spend a few nights with us and really see the day in and day out of life here at CORM.

It was incredibly busy with all these "obrunis" coming through.  Projects had to be created.  We had to set up an experience for them that helped us (a little), but gave them a good picture of what we do here at City of Refuge.

Sometimes, the day in and day out of life here...well, it can be tedious and hard and frustrating.  Sometimes staff leave.  Sometimes, students make choices you wish they hadn't made.  You see families struggling.  You see poverty that you may never have experienced before.  And all these things...well, they add up.  And sometimes you forget.

You forget the miracles that have brought us here!

Our three days with Semester at Sea were incredibly busy, but for me, they brought me back to my purpose here.  Sometimes, I just get tied down with the to-do's and I forget the passion.

When we stand in front of groups of people and explain how we got here...that is powerful!

John and Stacy--not qualified in any way, but God gave them the vision and the passion and the drive.  And look at how he has equipped and accomplished through their willing hearts.  That is powerful!

I am not trained as an administrator--I don't even have my masters degree...all I have is the experience of teaching and the knowledge that perhaps God can do more through me as a leader than as a teacher in one class.  That is powerful!

And when I think about when we started--moving here in July 2010 to our house in Tema.  Moving to Doryumu, doubtful of how I would make it through the year in a house with over 40 people.  Moving here to our Children's Village without electricity, but through EVERY BIT OF IT...having faith that God would provide for all of our needs.  And he did!

I was unsure how things would work out when we moved to downtown Doryumu, but God taught me the value of patience and unconditional love when I cared for Edwin through many sleepless nights.  And God brought us together as a family in that one house, struggling at times, but learning about each other and with each other.

I was unsure about moving to the Children's Village without electricity, but we managed.  We went through the hottest part of the year without electricity.  We still managed to get out emails, to keep our building projects going, and in the end, God brought in electricity without us even working on it at all.  The same was true with bringing water out here to the land as well.

And now, I look around and I see our school building, almost fully completed.  I see two fully-operational children's homes and a third being built.  I see guest facilities, a farm operating, and more building on-going.  This place isn't just growing...it's blowing up.  And honestly, there is not a single reason that I can give as to why we have been blessed in this way except to say, when you are faithful with a little, you are trusted with more.

So, even though the busyness of Semester at Sea was incredibly crazy, it was also so, so, so sweet.

I got to tell the story of God's faithful plan for this place over and over and over.  And I'm in awe of how far we have come.

God is so good!

The View out My Window

Everyday, I get woken up by this crazy rooster.  Actually, there's a whole gang of them.

They started out so small, and fuzzy, and cute.  Now, they just ruffle their feathers and crow.  Anytime.  Day or night.  Often.  And loudly.

We keep discussing ways to kill them off. 

But, I wake up anyway.  To the beauty of Ghana.

It's changing seasons here.  It's been incredibly hot and dry and sweaty.

But, the rainy season is coming.

And with it...the green grasses.  The muddy roads.  The birds and animals.

It feels alive and beautiful!

I love the rainy season because the air cools down and even though the rain causes so many problems, it also is this beautiful thing.  It's a release.  Like the sky is heaving a sigh of relief.

And the view out my window begins to change.

I have a new view now, since I've just moved.  My last view, when I lived at the Omorefe house, was a gorgeous one.  My room was at the back of the property and there was nothing obstructing the view of the mountains, the hills, the green fields, the farms.  Now, my view captures our newly constructed playground, the mountains of Larteh, the streets of our little village.  And I have to say, that I'm liking it. 

Just the other day, I peered out my window to see Florence chanting on the playground with Justice and Edwin: God is my best friend.  Jesus is my best friend.  God is my best friend.  Jesus is my best friend.  You get the picture.  Precious!

And another day, about half of our children were gathered underneath our summer hut, chatting and laughing (a little shouting and fighting thrown in for good measure). 

Just like the rain brings life back the ground.  This view out my window is life.  It is a treasure to get to be a witness to the lives of these children...free and whole. 

Yep, I love this view!  Roosters and all.

It's been awhile

It's been quite some time since I last posted.  Life has been incredibly busy.  Teaching English at school as one teacher recently quit.  The ending of the term.  Preparation for John and Stacy to return to the States.  Moving to a new room.  Preparation for volunteers to come through (in droves, it feels like!).  Preparation for Lydia and Nosa's wedding.  It has just been an incredibly busy season!

So, a brief update...

School has been incredibly busy as it neared the end of the term.  It always is a stressful time, but without a teacher in Primary 5, it was a little bit more consuming of my time.  Kathy was a sweet blessing and took the class the last two weeks of the term, even though it isn't her favorite thing to do in our school (I appreciate her flexibility!!).  But, the term ended well and break is now underway.  We have three weeks off of school, though I have a feeling that there might be less break in there than some of our kids will probably get to experience.  Already, I feel the busyness of the summer months arriving on my doorstep!

John and Stacy are leaving in just a little over a week with their three youngest kids for a trip back to the States.  They will be there for Ghana Rock, time with our dear, dear friends at FTO, taking trips to Chicago and Michigan to visit friends (and family).  It will be a busy trip for them!  It will be incredibly busy on this side as well.  We have a lot of volunteers coming through in the coming weeks, and this break will serve as a little time to prepare for their arrival.  The Agler family is also moving to Ghana and they will be arriving at the end of the month.  They are moving here full-time, so there will be a definite transition period for them as they figure out what their ministry will look like here on the ground.

And then, there is the grand occasion of Lydia and Nosa's wedding.  It's this weekend and we have all been excited for the big event.  I'm singing in the wedding, but I think Nosa and Lydia are the ones who are nervous about the whole occasion.  Weddings are just stressful!  In any case, they are moving into my old room, which meant that I moved over the guest house.  It has been an interesting transition for me.  I have longed for a little place of quiet so that I could find myself refreshed, but I am also longing for deep relationship.  I'm finding it hard to figure out how to balance myself well.  To get the time to relax, but also to make the much-needed time to spend with the Omorefe family, especially since I have formed such a strong friendship with Stacy and John over the years.  In the end, it was a bit of a bittersweet move for me.  Yes, it is quieter and little more removed from the hustle and bustle of the kid's in and outs, but there are these moments when change just frightens me.

The next couple of months, I have a feeling, will be extremely busy for me, so I am hoping to get on here to do a few updates every now and then.  They have been few and far between since returning for the States.


Saturday, April 6, 2013


This week, I had a whole bunch of anxiety.  Something was going on at home and I was just praying for God's perfect peace and God's perfect plan to be made apparent. 

Everything worked out ok and I thanked God for his Sovereignty in the whole situation.  He is so good.

But, the anxiety didn't seem to leave me today.  In fact, it seemed to overwhelm me as though I had saved it all up and let it loose today. 

I realized today, as I hadn't really recognized before, that I am far from home.  If anything were to happen to my family, my friends, to me...
I'm really far away.

That overwhelmed me today.

The distance.

Sometimes...most times...the distance doesn't bother me. 

But lately, it has taken its toll.  It brings tears that can't seem to console the ache inside.

Sometimes, you just need a hug from your mom.  Sometimes, you need the hand of a friend.  Sometimes, you need the laughter of a close one.

And today, I'm feeling that distance.  Wishing I could cross it with one leap.  Wishing for that hug.  That hand.  That laugh.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Before and After

I was reflecting this weekend on the lives of our kids.  The beautiful picture of before and after that they portray.

I used to love those beauty makeover shows.  They kidnap some unsuspecting person for a big fashion do-over--all of the sudden they come out looking almost completely different.  You wonder how they did it and oooo and aaaaahhhh over the whole process.

Sometimes I feel like ooooing and aaaahhhing over our kids too.  Their before and afters are so drastic.  These kids are so different than they were before.

I watched Grace this weekend dancing so freely to the music on Easter.  She said, "Aunty Autumn, I have to dance because Jesus is alive!".  And so, dance she did, with a smile as big as I've ever seen it.  She walks with confidence, knowing that even though she is quirky and sometimes a bit moody, she is well loved.

I look at our little Benard.  When I first saw him in June, he was a knobby-kneed little boy who struggled to put together two English words.  He was quiet and unassuming.  On movie night this week, he was up dancing to the tunes of Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella (do you remember the one with Whitney Houston and Brandi?).  What a change!

And I look at our Florence, who came and isolated herself from every person here at CORM, until one day, Uncle Steve heard her laugh...and then she began to run...and now she is completely free!  This weekend, we had a massive water fight.  And while John ran around dousing people with the hose, Florence danced in the spray of the water...flooding down over her face and body, she laughed, and she danced.

And Benard and Mershak and Aaron...Robert and Mary and Dora...DK and Abigail and Amenyo.

Those make-over shows have nothing on this.

Before, these kids had no voice.  They worked.  14 hour days.  One meal a day.  Oftentimes, abuse.  No education.  No love.  They were a commodity.

After, these kids have hope.  They have freedom.  They dance.  They sing.  They play.  They worship God, not out of obligation or "this is the way we do things here", but because GOD has done a great work in their life and how could they not worship?  They go to school.  They learn.  They grow.  They fight.  They make-up.  They're children. 

The difference is complete.  The difference is real.  The difference is powerful.

It's not about the make-up or the clothes.  Real and lasting change is internal.  The real change is eternal.  It is spiritual.  It is about giving people the basic human rights that we all deserve.  And then seeing the transformation come about.

And this before and after...it's a beautiful sight to behold.

It is, at times, painful.  It is scary.  It is hard.  It is heartbreaking.

But, oh, it is so good.

I can only imagine what our after-shots are going to look like in a couple more years.  Anything is possible! 


Easter was this beautiful blessing...

A time to reflect on the life of Jesus...

A time to serve each other by washing each others feet and praying for one another....
Johnbull praying for our littlest guy, Joel.

A time to lay our sins and burdens at the foot of the cross...
Uncle Nosa reads the story of the crucifixion of Jesus

A time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ...
Our little guy, Alex, writes a thank you note to Jesus.
Our children writing at the Victory Station.
It was beautiful to see our children serving and praying for one another.  It was beautiful to see them write sentences and draw pictures of thanksgiving to our Savior. 

It was a beautiful Easter!

And then, to celebrate with friends from all over. 

To hear the squeals of joy at finding eggs and candies hidden in our fields...

To see the helpful hands of brother or sister as they searched together...

To see their eyes light up at the little toys they got to choose from...

To laugh...and pray together...to celebrate the Resurrection with good friends...

Yes, indeed, it was a beautiful Easter!
Searching for Easter eggs