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, June 27, 2013

In the Quiet

This week has not been quiet.  It has been full, and messy, and loud, and busy, and overwhelming.  Volunteers leaving.  Volunteers coming.  Plans changing.  Things looking different than I would have thought.  All good.  Just different.  And busy.  And exhausting.

Today, we had a medical clinic at our school with some volunteers who are from Heartbeat For Africa.  They're great and soared through health assessments of all 185 students and all the staff at CORM.  They were patient and gentle and loving and endless in their abilities to see more and more and more students and adults.  They were a blessing, pure and simple.

But, anything out of the ordinary for our students, well, let's just say that they go a little nut-so. 

It was loud today. 

More than one child was seen gathered around obruni cameras, gathered at the doorway of the staff lounge where the doctors were doing their job, running down the hallway, causing their fair share of noise...

But, my sweetest moment today happened in the quiet of my office...

Our girl, Hannah, was brought to the office, after going to the medical clinic, in tears.  Uncontrollable.  Inexplicable.  Overwhelming tears.  She couldn't talk.  Couldn't explain.  She just cried.  Silent.

So, I grabbed her hand, and led her to my office.  I picked her up, in all her 8 year old glory, and sat her in my lap.  She sat there stiff as a rod, until I lightly placed my hand on her back, and she collapsed against me.  She snuggled into that place in your neck that babies love to live in.  That nook of comfort.  My chin resting lightly on her head.  My arms wrapped around her body.  She shook.  Sobs wracking her frame. 

Students ran by, leaving their classrooms for lunch, screaming and shouting outside, and she cuddled in.  She quieted.  I rubbed her back, rubbed her arms, sang over her, prayed over her.  Her tears began to reside.  Her breathing less labored.  Her body relaxed. 

I kept declaring over her, "You are safe.  You are loved.  You are ok."

And then she slept.  Curled up on my lap. 

She needed that.  She needed comforted.  She needed to understand that she was ok.

You see, a year ago, almost to the date, Hannah came to live at City of Refuge.  The day that she left her ocean-side community with her little brother, Alex, and Florence and John, we hosted a medical clinic in her village.  That was her last memory of her home village.  A medical clinic. 

A stethoscope.  That's what scared her today.  A stethoscope.  It brought back memories.  It brought back fear.  It brought back uncertainty.  It brought back sadness.

And she needed to be loved on.  To be held.  She needed to be filled up.

She needed to be quieted.  Assured.  Set at peace.

So in the quiet space of my arms, God ministered.  Quieted her fear.  Released her into peace.

And this afternoon, I saw her race across the field, laughter bubbling from a place that, perhaps, is a little more whole.

 It's these moments...these quiet moments...in the midst of the chaos...when I see God's greatest work.  The work of love.  And it's in these moments...these rare and beautiful moments...that I fully understand the reason God has called me here, not for me at all.  It was for that moment.  That one quiet moment.  Just for Hannah.

That's a powerful love.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Had 4 really great, encouraging, tear-inspiring, conversations today.

My quality time tank is full and I'm encouraged by God's work in our volunteers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

We're Live!!!

Hey!  After a long time of emails and pictures and changes and new staffing and more emails...our Faith Roots website is officially up and running.

A huge thank you to Kristin Miller who put it all together!  She's pretty amazing!

Check it out: here!!

People Pleaser or Peace Maker?

I am a people pleaser.

It's something I have done my whole life...seek people's approval.  Approval for just about everything. 

I am a peace maker. 

I hate when there is relational conflict and frustration and will work to try and figure it all out.

And these two things together can be a really bad combination.

Because oftentimes, to keep the peace, I would rather not confront an issue.  I'd rather skim over the issues and avoid the tough things that need to be said simply because it is hard and uncomfortable and embarrassing and frustrating and hard.  (Yes, I know that I said hard twice...because it is that hard sometimes).

I feel the need in myself to lean back.  To allow things to go on so that drama won't prevail.

Unfortunately, sometimes that neglect of facing things head-on leads to more problems...bigger problems...down the road.

So, I force myself...yes, sometimes, I literally have to talk myself into confronting an issue.

And I realized this week that this is not just something that I deal with, but something that...well...pretty much our whole Bible Study also faces. 

Our volunteer, Challie, pointed out Galatians 1:10 to us this week when this concept came up.  It says:

"10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

So, challenging, but so true.

I have felt like, since moving to Ghana, God has continually challenged me on these very concepts.  What do I desire?  To please God or to please man?  Do I desire to keep the peace simply because I don't want to confront an issue or do I address it head on and face the consequences?

God, continue to mold and change me to be a peace-maker who isn't satisfied with pleasing others, but desires the peace of your character to invade the places that are insecure and find security in pleasing You alone.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Being 31 and Single

Last year, I struggled so desperately with my singleness.  I felt lonely so much of my time and wondered why God hasn't seen it in his plan for me yet--the dream of marriage and children of my own.  Still something that pulls at my heart...a longing deep, yet quieted by the years of waiting.

This year, I haven't felt it quite as keenly.  There have been moments...sure.

When my little sister got engaged.

When one of my besties began planning her wedding (which is this weekend...so sad to not be there to be a part).

When my friend's little ones snuggled up in my arms.

But, for some reason, it isn't quite so overwhelming.

Today, it came with a rush of anxiety.  Not a longing for marriage or family, but a frustration at the process.

This culture considers me strange.  As if I am not strange enough already...a white woman living in Africa.  I am stared at wherever I go.  Remarks are made.  Obruni or brofono or all the other names that mean "white man" are shouted at me by children and adults alike.

No, it's not just my skin color that makes me strange. 

I am an old maid.

It's just not done here. 

People are considered old if they marry after 25.

They discuss it with regret in their voice.  "If only I had married earlier..."

Certainly, my entire life is not as I had it planned out at the tender age of 8.  Every girl's fairytales center around the prince that sweeps them off their feet and whisks her to his castle in the clouds.

My castle is my quiet room, with the sound of children playing outside my window. My castle is our school where I lead our 180 students and 16 staff each and every day.  My Prince is the Prince of Peace that fills me up and allows me to be poured out on these...my children...my family.

But, it sometimes doesn't make sense.  Definitely not to people in this culture.  And sometimes not even to me.

A weird conversation with a local friend came up today, as if he had taken it upon himself to find me a husband.  Because it isn't good to be single.

As the anxiety rose from the strange uncomfortableness of the whole conversation--I felt the Peace that passes all understanding.

While I may not make sense to this culture--while sometimes, I may not make sense to even me--I am ok with that. 

Jesus certainly didn't make sense to his culture.  His own hometown cast him out. 

So, while I may be frustrated at times in the waiting...I am also confident that who I am is not defined by whether I am married or not...how old I am...how many children I have...

I am satisfied with who I am in Christ.  That is all I need.  And that is not just good...it is great.

A Conversation on Polygamy

Today, I had two conversations with people about the polygamy that is so commonly practiced here in Ghana. 

A pastor friend of ours came in to chat with me about an upcoming outreach today and somehow, we started discussing some of his church members that have students here in our school.  We talked about one particular man who has 4 of his children in our school.  3 of these children are from one wife, 1 from another.  He explained that this man has four wives.  His first wife has 11 children, his second has 10 children.  This man's goal is to have 50 children.  Even now, he has a new girlfriend.  He relies on stealing oil from the vehicles at the quarry during his shift as a night-guard to help cover the expenses of his children.  The wives are frequently fighting amongst each other, a competition set for who can give him the most children.

When this pastor confronted him about the situation, the man's only response was, "If you can't accept it, I will move to another congregation."

And a teacher came in today for his one-on-one time with me.  When I asked him what he wanted me to pray for him and he told me about his father, who recently married a second wife in secret.  He heard that his father was engaged and he snuck into the wedding and watched his father marry another woman.  And this, after 20 years of marriage to our teacher's mother.

When our teacher confronted his father, the father's only response was, "I don't want to see you again."

To many, they say this issue of polygamy it is cultural.  It's accepted and so it continues.  A man can choose to marry more than one wife if he so desires.  A woman is given promises and sweet words.  She might have a say in who she marries, but so many are easily persuaded or once a dowry is paid to the family, the choice is no longer their own.

It is a matter of discipleship.  It is a matter of self-worth.  It is a matter of understanding God's individual and infinite love for their lives.

How can that be communicated when one fathers 50 children?  What understanding of God does a child get in that case?  What is communicated to the woman and the children...the first wife, the old family?

What are your thoughts on polygamy?  What are some of your messy answers to these messy problems?

Vehicular Drama

Yesterday...oh yesterday...

It always seems that the moment you need something to work...that is the moment that is stops working.  Murphy's Law or something, isn't it?

Yesterday, our school bus was stopped by the police...our driver given a ticket and taken into the station...hours sitting there trying to argue his way out of trouble...just long enough to have to figure out what to do with all of our students.

School ended...no bus in sight...

Nosa sat in my office wondering what to do.

I, luckily, remembered that a father of one of our students owns a tro tro.  I called and he was available and came rushing to our school to take our students home.  Students piled into the van, all sitting on top of one another.  Quite a sight to see...and I prayed they would safely make it home.

I came home and prepared to leave for Accra to pick up our friend, Andrea, from the airport.  As I  looked around, I realized that our Toyota (our only trustworthy vehicle at the moment) was still not back from the mechanics. 

So, we had to think quickly and it was the Beebe's who came to the rescue.  Thank goodness!

They allowed us to borrow their vehicle and after a mad dash through dinner, we were off to the airport.  We were just in time to meet Andrea...and just in time to see all the stores closing in the mall.  Our little errands that needed to get completed...they didn't get done.

Our one saving grace was the fact that it was 2-for the price of-1 pizza's at the Pizza Inn.

By the time we got home, the school bus was back, Andrea was safely tucked away in her bed here in Ghana, and we had survived the vehicular drama of the day.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Back to the Beginning

Tonight, for some reason, I was going through my travel bag and couldn't find my immunization form.  I got freaked out and decided I needed to find it immediately.  That makes sense since I have no travel plans for at least 6 more months...oh, goodness!

In any case, I pulled out all my drawers, all my storage boxes and got to digging.  There is still no immunization form anywhere (I have no idea where I put that bad boy), but I did find all kinds of other treasures.

I found all my journals starting back before I left for Ghana.  My early days here.  Living in Tema and the beginnings of our little homeschool.  The frustrations.  The challenges.  The stories of change.  Homesickness.  Missing out on these moments back home, but treasuring the ones I was making here. 


It's been almost three years.  And in so many ways, this place is so different.  The vision has expanded past what I could have ever dreamed or imagined. 

But, as I read through my journal, I realized that God is still working in me some of the same things...

Inadequate feelings with my role here.  Yep, still challenged by that feeling quite often.

Overwhelmed by kids.  Overwhelmed by life.  Check.

A deep stirring towards my calling here.  Yeah, God has definitely called me to lead here.

A feeling of gratefulness at the privilege of serving in this way.  Definitely still so blessed to get this great honor...to serve the kingdom in this great way...to see our kids grow and instill in them a dream of changing their world.  That's a powerful privilege.

And I'm realizing that in every fear of inadequacy...in every situation where I am overwhelmed by life here...in the calling I have received...God continually goes before me.  He always give me the strength I need to do what needs to be done.  The worry and the anxiety...the feeling that I could never do enough...it plagues me...but when I reflect back to life at the beginning...I see how God's strength has carried me through.  There is no other way that this could possibly have been done.

It brought tears to my eyes to think back...to remember the things that happened my first year here...

All I can say is that God sustains...

I have seen lives transformed.

I have been witness to the healing of hearts.

I have seen students empowered with the confidence to read a word.

I have been overwhelmed by the great need.  The great darkness.  The great sadness that is slavery.

But, even more, I have been overwhelmed by the great hope.  The great love.  The great freedom that comes with Christ.

The tears still spring to my eyes and fall to my lap when I consider the milestones I have missed in the lives of my friend's little ones, the changes that have happened across the ocean without me there to witness them, the things I have not had the privilege of being a part of there.

But, it has been worth it.

To see these miracles. 

It has all been worth it.

Tonight started with the frustrating search of something lost...but what was found was even greater.  A reminder that I am loved to love...and that love changes things.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Crazy Week

This has been an incredibly crazy week.  Here is a snapshot:

*sick kids

*Ghana hospitals stink

*one of our cars is broken and I am mad at it

*volunteers arrival

*Beebe's are back!!

*staff issues

*kid issues

*rain issues

*snakes (or one large one in particular)

*little sleep

*gifts from home (thanks to the Beebe's and our volunteers)

*wisdom from John and Stacy (so grateful for them!)

*a projector (the kids are going to be thrilled)

*moving a few people around on our campus

*sick bus driver

*money, money, money

*school excursion

*donations from a local church that blessed us beyond belief (12 bags of rice, sugar, beans, gari, milk...so blessed)

*GOD IS FAITHFUL in the good, the bad, and the busy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Isn't it just how it always is?...

I wrote a post about weariness and then had two of the most exhausting days...

Isn't it just how it always is?

Now, I'm reminded again where to place my strength.  I just wouldn't be able to make it if I didn't have a deeper Source filling me up again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rainy Season and the 3 M's

I love rainy season here in Ghana.

The air is cooler.

It can actually be quite cold at night. (I actually had to fold my sheet for a little more covering last night and snuggled underneath pulling it up under my nose like I do in the winter at Colorado--minus the blanket.)

But with the rain comes the three M's.

Mud.  Mosquitos.  and Malaria.

Seems like everyone has been getting sick these days.  Several of the kids down with it.  Quite a few of the staff down.  And Emily was hit pretty hard this past week too (feeling back to normal now).

Pray for us here.  While I love this season, the malaria is no fun!

Do You Know Who I Am? (I Am Weary)

I have been incredibly weary lately.  The busyness of life has me pulled thin.  I come home and sink into my bed, wishing for just a few moments of quiet, until just a few minutes later, someone comes knocking for medicine or homework help or shoes or a question...I feel a bit like a rubberband, stretched tighter and tighter. 

Last week, I was feeling worn thin.  I'd had an incredibly busy day at school and the second I sank into my bed after school, I wasn't sure I could get up all night.  I opened up my kindle to the book that I'm reading right now, "Do You Know Who I Am?" by Angela Thomas.  And wouldn't you know it...the chapter was entitled, Don't You Know I'm Worn Out?

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Isn't that how God works?  Filling in the holes of my soul just when I need it the most.  And realizing that weariness...well, it's not an Autumn-thing.  It's not even a Ghana-thing.  It's a human-thing.

I loved what Angela says,
"Worn out happens.
About the only way I can imagine living without weariness would require my becoming completely self-centered and self-protected.  I'd have to block any interruption and stick to my schedule no matter who is offended or who is left out.  The whole ridiculous idea [of life without reoccurring weariness] seems directly opposed to everything Jesus was about.  One of the first instructions He gave to His followers was, 'Deny yourself.'  To deny yourself means you are going to get tired somewhere along the way."

What a relief!  But, an even greater relief is the knowledge that even in my weariness, God does not grow weary.  "Not only does God not sleep.  He does not need to sleep.  His character is self-sustaining.  He does not need anything from outside Himself to be a better or more powerful God."  And I am grateful for that.

Just like Angela, I have placed my hope in what I am able to do, in my striving, in my own willpower, in my abilities, in this place...but these things will never renew my strength.  My strength can only be renewed in the One who does not need to be renewed, the one who never needs rest.

And it's in the weary place, where seeking God's presence restores the weary heart.  And even the weary body.

"The instruction for us is to come.  Get to Jesus.  Go and find Him.  Be with Him.  And the promise is rest--a physical rest for our weariness and a soul rest from the heavy burdens that weigh on our minds.  Action is required.  Are you weary today?  Get to Jesus.  Run to Jesus.  God promises that His presence renews."

And it is a sweet reminder to acknowledge that even Jesus required rest.  "Jesus did not minister to every person He met.  He did not heal everyone who was sick.  He did not raise all the dead.  He did not go to every town.  He only did what His Father instructed Him to do.  Just the same, you must only do what God has called you to do.  Minister where He leads.  Give your heart as He directs." 

"Until we get home, to heaven, I take great comfort in believing my heavenly Father knows my worn-out state.  He is not frustrated by my weariness.  And He has graciously made provisions to minister to my soul.  I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint (Jeremiah 31:25)".

And these thoughts came with Sarah Young's Jesus Calling that same day:
"I want to be CENTRAL in your entire being.  When your focus is firmly on Me, My Peace displaces fears and worries.  They will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert.  Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold.  There is no fear in My Love, which shines on you continually.  Sit quietly in My Love-Light, while I bless you with radiant Peace.  Turn your whole being to trusting and loving Me."


"Welcome challenging times as opportunities to trust Me.  You have Me beside you and My Spirit within you, so no set of circumstances is too much for you to handle.  When the path before you is dotted with difficulties, beware of measuring your strength against those challenges.  That calculation is certain to riddle you with anxiety.  Without Me, you wouldn't make it past the first hurdle!
The way to walk through demanding days is to grip My hand tightly and stay in close communication with Me.  Let your thoughts and spoken words be richly flavored with trust and thankfulness.  Regardless of the day's problems, I can keep you in perfect Peace as you stay close to me."

So, today, despite the weariness and exhaustion that seems to flag my every step, I am reminded that my hope and my strength is not found in my own abilities, but in a Father that never tires and grants me the peace that passes all understanding.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Laughing into the Air

Kathy occasionally gets after me for my random spurts of laughter, directed at no one present, but fully engaged into the comments and lives and stories of people back home through my phone.  You see, though I live full time in Ghana, but the lives of the ones at home are still so desperately important to me.  So, through the beauty of the internet (and my trusty android phone), I am able to keep in touch.

So, this post is for Kathy, and all those around me, who witness those random spurts of laughter or the gasps of joy, the mini-celebrations that I get to be a part of a world away, and the ways we are able to support and pray for one another--makes this world seem somehow smaller.

A peek into the world of Autumn and her friends:

There was the time when my friend Katie, who is obsessed with gnomes, sent me pictures of her new "boyfriend".

Which then led to her introducing me to "my new boyfriend".  Apparently she thought we would be interested in each other since he led a choir and I enjoy singing.  I thought other issues might get in the way of a "normal relationship".

And then the time Joanna sent me this one:

To which I responded with one of my own:

And of course happy moments have been announced--
Like this one:
And this one (the announcement of little Nasiah May):

And this one (of our big 3-year old Brylie girl):

And of course the ones that just bring a smile:
Camo asked me to play with him!

Who wouldn't smile at this little guy?  Corbin is adorable!

31 has aged me too much! 
Faces of the ones I love!
Worlds Collide!!!  Katty and Zay with the Omorefe's at GhanaRock!
 And then the times that ask for prayer:
Poor Bella broke her collarbone. 
And since I just love Bella's crazy hair, I get to share my moments of crazy hair too!

But, I think the ones that get the most laughs thrown into the air are the ones that win the creep-tastic awards.  Like this one that Bristol sent for Valentine's Day:

So, even though my occasional laughs into the air at something I saw on my phone might be a little distracting to the person nearby...I think even you would find them worthy of a chuckle or two.

Monday, June 3, 2013

More Rain...More Mud...More Bugs

It rained...all day...

The volunteers said it was because I led that song, "Let it rain...Let it rain...Open the floodgates of Heaven" on Sunday.  Perhaps God did just that.

We've needed the rain for our farm.

But now, the place is a mud mess.

You should see the Sequoia after driving through the army camp to take Trina home...

Mud mess.

And you should have seen Carissa after a game of basketball.

Mud mess.

And now, in addition to the mud...the termites have come out to play...filling our skies with winged bugs, buzzing in our ears and crawling over our feet.

You should have heard Emily scream.

And Kathy shout, "I hate this."

Rainy season has arrived. 

But, you know what...the air is cool.

I'll take cool air with rain and bug and mud.  I'm ok with that!

Made to Crave, Post #10

I saw a post by an old friend on Facebook.  She had lost 50 lbs in less than a year.  She looks awesome.  And as a reward for all her hard work, she went skydiving. 

I wrote her to let her know what an inspirational accomplishment her weight loss was.  Her reply was that she'd lost it the old fashioned way...hard work, diet, and exercise. 

And she said that she now has the confidence to be the person God intended her to be.  That's a powerful word!  She has always been who God created her to be, but now she has the CONFIDENCE to live it out.

I want that too.  Yet, I wish, somehow, that it were easier.

I'm nearing the end of my Made to Crave book, though I have a feeling that this journey has not yet even started.  In fact, if I were to be completely honest with you (my random reading audience), I have probably gained weight during this whole process.

I have walked through some very difficult relationships during this season.  I have been back to the States, wanting to taste some of the things I've missed during my year away.  I have eaten more than my body needed at dinners and lunches.  And chocolate...let's not even talk about that obsession.

And somehow the thought of letting go of these things for the sake of a healthier body, while it seems great in theory, is harder to put into practice.  You see, these are my comforts.  My home away from home.  These foods...this lifestyle of little exercise, lots of chocolate...they have become my friends.  It is an incredibly sad realization to come to.

Lysa says in her book,
"When we are defeated and stuck in issues of the flesh, it's really hard to fully and passionately follow hard after God.  So, lest we start mourning what will be lost, we must celebrate all that's being gained through this process.
What if this whole journey of getting healthy could be more about what we're in the process of gaining than what we're losing?"

"Focusing on what we're giving up will only make us feel constantly deprived.  And deprivation leads to desperation, frustration, and failure.  Instead, we have to focus on everything we're gaining through this process.  And see the gains as more valuable than the losses."

Sometimes the gains of weight loss seems much less in my eyes than the merits of that dark chocolate bar sitting in my freezer.  But, I see Lysa's point.  There is so much to be gained in taking this journey towards healthy living.  Like my friend, Laura, said, "I'm having the confidence to be the person God designed me to be."  And that confidence to be who God has created you to be...that's worth it all.

When I look at my habits, the way that I live my life, the place that food and sedentary living had taken it's hold...there is only one place that I can honestly go to...

A place a repentance. 

This wasn't "the way God designed me".  It wasn't his plan for me to live my life so unsatisfied.  So fearful.  Hiding behind my weight. 

Lysa closes chapter 18 with this prayer...one that tugs and pulls at my heart...I'm there...

"Dear Jesus,
I have finally found the courage to admit I've craved food more than You.  I have wept over giving up food while hardly giving a thought to You giving Your life for my freedom.  I've been bound up by feelings of helplessness.  I've been angry that I have to deal with this weight issue and have been mad at You for allowing this to be one of my lots in life.  I've made excuses.  I've pointed fingers.  I've relied on food for things it could never give me.  I've lied to myself about the realities of why I gain weight.  I've settled and excused and made pithy comments justifying my issues.  I've been enthralled by buttered bread while yawning through Your daily bread.
For all that, I am so sorry.  These are not just little issues.  These, for me, are sins--missing the mark of Your best for my life.  With my whole heart, mind, and soul, I repent.  I stand on this step and stare at the reality of my depravity and turn.  I turn from the dieting mindset.  I turn from what I must give up and weep no more.  I remove my toe keeping open the door to my old habits and patterns, my old mind-set, my old go-to scripts.
I choose freedom.  I choose victory.  I choose courage.  And yes, above all else, I choose You.

Anxiety Defeated!

I have never been an anxious person.  In fact, I have been a person that seeks after peace my whole life.  But, this season of my life, I have struggled with anxiety.  It takes over my every thought.  It invades every healthy part of my thinking process until only the negative remains.  It overwhelms me.  Drowns me in panic.  It is completely frustrating and overwhelming.

I try to recognize the times when the anxiety is effecting me and ward it off with words of truth.  But, sometimes it holds me captive.  It binds me up, refusing to release me to normal thinking.

I was there today.  Stuck in my office.  Incapacitated with lies.  Anxiety robbing me of the joy of a typical rainy school day.

But, God saw that.  He saw me sitting...close to tears at any human interaction...and He offered me truth.

Today's Jesus Calling by Sarah Young reads,

"I want to be CENTRAL in your entire being.  When your focus is firmly on Me, My Peace displaces fears and worries.  They will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert.  Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold.  There is no fear in My Love, which shines on you continually.  Sit quietly in My Love-Light, while I bless you with radiant Peace.  Turn your whole being to trusting and loving Me."

And Graham Cooke posted on Facebook today:

"When someone is entertaining a negative the effects of that negative are anxiety, worry and fear. When you are entertaining the positive of who God is peace comes and guards your heart and your mind against negative emotions and you feel the joy of the Lord. You feel the love of God. You feel the goodness of God in your life as a tangible thing."

Thank you God for knowing exactly what I needed to hear today, for defeating my anxiety with your truth!

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Seems like I have been going through this weird phase of grouchiness.

I start out the day just fine, but exhaustion sets in, the worries of the day, trying to figure out how to get something done, worrying over making our money last until John and Stacy get back, managing volunteers, figuring out how to work things out with the kids...just overwhelmed.

And it comes out in grouchiness.  Usually aimed towards Emily or Kathy or Miracle...uhoh...

Lord, give me grace to operate in your presence and peace.  I give you the burdens of my day-to-day.  Release me from this grouchiness into your joy...


Sometimes, I wonder if things will ever change with the people I work with each and every day.  The challenges here are constant.  And even with the many guidelines we have set up for staff to follow, the ways we pray of them and disciple them into Christ-likeness, again and again, I see the constant battle of the old and the new.

This past week was an incredible challenge for one of my volunteers.  Let me tell you, this volunteer is amazing.  She is constant positivity!  Even with the things that she has seen happen this week, she exudes the love of Christ and continues to love on the kids with a deeper grace.

So, I have been having problems with a few of my classroom teachers in how they talk to the students.  I hear them from the office everyday.  I try to go in and observe once a week in each class and address issues that I see, but the problem is that there is 11 classrooms, constant people coming in to visit, volunteers to manage, plans to make for summer camps, curriculum to prepare for next year...and things get overlooked.

So, this poor volunteer has been placed in our kindergarten classroom and has seen all kinds of things...she has been witness to the usual school culture here in Ghana...despite the fact that our school culture is supposed to be different.  The teachers in that classroom had been punishing students for getting answers incorrect, threatening caning, pinching students, knocking heads...and then one of them caned a student (claiming she was in the right since that student was her child). 

The teacher came and admitted all that had been going on in the classroom, and I was so overwhelmed.  I kept thinking about how hard it must have been for Meaghan to be witness to the abuse that happens to children here.  And while my heart is for discipleship for these teachers, sometimes it feels like an endless process with no results.

When I talked to Meaghan about her experiences in that classroom, she was so positive about everything despite what she had seen.  But, my heart hurts for that classroom.  I wonder where to even begin.  Things have been addressed.  Teachers have received formal warnings.  But, is that the answer to it all?

Last week, I taught the Triangle illustration to our teachers.  It is an illustration that shows how culturally, we all address behaviors in our own lives before we address the roots of where the behavior comes from (which is a disconnect with our understanding of the Father's love for us). 

As I talked to the teacher, a pastor's wife, I saw her disconnect.  She has struggled with infertility since her last child was born.  There is an expectation placed on her as woman here in Ghana and then as a leader in the church, to bless her family with a child.  Her heart was broken as she has not been able to conceive in well over five years.  And because of that hurt, she has struggled with her understanding of God's love for her.  That disconnect has flooded her day to day life in the classroom.  She is weary.  She is tired.  And so her first reaction is frustration and anger instead of peace and love.

This place is filled with constant work.  We work to address the surface problems (showing kindness to children, etc), but the root is always the issue.  The constant struggle, for every person, is to have a full and complete understanding of the Father's Love for them.

And so I pray.  And I counsel.  And I watch.  And I pray some more.  And I hope that each and every day, the constant battle will grow less and less.  And someday, we will see a more constant picture of Christ.  Oh Lord, I pray that it will be so!

Adventures in Ghana

So, yesterday was an adventure...

I took the volunteers to Accra to change in money, buy a few supplies, have a nice American lunch, and hit up the Arts market.  We did all that and more!

We made it into Accra around noon, only to find out that the power was out in the mall.  Of course, they had generators to keep everything going, but many of the stores were not running their a/c's due to the power outage.  Let me just tell you...on a busy Saturday, when the humidity is skyrocketing, and you are packed in the supermarket with hundreds of other people...it was not a pretty sight.  I was so sweaty by the time we left the mall, I kept thinking, "Oh man, this is going to be quite the day!".

After a quick trip through the mall, we went to this cute little cafĂ© that we've been to a couple of times before.  They have great smoothies and their food is delicious--sandwiches, wraps, and salads.  A little taste of home!  When we pulled up, their power was out as well (of course), so while it was sweltering inside the restaurant, we pulled up tables underneath the shade of their tree outside and we were quite comfortable.  We enjoyed our smoothies, chatted, laughed, talked about the week that had passed so quickly, talked about others preparing to leave (Jessica and Austin leave on Tuesday and Kathy sadly leaves on Saturday).  It was such a nice afternoon of food, and friends, and fun!

And then, it was off to the Arts market for all kinds of fun touristy items.  It's always a little adventure there for our volunteers.  They try out their skills in bartering, get to look at all the different handicrafts available here in Ghana (we're known for our cloth, some basket-weaving, beads, and various wood carvings, though you can pretty much find anything in the market!).  I pretty much meandered through the different stalls, helping occasionally with a bartering transaction, but trying to let them do it on their own as much as possible.  After about an hour, their money was gone, and it was time to go home.

So, off we went.  And here is where the real adventure began.

Emily and Kathy have been waiting for a local seamstress to complete their clothes for almost a month's time.  They asked me to call her again, so while I was thinking about it, I picked up my phone and called Aunty Rose to check in on the progress of their clothes.  And a policeman saw me talking on my phone.  A carload full of obrunis.  A big 4x4 vehicle.  And an obruni on her phone.  All not good signs.  Needless to say, I was pulled over in the middle of the roundabout (the last place I needed to get through before getting on the motorway headed toward home).  He took my license (thank goodness I had my Ghanaian driver's license--I think that helped a little) and told me he was going to take me to the police station and process me.  I could hear Emily make a little noise in the backseat and I immediately scolded her thinking that if we stirred up any trouble, it would only get worse for us.  At that point, all the volunteers got so quiet, I wasn't even sure I could hear them breathe.

The policeman took my driver's license and made me sit and wait and wait and wait, occasionally coming back to my window to let me know that he was going to send me to the police station for the offense I committed.

Knowing that if I got upset with him, it would only make matter worse and also knowing that he wanted a bribe, which I REFUSE to give, I just sat in my seat with the saddest face I could muster and begged him over and over, apologizing for what I had done, telling him about the work I do here in Ghana with "my children", begging for him to show me mercy.  At one point, he walked away for about 15 minutes to direct traffic again and another cop came to hear my case.  I pleaded with him, and he just told me it was up to his friend.

Finally, the policeman came back to the car (after I had pitifully begged the other policeman to speak on my behalf), and he asked me, "What would they do to you in your country if you were talking on your cell phone while driving?"  Luckily, I had time in Ghana on my side.  I responded, "Please sir, I live here in Ghana.  Ghana is my country.  I understand I have broken the law and I promise that I will not do it again."  He quizzed me about how long I've been living in Ghana and where I stay (which I had already explained to him again and again, but now he was listening), and he slipped me my license and told me to go.  I let out the biggest sigh of relief.  It took about a half an hour to convince him, but we were on our way!

All I was thinking was what would happen if I had to take all these volunteers with me to the police station.  Ack!  I was praying and praying and praying that God would help me.  You should have heard the whoop that let up from our car when they finally gave me back my license and we were back on the road!  What an adventure that was!

Then, the rain started falling.  Not just a little dribble, but a downpour!  My windshield wipers couldn't even keep up with the rain that was pouring down.  The bridges were flooded and we had to slow down considerably on the highway at the risk of hydroplaning.  I was worried that by the time we got to the Children's Village, we would have a time of it driving in through all the wet clay.  And it certainly was!!! 

Austin said that that was his last great experience in Africa--just what he needed to complete his trip.  We had a lot of wheel turning, a lot of side-ways driving, a lot of slipping and sliding, reversing and trying it again at a different angle, but we finally made it home!  And I was surprised to see the electricity on, and it stayed on throughout the whole night, even with the drizzle on and off all night long.

Needless to say, today it poured down again (thank goodness, it was after we had planted our corn and peppers), and our water was turned off again (2nd week with no water...arggghhhh), but we filled up every possible water receptacle here in the house with rain water.  Tomorrow, hauling water from the well begins again. 

Adventures in Ghana...