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, July 31, 2013


I have been thinking over things that worked here last year...and things that didn't. I have been thinking about policies and techniques that should change...creating a stronger system here at the school.

When I came, with no plans of being the school principal, and had to come up with our school model, I created it based on what I knew. Taking a little bit from each of the schools I have worked at in the past. Using what I knew, we created this model. 

And with 100% buy in from the teachers, it might have worked well. But with anything new, you have to evaluate what worked and what didn't and make changes to make it stronger...better. What worked at my old schools doesn't necessarily work here. 

How do I create a positive behavior program that will work and hold our students accountable? How do I encourage achievement from our staff, students, and parents? How do I disciple students and teachers alike? 

We are thinking. And brainstorming. And coming up with new systems. And trusting that as we develop and strategize, that God will continue to fill in the gaps here.

What ideas do you have for stronger positive behavior systems? Accountability for teachers? Incorporating more small group instruction and hands on learning? Scheduling for classes?

All ideas welcome!

Family Worldwide

This week has been project week for my family. My dad has been building some shelving for a classroom and my sister has been painting a mural at the school. Derek helped create a new budgeting spreadsheet for me to use at the school. All things that are lasting projects that will bless our teachers, administration, and students here at Faith Roots.

It has been a blessing seeing my family from home interacting with my family here. My Mary's have been the designated helpers for my sister with this project, adding their little touches of flowers and grass along the edges of the designs. Miracle has been Grandpa Dan's right hand man. DK has found a new best friend in Derek.

I love how God has moved my family to be the hands and feet of Jesus to my kids and to ME here in Ghana.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This Girl

This girl is leaving us today. So proud of her and the journey she has made with us here. My prayers follow her as she goes. But I know that even though we will miss her, God has already prepared the journey ahead of her as she goes home.
CORM loves you Em.
And I do too!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Family

My family is here! My dad and my sister and my new brother-in-law, and our friend, Paige. 

And I am loving it.

I loved walking home from a busy morning at the school and seeing my dad fixing bikes with Miracle.

And seeing Derek carrying children around on his shoulders.

And seeing Andrea picking out paints for her murals.

And seeing Paige hang with our littles even when they are feisty and fighting.

I just love that they are here!


This is Angelo. He is amazing. He has faced a lot of tough things in his little life. Loss of both parents. Severe illnesses. The workload of someone twice his age. 

And still, he visits me in my office and smiles. He draws me a picture and, unlike most 11 year old boys, he says he loves me.

And I know that God has gifted me with a special love for this boy.

Where some see trouble and behavior and low academic performance, I see a need for consistent love.

Pray for Angelo. We are trusting that God has something big in store for him. Pray that he will also believe that for himself.

Another School Year Finished

Another school year is finished. It's been a tough one this year. So many ups and downs. Teachers leaving. Staff drama. Very little help at the beginning of the school year. Needless to say, I was pretty burned out when it came time for me to go home last Christmas.

But, here we sit in July. The year is completed and as I reflect, I see so much growth. The students learned. The teachers were discipled. And little bit, by little bit, change is happening. And it's exciting to witness. Exciting to be a part of.

And as I reflect, I also look forward. To the new changes. The new developments. The new ways of learning and healing and growing that will take place. ESL programs, stronger leadership, a firmer base in our KG classes. I am excited for the mentoring, the chance to get back in a classroom, the discipleship opportunities. I am excited to see more of the Kingdom of God here at Faith Roots.

But for now, I am satisfied to enjoy a week-long break with my family and my kids.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Happy Birthday Malvin

Today, Malvin is 4.

In all his 4 year old glory...
Bike riding...
Bossy big boy...
Loves to run and hug...
Sometimes does run-by butt-punches...
Laughs about just about everything...
Cries about just about everything too...
Can tell all kinds of stories in his halting, stuttering Malvin way...
Loves big squeezes and kisses...
Old soul in a little body...
My big-boy 4 year old!
So different than when I first came.
Underdeveloped.  Malnourished.  Scared of this big obruni.  Last to walk.  Last to talk.  Last of our 4 year olds to go to school.
It took me eight months to win his affections.  It took only days to win mine!
He sure has grown.
Love...it certainly is powerful stuff.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

TWO is a lucky number

2 more days until John and Stacy arrive with their kiddos.

2 more weeks until school is done for the academic year.

July 22nd--the day my dad, sister, bro-in-law, and sis' friend arrives in Ghana.

I like that number today!

Conversations on the Couch

A few nights back, Rosemary sat on our couch in our house and we had a powerful conversation about her future and fear and God's plan for her life.  We talked about her past and the freedom of Christ and making choices.  And we talked about growing up and what maturity in faith looks like.

And she said that wanted her choices to be choices led by Christ.  And that God has been speaking.  And that even though she has lived fully aware of the words of the Bible, she hasn't allowed them to transform her thinking or her choices.

And she asked me to pray with her...a prayer of salvation.  The sweetest of prayers.  One that will change her life.  Accepting Jesus into the inner places where walls have been built, filling her with his love.  Desiring transformation.  Wanting the truth to invade her heart, where previously she only allowed her intellect to control.

That night, I became her sister, not just her aunty.

God is good.

Kika and Kaley

I met the Grupe's in January of 2012.  They were interested in traveling here to Ghana to do some work with us that summer.  So, we chatted about possibilities.  Andrew creating a video.  Kika training in the preschool.  Kaley hanging with the kids.

And so they came last summer, just acquaintances of mine, and they served.  And they blessed us.  And they became more than just acquaintances, but friends.

And as time went on, Kika kept in touch.  And prayed for me.  And encouraged.  And challenged.  And I have been blessed by her friendship.

When I came home in December, January, and February, I was lucky to get to spend some time with their family.  They were generous in letting me use their car, letting me use their son's room, giving me full access to their house and their lives, feeding me and loving me and giving me space to rest.

And so, when Kika and Kaley planned to come back here this summer, I was so excited.  I was excited knowing that they would be here during the last piece of our time without Johnbull and Stacy and knew I would need some encouragement.  I was excited for Kika to pour into preschool teachers for another year.  And for Kaley to pour into our kids for another year.

And that is what they have done.

Kaley has encouraged our kids and encouraged the Agler girls (who actually needed some encouragement).  And Kika has worked nonstop with Madame Victoria, encouraging her, breathing refreshment into her time in the classroom, and working with some really hard kiddos for the sake of training.

And Kika has been such an encouragement to me.  Purposeful in her hugs and prayers and questions and time.  Honoring time needed to rest, but also challenging me to not withdraw but to be open. 

Last night, we sat out under the canopy of the night sky and chatted.  Started with just a few anxious thoughts being voiced, and turned into a two hour conversation (and a few mosquito bites) talking about so many things.  It was a conversation that I needed to have.  We bared our soul and our secrets a couple of times, encouraged each other, talked about tough things, told our funny memories, discussed the difficulty of raising children, laughed and talked and encouraged.

And I walked away encouraged.  And blessed.  That God knows just what I need. 

He knows my heart and my desire for conversations just like that.  For friendships that dig in deep.

I'm blessed the way that God continues to widen the stretch of my arms through people who travel through...and then choose to invest in my life.

Blessed by the way God chooses to love me.

Through those who come as His hands and feet (and sometimes His voice of Truth)!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


My interview processes have started to fill in the gaps here at our school for the next academic year. 

Teachers leaving...new teachers applying.

New principal.

New admin.


It's exciting in all its newness.  And it's a little strange in all its newness.

I'm sure that I will have a hard time letting go of control of something that has been my heart's project for so long.  But, I'm excited for what the future will hold.

Especially after some particularly amazing interviews yesterday.

Interviews where we talked about discipleship and ministry and learning available for all students and manipulatives and drama clubs.

Yep, excited for more interviews this week, and hopefully, more inspiration for next year!


I love staying in contact with my friends and family back home through email.

But sometimes, when I face the pile-up of emails in my inbox and realize that each one is important and vital and relational and waiting for me to answer them...

Well, it's times like that when I wish I had a cup of coffee, a comfy couch, and face to face conversation instead.

I miss the faces behind the emails.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No Light

Earlier today, I had called our driver to make sure he would be coming in to pick up our students tomorrow morning and to see if he could take a volunteer to the airport in the morning.  He agreed and then called Nosa this evening and decided he wouldn't be coming back.

There aren't any other options for us at this time.  Brother Odion went with Nosa this weekend to get his stuff set up for his six month stay at YYAM in Kumasi.  So, they're both gone.  It would be me driving the school bus.  And driving Paolo to the airport.  And principaling the school.  And overseeing the volunteers.  And checking in on the kids.  And...all the rest.  Just can't add one more thing to my plate right now.

So, Aunty Lydia and Uncle Atta and I trekked out to his house in Shai Hills to find out what was the matter and why he had suddenly decided to quit. 

It was dark leaving our house and before we realized it, we were in the middle of Shai Hills, our headlights the only light beaming through the intense darkness that is that place.

We found our driver's house, but Aunty Lydia exclaimed, "These people are really trying! This place with no light...". 

And it's true.  We pulled up and went to someone's house and a mother and father were gathered around a small coal pot, the mother feeding her baby, the father shining a small light towards to the mother as they chatted back and forth.

People went running and scurrying about to find our driver, voices shouting in the darkness as they went house to house (more like shanty to shanty) to look for him.

Eventually, they led us to another house, pulled out benches and sat us down to wait for him to come.  Lydia and Atta did most of the talking when he finally arrived, but I watched as the girls in the house pulled out their homework, using the light of a cell phone to finish their work, taking turns holding the light and working.  And then, watching as they pulled out their school uniforms, fanned their coal pot into bright red coals, and placed their iron onto the coals so that they could iron their uniforms for tomorrow.

We lived here at the children's village for 4 months without electricity.

I take it for granted so often.


After chatting with our driver, getting him to agree to come back to work, and climbing back into our car for the trip back home, I reflected on what I had seen.

I had seen my student's homes before.  I had been inside the little shanties as a special guest.

But, somehow, it is different without light.  To see the darkness that surrounds them, and to know that it is just one more thing that they have to fight to have a normal life.

We assign homework to our students that they complete by the light of halfway charged cell phones.

We get after them for arriving to school with rumpled uniforms when they have to work five times harder to get them as straight as they already are.

And somehow, it brought me into a place of deeper, spiritual thinking...

Knowing that even though they might come from "Christian" homes, there is an element of their lives that is lived in the darkness.

It makes me want to battle that darkness even harder. 

And it makes me want to pour love and light into those students even more. 

Jesus is the only one who can bring true hope and light and peace into these homes.  And I am praying for that hope and light and peace to emanate from me as He continues to mold and change me into a better vessel of that light.

May it be so.

Friday, July 5, 2013


This girl is so cool...

Yesterday, she sat down with me and said, "We didn't have our one-on-one this week.  Let's chat!" 

This girl...who used to run away from emotional and spiritual intimacy...she's running to it.  She sees God working in her life, and she is hungry for it. 

And it was with sweet joy that I watched as tears filled her eyes and she exclaimed that she was struggling with the thought of leaving this place.  Struggling because God has done some softening and she doesn't want it to go back to how it was.

Doesn't want to leave Amenyo's hugs.

And Malvin's kisses.

And the wisdom of the kids in morning devotions.

And I saw her heart...engaged.

I love it.  When God works like this...I just love it.

Spelling Bee Glory

Today was another extremely busy day with a crew from FTO traveling through, parents knocking down my office door, our KG classes to get ready for today's field trip, and a spelling bee at the school.  It was quite the day!

It was cool to get to show around the FTO volunteers (and hopefully get a few of them interested in coming back for a little while!!) and share how things are going at CORM.  I love the hearts of our FTO friends...they see Jesus in places we sometimes don't see anymore because we're so "in the middle" of it all.

Well, before too long, they headed out to the lake, and we got our KG classes off to the Accra Mall (they were going to go and play at the playplace there today), and we got our spelling bee off to a great start.

Each class did their own spelling bee, spelling words from lists that were given to them several weeks ago.  The kids studied and studied and practiced and practiced and today, it all paid off.

It was so great to get to go class to class and see the kids trying, as hard as their nerves would let them, to spell the words they were given correctly.  The teachers pronounced the words, sometimes putting them in sentences, and the kids did their best.  They cheered each other on with more than the usual team enthusiasm and high fived and encouraged their friends, even when the words were wrong.

Each class was able to identify their top five spellers and they sent them on to compete this afternoon in the whole school spelling bee.

That was a real adventure!

Spellers lined up at the front, while the pronouncers were next to them.
I sat on the judges team to the right of the pronouncers.
The whole school gathered together to cheer on their friends.  I was so proud of our students!  They poured though their spelling words, while the rest of the crowd waited with bated breath to see if they were able to spell them correctly.

The top 5 from the P1-P3 classes competed against each other first.  (I was secretly so proud of our CORM kids--Gabriel, Hannah, Mary Aboanor, and Enoch all made the top in their classes.)  They got into the challenge words and our little Mary was knocked out by Love in P2.  A valiant effort though and we cheered for our top two winners!

Then the top 5 from the P4-Multi-Level classes competed.  (Another proud moment as Mary Osei, John K., Valentina, and Gracie were all in the top of their classes.)  These rounds went on and on, maybe one student being knocked out each round.  We could tell the students had really prepared and eventually, we had to challenge the kids with words from the next grade level.  Finally, it came down to a P4 girl, Anna, and Katie Agler.  Katie had taken this challenge to heart and won with the word "comportment". 

I was so proud of our kids and brought our top 5 students to the house for a bowl of ice cream.  Quite a treat!

Today was awesome.  I was proud of our kids for trying, for being good sports, and for doing their best in front of the entire school.

I know, for sure, another spelling bee will be in our future.  The kids did such a great job and at the end of the day, Gracie came up to me and said, "Don't worry...I'll get it next year!". 

That said everything!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th

The 4th of July is always a little different here. 

I mean, first of all, I'm not in America...so it is a little weird that I'm celebrating a country's independence when I'm not living there.

But, you know what I miss the most about 4th of July?  The food.

I love food.

I love summer food even more.


fresh fruit.

corn on the cob roasted on the grill.

zucchini and yellow squash.

fresh tomatoes.

strawberries and blueberries and cherries.

the colors.

the sights.

the sounds.

the family.

But, celebrating here is joyful too.  Today, we ate hamburgers and hot dogs and baked beans and apple pie.  We watched a video of fireworks and cheered and chanted.  Some of the volunteers sang the national anthem.  And I reflected...


It means something different to me now.

Because I get to see it in the eyes of my kids who knew captivity before.

I get to see what freedom actually brings to a life.

It brings hope.

It brings love.

It brings opportunity.

It brings change.

It brings all of God's good gifts.

And so, this 4th...I hope you relish the sights and sounds and tastes of a typical American 4th of July.

And I hope you reflect on what freedom truly means...


Happy 4th of July.

Rest and a litle time in the Kitchen

I don't know what I came down with, but it hit me hard on Sunday night. 

I wrote about anxiety and exhaustion.

And then came body aches and dizziness and more exhaustion.

So, Monday, our day off of school, I rested.

But, it wasn't enough.

So, Tuesday, I also rested.

Lazy days of not doing much besides reading, and sleeping, and watching some movies, and sleeping, and reading my Bible, and sleeping...

And Wednesday, I made it in to work for a half day, and then, my body sent me back home to sleep some more.

And finally, Wednesday night, after a long afternoon nap, I got to start baking for our fourth of July fiesta.

And all that rest.

And a little time in the kitchen.

And a little anti-malaria meds (just in case)...

And I'm feeling back to normal. 

Maybe at about a 90%, but still...

So much better.

Anxiety is gone.

Tiredness, there, but so much less.

Body aches, almost unnoticeable.

All I needed was rest...and a little time in the kitchen.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Calling to Prayer

I had a doosy of a week.  It was beautiful and full and busy.  But, it was a doosy.  And I walked away reeling.

A few weeks ago, I had written on my blog about my struggle with anxiety since John and Stacy have been gone.  You can read more about it: here.

And yesterday, I had another dose of some serious anxiety. 

It is completely frustrating because it is not something I have ever faced in this way before.  This curl up in a ball, butterflies in the stomach, heat beating, hard to breathe--anxiety.  It is frustrating and debilitating and overwhelming.

It started out with just a little niggling sensation on Sunday morning.  I had spent the better part of Saturday morning shouting to be heard over 300+ children, so when Sunday morning rolled around, my throat ached with the stress of Saturday's adventures. 

And then the thought came in my head that with Andrea needing to be at the airport that night, I might have another negative police encounter (which seems like they keep happening on the days when I am most overwhelmed and stressed...arggghhh...sometimes I just wish I blended in better here in Ghana so that I am not pulled over based on whether I'm wearing closed-toed shoes, or have side-reflectors, or whatever other nonsense they want to throw my way).  And the anxiety rushed in.

And really, that was just the tip off point.  Then come the words of the Liar...how I'm not capable of running this place...why would this responsibility be placed in my hands...the care of the volunteers...the frustrations of loss of staff...the weight of our children's futures...the day to day battles...the run through my head at warp speed...the lies...the lies...the lies...

And so, after a really fantastic church gathering, I was sent to my bed to literally wrestle my fears down.

It feels so physical.

The attack so brutal.  So emotional.  So encapsulating.

And when we left for Accra, I asked all the volunteers to be praying for protection, for release from the anxiety.  And then, when we arrived in Accra, I called my mom and cried my way through the mall trying desperately to explain the weird physical symptoms that were really just manifested emotions.

I think I am tired.  I think I'm worn thin.  But, I think I'm also being spiritually attacked.

I am calling you to prayer.  I am asking you to pray protection over me, pray against anxiety and fear, and pray for God's covering over City of Refuge.  We have seen so many taken down with malaria, with frustrations as it nears the end of the academic year, with weariness...we need prayer that God will be our strong tower, our covering, and our shield.

Will you be praying for us here?  Will you be praying for me? 

And how can I also be praying for you?

I am calling you to prayer as James 5 asks us to do:

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Hands and Feet

This Saturday, we were able to do an outreach in our local community of Shai Hills for 300+ kids.  Challie and Andrea spent a couple of weeks chatting about it and planning it out, prepping our kids for serving others there.  And at the end of the 4 hours that we were there, all I can say is that I am incredibly proud of our kids.  I felt blessed to be ministered to by them.

Our outreach started out by registering the kids by placing them in age groups so it would be easier later on to feed them and play games.  Then, once we finally got started (you know we started on "Africa time"), the kids led a little time of worship, and then performed a dance for them.  After that, Emily taught the kids a verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, talking about being a new creation in Christ.  After that, Robert and Aaron got up and taught the kids about Saul and his transformation into Paul and how Christ changes each of us into new creations for His glory. 
Grace and Rosemary smile as they prepare for their dance.

I was so impressed by Robert and Aaron.  They are growing up...physically, but spiritually too.  Their hearts for ministering to the kids were so precious.  Robert preached with great passion and Aaron helped by reading through the word and supporting him in the message.  So rich!
Robert and Aaron preaching.

Kaley, Kassidy, Andrea, and two of our kiddos help hand out food to one group of kids.
Afterwards, the kids were separated into groups and served food.  Usually, this part of any outreach is where I run and hide.  But, Andrea and Challie had thought through separating out the food and putting the kids into groups.  There was no pushing and shoving.  There weren't any older kids snatching food out of hands.  It went so smoothly.  Almost everyone got food (there were quite a few that came out for the outreach and missed the registration window, so weren't able to get food), but many even shared with the ones who didn't get any.

Aaron, Mary, Grace, and Emily handing the kids their food.

Some of the best moments were to see our kids gently guiding the kids through the lines, letting them know that God loves them, so sweet and such a blessing to these kids.  I was blessed by their kindness.  By being the hands and feet of Jesus to these little ones.

Eating together
And then, we regathered, sang more songs, got them up and active in the songs, refreshed the memory verse, and then played one round of hokey pokey before taking our leave.

It was so beautiful to see our kids being the hands and feet of Jesus.  To see our volunteers step up and serve in new ways.  To be a blessing to another church community in our area. 

I came away intensely tired, but beautifully encouraged by the work that God is doing in our children to love on others.