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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Monday, September 30, 2013


The seasons are changing. I imagine the fall...the autumn...my favorite season of the year (and not just because its my namesake). I grew up in Colorado...a beautiful place in the autumn.

It is crisp. I love that word and everything it means in the context of autumn. The weather is crisp and requires a jacket, the tip of your nose seems to grow pink in the air, your cheeks a bit rosier. The leaves crunch beneath your feet and the fall of harvest fruits and vegetables mean the winter is coming in (but its not quite here yet).

It is colorful. The last of the flowering blooms come out to play before curling up for their winter slumber. The aspen trees in the Colorado mountains turn the hillsides gold and red and orange...a continual season of sunset.

The pumpkins...the hayrides...the cozy feeling of curling up under a blanket...

Oh, I miss that.

The seasons are changing here in Ghana, but its different. August is cool and gentle and quiet. The air is cooler, more refreshing somehow.  But we are moving from rainy season into Hamatan (the dry season). The skies build up with moisture (commonly referred to as "humidity") until you feel like you reside in a perpetual swimming pool of sweat and then...the blessed rains come, a sigh of relief from the sky. And it cools down, for just a moment.

And the comes the dust...when the rains go away, the dust from the Sahara fills our skies and for the next four months, it looks like fog rolling over the hills just beyond us.  The ground dries and and great chasms form in the roads. And the same is true of our skin. Even in the humidity, our skin reacts to the new dry air and heels begin to crack.

At the end of the day, the only thing you can do to relieve yourself in the slightest is to take a nice cold shower before hitting the hay. 

And that is where I am. Debating the cold shower. My bathroom light blew out this morning and I forgot to change the bulb. "Shower in the dark?" I wonder, "or brave the heat of the night."

Going for a dark shower.

What I wouldn't give for a cozy moment right now, with a good book, the crisp air, the falling leaves, the beauty of all that the changing of seasons implies.

Celebrating the Good

Today, we celebrated with our students who had good behavior throughout the whole month. It was fun (and busy)! The students were excited to be honored and get popcorn and treats. 

In my mind, I had worked it all out, how it would go and how the children would respond. Besides the level of NOISE in the celebration, it all went according to plan. Now, I hope we will see a decline in behavior incidents because of our new rewards.

Time will tell.

Dorcas (P2 student of the month) trying her icee.

KG1B student of the month, Peter, tasted all the favors in his icee.

Kassidy (multi-level student of the month), and Mary (P5 student of the month) enjoyed socializing while eating their sweet treat.

Gamali (KG2 student of the month) and William (P1 student of the month) enjoyed theirs!

Mary (P4 student of the month) and Ruth (JHS1 student of the month

Malvin(KG1A student of the month)

Jessica (P3 student of the month)

KG1B students enjoying their popcorn in Character Counts Club today

Want to help support our efforts in encouraging positive behavior in students? We always need small toy items (like those found at orientaltrading.com) to help supplement our student store. 

See what else we are up to and how YOU can be a part of it at:



Saturday, September 28, 2013

Student Council

Yesterday, we had our first student council election at Faith Roots.
Speeches...campaigning...and voting on a ballot.

It was a pretty fun day and excited about this next season of raising up servant leaders!

Valentina giving her speech.

The kids listening in!

Gideon campaigning for Campus Safety Officer

Our voting booths

Monday, September 23, 2013

Because it's been awhile...

It's been awhile since I've posted here.

I go through phases.

Sometimes, my thoughts stay locked up and it's hard to share what is going on.  Other times, they flow freely and this is a place of release.

So, I'll try to free some of these thoughts today.

Life is busy here.  Our school has almost closed registration.  Only a few more open spots in our preschool class for our 3 year olds.  All the other classes are closed out with 20-22 students per class.  Our co-op classes are moving full-swing every Tuesday and Thursday.  This means that on some days of the week, we have almost 250 people (including students and staff) on our campus.  It makes for a busy few days!

I have been pleased with the instruction our teachers have been giving students.  They are trying hard to apply what was taught them during our trainings in August.  It has been so exciting to see math manipulatives brought out, the students sitting in circles for morning meetings, open and honest sharing, and growth in some of our lowest students. 

I have felt encouraged by my conversations with staff in our one-on-ones.  Honest moments of reflection about what God is doing in their lives, the ways that He is leading them forward, and discussion of how they can be challenged. 

But, it seems like one word from someone can bring this all crashing down around my feet.  And I know it's not the truth.  And I know I shouldn't believe the lies that flood in to swallow me up, but they are there, and in the midst of them, sometimes, I forget the truth.

Friday, we had to go to Ghana Education Service to continue our process of registration.  It's a process I have absolutely hated being a part of.  For some reason, the officers at our office feel the need to constantly "put me in my place" and I get defensive and hurt and that just makes matters worse. 

But, that meeting, for some reason, put me into a bit of a tailspin.  I began thinking what I should have done differently with this school.  I began to doubt my reasons for being here.  I began to think that, perhaps, this lady from GES is right.  Perhaps I am doing an injustice to my families here.  Perhaps...perhaps...perhaps...

So, I hung out by myself for awhile this weekend.  Thinking and praying and processing.  I was, and still am, frustrated and hurt and angry.  But, I think that my frustration has switched targets...from GES to the enemy himself.

When I think back over the years of being here, I see places that I could have chosen a different road, but my own arrogance and "American-thinking" took over.  But, I see that grace of my God who cast the vision and will continue to grow it, despite my mistakes.  I see that grace of my God in the completion of our school building, in our school staff, in our students who work so hard to learn despite their lack. 

And when I reflected this weekend, I was brought back to that truth.  God is in control of this place.  He is the vision-maker.  He is the life-giver.  And he will be the one who ultimately grows this place and continues to build the dream and give it life.

And I have to trust that.  Despite what others say.  I have to trust the word of the Lord for this place over any other word.

Sometimes it is hard to walk out when faced with the opposition we seem to be facing, but I will take courage and know that God is FOR us...he is FOR me...He will see this place brought to fruition.

If you think about us here at City of Refuge and Faith Roots International Academy, be praying for the TRUTH to be revealed more and more, especially to those who are in opposition of what they see here. Pray especially for us this Tuesday, September 24th, as members of GES come and visit us at our school.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Over the years, we have had so many volunteers come thru. Usually something along the way impacts their time with us and they are changed. More often than not, it is the relationship that they build with our children.

Well, our biggest heart stealers, Malvin and Joel, have finally joined the ranks at Faith Roots. After arguing with them for what seemed like an entire summer in preparation for them to attend school, they are finally in class and loving it.

And this morning, Malvin and Joel came running to me when they saw me in the hall and gave me a big hug and kiss. Then, led me to their class to show me their desks.

Yep, they sure are heart stealers. 

Am proud of our littles and so happy to see them happily learning.

Here are my ears!

Singing the good morning song with their new friends!

God is Faithful

Today, I sat down with Stanley this afternoon and started chatting about plans for next week. We eventually transitioned into a conversation of how we see God working in this school...in our homes...in our community.

And then, he asked me this question, "Aunty Autumn, what would you say is a theme that God has been teaching you since you came to Ghana."

It didn't take me long to say, "God is so faithful."

You see, when I first arrived, we lived in Tema and though I was in another country, much of my life was very comfortable. We lived in a big house. I talked to family and friends almost daily via Skype. It had its challenges, but when I look back, it was pretty easy. And God was so faithful...giving me (someone who struggles with change and transition) time to get used to the culture and the mission and the vision and the kids.

And then, God called us to Doryumu. 40 of us all living in one house. 40... It was uncomfortable and tiring, but oh, that season taught me so much. And we began to see even more of Gods faithfulness as he literally drew people to us. Meeting the O'leary's, connecting with NYU and Semester at Sea, trips from YGAP...people began to come and they caught the vision and went home changed.

And we began to build...in faith that the money would come. We broke ground on the school building on December 28, 2010. We now see a building almost completed (just waiting for a little paint and computers).

We started building the Omorefe house and the children's home and by the end ofNovember of 2011, we were moved in. 

We didn't have electricity until April 2012, but we saw Gods faithful provision every step of the way, from hearing that we would need to raise $30,000 to bring in the electricity to seeing it come in without any money paid to the government at all.

We saw our water connected to the main pipe allowing us access to water at all times (where most people have one week on and one week off).

We saw several houses built and we literally have no idea where the money came from.

So yes, God has been faithful. Time and time again.

And that is when we know that this thing we are doing here, well, it is all His...because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, it wasn't us.

Thank you Father for your faithfulness!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Day of School

Today was the first day of our new school year. It was a busy day, that's for sure! It was so wonderful to meet together for our assembly in our new courtyard...to see the faces of children that I have come to love...to see the uniforms and the excitement and the students on the yellow line...to see the ELD classes and the local language and the multiple-level co-op classes...

It was beautiful and fun and I am excited to see what this year might bring.

Here are some pictures of our first day!
KG2 with their new tables and benches

Madame Janet teaching ELD to our KG2 classes.

Madame Valentina teaching math groups on Day 1 (Professor John, you would be proud!).

Our littles in the 3 year old class. So cute!!

Madame Robin teaching writing.

Science for our multi-level class.

Sir Aaron and Bismark.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The prayer of a child

This morning, we went around our school and prayed.

I love hearing the prayers of the kids as they thanked God for His provision of this building.  As they prayed over the students and the teachers, that they would experience the love of God in these classrooms and on this campus. It's so powerful to hear them speak such truth over our staff and campus.

Hearing these guys pray...so blessed today.

Thank you God for moving in the lives of our children and for providing for our school.  You are so good!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You Wouldn't Believe It

I haven't taken pictures lately, but I need to...

Because I don't think you would believe your eyes unless you saw it all come into place...

About six weeks ago, our school building had 11 classrooms and a library.  Every inch of space was being used. 

And as I looked around today...all I could think was, "We are blessed."

We now have 15 completed classrooms...15!!!  Paint is going on this weekend.  Gravel being laid down this afternoon.  Desks and chairs arranged.  Walls decorated.  Notes to students on every desk.  It looks like a school with windows and doors and white board and electricity and I'm excited.

And I'm tired.

But, we're getting ready and as Stanley (our new office manager) said, "There's life coming back into this place."

And there is. 

Pictures to come!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More alive

"We're never more alive than when we're being brave." 

Brene Brown

Training Up

This week, we have been doing teacher orientation with our staff regarding the policies and procedures of our school, planning for the upcoming year, and working on building unity as a team.

I have been particularly encouraged with our spiritual conversations each day. We have been walking through Romans. We have been talking about spiritual giftings. We have been talking about our own love languages. And we have been talking about how we can use these things in our Lives and classrooms.  It has been incredibly powerful to hear the voices of our staff eager and hungry for more of God.

Today, Cayle and Janet are both doing a little training on their classes this upcoming year (creative arts and ELD).

And the teachers are working on writing letters to their incoming students and planning instruction for the upcoming weeks/months.

We are getting there! The countdown begins...5 days left before school starts.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another Note on Being Brave

You just have to check this out.  Because it brought tears to my eyes and is powerful and just...so good.

One Word

In 2004, I had a life-changing experience with God.  He rocked my world, my perceptions, my understandings of his character, my life...

And things began to change for me. 

The summer after God got a hold of me, I spent some time in Kenya.  There, God showed me His Church, the worldwide Bride of Christ.  I was encouraged.  Blessed.  Challenged.  Grown.  And that experience in Kenya left me with a desire to return to this great continent again.

The next year, I spent a summer in Redwood City, CA with Peninsula Covenant Church as a summer ministry intern.  I felt like God called me there that summer to bless.  But I walked away very blessed.  I had come to know an amazing church family, one that I didn't want to leave.

And when I was asked to come back the next summer to help lead the internship, I gladly accepted.  But, I didn't know what was ahead of me then.  That summer was hard.  In almost every way possible, it felt hard.  And at the end of the summer, though I had gotten to experience and be a part of some pretty amazing people's lives and stories, I told God, "I am never going back to that place." 

Lesson #1: Never say never to God.

When I finished my teaching credential, I began to apply for jobs all over the state of California.  The only place that I was able to find a position was in East Palo Alto, a city not far from Redwood City.  And so, the place I said I would never go, God sent me to. 

I spent three redemptive, amazing years in the bay area.  I was a part of the PCC family (and continue to call them my home), lived in the community that I was also teaching in, and looked at my job as an opportunity to love others with the love of Christ.

And then, God called me to Ghana.

There have been extremely tough seasons here.

And there have been times when it has been impossibly easy.

And through it all, I have seen God's calling and design in my life.

My first summer in Redwood City, our pastor, Tony Gapastione, had us choose a "word" that we would focus on throughout the ten weeks.  This was a seasonal word, something that God gave each of us to work on and process through and desire more of. 

My word during that season was joyful.  And when I look back at that season of my life...oh, how God filled it with joy!  In fact, some of the people that I met during that summer are not only acquaintances, but are close enough to be my brothers and sisters...my dearest friends.

And choosing a word became a practice for me through many seasons of my life.  Unveiled.  Pure.  Captivating.  Unshaken.  Faithful.  Surrender (the word I had for almost a year when I first moved to Ghana).  So many words come to mind and bring with them memories of the spiritual journey that God took me on during that season.

Somewhere along the way though, I stopped.  And I sensed that void today...for through that word, I listened more to the voice of the Father.

But, I don't think that God has stopped talking, by any means. 

It seems like lately, He keeps speaking to me again and again...BRAVE.

I write about my adventures here, but if you knew my fearful heart, you would know how brave I am not.

I am scared so much of the time to say or do the wrong thing.  I am scared to "put myself out there".  I am frightened that I will fail.  I am not brave.

But, God calls me BRAVE.  And if that is what He knows I am, than that is what I am.

So, while I live out this next season of unknown, considering how all things will work together with or without a principal...as I learn to trust more and more the Hand of the God who called me here to begin with...as I learn to continually lay down more and more of me (yes, sacrifice again...a constant theme in my life)...

I will live in the word BRAVE.  And I will listen.  And I will allow God to move me.  And change me.  And be my courage.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When Courage Fails...

I struggled last week.

I was so weary.


Exhausted from the work and the disappointment of trying and falling.

And I tried to be courageous and face each day head-on, but I ended up curling up in my bed instead. 

Closing out the world.

Thinking that if I close out the world, perhaps the disappointment...the frustration...the weariness...would all go away.

But, it didn't.

I had gotten my hopes up. 

All year, my focus has been getting our school ready for a principal so that I could move into a role of Director and work more in the classroom and discipling.

And the Principal I wanted agreed...a miracle, in fact. 

And then, the details just didn't get worked out.  And she turned it down.

And I was discouraged.

And then I got an email from my mama.  (Mom's always have the best emails filled with wisdom and love and encouragement and sense.)

And she said that I am courageous.

And that while others walk in a faith of fear, I walk in courage.

Some days, I don't feel courageous.

Some days, I don't feel bold.

She said that I have taught her how to trust in God.

Some days, I don't trust God.

Some days, I forget His good and faithful plans for my life (and the lives of these kids).

And she said that God not only loves me, but that He treasures me.

Some days, I think that I may have been forgotten.

But, my mama's words keep ringing in my ears.

And I'm reminded of Joshua. 

God kept telling him, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And Joshua led armies. 

He conquered new lands.

An entire book of the Bible was written about his bravery.

But there where days when he needed reminding.

There were days, even in the midst of his great calling, that his courage failed.

And when his courage failed, and he wasn't bold, and he didn't trust God for His best, and he felt alone...

God was there.

That moment of understanding that God is there in the midst of the discouragement, that He will give courage when ours fails, that is called...