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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Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Lately, I have been overwhelmed...

I am leaving here in just three short weeks to head home for a little time with family and friends.  Here is what I know:

1) I have so much to do before I go to prep for Beatrice for when I am gone.

2) Christmas prep is a lot of work.

3) Planning for my trip home can be a bit overwhelming with things going on almost every day.

BUT, here is what I know:

1) I am thankful that Beatrice is here and knows how to run things at the school.

2) With Christmas comes the opportunity to bless and receive blessing. 

3) I get to live life with some of my favorite people back home for two months.

So, today, I am standing in thanksgiving...

Choosing thanksgiving...

Sometimes, that is challenging choice.  It's easier to get stressed.  It's easier to complain about the busyness of life.  But, that isn't the best choice.

Thankful.  OH, I am so thankful! 

God is good.

From the top of the world...

Yesterday, I had my weekly meeting with John and Stacy.  We sometimes have a tendency to get off into tangents that make our meetings run a bit long, but I loved yesterday's tangent!

We started talking about how much we have seen God do in the past three years.  We spoke with wonder...eyes open to the miracles that regularly happen in our midst. 

We walked through our new apartment building, my little future home, currently being held up with bamboo sticks while they finish the decking for the second floor.  We dreamt of where the furniture would be, the things that would be possible there, the cozy feeling of one's own home. 

And then, we walked up to the second floor of the new apartments...the walls yet to be built.  From there, it almost felt like we were on top of the world.  We could see our whole campus from the top of the building and we spoke of how we have seen things happen.

Money leaving our account each month to help run things here...but no dent in our savings.

Buildings being built without an explanation of where we were able to get all the money for the supplies. 

Children strolling along these red roads, free and happy and healthy.

Staff multiplied beyond what we have expected (from a staff of 5 to now almost 50).

From the top of that building, we hugged each other, seeing how this labor of love continues to expand.  A vision that we couldn't have even imagined on our own.

All we can say is...God is good.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Boys are gross

This weekend, we had a much needed closet clean-out for our kids.  If you know anything about little boys and the things they collect in their pockets...think about that...times 30.  All I can say is, boys are gross!

Case in point...

Here is Gabriel.  I asked him to take out all of his clean clothes and bring them to me to sort through what fit him and what didn't fit him.  He opened his doors and I found that all of his clothes (whether clean or dirty) had been piled at the bottom of his cupboard along with books and his Bible, his test papers, boxes he had found in the trash, flash cards, his toothbrush, dirty underwear and socks, and his uniform.


He filled a garbage can to the top with trash from his cupboard.

Washed his clothes (whether they were "clean" or dirty).

And reorganized his cupboard.


But, let me tell you...

As much "stuff" as they had in their cupboards, it felt refreshing to clean it out.  And the rewards were immediate when we saw all of the boys on Sunday...

Clothes that didn't fit had been packed away for the next group to come through. 

Clothes from the older boys were handed down to our younger ones (who are growing like weeds).

And when our church service started, I saw all our boys in their "new" dress shirts and pants that actually fit (and didn't look 3 inches to short on their ankles).

Yes, closet clean-out day was disgusting and took, well, pretty much all day.  But, it made me happy to see out kids smiling at their clean, new piles of clothes, growing and happy boys.


We love our sponsors!

Many of our school children are offered the chance of a free or reduced cost of education because of so many who are willing to share what they have with the ones we love on here.

Recently, I was able to deliver letters and t-shirts to a few students who are sponsored by my church's summer day camp program, Swim and Gym. Can you believe that the children raise enough each summer to cover the cost of education for three of our students here at Faith Roots? What an amazing gift and what a way to teach children all the way on the other side of the globe the value of giving.

Sponsors, thanks for being a blessing to us here.

For more information on sponsorships, go to www.faithrootsinternational.org.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In the Midst

It has been a busy season.  And I have felt the time stretch from my last post.  Knowing that I needed to write, but unsure of the words to share what has been going on here.

We have had several groups travel through, and even now, our YGAP friends are with us.  We look forward, each year, to the visit with YGAP, the new ideas that are offered, the encouragement of seeing familiar faces, the re-visioning that inevitably happens.

This year, our dear friend Tom (check him out here) came out for what seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime.  We were hoping to see the release of children we have been negotiating for close to three years. 

But, instead, what we found was a messy story with no easy answers.  In the end, the children remained as we found them, living with parents (whom we had been told were deceased). 

It was frustrating and confusing and there are so many questions that have been left unanswered, or at least without a really good answer.

Why wasn't the truth given to us from the beginning?

Why are some NGO's paying for the release of children when it just intensifies the cycle of trafficking in communities?

How do we get to the bottom of each story without so much time and waiting in between?

But, I have realized that with the issue of trafficking...there are no black and white, clear-cut answers.  It is a trade based on deceit and greed.  It is messy.  It is confusing.  Sometimes, it feels rather hopeless.

But, here is what I know.  In the midst of the unknown, there is hope.

Our Robert went with the team this time, his first time back since he moved to CORM in 2009.  And there is hope for the future in the life of that boy.  He loved on the kids, poured into the lives of those who he saw there, and was a blessing to his family. 

Our kids, they are the hope for the future.  So, even if we aren't able to reach them all, I know that the ones that will be chosen to come, they hold in their grasp such beauty and the hope for the restoration of God's people to Himself.

And so, in that, I cling to hope knowing that God has called us to be a voice for the voiceless...and it will continue to be so for so many more children in the future. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Participating in the God-Story

I love it when groups come through...however hectic it may be at times...it is a reminder of how far God has brought us and the miracle that we truly live in in this place.

Yesterday, in our staff meeting, we read through Romans 4.  I loved this piece of it out of the Message:

"So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, or first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things?  If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he would certainly have taken credit for it.  But the story we are given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.  What we read in Scripture is, 'Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point.  He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.'"
Romans 4:1-3, The Message

I love that.  We are entering into a God-story. 

If God had told Abraham that him and Sarah would have a baby at the ripe old age of...well...35...Abraham could have taken full credit for it.  Even perhaps at 45.  But, no.  God doesn't work like that.  He prefers that the glory remains with him.  So, he waited.  And he waited.  And then, when God knew that it could never have been credited to Abraham, he gave him the promise that he had been waiting for--a son. 

I thought about this and remembered a situation that we just talked about with the group that traveled though.  It happened only a couple years ago, and now, as I look back, I see the God-story at work.

When we began building here at the children's village, we spent a lot of time praying for our electricity to be brought in.  John and Stacy met with the head of the ECG company in Accra several times, trying to get it approved to bring electricity into our village through the military camp.  The problem was the cost...they told us that it would cost close to $30,000USD to bring the power in from the roadside, through the military camp, into our camp.  We were going to have to pay for the labor, the poles, the transformer, everything.  It was something we didn't have and we didn't know what we were going to do.

In the meantime, we all moved into the children's village, with no electricity, trusting that God would bring it when it was time.

John and Stacy went back to the States and wouldn't you know it, they had the money raised quite easily.  We all thanked God for the willingness of God's people to invest in the projects we had going on here.

But, when John and Stacy arrived back in Ghana, to their surprise, the power poles were already being installed all the way to our land and we hadn't paid a single cent.

When they were away, the head of the ECG company was fired and someone new came in.  The new director found a request from the military to put in a new transformer to lighten the load on their current one, and our request was attached to it.  It was approved and the government money was allocated to bring the poles in.  We only had to pay a small fee to put the poles in our own compound.

Being a part of the God-story, he knew that we would take the glory of bringing in the electricity if we had come back with the full amount of money and paid for it ourselves.  But, because he saw that, he removed any doubt that it was about us and did it all himself. 

I love that. 

And I love being a part of God's story.  I love when I can give credit where credit is due!

My Baby Boy

When I first moved to Ghana, I fell in love with a little boy.  Edwin.  He had just turned a year old.  Pigeon-toed little fellow with big wide eyes and long, curled lashes.  He was a beautiful baby boy and I carted him around all the time (despite being warned that I was "spoiling" him). 

When we moved to Doryumu, Edwin moved in with me.  I was excited for the chance to get to mother him a bit and spend even more time with him.  Boy, was I in for an adventure.

Let's just say that Edwin struggled with sleep.  Which meant I struggled with sleep.  Long bouts of crying in the night, lots of rocking, lots of talking and praying, lots of night with very little sleep.  I would be up half the night and then have to go to the school to teach in the morning. 

There were times when I would be up in the middle of the night and would call my mom or a friend for a little visit, knowing that it was in the evening there and perfect time for a long-conversation, while I waited for my baby boy to go back to sleep.

After 8 months, Edwin was moved in to Mama Theresia and Daddy Joe's room as I was leaving for the States for a little visit home.  When I came back, he had fully adjusted there and had been sleeping through the night.  And it was time to move on.

Edwin always had a piece of my heart, but I knew that the season had ended.  God moved and changed and showed me so many things during my time with him.  One thing that he showed me was that parenting is HARD.  And I thought of the single mom's that I know, raising their little ones on their own.  I realized how much they sacrificed for the love of their kids...and I honored them even more for that.

Edwin is in school now and I watch this gangly little boy in our preschool class as he learns his ABC's and runs and plays with his friends...I'm amazed at how much he has grown.

Last week, he had a rough day at school.  He was in the office three times during the day for various problems, and finally, he came at nap time because he was running around his classroom instead of laying down to sleep.

So, I pulled him onto my lap and talked to him about his behavior and he began to lean back into my arms, snuggling into my chest.  It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of that season.  Now, his legs hung long over my lap as I rocked him back and forth and hummed a little song in his ears.  I stroked his forehead and thanked God for those sweet moments in the middle of the night just a couple years ago.  Even in the frustration, I see now the trust that was built, the hope that he has, the confidence and security.  Now, he is such a tall, gangly little 4 year old boy, full of mischief and whimsy, and I reveled in that sweet moment...him asleep on my lap, cuddling in, and realized, yet again, what a privilege it is to serve the least of these.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Purple People

Today, as I looked out over our CORM family (that has grown so incredibly much since my first arrival in 2010), I had this moment of reminiscing.

When I was in Kenya back in 2004, one of the pastors that I met at the time talked about heaven in a very real way.  When he spoke about heaven, tears filled his eyes, rolled down his cheeks, as he spoke about the way life would be there.  The people he would see.  The love he would experience.  The worship he would live in.  And he said that his heart cried out for that...as if he was homesick for heaven.

He referred to all believers as "purple people".  And then he would laugh, a big-belly laugh.  He said that in heaven, color wouldn't matter, so why not just start to see us all as one color--one language--one kingdom...now.

Tonight, I had that little glimpse.  That glimpse of heaven that Pastor Timothy spoke about in Kenya. 

I looked out over our family here at CORM.  A team of 12 volunteers from Vegas here...our 35 kids...some kids from the community...our staff...John and Stacy...Mama Theresia and Daddy Joe...the Aglers...Janet...our friend Nicole...

I just had a moment where it felt like heaven.  And it made me hungry for more moments like that.  Where we aren't separated by color or differences...but we are dancing together...a bit crazily at times, and laughing and loving each other in the midst of the craziness.

I want to hold on to more moments like that.  I want to rest in the fact that we are all one color in God's eyes.  I want more kingdom moments.

I want to dwell in the fact that age, color, country of origin, language...none of it matters...when you're purple.

Lord, open my eyes to see more of your heaven on earth.

Your Purple Daugher

Day 8

So, I made it through a FULL WEEK of early morning workouts.  Today dawned as Day 8.  I think I sweat more today than any of the days before...but I didn't do any of my Biggest Loser workouts.  Instead, I cleaned...and moved stuff...and swept...and danced.

Yep, today was preparation day for my principal to arrive on Monday.  Beatrice Okyere is coming to join our staff as Principal of Faith Roots and I am excited and nervous.  It is going to be an interesting transition. 

Yesterday, Stacy sat down with me and we talked through the roles that I currently play at the school and the things that I want to hold on to through this transition and the places that I want (or maybe even need) to let go of.  It was good to think through that because I am not very good at that sort of thing.  I have a hard time with the full vision.  As much as I am a planner, I am also very much a task-oriented, in front of me type person.  I get overwhelmed when I begin to see the whole picture.

So, we scoped it out.

And I'm excited.  As much as I am nervous, I'm also excited.  This will be a transition for me...and change is never easy...and this school is a bit of my baby, so how do I let go of something that, in so many ways, is my heart?  But, that's what ministry is all about right?  Equipping...training...raising up leaders...and that means that if people are called here and equipped, I have to learn to let go.

It'll be a process for all of us.

Anyway, I've gotten off-topic.  Let's just say that I sweat a WHOLE BUNCH today as I was cleaning and moving things around and getting things together for the big transition.

So, by the time I got home (almost 4:00 pm), I took a shower and a little snooze and then...


Sometimes, I am too tired to get pumped up for dance party fun (which happens at CORM once every three months).  But today, I was ready.  I danced and sweat and sang and it was awesome and fun and hot and amazing.

We celebrated birthdays.  We prayed for the kiddos.  And we danced.  And danced some more.  Some with funny costumes and glasses and dance moves.  Some serious and refusing to even move a leg.  But in the end, when it was time to lay it all down...we all had a blast!

So, even if I didn't do my official workout, I'd say it still counts. 

Feeling good, and sore, but mostly, just good.  Now, I need to remember to remind myself of that when I'm up at 5:30 tomorrow for my next workout!