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, February 24, 2014

A Place For the Soul to Come Out

Intimacy...sometimes a scary word. Vulnerable. Stripped down. Bare. Nothing left for me to hide behind. Just me.

But, it is one of those words that I believe God has called me to this year. To be in places with God that are completely vulnerable. Completely open. So that I might give up the ways I choose to hide behind...so I might live into the Truth...so that I might hear from The Lord more.

This morning, I opened up a book that a dear friend gave me this past year, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. And within two pages, I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I felt the longing stirring in my soul.

She talked about finding places of solitude and silence where you can withdraw and be completely present with God...finding "a place for the soul to come out"...a place where you don't have to answer for the tears, where you don't have to have anyone try and fix your response, but you can just BE with your Father. 

I realized, when I was back in the States, how much I keep my emotions at bay. I keep them below the surface, hidden away...I am strong. And when I faced anything that hurt my heart (like the many goodbyes I had to say while I was there), it broiled up...coming out in a desire to withdraw, a bad mood, words spoken without thought.  If I had been honest with my heart, I would have allowed myself those moments, because the truth is, I am not always strong. I don't always have the answers. It's not always easy. I don't have it all together.

So, I want more of that stripped away. Take away the pretense until all that is left is just...me...and You, God. Even if it hurts. 

Help me to find those places where my soul can come out. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"It's Our Turn to Change The World"

Last month, the CORM and FRIA staff broke up into groups and started doing home visits for families of children that are sponsored through our many partners around the globe.  One of the home visits broke the hearts of our staff as they witnessed a ramshackle pile of metal, covered in holes, roof weighed down with rocks...housing 10 members of a family.
And so, they said, how can we "Let Love Lead" in this?
Monday, they took our oldest kids to the families home and wanted their feedback in how they could be a part of changing the living situation of someone who lives literally across the street from us.
And Tuesday evening, I sat in a room of 15 kids as they talked about how God had moved in their hearts.  They talked about how the mother has such grace and even gratitude when talked about where she lives and how she makes ends meet as a farmer.  She talked about her struggles, but how she desires to provide an education for her children.  She talked about how God has blessed her with very little illnesses affecting her children (despite the fact that she has been bitten by a scorpion twice).  The kids were moved and encouraged and challenged by this woman's humble, hard-working, gracious spirit.
One of the kids talked about how he was most encouraged by the woman's love for her children.  She could look at her situation and decide to sell her children, but she hasn't done that.  Instead, she chose to work hard and to make sacrifices to put her children through school and allow them to stay with her.  That is love!
Another of the kids talked about how she had lived in a house very much like what she had seen when she went to live with her grandfather.  She talked about how, at night, when it would rain, they would be up all night long, emptying bowls of water so they wouldn't get rained on.  She remembers long, wet nights with little sleep.  And she commented how this woman must get only a little sleep each night as she seeks to protect her children and cover them from the storms that frequently pass through our area.
And then one of our girls spoke up and said, "It is our turn to change the world."  She talked about how they were now leaders and how they could make a difference by changing the lives of people around them.
And I watched as the kids got into groups--one to work with the mother to design the home and prepare a list of supplies and the cost--another to write up the story and get word out about the need--and another to go to banks, businesses, and churches here in Ghana to fundraise. 
I'm amazed at our kids.  And I know that this year, Love will Lead...through our kids. 
Little ones, you are changing my world!

Monday, February 17, 2014

My 2 Most Asked Questions

When I went home, I had 2 questions I was asked almost everywhere I went.  So, I will answer them here:

#1: How long are you planning on staying in Ghana?

God only works with me for about a year at a time.  This is how it has been for the longest time.  So, all I know is that I am here for now.  When God tells me it is time to go, then I will move on to the next place.  Until then, I am here.

#2: Any guys in your life?

I am an open book!  You would know about it if there was "someone special" in my life. 

But, here is what God has worked in me this year regarding my singleness.  2012, I had felt overwhelmed by my singleness and felt so lonely that it was something that I dwelled on and couldn't seem to get past.  This year, I felt like God asked me to surrender my desire to be married, not that it wouldn't happen, but that marriage would never fill me the way that I was longing for.  I needed to be in a place where God could fully fill those places of longing and loneliness, because He is the only one who could do that.  I need to be in a place where I am complete by myself (with God's strength).  So, as I have strived to be filled completely by my Father God, I have found my wanting, my desire for marriage, decrease.  The desire is still there.  I do want a husband and children of my own, but I fully know that God fills every place within me that felt so empty and lonely before.  When the day does come, if God grants it to me, that I get married and have children of my own, it will be an addition to what I already have, not a definition of who I am.

So, I hope that answers my two most common questions!

My Words

In 2005, I joined a group of students and young adults for a summer at a church in the Bay Area of California called Peninsula Covenant Church.  Little did I know what a role this place would have in my life in the future!

But that summer, as a Summer Ministry Project Staffer, I worked with the young adults ministry and helped administrate the summer day camp for the 100+ kids that attended Monday-Friday for ten weeks in the summer. 

I also learned so many things, God healed so many things, challenged my faith in so many ways, and I grew and was discipled and discipled others. 

One thing that came from that time (and those who had attended as SMPS in previous summers) was the idea of choosing a word to illustrate the season that God had you in.  I have had many words over the years, all of them illustrations of God's good work in me (even if the seasons were hard).

When I was traveling at home, I was asked what my word was for this season, and I must honestly admit...I hadn't spent any time in prayer about what God was doing in me and had nothing to offer. 

So, I buckled down and listened.

And I have three words for the year.  Words of things that I felt God has given me to focus on throughout the whole year.  Words that express what he is doing in me.


I spent a day with my dear friend Lauren Majewski when I was in the Bay.  I love time with her.  She's beautiful and her heart overflows and splashes onto anyone that comes near.  She is someone who makes me laugh so hard, can inspire me with her heart, and allows God to work in her so honestly.  I was challenged to grow in my intimacy with Christ because of how in love with Jesus Lauren is.  I long for more of that.  I long for a filling that changes how I speak of Him, how I serve Him, how I love Him.


I will be the first one to admit that I am a work-aholic.  And sometimes that need to fix everything, that desire for everything to be perfect, to give without thought of myself--sometimes that takes over even the places that fill and inspire me.  So, this year, I want to be creative in ways that I haven't been in a long time.  I want to scrapbook (I know...I know...but I love it).  I want to write new music.  I want to paint.  I want to write.  I want to be creative in a way that fills me with God's presence.


When I was with my friends Kat and Isaiah in North Carolina, Katty challenged me with this idea of rest.  I have been struggling with finding places of rest in my life for a long time.  So, when I was talking through this with my sweet Katty, she said that when her and Zay moved to North Carolina, they felt like they needed to learn how to rest well and slow down.  But, what they found was that even if they were busy, they needed to learn how to find rest in God.  They needed to learn how to delve into true rest.  And so, they woke up earlier and spent longer in the Word.  They prayed together more, even if they had to stay up later.  And while they might look busy, they are settled because they dwell in a place of rest.  I want that for myself this year.

So, if you think about it, pray for me.  Pray for these words over me.

And take some time to stop and listen.  Press in.  What word or words has God given you for this season?

I'm back

I arrived back in Ghana on the 11th of February and my first full day back in country was my 32nd birthday. I was welcomed home with hugs and lots of water dumped over my head (a birthday tradition) and lots of little hands and feet. It was a beautiful birthday. 

I expected my transition to be a little challenging coming back after being in the States for two whole months, but the transition was quite easy, besides getting onto a good sleeping schedule part. I had such painful transitions while I was in the States, I just expected it to be challenging to come back here. But, it feels almost as if I had never left.

My time in the States was fun and beautiful and filled with so much laughter and joy. But, it was painful and hard and sad and had a roller coaster of constant emotions flowing through me. I didn't learn how to rest. I moved from place to place, almost on a weekly basis. Change followed me everywhere I went and goodbyes felt more and more painful each place I left. I felt myself withdraw, pushed myself to be present, but the pain of the present sometimes led to days of quiet reflection and times where I felt as though I had to talk myself into engaging. 

The longer I live in Ghana, the more that changes when I am home. Children seem to double their age during my year away. I miss the closeness of my friendships, the questions and the laughter. I miss big life changes...weddings, funerals, births, first steps, moves, new houses, new jobs...and when I come to visit, it seems to me as though so much has changed. It's hard to miss so much. And then to leave again knowing that I will miss these things once again.

But, also bearing the burden of missing this place that has become my home more and more each year. Missing my children and the work that we do here and the way that we see God move.

So, I am back. Aware of this tugging between two places in my heart.

And it reminds me of the warring that is going on in my spirit. That strange tension of living here on earth and longing for my heavenly home. This place of constant change and joy and pain and peace...longing for the place that IS full rest, and love, and joy. 

Remembering that and wanting to see more of those moments of heaven here on earth this year.

Celebrating the rest and love and joy...

Monday, February 10, 2014


I leave the States today to return to Ghana. I am filled with mixed emotions...so filled by my time here with my friends and family...knowing my calling and the kids and the school in Ghana...

I feel like I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions since my travels to the States began. Always feeling welcomed into the arms of people that I love, always leaving people and places that I love, the comfort of the familiar, the ease, the love and the laughter.

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my storage unit (almost all of it) and it was an emotional journey of traveling through memories and my life here in the States. It was overwhelming to get rid of so many things that, at one time or another, had such a place of importance in my life, to pare down my life to 4 boxes.

And then to travel to see my Portia-girl, living with her forever family in Tennessee. I see her thriving. And I celebrate! But, there were moments of pure emotion that washed over me as I watched her-reading me little books, playing with her sister, loving her parents-moments where I just missed her so fully and completely and missed my kids back in Ghana.

It's hard to reconcile these two worlds sometimes.

But, this morning as I write, I listen to these words and know them to be true:

I Breathe You In, God
Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Verse 1
The presence of the living God,
satisfies the depths of my heart
all of me changed when you came,
Iʼm made free by Your glory and grace

I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me
I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me
You are Good God, For You are good to me
You are Good God, For You are good to me

Verse 2
The brightness of Your loves pure light,
Pierces through the darkest of nights
Everything is possible now,
For God is here and God is good

When I donʼt understand Iʼll choose You
When I donʼt understand I will choose You God
When I donʼt understand I will choose to Love You God

I love that. He DOES satisfy the depths of my heart. He IS good. Even when I don't understand, He is good. So good. And I will choose Him...always.

When I was called to Ghana 4 years ago, God gave me this passage to light my way:

Isaiah 42

New International Version (NIV)

The Servant of the Lord

42 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
    and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
    I will not yield my glory to another
    or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
    and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
    I announce them to you.”

The same is true today. I have been called, so I will go, fully surrendered. And even when it's hard to leave behind the places where I feel most known, God says, "I will take hold of your hand."  In that, I am known MOST fully. And I will trust that. Because He is good.