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, April 24, 2014


This week, John, Stacy, Stanley, and I went away on a prayer retreat. I have been looking forward to the time away for such a LONG time. I got to the end of our second term at school and felt...well...exhausted. I hadn't even been here the whole term and just felt depleted. It felt like an uphill battle with teachers and students. There were so many misunderstandings, so many problems with the discipline of the kids, so many places where I felt the need to step up, but was trying to balance my new role, being more present with students, and giving authority to the office personnel. I realized that there were a lot of things not done well, not communicated well, and not enough support being given as I have reflected on my role this past term. Needless to say, I will need to backtrack a bit this next term if I really want to get the results we need.

But, I digress...

I was tired when school finished up this term. And I headed into break with an already pretty full schedule. We were planning for the volunteer season coming up. We were preparing to open a new outreach branch of our ministry, Impact ONE. We had holidays and birthdays that needed to be celebrated with love and thoughtful consideration. And coming next week, two community medical health screenings and a trip to the Volta. A lot to manage and plan for.

So, yes, I was looking forward to time away and all that would come with time away.

We went to a hotel in Akosombo, a little village nestled in next to the Volta river, green and lush and beautiful. It is quiet there. Oh, so quiet. And for the first time in quite a long time, my whole body just seemed to sigh and relax. 

Each day, we would wake up, eat breakfast together and then spend hours together while we each did our quiet times up on a little balcony overlooking the river, sometimes drawing each other into conversations regarding what we were reading or where we see God moving. We would talk for awhile, sometimes laugh until we cried, and go back into our times of quiet.

Our first day, our morning devotions led to lunch up on that balcony, dreaming dreams of ministry, of outreach, of equipping. And then, the whole afternoon, we swam and laughed and played in the pool, all to ourselves. Stanley was brave, swimming for the first time in a swimming pool. 

After dinner that night, we met in my room and we worshipped and prayed and simply sat in the presence of the Lord. It was rich and thick and beautiful. A soaking of the Holy Spirit. Crying out for our communities here, Doryumu and Shai Hills. On our faces in awe of the weight of God's glory. When we finished praying together, it felt like my entire body was in a place of rest.  I couldn't even move my fingers, I was so relaxed.

But, that night was another story. I woke up with severe stomach pains. While I was home this year on my furlough, I had some pretty bad stomach issues, which were contributed to my gallbladder. The change in diet (America- with all it's preservatives and hormone-enriched foods), had led to some pretty painful and frustrating issues with eating while I was home. I couldn't figure out what I could have eaten here to cause those stomach problems that night, but let's just say that the pain kept me up for hours that night. I knew it was an attack, meant to steal my rest. But, even in the pain, I knew God would come and heal. By the time I fell asleep and then woke up the next morning, I was tired, but without pain and ready for another day.

After our morning quiet time, we hopped on a boat with my guitar in tow and set off for a journey down the river.

The river feels like a different Ghana. Little children on school holidays, naked as can be, diving off the shore into the water. Tree roots coming off the shore, spreading into the homes of the mud houses nearest the water. Fishing boats up and down the river. A quiet. A fresh breeze. The green. The beauty of God's creation. 

And when we got about an hour into our float downstream, we asked the boat captain to find us a nice quiet place to pull alongside and anchor our boat. And there, we worshipped and prayed and spoke out over the very waters that carried us. We read 1 John and prayed for a love that would look like the love of Jesus to come alive in each of us. We sang at the top of our lungs of the love of our great God. Boats floating past, seemed to slow down in the presence of the sacred (or to gawk at the obrunis in the boat!). God met us in that place. A sweet, rich filling, and we didn't want to leave.

Our beautiful, little worship spot

And by the time we got back and ate lunch, we decided that rest was the best option and we all returned to our rooms for a little shut-eye. That afternoon, the rain came and visited us, gently tucking us away in afternoon dreamland, only to wake when we were hungry for dinner.

After dinner, it was back to my room for worship and prayer, speaking over our kids and our staff. God spoke to us of setting up memorials to point to God's goodness and power so present in this season at CORM. We prayed for the salvation of the many that come to visit us here...of the communities...of our own staff.

When we woke this morning, rested and filled up, we hopped in the pool for a swim before heading back home.

And I see this time away as a change for us in our ministry...as a memorial marking the season God has set I front of us...one of growth and truth and equipping and His love outpouring. There is a different expectation now. We are longing for our staff to experience this soaking...to sit in the presence of the Lord and expect His revelations. We see a season ahead of us where our kids begin to serve as the missionaries of this place...where our staff understand the vision and mission and call this a ministry and not just a job...where lives are dedicated to the mission of God here in this place, in our communities, in this country, in this world. We are walking into a season of equipping because God is wanting to send out. I think we will be surprised by how God moves this year. We sense it. We see it. We are ready for His movement.

1 comment:

  1. So beautifully written. I am just so thankful that you all got that time of rest, away-ness and space to "be" with God.