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!

Get Involved

Learn More


Friday, May 30, 2014

Finally...a day that made sense

Today was an abnormal Friday. We had a PTO meeting today, not my favorite day in any school term, but today, I found myself surprised.

Our executive members, parents elected by the parents to represent them to the school, asked to lead the PTO meetings from now on. I was nervous about this as it meant allowing parents to speak for us as the leaders of the school.

The meeting started off rocky. The execs wanted to get feedback from the parents, involving them as much as possible, so they brought up topics I would have much preferred stayed out of bounds. But, before I even had to say anything, one of our execs stood up and clarified everything for the parents just the way I would have. After that, I knew that it would be ok to have them lead and I could a trust that they would represent the school well. And so I sat off to the side, happy to chime in only when requested. Releasing this responsibility is such a blessing. The PTO meetings have continually brought anxiety my way. So, I was happy to watch others represent us well, but also provide adequate opportunities for the parents to have a voice.

After our PTO meeting, I made a mad dash to my office to eat lunch and prepare salaries. With such a full day at hand, I was worried about getting it done, but before a I knew what was happening, I had two crying KG's in my office after getting in trouble. If it had been yesterday, I could have easily lost my cool. But, today, I just sat them down, turned on worship music and before two minutes had passed, the crying had waned, and even eight minutes later, they were sleeping on my office floor. Salaries were completed quickly after that. Thankful that God's presence calmed the storm brewing in these two little ones (and perhaps in me too).

This afternoon, we gathered as a school out in the canteen, each class preparing something to share about an African country that they had studied this week as a part of African Union Day. Each class had studied a different country and told us a little bit about the culture, language, food, economics, etc of each country. It was such a joy to hear their studied words regarding each country, to see them dance and represent something from another culture, and to share dramas and languages from other African cultures.

Today, in the midst of the many trials that so many African nations face, I felt blessed to be a part of these people and this culture. Ghana is peaceful and loving and hospitable. We aren't at risk of persecution. We see so many things that are frustrating or sad here, but we witness even more joy and hope and love. And I saw that in the laughter of our children and staff, in the confidence of the speakers, in the presence of our PTO board. 

Today, I am just thankful.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Not anything but...

Wow...today was one of those days. 

I had children in trouble in my office in droves. 

I had crying children out the wazoo.

I went into my Bible class that I teach on Thursdays so frustrated that I warned them my grouchy mood would result in points lost if they were late or misbehaving.  (They are a wonderful class and I almost never have behavior issues with them!)

I texted Stacy around lunch time and told her I just needed a good cry, I was so overwhelmed.

She brought me chocolate (God bless her!).

So tonight, I have nothing to offer.  No wisdom from my time in Ghana.  No clarity on a day well-lived (in fact, I did my fair share of shouting at children today...not my finest moments as a principal).  I don't have anything, but...

Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
And that's all I need. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Last night, I went to bed frustrated and questioning God. This morning, His Holy Spirit was convicting my heart. When He is doing a work of love in a community, what challenges do you think you will face? He will place before you ones that are difficult to love...that push your buttons...that require so much of you...but perhaps they are in need of love most of all. And He reminded me of this:

1 Corinthians 13

The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

The Holy Spirit's conviction is never easy, but it is always right on time and so necessary. Trusting God to give me grace moment by moment and to show me how to love fully and completely just like He did.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Note To Self

After arriving home, within the first five minutes of being home, I heard all the ways that this day wasn't perfect for others.

Clinging to the truth that it is OK to take care of myself.  It is ok to just be loved on in sweet and relaxing ways.  It is ok to spend time with friends.  It is ok to take time away.  It is necessary and it is good and it is Godly.

Remember that in the future, Autumn. 

Let all the other words go.

Adventures in Learning to Rest

This week has been crazy.  As, I am sure you noticed, this was the theme of my posts last week.  Johnbull told me more than once, "Autumn, everything will be done, even if it isn't done today." 

So, when we planned to go into Accra today, a day away with Stacy and our sweet friend, Angie, I knew it was much needed.  God loves to love on us in that way.  I don't love on myself very well sometimes.  I forget the need to rest.  I tie myself up into knots, my mind whirring with the hundreds of "to-dos", with the responsibility of the school, our kids, the Kingdom.  I forget, sometimes, that it's not in my strength that any of this is done.  I forget that it isn't about me.  I forget and let worry get the better of me.

But, I was reminded today.  Some days, God just loves to spoil His kids.  He pours His love down in friendships and truth and pedicures and hair cuts and ham and cheese and rocking chairs.  It's unexpected and lovely and so filling.

Even with the fun of a day away, today was a typical adventure in Ghana.  Transportation is never easy here and as we face another rainy season with very unreliable vehicles, we were unsure of our transportation to and from Accra today.  We decided to go in our Sequoia, despite its many leaks and the worry that it may or may not make it there without overheating.  When Stacy and I hopped in, we knew right away we were in for an adventure as the battery was dead and John jumped the car and then added cables to our car "just in case".

When we were finally off, we picked up Angie in Tema and made our way into Accra.  When we arrived to Accra, our brakes, well, let's just say that they didn't go completely "out", but it probably wasn't the safest vehicle.  Even pushed almost to the floor, the brakes barely engaged.  This is dangerous in America, but if you knew how driving works in Ghana, it's crazy-dangerous here.  So, we headed to a mechanic to fill up our brake fluid in hopes that would solve the problem.  (It didn't, but that's ok.)

In any case, despite the very serious lack of brakes, we decided to continue on our adventure and went to a store called Orca.  Now, we literally cannot afford just about everything in that store, but it was fun to visit.  It was almost like an IKEA, with furniture set up in various living room and bedroom settings.  We went from scene to scene, trying out each couch and chair (which are known for being notoriously hard here in Ghana), trying to find the perfect one.  And find it we did!  We found a rocking chair recliner with the perfect amount of soft, cushiony corners.  It was beautiful and so soft and I could have slept in that chair over my own bed.  I'm sure the saleswoman, keeping a close eye on our behavior, was wondering how long we were going to stay in her rocking chairs.  But, it was glorious and when you find that perfect little piece of heaven on earth, you want to stay in that moment for as long as possible!

When we went outside after exploring all of Orca for hours (we lost track of time), our car's battery was dead.  (I forgot to turn the headlights off...my bad.)  But, a wonderful, friendly, French-speaking family pulled in next to us just in the nick of time and jumped our car.  GRATEFUL!

After Orca, we headed to one of our new favorite restaurants, La Gallete--a restaurant with cheese...I mean, real cheese, and delicious pastries and...just all things deliciousness.  We had nachos (with sour cream, guys!  Sour Cream!) and I ordered a Chef Salad with HAM...HAM!!!  Are you hearing me?  Actual HAM!  I don't think you understand...the amount of pork I eat here in Ghana is ZERO, so when you can get a salad with ham and olives and cheese and egg and all kinds of veggies...it was perfect.

Then, it was off to a local hotel for some beautifying.  I got my hair trimmed, a true luxury here in Ghana as most people don't know how to cut Obroni's hair.  She cut and combed and it was so quiet.  So quiet.  I felt as if I could just fall asleep in that moment.  She cut and styled and combed.  And with every swipe of the comb, I felt myself relax.

And then, the pedicure.  Soft and gentle and just right and my feet still feel like they are walking on clouds.

We ended our little adventure with apple pie and onion rings (don't ask...it was OUR DAY and we are going to eat what we want!).

Today was just perfect.

And days like today don't happen often, but when they do...even with all the issues with our car today...I recognize Daddy's voice...His love...when I won't do things for myself, when I won't rest, He showers down days with rocking in soft chairs, or laughing with friends, or eating cheese, or getting pampered.



Friday, May 23, 2014


Last night, I posted about how tired I was.  This week has been a doosy! 

And after posting last night, our plans for youth group fell through, again. 

So, we had a back up plan.  We decided to talk about baptism with the kids, something we have been wanting to discuss with them for awhile now. 

We started out with a little worship and prayer.  It was nice to be able to lead worship again without losing my voice or having it crack.  We sang together a song we all know well, and then, I decided to introduce them to a new song, Bryan and Katie Torwalt's "Weight of Your Glory".

We have seen the way you move
Full of goodness, full of mercy
We can never get enough
Oh god of grace, great god of love

Let the weight of your glory
Come settle on us now
We stand in awe for you are holy
And your kindness overwhelms

As we see your signs and wonders
Signs from heaven up above
You draw us in
You pull us closer
Into the depths of your great love

Be lifted up, you heavenly gates
Be opened wide, you ancient doors

Little did I know that the room would be flooded with His presence in such a way that every knee would bow, that shoes would be removed because we were there on holy ground, that hearts would be ministered and spoken to and filled up.

My weary post...just an hour before...it felt as though it were years away.  The words soaring through my spirit.  New songs being formed on my lips.  My voice, strong and new, bursting forth with such urgency.

And when John came around to pray for each person in the room, in the midst of His presence and His glory coming to sit with us there, God spoke about rivers of life-giving waters flowing into me, providing life and fruit to many.

And so, even in the midst of the weariness, there is such refreshment in the life-giving waters of God.  Trusting that even in this place, He will continue to fill and refresh and pour in and love on me.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


This week, I have struggled. It has been emotionally exhausting. I have faced my fair share of sleepless nights. I have worked long and hard days at school. It has been wearing and I am weary.

This morning, I opened the word and I soaked in this.

Isaiah 55

New Living Translation (NLT)

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

55 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.
“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says theLord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

And that's it, isn't it?

So, I will drink deep. 

I will soak it in. 

I will listen for the words that breathe life.

And I will trust that this weary place will produce God's best, the cypress from the thorns.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm Sorry

Yesterday, we were tired, so the idea of leading small groups...well, we were just too tired. We figured that watching a movie would be a good way to spend our youth group time and we wouldn't be stretched too far.  We set it all up, got the sound running, the kids antsy waiting for us to start, but try as we may, our movie wouldn't work.

God had other plans. Our kids began to stand up and share in front of each other. Bible verses, poems, stories of what God was challenging them in...we were so encouraged.

And then, one of our kids stood up, as if it was painful to share...and he shared and confessed and talked about the importance of two small words, "I'm sorry". This boy has been one we have prayed that God would mold and shape and change and soften. And here he was...speaking truth into the lives of our kids.

And when he sat down, our big, gentle Ben turned to him and said, "Thank you for teaching us the value of "I'm sorry.". Those two words can fix so many problems."

That gentle encouragement, his simple and humble words, they challenge and encourage me. 

So grateful for our kids and their simple wisdom.

Forgetting What Your Face Looks Like

This week, I struggled with so many things. I have been sick for a long time and was frustrated that I was feeling so poorly. I was working on our school yearbook, and while I love that our internet is faster and wireless and I can skype for the first time in years, it was still slow when it came to uploading the pictures I needed to upload. But, most of all, I felt burdened for our school. Just seeing teachers work out of frustration. Seeing people operate out of anger rather than any Kingdom mindset. And I was burdened and broken and tired of fighting the same battle again and again. 

Wednesday morning, I read this this from James 1:

Listening and Doing

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.20 Human anger[g] does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

And I felt so strongly that our staff, not all of them, but some, were not living in this place. They know the truth. They may have even memorized this very scripture. But, when it came to living it out, they looked in the mirror and walked away and forgot what they looked like. The first opportunity of testing, they forgot the truth.

When I began to talk to them about God's dream of this place, tears filled my eyes. I long for this place to be so filled with the presence of God that when people even step foot on our land, they can't help but fall to their knees in worship. This picture breaks me because I know that God must work through his people to make this happen...which means his people MUST remember what they have seen in the mirror, must walk in the truth for Gods presence to be made fully known on this land. It has to be made known in me...in them...

And I was reminded of Hebrews 11, which talks about the many men and women of faith who walked before us, living into the very promises of God. I love what verse 13 says,

13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 

Abraham, Noah, Enoch...they all walked in the promises of God...they didn't turn away and forget...no matter how silly they sounded or how foolish it made them look. But the truth is, they didn't live to see the promise fulfilled. They walked in the promises of God KNOWING that they wouldn't see the end of the promise, but still trusting it would be fulfilled.

Because it's not just about the promise, but about the legacy.

And that is what it's all about. Everything that God has used me to do here...it's not for me. I won't change this world. I just won't. But these kids. They might just do that. They might just change this world. If we give them the tools they need...love them unconditionally...and God gives them the full revelation of who He is and who they are...they will.

So, I long for us to be transformed. To teach them how to look in the word and walk away changed with the truth. To walk fully in the miracles of God. Because it's not for us. This life isn't for us. It is for us to give away. It is for the Kingdom.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Mom

Today, I am thankful for my mom.

This woman is amazing. I love how she loves fully and completely.

I love that she loves pouring into kids. She does this at the expense of her time and energy and self-care. She simply loves!

And she is wise. She is who I run to first when I need advice.

And she is gentle and kind in the way that she gives me truth...even if it is hard to hear.

I love that she loves my friends like they are part of our family too (this was Kat and Isaiah's wedding in 2005).

And she is generous and openhanded.

And creative. And has a green thumb.

And I love that she cares about the big things out there in this world (even if they come in small packages).

And I can always ask her medical questions.

Even though I was trained as a teacher, my mom is constantly teaching me new things.

She is a visionary and longs for the greater things of God.

Constant supporter, cheerleader, encourager.

So, I am sure I speak for all of us Buzzell kids (and the others who have flooded through your home over the years to experience healing and hope).... Thank you mom.

You are loved.

And we are grateful.

For the seen and the unseen things you have done for us.

We love you!

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's A Hit

We are watching Frozen for movie night.

The BIGGEST hit!

I think this movie is genius!

Can you see Elsa...yeah, our kids are glued.

Quiet Voice

Today, I have been dwelling in this:

1 Kings 19 (MSG)

11-13 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GodGod will pass by.”

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”

On the way back from the Volta last week, I started getting a sore throat. This week, I have been coughing this hard, deep, hacking cough. And today, I woke up with no voice. This kind of cold hits me every now and then, but it always brings about a bit of fear as a singer and a teacher. Will this effect my vocal chords? How long before I get my voice back?

But as I was thinking about all this today, this passage came to me. While we are seeing God in some really powerful ways lately, there is something to be said for quietly sitting before The Lord and simply listening for that gentle and quiet whisper. 

And while my voice has been taken for the day, this afternoon, I came home from school this afternoon, put on the newest Bethel album, You Make Me Brave (it's a good one!), and just rested in His Presence.

Sweet rest.

Allowing that quiet voice, speaking His love over me. Reminding me. Asking me why I am here, what is next. 

I love those moments where God is simply...in the margins.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To Start a Fire

We arrived back from our trip to the Volta on Saturday, and it was probably the most impacting trip that I have been on in all my years and many journey's up and down that great lake.  Sometimes, on the occasions that we have space in our homes, we come back with children whom we have been investigating--cases of trafficked children forced to work for long hours on the polluted lake.

But this time, we didn't bring children home with us...we brought children back to their homes, to visit family and friends.  And that is why this trip was, perhaps, the most powerful trip I have been on so far.

Our journey started on Tuesday evening.  Due to the fact that we normally have to meet a ferry to cross the lake almost 10 hours north of where we live, we typically leave at midnight and meet the ferry at 8:00 am.  It's a long, hard journey through the middle of night.

But, recently, the Akosombo bridge began repairs.  This bridge, which crosses the White Volta River, put a wrinkle in our plans and we had to look up the ferry schedule to cross the river.  Now, the line to wait for the ferry extends sometimes for hours down the road.  Its last crossing is at 8:00 pm and if you miss that one, you have to wait until 6:00 am for the next crossing. 

So, for this trip, we left at 6:30 pm on Tuesday night, preparing to meet the ferry to cross the river right at their last ferry crossing.  We loaded up the van with mattresses, enough food to last us four days, all of our luggage, and medical supplies for our clinics and medical assessments, and then all of us--9 kids, 5 members of the medical team, and 8 of us staff members here at CORM.  Let's just say, we were fully loaded.

We made our way across the Akosombo Ferry and drove through the night, being stopped about 8 times at various police barriers and a couple of times for some who didn't know that dehydration was key for long trips like that.

It was around 3 in the morning by the time we made it to Dumbai and we pulled over to sleep in the bus until our 8:00 am ferry appointment.  With so many people and so little room, seats that didn't recline, and grumpy kids (and adults too), we didn't manage to sleep very well.  By 6:00, we were up, gassing up our vehicle and taking our turns at the squatty potty before hurrying down to the lakeside to wait for the ferry.

The kids wandered around, some meeting family members that had traveled over to Dumbai, some discussing their first journey over on the larger ferry (now out of commission), some watching our sweet Heartbeat for Africa medical team members meeting the local children and sharing Bible verses and God's love with those who would listen.

By the time we made it over the lake, we were ready for time out of our cramped quarters, but we had another couple of hours along a bumpy, red, dirt road. 

Our first stop on our way to Benjamase, where our home base would be located for the next few days, was a small village called Bruaii.  There, we met with the family of one of our kids.  Family and friends gathered around, celebrating her homecoming, shedding tears of joy.  It was beautiful! 
Walking back from visiting one of our kid's families
We made a few more stops at family homes in Chinderi, received each time with celebration.  The kids were so happy to see family members that they hadn't seen in almost five years.  They stood in wonder at the changes (and sometimes the lack of changes) in their home communities.  But, it was the boldness that they stood in that made me so Godly-proud of how they have grown and matured and how they are allowing God to move in their lives.

The CORM Staff sits in Dindor, waiting to meet the family of some of our children.

Mershak speaks to his community, sharing the Gospel of truth with them, and thanking those who have poured into his life.

The team gathers for a photo opportunity--all happy about meeting the family members of our kids
When we finally made it to Benjamase, we quickly ate, and took bucket baths (no running water).  That night, we gathered and prayed together for the days to come, that God's presence would meet us in our places of weakness, that He would break the chains of idolatry that we would see in the communities, and that freedom would be found through the love of Jesus displayed in our medical clinics and crusades. Then, it was off to bed, everyone needing the rest for the day ahead.

Thursday morning, we woke up bright an early, and were greeted by more family members of our children.  It was such a joy to see our kids interact with their families, so happy to be home, even if it was just for a few days!  We sat down, heard stories, allowed our children to speak to their family and share with them the many things that God has done in their lives, and open the door of invitation to come and visit us at CORM. 
Meeting with family members at our Benjamase compound

You are always welcome--you are our family

A morning greeting to family we are meeting for the first time
By 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, we had finished up our meetings with family and were headed down to the lakeside to board a boat to cross the lake to Hausakope. Crossing the lake is always an adventure.  We climb into a wooden boat, crawling over wooden beams until we reach a place where we feel comfortable sitting down.  The journey across, depending on the village, can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.  It's always a prayerful journey across for me, looking at the surface of the waters littered with yellow jerrycans which denote the location of the corner of nets.  Small canoes filled with fishermen and children float by.  I pray for these children, not knowing if they are suffering under the yoke of slavery or simply helping their father during their school break.  The sun is always hot, reflecting off the water.  And it was especially poignant traveling across with our children, my imagination running wild with stories of when they were young on these very waters.
Crossing over to Hausakope
When we finally made it across, Stacy and John went with our local staff to meet with the chief to find out where we should set up our clinic.  While they went, the children stripped off their socks and shoes and waded into the water, trying to catch the small tilapia that swam in the waters nearest the shore.  They laughed and ran free, almost as if they were small children again--our 16 year old Evelyn chasing the waves that flowed onto the shore.  Mary, Evelyn, and Michael even found some old pieces of net and made their own fishtrap (which they were sorely disappointed about later when they found it didn't catch anything).  Gracie giggled as she caught a catfish small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. 

Finally, we were given the signal to come and set up camp under a large grove of trees.  We called for tables and chairs and benches to be brought in, delivered via head on bikes and motorcycles.  While we set up, Stacy told me about the chief's house--an idol set up in the center, various amulets hanging from the tree, inviting spirits in to "protect" the house.  She said that she could sense the evil of that place.  The chief had invited so many evil things into that village, and as the leader of that place, those things had invaded that area.  We knew we were in for a battle that day.

And we were.  The medical team saw over 100 patients that day.  I was on vitals, taking blood pressures and temperatures and doing the various tests requested from the doctors.  We saw some severe cases of malaria, entire families infected with HIV, malnutrition, blood pressure, spina bifida, and various other diseases and disorders.  It left the team heartbroken, especially with the hopelessness we saw in a place that doesn't have access to proper medication, clean drinking water, the very things we take for granted so often.

And when we headed into our crusade that night, I have to admit, I was anxious.  I had never stayed so late on that side of the lake, so I was worried about staying late and crossing in the dark.  But, when the Jesus Film started, we started with just a few children and then more and more started to come.  They clapped at every miracle, in awe of Jesus' power and grace. By the time the film reached it's climax and we paused it to speak to them the message of Hope that is Jesus Christ, hundreds had gathered.   As Stanley and John began to speak out the gospel of Christ, hundreds raised their hands to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Then, as the movie continued, our staff and kids gathered to pray over those who had accepted Christ--praying with passion that these new believers would walk in love and true change.  

One of the most powerful stories I heard during our time there happened in the middle of the movie.  Our staff gathered to pray during the movie, praying for release of the captives, that God would move in the hearts of the people, that there would be hope offered in new ways for these people.  Johnbull kept hearing the word HOPE from the Holy Spirit and went and told Stanley that he felt like that is what God was going to bring for the people of Hausakope.  And Stanley led him to a young man who had spent the day with us, carrying benches to and from the village, praying heartily with the team during the movie.  A man only 32 years old, living in Hausakope for 20 years, introduced himself to Johnbull.  His name was Hope.  And we fully believe that the hope of God in that community will be brought by this man.  We are praying about how to equip and raise him up as a future spiritual leader for that community. 

That night, as we headed back in the boat, we gave our highs and lows of the day, laughing at the funny comments of the kids (especially Michael) and the staff in their observations of the day, mourning the hopelessness of the medical conditions found in that village and the evil that was so pervasive, and quietly celebrating the love of our good God who met them where they were at in the life of Jesus seen in the film that night.

The next day, we had our clinic in Benjamase.  Families had already gathered by the time we made it there and we were excited to get to spend one more day ministering to the people of that area.  The doctors taught some CHE lessons (Community Health Evangelism) to the people regarding back pain and HIV. 
Dr. Troy teaches his CHE lesson to the waiting patients

Dr. Jammie assesses every need of her patients

I became a blood-pressure pro!
And when we were done meeting all the patients, our medical team taught the curious kids who stood around all day watching the "obronis" a new game.
Playing Red Rover
 That night, we felt more dirty that usual, took our baths in the middle of the afternoon, and then headed out to the crusade in Benjamase's taxi station.  Again, hundreds gathered, some of them the friends and family members of our own kids.  When we paused the movie this time, it was an amazing experience to see Aaron stand up and preach the gospel to his own people in his own language.  Benard, Robert, and Mershak standing at the front with our other staff praying over the people and declaring freedom.  And then, Stanley called out all the CORM staff and kids to pray over each person in the crowd, and so I watched as little Michael and Mary and Benard and Aaron and Mershak and Robert--as our staff gathered around groups of kids and adults--laid hands on them--spoke blessing and truth--offered the free gift of love that only comes from Jesus Christ.  What an amazing night!  Again, we saw many come to know Christ that night.

As we laid down to sleep that night (the hottest night up there by far), it took me a long time to fall asleep.  I thought of the experiences I had had, the things I had witnessed, the ways that God had moved--but mostly, I thought of our kids.  I knew that they would miss their families, but I also knew that what I saw this time in them was the future for these communities that they call "their village".   And it will only come through them.

The next day, we said goodbyes to families and were on our way to Dumbai.  But, our late start meant that we didn't make it to the ferry in time.  By the time that we got to the ferry in Dumbai, they were already boarded and about ready to take off.  John hopped off our bus and ran to the ferry, asking the captain to allow him to come aboard to arrange transport.  Again and again, the captain told him that we would not be allowed to bring our bus on board--they were already full.  So, John got off the ferry and began to pray.  Meanwhile, disappointed, we all left the bus, thinking that we wouldn't be able to take the ferry until that afternoon around 2.  The captain tried to move the ferry, but little did he know, John was praying that the ferry would not be able to move unless our bus was on board.  The captain maneuvered and maneuvered the ferry, but it was stuck in the mire of the shoreline and wouldn't move.  So, he stopped the ferry, took off a couple of buses, and tried again.  He moved it back and forth, back and forth, and still, nothing.  Finally, he moved a truck load of yams off the boat and called John on board.  He asked John if he had placed a curse on the ferry making it unable to move.  John said that we were just Kingdom people wanting to make it home.  We had to be on the ferry!  Others gathered around, angry that he was being given passage. But, one of them recognized John and told the crowd that he was a pastor.  And soon enough, John motioned for the bus to move on to the ferry.  We boarded and the ferry began to move easily across the waters!  God had answered our prayers!

The trip home was long and tiring, but it was fun!  I sat next to one of our staff members, Ajata, and we joked the whole way home.  We got caught up at the ferry in Akosombo (almost a 3 hour wait in the traffic which also included a minor fender bender), but we made it home around 6:00 pm on Saturday.  The kids from the house gathered around us, some not wanting to hug us because we smelled, but I gladly hugged them anyway. 

One of the mornings I was up there, I was spending time in the Word and came across this passage of Scripture--one that I had read many times, but it seemed to have new meaning to me now:

Luke 12:49-56
49-53 “I’ve come to start a fire on this earth—how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up—how I long for it to be finished! Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront! From now on, when you find five in a house, it will be—
Three against two,
    and two against three;
Father against son,
    and son against father;
Mother against daughter,
    and daughter against mother;
Mother-in-law against bride,
    and bride against mother-in-law.”
54-56 Then he turned to the crowd: “When you see clouds coming in from the west, you say, ‘Storm’s coming’—and you’re right. And when the wind comes out of the south, you say, ‘This’ll be a hot one’—and you’re right. Frauds! You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now.
Jesus was crying out for His fire to be present on earth.  He knew that His fire would, in so many ways, confront the things of this earth.  It would set families against each other.  There are those that will always refuse to see the truth--whether because of pride or shame or a lack of understanding of how much they are truly loved.  But, when I read this scripture--I saw our kids--walking in bravery--willing to confront the things of the past--the old ways of doing things--the evil present in the witchcraft and idol worship.  Why?  Because they are blazing with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God living and active in them!  
I see a changing in the season, this is a God-season.  I know that this season won't be led by me or John or Stacy or our staff--it will be led by our kids.  So, I am trusting God to continue to start a fire in our kids that will spread into these communities and "turn everything rightside up".
May it be so.