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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Friday, August 29, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 7

Tonight's dinner was a blast. 

All day, the boys worked on building this table.

And the girls worked on cooking the food.

We brought out the good plates and forks and knives were a must.

I looked up "100 Table Manners You Should Know". 

The boys escorted the girls to dinner, lining up like a little prom, arm in arm. That was a feat not taken lightly considering the scowls of the boys and the giggles of the girls.

They pulled out chairs, pushed them in, stood up when the girls left the table.

There were no elbows on the table, no insulting or fighting, and I even had opera and classical music in the background for good measure. It was just good fun, and our fair share of laughter, with their sisters and brothers and lessons learned to tuck away in their pocket for another time.

But, tonight's topic had me running a little scared. God's Biblical plan for sex in marriage. Love the topic...just don't want to be the one giving the talk. Thank goodness we had guest speakers to take over for us, and it was pretty unbelievable!

Dean and Nanama are friends of John and Stacy's from their YYAM days, and they are amazing. Their wells run deep and we have been so blessed to have them spill over on us these past couple of days. 

Tonight, Dean started to speak and he got all the way to his first point (which was all about respect for one another in relationship)...and God stopped him. He felt like God was calling out one, if not two, women who had been disrespected by men in their life, taken advantage of and hurt. And when a couple ladies stepped forward, God began to shake the room as Dean got down on his knees and apologized to them on behalf of the ones who had hurt them in their past...as the men in the room began to speak affirmation over these daughters of our King...as tears rolled down when truth was spoken. It was so powerful, and I knew God was doing something we didn't plan for, but was so sweet. There was this sense that something was being restored to its rightful place within them.

And then, Nanama got up and began to speak from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, desiring the living water, the deeper things of God, to satisfy the places in her that Dean could never satisfy, that friends could never reach, that any thing or addiction could never replace...

Just that living water.

That deep desire for a filling that fills every part of me. Down deep. In the lonely places that aren't often shared.

It was so good and rich and deep. I felt like I was receiving a fresh drink, something I have longed for for quite some time. Thirst quenching.

And then, we stood hand in hand as we talked about creating a culture of affirmation, a culture where we are not easily offended. And we looked at one another and began to speak and affirm those things of God in each other and the room filled with with voices and laughter and smiles and beauty.

And when Dean paused the next moment, it was as if the room took a breathe to prepare for the next move of God. Men were called forward, any man who felt that they had disrespected a woman in any way. They came forward in their numbers and as Nanama began to speak over them, there was this sense that God saw their hearts broken before Him. They were broken so He could heal.

The cries that filled the space of that room, to see these men, these boys, with tears roll down their faces...to weep for the fatherless...to kneel in conviction...to cry out for the many that will not experience the love of a father...to mourn their own places of sin, the moment can't be shared adequately with words. The air was thick with His presence. Tonight brought freedom. It brought freedom not just in them, but I believe chains were loosed tonight for many in our community, in our country, in our world.

As I stood with Miriah tonight after everything, she just asked, "Has it been like this every night?"

My answer is yes.

God is moving. He is setting free. He is loosing chains. He is making covenants. He is changing hearts.

And perhaps it's not just for these 12, but it's also for me.

Coming of Age, Post 6

Today, I had the opportunity to lead our kids in a Bible study about God's Love and our behavior. I love this talk, which originally came from my pastor back home, Tony Gapastione, and the author of a study called "Becoming Who God Intended".

It was such sweet time, talking through the gospel of Jesus Christ who came so we could stand in complete freedom before the Father...who came to give us a new identity...who came to show God's big, immense, amazing love for each of us.

Last night, as I was reflecting with our intern, Charity, about this week, I realized that this week has not been only for our kids. All of us who have spoken into these kids has recieved so much as well. I have been beyond blessed. I have seen other staff here set free. I have been able to see our kids begin the risk of stepping even deeper into relationship with Christ.

I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to hear, to speak into, to receive.

In fact, this week, I needed to find some time to rest. It has been so busy and I have been so stressed. And even with the early mornings and the late nights, I feel as if I have found that rest.

I love that God knows what we need, even more than we know ourselves.

This morning, after everything and the kids began to filter out to seek a little time before the next activity, our tall boy Aaron pulled me aside and just said thank you, that God had really used that study to speak to his heart.

That's what it's all about.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 5

Last night was bonfire night for our 12. They gathered around a very wet fire (it rained all day on Tuesday leaving very wet wood and a gasoline soaked fire) and braved the biting ants and hoards of mosquitos to hear testimonies of things The Lord has done in all of our lives, our little bits of truth from where God has taken us and where he has brought us.

It was beautiful and full of hope. 

When he spoke of how God surprised him with messages of encouragement after serving The Lord quietly for such a long time...that we never know who we are influencing and what we are doing for the Kingdom when we simply serve.

When she spoke of forgiveness and release.

When he spoke of being sensitive to the voice of The Lord.

When she spoke about believing the truth God speaks over yourself and having confidence that what God has called you to do, He will equip.

When he spoke about finally finding freedom in The Lord by humbling himself and crying out for a heart softened to the things of our Great God.

When she spoke about living testimonies of those who have followed God all their life, not needing or even desiring to taste from the world.

When he spoke about releasing his worry and stepping into true dependence on The Lord.

When she spoke about John 8 and God raising up in her a heart of such deep compassion that it would change the face of how this world views His Church.

When he spoke about God's great provision for his life when only he stepped back to see the bigger picture.

When she spoke about choosing God, even if it meant leaving behind family and friends.

When he spoke about God bringing him from nothing, placing the vision before himself and crying out for God to answer his deep heart cries. 

And God did answer.

And He will continue to.

Because He always wants the best for us.

So, we are praying these things will go down deep into the spirits of our 12, so that when they run into these same places, they will run to our Father because they already know the consequences of choices made wrongly; they already know God can do great things in their lives because He has done it in others; that God will move even in the midst of pain, suffering, frustration, defeat. 

We left last night truly encouraged...a little bitten up...but filled and encouraged and powerfully ready for God to continue His work in us, whatever that looks like.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 4

Yesterday, we spent a good majority of the day in several Bible studies with our kids. We discussed the charteristics of a Godly Man and a Godly Woman. We spoke into the kids all our dreams of why we put this week together for them. And we heard from them too, how God was moving and speaking to them. And last night, we capped it all off by viewing "God's Not Dead". The kids (and the staff) were challenged, encouraged, and inspired by the story, and excited to see where they might be able to step out in faith in their lives.

But, it was this morning that I was looking forward to, worship and prayer time for their future and their lives. 

Aaron and Valentina stepped up to lead in the beginning, speaking out prayers over the kids, praying in boldness and leading worship with grace. I watched in wonder as our kids stepped up to lead. I was especially in awe of Aaron, with his soft and gentle voice, speaking boldly and words filled with truth. They opened the door for the presence of The Lord and it was beautiful.

When they finished, I brought out my guitar to begin to lead. Suddenly, the skies grew dark and the rain began to come down heavily on the roof. The guitar could hardly be heard over sound of the rain, but it almost added to the presence of The Lord that was in that room. The kids drew their chairs closer and as God began to minister through song. They poured out their hearts, some of them weeping on their faces, hands held high as they knelt in worship. New songs were created. Lives surrendered. God's presence fell in such a powerful way, it felt like God had sent a river through the room.

Before I knew it, I looked up to see our kids standing up, praying over each other. Speaking into each other. Words of truth. Words of confession. Words of ministry. I watched as one of our oldest girls cradled another girl for such a long time, just speaking truth, the truth she desperately needed to hear, into her ear. They spoke of visions The Lord gave them for each other. They asked for prayer for their families, for some of our special kids, for them as they walked out in leadership.

And it was in that moment, I had a vision of my own. CORM's campus completely covered in a layer of water up to our ankles. Curious onlookers were entering in from our entrance ways, just wanting a taste of what they saw. But, God desired to do even more. God desired for waist high waters. Neck high waters. Water that rose over our height, that we might dive in completely. Waters of God's love. Waters of God's presence. And this vision could only be made manifest if we, His people, began to dig into the depths. To not accept the surface waters as being a perfectly acceptable place to dwell. To go deep. To get serious about the things of God. And if this were to happen, it would change the face of this place...this community...these people...this nation...this world.

By the time we ended, we were full (and my guitar had suffered not just one, but two broken strings), and I wanted to just sit in that sweet place forever.

God, come. 

Pour your presence down just as these rains have been poured from your great sky. 

We are ready for more of you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Putting Down my Dreams

Yesterday, we were asked to write down the big things that we are asking God for, those dreams we know won't be accomplished without Him. We gathered them together and we prayed over them, pouring ourselves out before The Lord, trusting that He would...in fact...He has already done it. We spoke into the future. We declared. We envisioned. 

As Stanley prayed for us as we closed, I felt a bit alone in the room. He had said that our big dreams, those things that couldn't be accomplished without Him...well, they can't be marriage and children. They have to be bigger than that. They have to be dreams that we almost can't even dream because of its outlandishness (ok, I am making up words, but that's because they needed to be God-sized dreams and visions).

For awhile now, I haven't spoken about my singleness. I have been learning so much about being fully satisfied in God, finding Him in the places of loneliness I experience from time to time. And He has met me and filled me in ways I previously didn't understand. In fact, I have found myself settling into the fact that I may never get married, and somehow, my heart is ok with that. As much as I want for that to happen, to do it outside of a God's plan and purpose for me would be unthinkable. But, for some reason, it keeps coming up.

A few days ago, one of my friends had a dream about me getting married. She said I got married and ended up moving back to the States. She didn't want me to leave Ghana. I told her that "if" I ever got married, they would need to have a heart for Ghana because that is where I am called.

And moving into these apartments, I can't even count how many kids have said that if I get married, I have room for my baby.

And when Stanley asked us to dream our biggest dream, that is the dream that came to mind, even when he said it wasn't big enough.

But, then I read this this morning and it hit me...it really knocked the air out of me. In fact, I have read this scripture so many times before, but for some reason, today, it spoke.

Isaiah 54:1-5

"'Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband,' says The Lord. 'Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband--The Lord Almighty is his name--the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth."

It was as if God was enlarging my dream for me. Reminding me of what He has called me to. I may be single for my whole life, but I have every confidence that these words will speak of me in the future. My children, these children, the children I have served in EPA, Redwood City, Placentia, Mission Viejo, Brea, Paonia, Kenya...they will spread out among the nations...they are my legacy.

My God, as strange as it sounds, loves me in every way. He is my God. He is my Savior. He is my husband. He fills the empty places in me that I can trust no man to fill. He is who I find my identity in.

So, here I am, in my new apartment, my tent enlarged...and I wait. I hold tight to the promise of The Lord that He will give me more than I ever imagined.

God, may it be so.

Coming of Age, Post 3

Today, instead of our normal choir performance, one of our staff, Jemima, and two of our kiddos, Rosemary and Gracie, got up to share a song. It's a song we had heard before and we all started singing along and clapping. 

I want more of you.
want more of you, Jesus.
Cause the more I know you,
The more I want to know you.
Jesus, more of you.

But as we started singing along, falling into that special place of worship, one by one, our 12 began to get up and join the three singing in the front.

I want more of you.

Our boys, now men more than boys, rising up and singing out.

I want more of you.

Our girls, bright and beautiful and confident, declaring it all.

I want more of you.

And then they wrapped arms around each other's shoulders, swaying to the rhythm as they sang it out with all their hearts.

I want more of you.

Stacy said she cried because it was so beautiful. She said it was like a worship flash mob.

We are loving what God is doing in our kids. 

And we love flash mobs too.

Bring it on, God!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 2

Today, we heard testimony after testimony of what we have all been hearing during this time of fasting and prayer. 

And then we danced:

And danced:

And danced:

And then we all wrote out the dreams on our heart and the Presence of God fell as we prayed. God is moving here. Be prepared for miracles next week. He is coming...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Coming of Age, Post 1

Praying that God would fill our 12 with the Living Water, that fills to overflowing so you never have to thirst again. Breaking off chains. Making new covenants. It's all about this:

Fully Surrendered.

Raising up a generation to love like Christ.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting Closer

My house is getting closer and closer to move in ready. Uncle Nosa, Benard, and I finished painting on Monday. Yesterday, I was gone all day, so not much happened, but today, Uncle Nosa installed all my fans and lights...we are almost there!

And today, the outside became this:

Still needs painted outside, but they laid out gravel and everything looks just lovely.

So, today's progress shows you mid-move/electricity install craziness, but it's all exciting because...it's my own! 

Scrubbing paint off floors

My newly painted cupboard and dishes

Living room with a fan

My kitchen is all storage right now

Living room craziness which also hasn't been scrubbed yet. All to come in the next couple of days!

God is so faithful! 

Interrupted, Post 9


That is a heavy word for a lot of people.

But, back where I worship in the States, it's a word that I have come to love. Because it stopped referring to the building where we gathered each Sunday, but instead, each Sunday we were issued this blessing before we headed back out the doors for home, or wherever else life would take us:

"Now, go and BE the church."

Many "churches" hold so much connotation. A place that should be safe for all to gather, has hurt so many. It has held the broken, and instead of healing, has chosen to further bruise.

But, here is the place where the real misunderstanding happens...WE are the church. US, not the building. Not the physical place where we gather to worship. You and I that call each other Christ followers ARE the church.

So, those that have injured and hurt, those members of the church, they are just as broken as the ones walking in the door seeking refuge. I am just as broken as those seeking refuge. 

And if we really understand this concept and are willing to walk it out, our church bodies, the ones where we gather and worship together, would look so different. We would walk humbly because we would know that we don't have it all together. We would embrace and love because we would know that is what we also need. We would live in a community of grace and authenticity, not afraid to address the sin in our lives because we know we are walking next to those who will encourage and pray and forgive easily. We would serve, not just for functions and events, but serve the ones who truly need because we would understand that serving is an opportunity to be Jesus to someone else.

"I've discovered that this journey is not about finding validation as a leader; it's not about our church. It's bigger than that. It's about putting hands and feet to the gospel--our hands and feet. It's about building bridges with those who won't come to us on Sunday, not as a project but because Jesus loves them and told us to. It's a dangerous journey that requires honesty and vulnerability. It's about the kingdom breaking through in all of our lives. It's about creating a place to belong before people are expected to behave or even believe. If the gospel is good news at all, then it's not just an idea to consider, a time slot on Sunday, or a task assigned to a select few--it's a life to live. And it's bigger than all of us." --Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted 

We are the church. How is the kingdom breaking through in your life? How do you see "the church" walking out the love of Jesus in your community?

Monday, August 18, 2014

On the blog...

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to review Jen Hatmaker's book, Interrupted, which seems to have eerily spoken out my own journey to Ghana.  It's been a beautiful journey...and I'm only about 3/4's of the way through!

Today, I found out that my blog gets to join the other 249 on Jen's blog who have spent the past month reading and blogging about all the goodness inside this book. 

Here is some Interrupted goodness for you:


Can't help but be challenged, encouraged, and by her words.

If you want to check ME out...take a look at this:


I'm all the way down at number 119.  Here I am: Living the Interrupted Life! 

Interrupted, Post 8

"When your church is eight seconds old, fancy things like services and tithe checks remain somewhere in Futureland too. It takes a lot of work to prep the surface, and this was about when we realized we had no idea how to start a church from scratch. What do we do first? How do we stay true to the vision? It was overwhelming, and I complicated matters by operating in an emotional drift. My mental space was consumed with loss from our departure, and I could not find center. I wanted to embrace the adventure, but all I could think about was leaving the platform." Jen Hatmaker, Interrupted 

July 28th was my 4 year anniversary of moving to Ghana. 4 years! Sometimes I marvel at that very fact.

I was in high school for 4 years. I graduated with 69 other happy-go-lucky seniors the year of Y2K. 

I was in college for 4 years. I am still besties with my friends from college, who I met some 14 years ago. (Ok...getting old)

4 years...it's enough time to change a life.

I intended to come for one year. In fact, I was quite certain it was only going to be one year. I made an arrangement for my car to be taken care of, for one year. I talked with my HR rep at the Ravenswood City School District about rehiring me when I return, one year later. I stored my stuff in my friend's garage, knowing I would be back in one year to reclaim it all.

I have been here 4 years. 

After the first year, I sold my car...and spent its earnings on a trip to Australia for my 30th birthday.

This year, when I was home on furlough, I cleaned out my storage (or at least most of it) from my friend's garage. I have about 4 boxes of things to my name now in California. Mostly children's books that I couldn't bear to part with but were too heavy to make the journey with me to Ghana.

4 years.

That quote up there from Interrupted...yeah, that was me when I landed here in Ghana and found out that I wouldn't just be tutoring the kids after school, but would be starting a school. Surprise!

Everything went through my head.

I wasn't trained for this.

I don't know how to run a school.

I don't know how to train teachers.

I don't have any clue what I am doing.

I was overwhelmed, out of my league, beyond my depth...

But the thing is, it was never about what I knew or didn't know. It was about being clay inthe hands of the Master Potter. I could NEVER have dreamed up what I see I front of me today. In fact, if you had told me that this was what I would be doing, I would have stayed right where I was.

4 years.

I took a leap off that platform, trusting that even when I didn't know...He did.

2010-2011: We taught our 19 kids at home, 10 of them in my classroom...four different grade levels, no curriculum, just filling in gaps.

2011-2012: We hired six teachers to fill our shell of a school building which had no plaster or paint or windows or doors or electricity. We had students and desks and white boards and teachers. 19 students to 120 that year.

2012-2013: Second wing of the school completed. 120 students became 180 students.

2013-2014: Third wing completed. 180 students became 230 students. 22 staff members.

This will be my FIFTH school year in Ghana. I am sure we will have out share of challenges with our incoming 240 students and 25 staff members.

But, I don't know where I would be without this big adventure.

What is the BIG ADVENTURE God has you on? And where do you need to just make that leap off the platform you've been standing on?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Interrupted, Post 7

I don't have many words today. I feel "worded out". I am tired. My brain never shuts off these days as we prepare for so many new things in the season ahead of us. I go to sleep late and wake up early. I just can't shut it off.

I read Jen's chapter entitled "New" today. I hate new places. They require change...and as previous blog posts have discussed, I am not a fan of the "c" word. So, I understand her anxiety and wondering. Totally get that.

But, this...this was what I needed today:

"Ultimately, it is not nation or race, church or citizenship that gives people value. It is not sinlessness or innocence that makes us precious. It is not that Jesus looks on us as helpless or powerful, poor or rich, weak or strong. We are loved because we are living images of God, made in His likeness and created for the heights of His glory and the depths of communion. Our very God took on our form for the love of humanity, privilege or poverty aside. In contrast to God's perfection, we are all the least, each and every one, identified entirely with a Savior who loves us recklessly."

And that's all. His love. I needed reminding today. It isn't about what I do. It never has been. Even in the midst of my lowest place, I can have full confidence in this:

I am the Beloved.

Preparing an Apartment in 10 Easy (not so easy) Steps

This week, I have spent at least part of each day working on my new apartment. I have used a lot of time, while working, thinking about how different it is to do things here than it is back in the States. Let's just say, I am learning more and more about manual labor and the muscles that enable me to do manual labor. Every night, I ache, but I also feel strong and productive and proud of what has happened this week!

Let me give you a run down of how one prepares to move to an apartment here in Ghana:

Step 1: Scrape all the concrete walls to take off the rough surface and the big chunks.
Benard, Aaron, and Paul helping me scrape

Step 2: Fill all the holes and cracks in the walls with filler.
I did this room's filling all by myself. Dad, aren't you proud?

Step 3: Sand the walls to make all the surfaces even and smooth.
Rosemary was actually filling in this picture, but she also helped me sand and paint.

Step 4: Paint all the windows and door frames with stain.
This step involved me following along teenage boys with dripping paintbrushes to clean up after all their drips.

Step 5: Paint the walls with a whitewash.
This step involved a similar process as above except it also included lots of paint rollers and so much echoing laughter.

Step 6: FINALLY, begin to paint. This painting process also involves a pointing out of every crack you didn't fill and every spot of filler you didn't sand well.
Ajata and Coach Ben helped paint my kitchen. The color is awesome, right?

Step 7: Clean up the mess made by the paint. Scrape it off of the tiled walls. Scrape it off the tiled floor. Wash and wash again.
I spent 4 hours today working on this step in the kitchen alone today. The kitchen. That's it. I have two more bedrooms, a living room, and two bathrooms...torture.

Step 8: Get electrical fixtures installed.
Requires Uncle Nosa's awesome expertise. He is also painting and preparing his apartment next door to mine. Aunty Lydia and Uncle Nosa and I will be neighbors!

Step 9: Attach drains and toilets to waste water system.
Requires someone that isn't me to do this part!

Step 10: Move in!
It's started in part as I emptied some kitchen boxes today into my only completed and clean room, the kitchen!

Yeah...it's a longer and harder and messier process than I thought it would be, but I am excited. Today, I got my kitchen completely sparkling clean. And I listened to some good music while doing it (got a playlist going of some Jimmy Needham, Gavin DeGraw, Michael Buble, Marc Brussard, and threw in a little Adele to the mix...they kept me going!) And spent a lot of time praying, as my mind has been completely overwhelmed these days with all that has to get done in the next few weeks. And those red Rachel Ray pots and pans that I won two years ago and have since been sitting in a storage box? They came out to see the light of day. That pretty much was the best thing ever.

I have some painting to finish up tomorrow in the living room and the massive scrub down of the bedrooms and bathrooms, but I am drawing closer and closer to step 10!

If you are interested in helping out with some of the needs for my new place, here is the updated list:

1 queen size bed/mattress--$200 using one from on campus
2 twin size beds/mattresses--$175/each need only one
1 living room set (includes long couch, love seat, chair)--$425
1 dining room set (table and chairs)--$420
1 stove--$300 recieved full donation
1 refrigerator--$340
3 mosquito nets--$10/each
1 desk--$150
1 wardrobe--$200 
2 bookshelves--$100/each
1 TV/stand--$200

 If you are interested in helping out, go to our website:www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com and make a donation.  You could also make donations by check to City of Refuge Ministries and sending it to: PO Box 91546, Sioux Falls, SD 57109.  You can label it BIG MOVE.  We'll know what you're talking about then!  If you have a specific item you want to purchase from this list, just write the name of the item in the notes section (e.g. bed, BIG MOVE). If you can, shoot off an email to stacy@cityofrefugeoutreach.com to let us know of your donation towards our BIG MOVE.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Want to Help us Move??

So, moving days are rapidly approaching.  And we are beginning to hyperventilate with the sheer number of things that must be accomplished between now and then. 

August 23, 2014--We are moving 23 boys, their Boy's deans, and all their stuff (plus some new stuff added to it) over to our new LEGACY BOY'S HOME--a 2 story house that will eventually house 36 kids, plus their staff.  But, we have some school stuff to figure out before we can add more rescued children to that home.

August 23, 2014 (or so)--Staff and volunteers are moving to our new homes in the Missionary Apartments, 4 apartments and a whole load of us moving over there.  The guest house will then be freed up for volunteers passing through or other staff that will be coming to teach with us this year.

September 6, 2014--We are moving at least 4 families out to the Redeemed House, ladies that are a part of our 7 Continents program, and all their kiddos, are moving out for a 2 year residential program that we are starting up.  We are excited to get all kinds of products out to you that these ladies are making and creating.  It's going to be good.

I did a count the other day.  There are going to be approximately 85 people living on our campus come September.  Now, that is a high estimation...it is if all these things work just right and everyone gets to come as planned.  But, WOW!  Daily providing and planning and arranging for 85 people living here at CORM.  That's pretty unbelievable.  Was it all that long ago that we were all crammed into a 3 bedroom house in Downtown Doryumu?  Pretty amazing!

We could sure use your help!

Here is a list of needs that were are looking to purchase in the coming weeks for our big move.  If you are interested in helping out, go to our website: www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com and make a donation.  You could also make donations by check to City of Refuge Ministries and sending it to: PO Box 91546, Sioux Falls, SD 57109.  You can label it BIG MOVE.  We'll know what you're talking about then!  If you have a specific item you want to purchase from this list, just write the name of the item in the notes section (e.g. bed, BIG MOVE). If you can, shoot off an email to stacy@cityofrefugeoutreach.com to let us know of your donation towards our BIG MOVE.

For those of you who have helped fundraise, prayed for, and in some way supported us in building our long term missionary apartment complex, THANK YOU! A two-year dream is actually happening! My furniture is also added to the totals above. I will be needing the following:
1 queen size bed/mattress--$200
2 twin size beds/mattresses
1 living room set (includes long couch, love seat, chair)
1 dining room set (table and chairs)
1 stove
1 refrigerator
3 mosquito nets
1 desk--$150
1 wardrobe--$200
1 elliptical--$300
2 bookshelves--$100/each
1 TV/stand--$200

These things can be donated for in the same way as above.

Thank you for continuing to be a part of all the things you see happening at CORM. We couldn't do it without YOU!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Interrupted, Post 6

This week, I read about one of God's first big challenges for Jen and her family after her life was interrupted. He had taken them down to serve the poor and the homeless. He had rocked them as they continued to minister as a family in so many real and human ways, yet also served in a large and wealthy church that didn't really seem to "get" the ways God was moving the Hatmaker family.

So, one Easter, after their over-produced Sunday services in the church where they were working, they made a trip down to another body of believers, where Shane Claiborne was speaking for the evening.

Do you know about this guy? The best way to get to know him is through his book Irresistible Revolution. But, beware, this guy will change your life. He will challenge what you thought you knew or understood about serving in God's kingdom, about being the hands and feet of Jesus. When I first read this book the summer of 2007, wow...God changed me. It was then when I knew what God was calling me too, to teach in the inner city. Not just teach, but live there, become one of the members of the community. Live and breathe and be with those I was serving.  So, if you decide to read Shane's work, just, beware.

Anyway, Shane was speaking and God was moving and he challenged them to leave their shoes and socks on the altar, as he was taking them to give to the homeless in the community the next day. Jen and her husband just looked at each other and laughed because they were wearing their most expensive shoes, the ones they had given to each other for Christmas...that most favorite gift. 

It was in that moment that they had to make a choice. Are we in this or not? So they took off their shoes and socks and left the church barefoot. And then God spoke and blew Jen away. She says,

"I'll not do the moment justice, but at the close of the service, I watched all these smiling people gladly walk barefooted out into the cold, and I heard Jesus whisper, 'This is how I want my church to look. I want her to rip the shoes off her feet for the suffering every single chance she gets. I want an altar full of socks and shoes right next to the Communion table. I want to see solidarity with the poor. I want true community rallied around My gospel. I want you and Brandon to figure out what it means to be a barefooted church.'"

I love that. The barefooted church.

Part of why I just love that so much is because of what I see everyday here in my little village in Ghana. Our kids HATE wearing shoes. They wake up at 5:30 in the morning and their feet hit our red, African soil. They run and play all day, their soles hardened by the hours spent playing outside. 

I look at them and I see this...the barefooted church. Our littles freed from a life of child labor. Free to play. To love. To laugh. To live. THEY are the barefooted church.

And I think of the many in our community who have scrimped and saved for one good pair of shoes, because without them, they can't go to school. So, they play barefooted simply to save their shoes for something better.

And when we are able to put shoes on these, the ones who have worked to hard to care for the needs of their kids, we have to celebrate. Because we are the church.

In what ways do you see your church body or YOU sharing with the least of these, as the barefooted church? This kind of service comes at a price. What are you willing to give up to serve the least of these?

Preparing for the Move

So many changes are coming in the next month. Yesterday, our apartment building and the new boy's house,  now lovingly called "Legacy Boy's Home", got electricity. Each little step towards the move brings equal parts excitement and anxiety. Change has never been easy for me. I fight it every step of the way, even the good changes. 

I think change scares me the most when I fear it will change relationship. I feel myself withdraw, disengage, try to distance myself. It is a painful process.

Each time I go to the States, the constant state of hellos and goodbyes are just like this...this painful dance back and forth. Engage...distance...be present, but not so present that it will be too hard to leave.

The changes happening in the next month or so are so good. They will be big and bright and beautiful changes.  But, they will bring their share of challenges. 

Our boys will be moving into their new home, the olders moving to the top story, getting the space that teens inevitably need. The youngers fitting in downstairs with new houseparents. 

Our 7 Continents program will be moving out to the Children's Village and moving into the Redeemed House. 5 ladies and their children, a whole mess of babies...it will bring all kinds of new out here.

And our apartments will be completed which means Nosa and Lydia will be moving to their own apartment, I will be moving to mine, staff girls will be moving into one, and our missionaries are moving into one. New missionary teachers will be moving on campus by the end of the month. Stanley's lovely Brittany will be coming to Ghana for the next few months. National service students will be coming in to teach and will be living on campus.

So many changes.

But, even with the anxiety that inevitably comes, I am ready. I am excited. It's time.

So, as today is the day I am working on scraping my walls, filling in cracks, and painting my apartment, here are my "before" pics:
The missionary apartments

Outside my apartment

My kitchen

The living room

Guest room

Master bedroom

Master bath

Guest bath

Change...here we come

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Interrupted, Post 5

"I am learning what it means to descend, which is so revolutionary, it often leaves me gasping. I have been trying to ascend my entire life....When Jesus told us to 'take the lowest place' (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place."

Johnbull frequently tells us in our church gatherings that if we desire to go up, we must first put ourselves at the very bottom. He will then sit on the floor for a good portion of his sermon, demonstrating how important it is to put yourselves last, to serve others first, to walk humbly, to make your mark on this earth as Jesus did--not forcing followers, but loving in such a powerful way that it draws others to Him--not to YOU.

Stacy and I had a similar conversation today. God is expanding us in massive ways. I mean massive. This month, we are looking at some huge moves in our ministry and we know that God has us. But, there are moments that doubt enters in because of the money, because of the things we need to have ironed out before then, because of the potential struggles we may face, we begin to wonder. We wake up early, filled with worry, as our mind whirs with the hundreds of things that have to happen in this next month. We, in our own humanness, begin to think that we have to do this all, in our own strength.

But, the truth is...it isn't something we can do.

Just like getting our school built and education programs running was not something we could do.

Just like building our 1st...and 2nd...and 3rd children's homes...and our guest house...and our missionary apartments...and our office...and our church...were not projects we had planned and fundraised for.  But God provided.

And we know this is true for all the big moves that are happening this month too.

God has us in such a place that if we even try to do it on our own, we won't be successful. We are in such a place of dependence that the only One we can point to for the things that will be accomplished in this season will be God alone. And we will look back and see Him all over this. 

So, I am practicing the art of descent. Because that is the only place where God, and God alone, can truly show up, in all of His power, and might, and love.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A few more favorites

As I have been thinking and remembering and getting refreshed this week, I thought I would include a few more of my loves that have been on my heart and mind a lot this week.  I hope you don't mind me celebrating a few more of those that I get to do life with!
Marilyn, this lady is one of my biggest supporters.  I mean, I have been absolutely encouraged by her friendship throughout the years that I have known her.  She is quick to listen, loves to spend quality time with me (my love language), and has given me such wise advice through the years.  This picture is of her and I in Morocco...I mean, how cool is that?  She is all things awesome and I'm so blessed by her friendship.

My girl Christy...I just love her oodles and oodles.  She is lovely and fun and I have loved our friendship!  I lived in her basement one summer and we were known for late night singalongs and laughter.  She came to Ghana in 2011 and that is where we really bonded, over strange experiences and sleepless nights. She joined me in Australia the next year for the adventure of a lifetime for my 30th birthday.  I just love her and the way that she keeps me involved in her life, the way she offers her support and encouragement, and the way that she loves all of us here in Ghana.  Miss this face!

My Gina--and her girl Elizabeth--I just love Gina!!  She was part of my Bible study group when I moved to the Bay and took over her room after she got married.  She is amazing.  She is smart.  She is a wonderful mama and wife.  And she is a dear, dear friend.  Gina, I love you!

Oh, this picture brings back the memories!  These were my roommates at the Ivy house when I moved there in 2008.  I love my Jilly Bean, my Jenni, and my Kirsten.  It's hard to believe how much life has changed and where God has brought us now.  But, as I've already talked about Jenni, I wanted to share about my Jilly and Kirsten.
Jilly is one of the wisest people I know and she knows how to listen.  She offers the wisest advice, loves absolutely beautifully, and I have loved getting to be loved on by her and her beautiful family.  It feels like an honor to know and be known by her.
And Kirsten, we partnered together over the summer ministry project in 2005 and 2006 and that difficult last summer bonded us forever.  This girl is a master--she is super creative, brilliant, and inspires so much creativity in me.  I love just jamming with her, our times of talking through young adult fiction, and the hours we spent in scrapbooking mode. 
Life has changed for all of us, but my love for you never will!

This picture was taken before I left for Ghana in 2010.  Tony has been my pastor, cheerleader, and has been witness to so many seasons of my life.  I have loved having the invitation to be known by his family, encouraged by his wife Wendy, grown under his leadership and wisdom, and blessed by his friendship. He is creative, grace-filled, and such an amazing teacher. His heart for prayer and issues of justice grew my heart for the same things. In so many ways, he is part of why I am here in Ghana.

And this picture is all for fun and laughs!  I mean, check us out!  That was...lets see...2001 or 2002??  Man, so many years ago.  And so many friendships in this picture.  But that girl right next to me, Jessica, she is a rockstar.  This girl has supported and encouraged me in so many ways and I am blessed by her friendship.  She is talented, beautiful, honest, and funny. 

"Summer" in Ghana

One of my favorite things about the August school break:

Usually once a week, we do s'mores (if we have the supplies), and then we gather around the fire, sing a few songs, and listen to a little message that God has laid on the heart of one of our staffer's. 

It reminds me of my childhood and summers at Camp Christian.  It reminds me of community and the sweet times of communion that came around camp bonfire time.  It reminds me of God's sweet grace that seems to just come on that much stronger at night. 

I love to watch the littles curled up on the laps of the bigs, as we all listen and dig in and relish God's love that seems to just flow over us from the fingers of fire we are gathered around.

We go home a little later those nights.  We all smell like smoke.  We are all a little sticky-fingered.  But, it is in those moments that I see God's love for children...and that's what they all are...children, given the chance to be children, and loved on purely and wholly. 

I love our little "summer"'s here.  So sweet.