My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

Can you believe it? I just spent my FIFTH Thanksgiving in Ghana. Sometimes, it's hard to even imagine that I have been here that long. But, as I was skyping with my family on Thursday, I commented on that and my brother said, "Yes, I can believe it. You have been gone a long time."

Sometimes, I feel like time is only passing for me. Time flies here. I look at my little babies back home, my friend's kids or my little nephew, or even my younger brother and sister, and I see so much change. But it still doesn't feel as though it's been five years.

My first Thanksgiving, we lived in downtown Doryumu. 40 of us. In one house. With no running water. It was a miracle year! We grew as a family and we grew as a ministry. That year, for Thanksgiving, we rented a stove to cook everything. Thinking my turkey would take 6 hours to bake, we stuck it in the oven in the early hours of the morning, finding it basically turned into turkey jerky by the time we woke up to check on it. My gravy wouldn't thicken. My stuffing was mushy. But, wow! That year was a beautiful celebration with our whole Ghanaian family and the kids performing dances and songs. 

The next year, we were still living in downtown and preparing to move out to our houses at the Children's Village. Electricity wasn't installed yet, but we were moving! It was the first year our school was up and running and we cooked all the fixings! Our Ghanaian school families also prepared so much food. We laughed and ate until we were full. The turkey got gobbled up by all of our families and us Americans laughed as they frowned and shook their heads at the mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes. 

In 2012, Kathy and Emily and Holly were with us, along with a team of volunteers from Australia.  We decided against the American holiday shared with all of our school families as it was so expensive to purchase foods that they didn't enjoy. Instead, we did an American Thanksgiving that Thursday and followed it up on Friday with our regular anniversary celebration (and lots of rice). That year, we started a lot of new traditions. Chicken noodle soup on Wednesday evening, a special treat around here. Cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving morning. And then all the fixings and the family and the music that evening for dinner.

Last year, our Australian friends joined us again for Thanksgiving, along with much peeling of potatoes and kitchen laughter! All of our missionary friends from the area came to join us as well. I was living in the Guest House at that time, so we did most of our preparing together on the big middle counter in that house. We laughed and chatted and had so much fun! Little did we know that it was the last Thanksgiving we would share with several of those families, as they transitioned back home this year.

This year, our Thanksgiving went beautifully! Pies were almost all finished the night before. The pumpkins were in the oven by 6:30 that morning and by 11, the dinner was all prepped, it was only coordinating oven times for the two turkeys, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, squash, and mashing the mashed potatoes. It was so fun to inaugurate my new kitchen on Thanksgiving day with turkey #1! By 5:30, dinner was served with several local missionary families coming to join us and, of course, our many amazing Ghanaian staff. It was so well timed, I even got a break to rest in the afternoon! 

Stacy whipped up the meringue by hand!

And Friday, we celebrated City of Refuge's 8th Anniversary with our annual Thanksgiving Love Feast. It was a blessing to see our kids share all that they are thankful for, to see our cadets march, and our choir sing. It was a beautiful day!

Our choir sings to welcome everyone

Our littles share their thanksgiving praises

Our cadets prepare for inspection

I am in awe of all that has changed in the past five years. 

*from 19 kids to almost 60 children at CORM
*from 16 homeschooled kiddos to 250
*from a staff of 8 to a staff of almost 80
*from no running water in one small house to running water, electricity, and not 1, but 4 children's homes, and 4 apartments, and an office building, and a guest house, and a pure water factory, and...the list goes on and on! 

God has been so faithful and the only place to stand is in Thanksgiving.

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