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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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

There is a Mess in my Trunk

Years ago, I worked with the University that I had graduated from, Hope International University, to put together a women's conference.  We brought in my favorite author at the time, Angela Thomas.  She wrote a book years back that cultivated intense change in my life, Do You Think I'm Beautiful?.That change was so important, so apparent, that I knew, if I could just get her to come and speak, God would bring freedom to others as well.

That weekend was a beautiful weekend of grace-filled messages of love.  But, for some reason, there were a couple things that she said to us that stuck and over the years, I have continued to cling to those truths, being challenged to press in in different seasons.

One of the things she mentioned was that there are certain people you meet in your life that seem to overflow with wisdom and grace and love of God.  She said that you will know those people because when you simply bump into them, you get splashed with that overflow.  At the time, she was referring to my amazing mentor, Priscilla, who was exactly that.  I was blessed to be in the pathway of that overflow for years (and it still continues today, over 10 years later).

I remember when she gave that description, I thought, "That is who I want to be."  I wanted to spread that gooshy overflow of the love of God.  I wanted people to bump into me and experience grace.  I wanted people to desire to be near me because they knew that they would receive wisdom.  I wanted to walk in such close proximity with God, that it was apparent even in the slightest crossing of paths.  That overflow...oh, how I longed to swim in that place.  

I'm not there yet.  I'm not even close.  But, each day I'm given a new opportunity to be shaped and molded more into an image of Christ.  Each day is a chance to reflect Him more.  Each day is an opportunity to grow in His love, in His grace, in His wisdom.

The one other thing that Angela Thomas mentioned during her weekend at Hope all those years ago that has stuck with me was something to the effect of, "I know the state of my soul when I see the state of the trunk of my car."

I don't own a car anymore, but this phrase popped up in my memory this weekend as I was cleaning my house and I was shocked at the truth of it.

I tend to keep my living room fairly clean as I frequently have guests pop in to say hello or Stacy or Miriah stop by for a chat, a good game, or a workout session.  But, my bedroom and guest room are another story.  Recently, they've been off limits to visitors.  Inviting guests into those rooms would have been letting them in to examine my soul...and it was a very sad state.

For weeks, I had washed my clothes, pulled them from the clothes line, and then piled them up in the guest room "to be folded".  My floors went unswept.  My bed unmade.  Every flat surface was covered with something that just hadn't been put away.  It was cluttered...unkempt...even dirty.  I might be known to have the family curse of "empty surface syndrome", but dirty is not usually said of me.  This wasn't me, there was something more going on.

I just so happened to be hosting a Bible Study at my house Sunday Night and I realized that this just wasn't going to work anymore.  So, I turned on my music and began to clean.  And as I cleaned, I worshiped.  As I scrubbed my floors, I did some soul-searching.  I cleaned house...inside and out.

And I realized that what Angela had said all those years back was true.  I'd allowed the clutter of my life to build up--the lies of the enemy...the frustrations and fears...the insecurity...the dis-contentedness...the hurts and disappointments.  The places that I had cleaned out so long ago, they moved right back in.  I'd opened the door and allowed them space inside my head and inside my heart.  And it showed.  Internally and externally.

But, as I began to clean, a fresh breeze broke free.  The insecurities were folded up and put away...I didn't need to walk in them anymore.  The frustrations and fears were swept away.  The dis-contentedness was tossed out with yesterday's trash.  And suddenly, I could breathe again.  I felt more me.

And the thing I'm learning is that for this place to stay clean, it requires me to be proactive...to take initiative...to dig in deep.  The mess in my trunk doesn't go away if I don't work at it.

Honestly, for the past few months, I haven't wanted to work at it all that hard.  But, I think I'm finally getting back to that place.  I'm desiring depth.  I'm desiring more.  I'm desiring a walk with God that will overflow into that gooshy love, that gentle grace, that profound wisdom.  That kind of work happens over time, one day at a time, moment by moment--understanding first that gooshy love of the Father for myself, offering myself the gentle grace of a good God in times when I feel so weak, and accepting the profound wisdom of those who walk before me.

Let's walk this road together, splashing a little grace and love and wisdom onto the ones we walk in community with, knowing that we all have a little mess in our trunk from time to time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Quiet


I've found that I am incredibly comfortable with noise.

I live in an apartment by myself, but you will find that it is rarely quiet.  The background noise of the television.  The latest tunes blaring on my radio.  My phone frequently in my hand--instagram, facebook, gmail, youtube...all readily accessible at the touch of my fingers.

I've been reading this amazing book, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, a book that I read almost two years ago, but am now reading in community with my friends here.  I feel the call for depth in Ruth's words.  I sense the longing for more.  I want to be willing to turn off the noise and really begin to listen.

Lately, I've been feeling the call to a place of quiet.  Time away from everything that fills me with the noise that I am so comfortable with.

To be honest, I get anxious about even considering what turning off the noise might mean.

It means I might have to face what is really going on in me.

And I might not like what I see.

Or perhaps I will be challenged beyond what I know and am comfortable with...to stretch my boundaries once again.  Oh God, can't I just stay in my comfortable noise-filled space for now?

I don't want to be stretched.

But, yet, I also have this feeling like I can't stay in this noisy place much longer without some repercussions.  The noise drains away the motivation to engage, to inspire, to create, to relate to others well.  The noise takes over the ability to hear, to listen, to be filled.

The quiet...well...it has its own set of fears that go along with it...but I'm beginning to wonder if quiet is the answer.

A few weeks back, Stacy, Miriah, and I sat in a place of silence and I realized my mind couldn't shut off.  For five whole minutes of silence, it didn't stop, it didn't focus, it didn't slow down.  I was frustrated at the overwhelming speed of my thoughts.  The hundreds of things that I needed to get done in the week ahead.  The new song I was listening to just before blasted its lyrics into my consciousness.  There was no peace.  There was only confusion, unrest, and busyness.

I realized then that the noise had taken over.

And it was consuming the places of quiet that were provided for God to speak.  I couldn't hear because my mind was simply recalling the noise.

So, quiet must be a practice.  A continual practice.

I need less noise.  I need more quiet.

I need to practice this silence.

Because I need that ability to hear, to listen, to be filled to be restored.  I need the motivation to engage, to inspire, to create, and to relate to others well.

I am beginning to see that space for silence creates opportunities for me to not just connect to God, but to feel more "me" again.  It clears the noise and allows for my true self to be made known.

Scary as the silence may be, I'm finding that the noise is even scarier...it's trickier.  It pretends to fill, but can only go so far.

Facing myself, and God, in the silence, is where I am most whole.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You are Mine

Stacy, Miriah, and I have been reading Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms together.  We meet each Saturday and talk it through, listening to her teaching and putting into practice ways to connect with God in deeper and more intimate ways.

It has been like breathing again.

I have needed it.  This past season has been incredibly tough for me.  I disengaged so I could figure out how to cope.  But I feel like I am becoming more me again as I dig in deep to more of God.

A couple weeks ago, we sat in a practice session of Lectio Divina and Ruth read this passage over us, asking us to pull out a phrase or a word that we felt God was speaking:

Israel’s Only Savior

43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.

And just like that, I heard it.

You are Mine.


Instantly, with my eyes closed as we listened to the passage read over and over again, I had a picture of Jesus placing both of his hands on either side of my face, gently cupping my cheeks.  He looked into my eyes with such tenderness, such love and compassion.

"Autumn," he said, "You are mine.  Have you forgotten?  You are mine.  Don't walk with an orphan spirit anymore.  I have you.  You are mine.  You belong.  You are not forgotten.  I see you.  I know you.  You are mine."

This gentle picture has not escaped me.  It cannot be erased from my mind.  I think on it everyday.

Sometimes, I want to run to my old ways of thinking.  The places that say, "Escape".  Movies and books and withdrawal and mind-numbing introvertedness.

But, when you are known and loved and treasured and held...those places no longer make any sense. They don't fill.  They don't sustain.

I want to walk in that place of knowing I am His.  I want to stand in that assurance in every moment.  I trust that truth, even in the midst of my doubts and fears.

You are mine.


I would call this season of my life...obedience.

Transition has never been easy for me, and this transition has felt particularly challenging.  I have experienced deep loneliness, longing for something...someone...familiar, and have cried hard, frustrated tears.  I have spent endless hours wishing, hoping, and yes, even praying, for an opportunity to close my door here and return back to the States.

It sounds so harsh as I write it now...so ridiculously selfish.

There was nothing here, in my life here in Ghana, that was particularly challenging.  Our school was running smoothly, with capable staff at the helm.  My little apartment finally came together to look and feel like a home with furniture and decorations, a little haven in the chaos of life.  I met weekly for a women's Bible study, the same weekly meeting that we have been participating in for over 3 years (though many of the women have come and gone now!).  Nothing in particular had changed about my life here in Ghana, and yet, I longed...more than that...I craved life in the States.

That sense of being known.  The independence.  The comfort of access.  The understanding of culture.  Mostly, the people I love and miss.  That space of "home" that sometimes felt like it is just beyond my reach here.

Three of my friends got married in the month of October, two of whom I was supposed to be a bridesmaid in their weddings.  I was a part of their big days in so many ways...from Skype calls to popsicle stick faces...I was "there", but in the ways that it felt like it mattered, I wasn't "there".  I was a mixture of emotions.  Incredibly excited and distraught at the same time.  I asked God over and over again, "why"?  But, I felt as if it all fell on deaf ears.

This discontentedness settled in.   My heart was elsewhere, leaving me emotionally unable to be present here.

I spent one special afternoon, crying in my office with my friend NanaAma, sharing the pain of obedience to this calling on my life.

And it's true, isn't it?  Obedience is sometimes incredibly hard...even painful.

But, pain shapes us.  It's in this place where the real test of obedience comes.  Are we willing to walk in our calling even when it's hard?  Can we say yes when it doesn't feel fair?

I love the title of Eugene Peterson's classic, A Long Obedience In the Same Direction.

This life is a journey...it has its seasons that shape us--some bright and filled with sunshine--and others dark and dreary and cold.  But, it's that holding fast to, that persevering faith, that unwavering obedience that shapes this journey.

Almost six years ago now, I heard God tell me to come to Ghana.  It was clear as day, "Trust and Obey.  This is an issue of obedience."

Immediately, I gave my work notice I wouldn't be returning the next year and began the journey of fundraising and packing up my life and preparing to move to Ghana.  I remember feeling incredibly scared of the unknown.  But, it almost felt easy to say yes when I heard that call.

It is this long obedience that I am learning about now.

The continual yes.

The willingness to continue to walk in obedience, even when I don't know when I will return to the States, or see my family next, or even in the wondering if I will be able to complete the vision set before me.

The continual yes.

This long obedience is resurrecting old fears and insecurities and lies--and putting them to death again.  It is pulling out the places of pride and selfishness that I try to keep hidden and forcing them to be brought to the light.  It isn't comfortable and it isn't easy.

But, I'm realizing, more than ever, it is so good.

I don't have all the answers to my never-ending questions, and I am only beginning to see the end of this season of transition, but I am learning to trust more fully...more faithfully...and walk more vulnerably...more obediently...in this place.

And if I was given the chance again, the opportunity to come here all over again, to walk this road of long obedience, a continual yes...my answer would be the same.  Yes.  Yes, yes, and yes again.  Because even in the pain...in the hard...it is so good.  It is so worth it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I remember coming to Ghana with two suitcases, believing that one year was a huge commitment. And it was. It was a huge leap of faith.

I was moving to another country where I had never been before to live with a family that I had only briefly met before to work with children I didn't know and couldn't possibly comprehend the trauma they had experienced.

Within that first year, I started teaching, moved into a home with almost 40 people (most of them being children), started taking care of a baby, and suddenly, my life was not my own anymore.

I belonged with these kids. This CORM family had my heart. And even with all the  hard that were my first years at CORM, I came back knowing that I had somehow found my home here.

I remember going back to the States for Christmas in 2013. When I was making my rounds, I remember grieving like crazy . I felt like, somehow, I was finally choosing Ghana. I emptied out most of my storage items, leaving only a few boxes of books behind. I packed up 7 boxes and moved my life to Ghana. 

Just last year, we opened up our Missionary Apartment complex. They were ready right on time and every apartment was filled the week the building was completed. With the help of my boys, I sanded and filled and painted and washed and swept and mopped. And I moved into my own apartment. 

Having my own apartment has been such a joy. A place to withdraw. A place to be creative and get filled. A place to host. A safe place to welcome others in. 

Just this last week, my little apartment finally became my little home. I was ableto purchase  some furniture from some dear friends who were leaving Ghana and suddenly my little space became a haven. 

If you know me, you will see my heart and soul in my place now. With the people I love eagerly displayed, books and games finally finding a resting place, and my kitchen...oh my kitchen.

So, if you happen to find yourself in Ghana, West Africa and want to stop by for a cup of tea and some good conversation, I have the perfect space to recommend.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Not Alone

This morning, in our worship service, Pastor Dean reminded me of a truth that I think I had forgotten these past few months. 

He talked about our strengths and weaknesses, how Christ is in us, giving us strength to overcome our weaknesses. 

He asked us if any of us had ever felt lonely.

This has been the very force I have reckoned with continually over the last two months.


And when I looked around the room, I saw the hands of almost every person raised high. 

That sense of being alone...it follows everyone at one time or another.

And then Dean reminded us...Jesus has experienced all that we have, and loneliness, He really understood that. He took it with him to the cross. The ultimate sense of loneliness...completely forsaken but still following the call on his life.

I thought about some of he disciples, the apostle Paul...They experienced loneliness amidst the call on their lives. They experienced persecution and improsonment, shipwrecks and separation. 

I can't say I have experienced much of any of that, but I had this revelation in the middle of these thoughts. Jesus knew the most extreme loneliness on earth. He knew it and even in the middle of it, when he felt forsaken, he exhibited the love of the Father. Even in our darkest loneliness, we have that same love of the Father with us, in us, comforting us. 

We are not alone. Ever.

The enemy's tactic is to make us feel that we are the only one experiencing it, but the truth is that we are loved by an ever-present, all-loving, ever-encompassing God who isn't without understanding. He has been here too. And he knows loneliness. 

So perhaps in our loneliness, that is when he is closest.

I am pressing in to that today.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Transition and At Home


It has been an intense month.  It has been filled with many bittersweet tears.  It has been filled with aching loneliness.  It has been filled with the busy preparation for a new school year.  It has been filled with prayers and songs and desires. 

Transition is always incredibly difficult for me.  This time, I felt it was especially difficult.  I missed my family, my friends.  I missed that sense of being known to the very core of who you are.  I missed processing with my loved ones and being loved on in tangible and ever-present ways. 

I know that in some ways, this past month saw oppression, preparing to enter into the community in new and lasting ways through the hiring of ELEVEN new teachers, and preparing for vision-casting to a new staff of teachers who have been hand picked to teach and inspire and encourage and build up our students this next academic year. 

But, as I was talking to a dear friend the other day, I also think that it was a season of grieving what could have been and knowing what is. 

I love my live here in Ghana.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am called to it.  But, that doesn't change the fact that is can be very difficult.

In any case, I am finally feeling like I have reached the end of my "transition tunnel" and am out the other side with great hope for all that this year may hold.

This afternoon, some of "my girls" were over here helping clean up around my house.  Mary asked me to put on some music and I gladly conceded.  Before I knew it, Hannah was twirling around in the middle of my living room to Jenn Johnson's "In Over My Head" and I sat in wonder at my girl spinning on her toes, lifting her arms in praise, pouring out her worship before the Lord. 

And in that sweet moment, with such clarity, I felt this sense of relief...I am home.

Finally, after returning to Ghana and being here for almost two months...I finally feel home again. 

Friday, July 31, 2015


July 18, 2015--a day I will remember forever.  The sweetest moments.  The tender expressions.  The joy of seeing 8 of my students graduate...the first students to finish school at Faith Roots International Academy.  What an incredible gift to get to be a part of such a day of celebration.

I joined our graduates awhile before the ceremony, to prep them on what to expect and to help them with their graduation robes.

Hats were being fitted.
Laughter ensued.

Excitement buzzed in the air.

They were ready.

Our senior high graduates: Rosemary and Keliy

And our junior high graduates (one of whom needed particular help with his cap): Grace, Robert, Aaron, Stephen, Julius, and Gideon

John and Stacy came to join the preparation and posed for picture after picture with our grads.

But I got the real treat.  I had the joy and privilege of telling the story of Faith Roots and sharing the journey that these students have had with us here.  So, for the sake of history-in-the-making, nostalgia, and all that...today, I am sharing with you my graduation speech and along with that the incredible pride that I have in each of these students who have worked so hard to complete their education with us here.  Amazingly proud!
In 2009, I was teaching primary one in a school in the United States of America.  That year, I met Johnbull and Stacy Omorefe and heard their vision of creating a place for children to learn and grow in a safe, loving, Christ-centered environment.  That year, I heard God call me from my career in teaching, away from my family and friends and all that was familiar, to Ghana, West Africa.  Upon arriving in Ghana on July 28, 2010, almost 5 years ago, John and Stacy told me of their dream to start a school of their own.


And so, Faith Roots International Academy began.


City of Refuge Ministries moved from Community 5 in Tema to Doryumu in November 2011 to begin construction on the school and two houses, the start of the CORM Children’s Village.  Along with 3 other teachers, our 16 CORM children were taught in an uncompleted building in downtown Doryumu.


Among those first students were some of the very students graduating here today.  Rosemary, the most advanced student of the bunch, was taught independently starting a curriculum from the US for 8th grade, the equivalent of JHS2.  Robert, Grace, and Aaron were in my first class, learning the basics of reading and mathematics, we lived together in one house and worked together every day at school.    I was able to see incredible growth in the midst of that challenging environment.


In 2011, we opened the school building to the communities of Doryumu and Shai Hills, welcoming in over 100 students.  Our building didn’t have windows.  It didn’t have doors.  There was no running water or electricity at the beginning.  Gideon, Stephen, and Julius were part of that first class of Primary 6 students.  At the time, we had 10 Primary 6 students and 10 Primary 5 students.  Sir Justice bravely taught both classes while trying to master an American curriculum. 


I look at these JHS students sitting before me today in awe of all that they have accomplished.  They were challenged with a switch in school curriculum partway through their academic career with us and they have thrived under the challenge.  Some of them pushed themselves to learn a new language.  They spent hours upon hours studying.  They learned to express themselves in both speech and in their writing.  They have been leaders on our campus and we are both grateful and excited for what is ahead of them as they prepare to attend senior high school next year—all six of them!


I met Keliy Grobbelaar when she was a student in Primary 2 at a private school in the States.  In 2014, I met with her briefly on my travel back to the States and started a conversation that led to her decision to complete her senior high school here in Ghana while she served with City of Refuge Ministries.  I have seen her grow as a leader, be challenged in a new environment with very difficult circumstances, demonstrate the love of Christ in pure and beautiful ways, and I have seen the hand of God placed on her life as she ministered to many through her music.  Keliy and Rosemary were a joy to teach this year as they completed their senior high school credits this term, working endless hours on extremely challenging projects, learning mathematics that I haven’t practiced for over 15 years, and still maintaining time to complete hours of service to the school and to various projects around the City of Refuge Ministries campus. 


All of these graduating students have also been spiritual leaders on our campus, many participating in our first-ever discipleship program, Catalyst, leading Bible studies, times of prayer and fasting, and worship.  It is our great hope that their faith in Jesus Christ will be a force of change here in Ghana and around the world.  We look forward to see these world-changers in action in the years to come.


Today, it is my joy to see these graduates mark this academic milestone through words they have written and have chosen to share with you today.


I want to introduce to you the first graduate to speak to us today.  Gideon Doryumu has been a student at Faith Roots since its induction in 2011.  Gideon came out 1st in his class and we trust that his BECE scores will prove how hard he worked on his studies this year.  Gideon has plans to attend senior high school to study a visual arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Gideon Doryumu.

Next, I would like to introduce you to the 2nd in our JHS class and the only girl to graduate from our JHS this academic year.  Grace Yentumi has been with CORM since 2009.  She is a prolific writer and a beautiful singer.  She loves to laugh and emanates joy.  Grace has plans to attend senior high school to study a home economics course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Grace Yentumi.
Our next speaker, Stephen Ganyo, ranked 3rd in our JHS class.  Stephen joined Faith Roots when we opened to the community in 2011.  He has excelled in his classwork, showed his sense of humor in the many skits that he has been a part of, participated in cadets, and in 2013, became a part of the City of Refuge Ministries family.  Stephen plans to attend senior high school to study a business course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Stephen Ganyo.
I am privileged to introduce the next student, Robert Anane.  Robert is a young man with great passion.  He loves the Lord with all of his heart and willingly shares that passion with every person he interacts with.  He works hard to be successful and is full of courage in the way he approaches his life.  Robert plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Robert Anane.

Julius Benyarko is a young man with a life full of great promise.  At Faith Roots since 2011, he has proven himself both creative and energetic.  He was frequently known for engaging the classroom in lively discussions to the entertainment of his fellow classmates.  In all seriousness, Julius is eager to learn and his creativity is continually exemplified in his artistic and musical giftings.  Julius plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Julius Benyarko.

It is a pleasure to introduce to you our last JHS graduate, Aaron Brabi.  Aaron shows a love for learning, enjoying the art of the written word.  He loves to read.  Aaron has a heart for evangelism and his musical giftings are witnessed frequently as he leads worship in different gatherings.  Sometimes hidden, Aaron’s sense of humor comes out in skits and in his dancing.  His dance skills are the highlight for any dance competition.  Aaron plans to attend senior high school to study a general arts course.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Aaron Brabi.
The first of our senior high graduates, Keliy Grobbelaar left her home in North Carolina in January of 2015 to attend Faith Roots International Academy, complete her senior high school requirements, and serve in ministry with City of Refuge Ministries.  Keliy’s gentle spirit was a great asset to the ministry as she served with our Thrive program, led in worship with our Refuge Worship teams, participated in our Catalyst program, participated in outreach, and served our children in the crèche.  Though Keliy is still uncertain with what the near future will hold, she plans to look for schooling in the States that would help equip her for a return to the mission field, and our hope would be an eventual return to ministry with CORM here in Ghana.  Keliy’s family could not be present today, so the following words are for her from them:
"Keliy, we are so proud that you are graduating and we are heartsore today that we can't share this moment with you. From everything I have heard about CORM I'm sure it will be another reason to PARTY !!! Who would have thought that you would start high school here in North Carolina with 3000 kids & end up graduating in Ghana surrounded by a whole new family …His ways are definitely higher than ours.    
Keliy, you have had a love for Jesus from early in your life and you have loved His voice.  You have always been sensitive towards Jesus leading and we know He will continue to lead you.
We pray for more of Jesus for you so that when you find Him as a buried treasure in a field, you won't mind selling everything to buy the field that many overlook -Matt 13:44
Well done precious one…we can't wait to see you.
Much love,
Dad & Mom"
Ladies and Gentlemen, Keliy Grobbelaar.

The last of our graduates to speak this evening is Rosemary Omorefe.  Rosemary is exceptionally brilliant.  She has worked independently for many years on curriculum that is both challenging and unfamiliar, using curriculum from America.  Rosemary has excelled in all areas, showing a great interest in Anatomy and Physiology and a growing desire to enter into the field of medicine in the future.  She has shown great growth in her writing abilities and enjoyed demonstrating her creativity through personal writings.  Rosemary will take a year off of school to begin to prepare for University.  She will be taking the opportunity to serve in ministry. I know that in the years to come, we will be able to look at Rosemary for the amazing work she will do in this world.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Rosemary Omorefe.


 We weren't short on tears that day.  Every speech, every story, every thank you was a reminder of how far we have all come.  It was emotional and beautiful and filling...filling to overflowing.

Smiles all around.

And dancing...of course there was dancing.

And afterwards...paparazzi!

Our amazing graduates.  Incredibly proud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It's been awhile...

It's been a long time since I have sat down to blog. After a year a half, I traveled back to the States for a little rest and connection time with the many family and friends who I love and miss so much in my life here in Ghana.

It was such a wonderful trip home. I loved my time.

Now, being back in Ghana, I have jumped right back into life, preparing for our graduation celebration and the final week of school with exams and report cards and all that comes with the end of a school year and preparing for the one to come.

But in the midst of it all, there is so much I have been processing and thinking through and praying about and desiring to hear from God on. I am sure I will share some of those thoughts...that journey...with you here. 

But for now, I rest in the place that God has called me to. My home here in Ghana.

In many ways, returning felt as if I had never left. I feel like I always hit the ground running. 

But, sitting here tonight, with my worship music on and my cup of hot tea, I am missing my Keliy-girl. The familiar laugh. The depth of conversation. The times when she would pick up her guitar and lead on. 

Tonight, I am missing my friends. I am remiscing about New York City, and laser tag, and Indian curry under the stars. I am thinking about the voices of the many littles in my life who I get to love from afar, the little white hands that held mine. I often stared in wonder at those little fingers as I was so used to my little brown babies here. Tonight, my heart is a little sore for those friends who have known me well and loved me well and encourage me onward. 

Tonight, I am missing my family. The operatic voices sung out over a stilted piano accompaniment, the laughter and the tears, the conversations of such depth, the knowing that even in the moments of the most revealing frustration and sadness, I am loved.

Tonight, I guess I am just missing my homes in the States. 

The cost of being called here to Ghana sometimes feels so emotionally expensive.

I know that tomorrow, in the light of day, it will all feel normal again. But, for now, just in this moment, I am a little melancholy.

But, I suppose that's when you know that what you experienced is good and lovely and lasting...because you mourn its passing. I'm ok sitting in that place tonight.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting Ready to Go

My friends...it's been awhile.

It's not on purpose that I have been so silent here, but...time.  Time is always the problem these days.

It has been a busy season.  I feel like this past month has almost been a time of birthing something new.

A couple nights ago, I couldn't even wrap my mind around the list the laid before me.  A couple well spoken words and the list was delegated out until it was more manageable, and here I am tonight, reflecting and considering all that lies before me.

I sit here tonight, listening the crickets chirping around me, the voices of the languages that I have yet to learn, the pounding of the drums coming from the boys house just down the street, and I recognize that I am home here.

This year has been groundbreaking for our ministry.  I feel like we have stepping into something new and sweet and challenging and good.  In all of that space, it is still hard.  Because relationships are hard and messy and not clear cut. 

But, more than anything, I have seen more and more, that God is calling us into a place of deeper restoration.  I have seen us walk out shorter accountability.  I have been a part of calling up, speaking out, moving forward. 

This season has been so sweet.

Last night, I was given the privilege of speaking into our kids and staff for our Bible study time before I leave for the States.  I began to reflect on the amazing gift I have been given to know these kids and know them well.  For most of them, I was here long before they came.  For some, I came only shortly afterwards.  I have lived with them.  I have heard their fears.  I have shared in their tears.  They have seen the hard and messy and ugly parts of me...and I have seen their hard and messy and ugly parts too.  And when I think back to my DK...my Abigail...my quiet Aaron...my feisty Mary...my sneaky Benard...my Dora...my Florence...all I can see is restoration.  I think of where they have come from and where they are going.  All I can see is restoration.  Oh, this season is so sweet.

I leave tomorrow to the States.  It has been the longest that I have stayed in Ghana without a trip home.  There have been times when I have called home in tears...I have been tired and worn out and so in need of a break.  But, oh, in the midst of that, I seen such goodness.

I have seen how our worship has deepened and the collective roots of faith are beginning to sink down into His love.

I have seen how grace is beginning to transform relationships.

I am seeing how vulnerability is beginning to shape the culture and we are discovering that secrets can't be held here.  Freedom is desired and expected and a right of each and every person, no matter the age.

Whenever I travel to the States, I usually try to identify a couple of good stories that I can tell over and over again, that really shares the dreams and vision of CORM and the amazing work that is being done here. 

To be honest, it's going to be hard to narrow them down this time. 

Even in leaving, I recognize that, while I feel so much more at peace than any other time that I have ever left before; I actually have a team that I know can manage my work without me; I also feel so much more connected to this place.  More and more of me is finding it's way into the red dirt soul of this land, of its people, of this sweet place.

I'm excited to share the tales.  To share the vision.  To share this work of restoration happening here in Ghana.

I'm excited to stand face to face with my loved ones back in the States and talk and love on each other and laugh and catch up. 

But, even in the excitement that can hardly contain itself, in the getting ready to go...I sense the rooting here.

In Malvin's hugs first thing everyday.

In the shouts of "Auntie Autumn" as I walk through this place.

In gentle touch of a friend as they pray for me.

In the hours of time logged in front of the microphone with my Keliy and the rest of the team.

I am known here.  And the getting ready to go is also a process of getting ready to leave.

I know that same process will happen when I am preparing to return back here to Ghana in just a couple of months.

Sometimes, I tell Keliy that hard that is being a missionary in a land so far away.  This is just one of those hard things.  The coming and the going.  The constant state of goodbye.  The pieces of your heart you leave wherever you go.

Goodbye Ghana.  Hello U.S. of A.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Refuge Worship

Keliy and I have been talking about recording some music for quite some time. I have wanted to get our music put together for a "live" album to bring back with me when I go home. But, time...

There is never enough time. 

But, I am on break now. It's a busy break, filled with making plans for the time away and working on our yearbook. Oh, the never ending work of this place!

But, we set up our house the other day and started laying down some tracks. It's exciting to see this come to life. And I can't wait share our hearts with people in the months to come.

Refuge Worship, a live worship album, coming your way!

Our Ghana home recording studio, mattresses over the windows and everything.


UuMy sweet friends Serena and Drew came to visit last week.

I met Serena my first year of teaching in East Palo Alto. We had all just started teaching and we were in for a surprise that year. My first year teaching there was met with many tears and frustrations and I wondered if I was cut out for this teaching thing. 

My second year, Serena and I started a little prayer group that met in my classroom once a week before school started. I had no idea that that sweet time of prayer would build a friendship of mutual respect, love, laughter, support, and encouragement through the years.

We saw each other through a lot of seasons. Both the dark ones and the ones filled with all kinds of light.

Serena is one of those people you feel honored to know. She holds tightly to her passions, her love for the Lord, and encourages others to walk in them with her.

When I met Drew, he taught PE and was our behavior specialist at our school. When Serena told me that they were dating, I felt nothing but joy for her. This man is simply good. He is such a good man and desires such goodness for those around him.

Serena and I have talked about her (and her hubby, Drew) coming to visit for such a long time, it was a dream come true for all of us. 

And yet, her and Drew literally came on my busiest week of the year so far. I mean, run around, lose sleep, pull your hair out, crash when you hit the pillow, kind of crazy week. I felt terrible as they had traveled so far to see CORM, to see me, to love on our kids, and I probably spent all of a hour with them the whole week.

Here is the thing with friendships such as this, they make you feel incredibly honored to have them a part of your life. These two served without any expectations and with such passion and dedication. There was nothing I could say to express my deep love and gratitude, but simply that I was so honored. And I know that those who got to meet them, they felt so honored because these two overflow with so many sweet and wonderful gifts. 

Serena and Drew did a few murals in our office!

I am excited to see them when I come home to the States in my upcoming trip, to speak over them the gift that they were during their time here and how honored I am to call them my friends.

I am so blessed.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Some days...

Some days it rains.

And you spend the day in your pjs watching movies.

And you need to cook chili for the campus and warm them up.

And wear a hoody.

Even when it seems rediculous...we still get cold here after a good rain.


Sunday, April 5, 2015


I am certain that one of the sweetest gifts in this world is friendship. It is one of those gifts that can't be understood with numbers, runs deeper than blood, and heals the heart as almost nothing in this world can.

My sweet friend, Kat, just left Ghana after spending a little over a week with us here.

We were looking through pictures from our college days, admiring our short, crazy hairstyles, and choice of clothing. We reminisced about our road trip to Prescott, Arizona. We caught up on each other's families. We laughed at a million things together. We worshipped. We danced. We talked until late in the night. We prayed for each other and shared tears over the hard things in life (or should I say the "heart" things of life?).  We celebrated with the sweet moments like hugs from our littles, desperately needed organization, our Thrive girl's tea party, Katty meeting her sponsored child, washing the feet of these kiddos, speaking out the many ways God has moved here at CORM over these years. 

It was incredibly special.

I watched her sometimes, while I was busy catching up on my 50+ emails, or working with a kid, or chatting with a staff member It was so surreal to have her here, yet she remains the woman of beauty that I have always known, chatting with our staff, making people feel loved and included and known, sharing her pictures of Zeke and her husband, Isaiah, with everyone that was willing to watch. In fact, some of our kids even had her videos memorized by the time she left, asking her at dinner each night for the video of Zeke walking 2 steps or the video of him laughing with his daddy. She loves to share her life. 

I was just so grateful to have my worlds collide. For others to get to experience the wonder of friendship that I have known in Kat these past 15 years.

And while I was so sad to see her go this morning, I was incredibly grateful for the time, knowing the sacrifice of leaving her little one, her husband, completely trusting God for full provision. And I know, that I know, that I know, that her visit here only strengthened our friendship, only widened our circle, only deepened the level of love and trust.

Somehow, I have discovered the best of friends are the ones that stretch across the miles and the time and never let the distance get in the way of the love.  Whether they "come" physically to touch and see and feel and smell and taste, or whether they "come" with words of encouragement and prayers and the sweetest updates from back home, I am blessed with some pretty amazing friends.

Today, I am incredibly grateful for their presence in my life. They make all the difference.

Monday, March 30, 2015


I'm not quite sure I can find the words.

How do you describe something supernatural with words that are so human? I feel limited, somehow.

The ordination ceremony was beautiful and celebratory and intense and rich and deep and full, all at once.

I feel like I should be able to describe the service for those unable to be there to witness it, but I don't know if I could really capture it for you.

The joy of the praise, of lives set free dancing before the Lord.

The move of the Spirit in worship, laying ourselves down before a most Holy God.

Apostle Judy Shaw and her words of encouragement over us, calling us to be true sons and daughters to our Father, to our calling, and to this ministry.

The ordination charge, calling us to lives of service. Bishop Joseph McCargo made it clear that being called to a life of pastoring is like signing our own death certificate, daily choosing to lay down our lives for the sake of Christ, for the sake of others, for the Kingdom.

But, it was the laying on of hands that I am finding it a challenge to explain.

The words spoken over me.

The emotion of the moment.

The depth and filling, that perhaps even more than "couldn't", it shouldn't be explained.

There are some things that are just too sacred...moments of such richness that words can't contain...sweet and powerful and "bring you to your knees" goodness.

So, I sit, without words, but knowing that for me, ordination was an equipping for what was ahead. And I can rest in that. I can be confident in the spiritual equipping that was poured down.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Called Up

Stacy and John mentioned, almost in passing one day, "Do you want to be ordained as a pastor?"

It took me by surprise.

Titles don't mean a thing to me. In fact, I am someone who avoids things like this.

When I first began to lead worship in prayer gatherings in the States, I loved it because I could sit in the back of the room, lead, and usher others into the Presence. It didn't require me to be front and center. 

And when I moved here to Ghana, I was good for the first year because I taught my little class of students and I knew how to teach, so I was completely comfortable with that calling.

In those places, I felt confident. I felt in control. I felt equipped. I felt knowledgeable.

But, God never leaves us in places where we are comfortable. He desires us to grow. To be stretched. 

And before I knew it, I was the principal of this school in Ghana. I didn't know anything about school administration. I didn't know anything about teacher training. I definitely didn't know anything about running a school in Ghana! I felt completely out of my depth. 

But that was where I needed to be, because if I knew what I was doing, I would have been tempted to take the glory. But this school, it had nothing to do with me. God did it. 

And as I now operate as a director, I can still stand firm in that sentiment...God is doing it. If you only knew how many times a week I think to myself, "What am I doing?", "How will I do this?", "I have no idea what I am doing."...you would wonder why I am still here. But I am here because I know God called me to go, and I am here because I was obedient to His call on my life. I am here because God has gifted me with something that I have to pass along to my fellow teachers, to these students, to my kids.

And now, I lead a worship team on an almost weekly basis...and God is doing it. If you knew how many times I have thought to myself, "I am not as musically gifted as her.", "He sings and plays with such confidence.", "I can't lead with authority like her.". I cannot do it in my own strength. I have to push myself to get better on my guitar, get better vocally, be on the forefront of whatever worship is new out there now, and be willing to learn songs in new languages and lead them with confidence.

It is a constant state of growing. Of stretching.

I keep envisioning a lizard and how they grow, shedding their old skin and leaving it behind so they can stretch out even more.

When we walk with God, we are like that too. 

So, when Stacy asked me about being ordained as a pastor, my first response was surprise. My first reaction was uncertainty. Honestly, I felt like maybe it wasn't necessary, like I didn't fit the description.

The past two days, we have been undergoing teachings on pastoral ministry with Apostle Judy Shaw and Bishop McCargo, who came to Ghana to do our ordination ceremony. More than anything else, the overwhelming definition of a pastor is not just someone who preaches or evangelizes. A pastor is a servant-leader, someone who exemplifies Jesus, and loves people purely and wholly with the love of the Father and trains and equips those around them to walk out their own callings.

I'm not a preacher (though I would say I have grown in my ability to teach Biblical truth), and I'm not an evangelist (I love the one on one so much more than crowds of people), but I do get servant-leadership. I do get attempting to exemplify Jesus to the world. That, I understand and can try to walk in. I understand how to train and build up and equip.

And today, I realized, that this calling on my life, it is pastoral. I have been "pastoring" here for the past five years, whether I wanted the title or not. And there is something happening here at CORM, a spiritual "calling up", and I can't stay comfortable in what I have known. My skin is too tight. God wants me to break free and walk out the new authority He is placing on me.

So, this Sunday, I am being ordained as a Pastor.

And I am trusting that as I begin to walk out this new calling in my life, He will continue to expand me, stretch me, grow me. Call me up.