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, January 26, 2015

Ghana Time

 After almost five years here, I have very few "Ghana-moments" where I feel like I am so completely out of the loop or different or foreign these days. Well, the other day, I felt just that.

As the "proprietor" of Faith Roots International Academy, I am occasionally called to district meetings. Last Thursday was one of those days. Since our oldest kids are getting ready to take the B.E.C.E., a national standardized test required after JHS3 (or 9th grade) and a requirement before going on to senior high school, we were certain that the meeting must have been information all about that.

First of all, we arrived 15 minutes late, only to find that no one was there yet. I know I should be used to Africa-time, but seriously...the meeting started an hour and a half late. And the whole purpose of the meeting was to go over a 14 page document that would give them the current stats of our school, a form we have completed each year since the school's inception.

After arriving at 9:15 and waiting until 10:30 for the meeting to start, I left the meeting at 1:00 pm...no break, no water, no electricity. We were only on page 9 at that point. 

Page 9. Painfully going through each point of this statistics form until I felt like every limb was numb from the hard benches we were sitting on.

And when I got up to leave, the obvious white lady in the midst of a crowd of Ghanaian-school leaders,  I felt so out of place, so completely other.

Sometimes, I wonder if there will ever be a stop to the new and different and foreign feelings that come living here in Ghana. 

Sometimes, I am so glad for the wonder of the newness.

Other times, I crave the timeliness and knowing that somehow, I fit in, those feelings of home that being in the States brings.

Oh, the joys of living cross-culturally.


The Spirit and the Bride

Early in January, we led a weekend workshop for some of our staff and kids about worship. For me, it was almost the culmination of years of waiting. 

Since 2010, I have led worship during our Sunday gatherings here at CORM. When I first started, it was challenging, knowing that many didn't understand the words and I wasn't sure how to engage this    different culture with their drums and off-beats and dancing. My home church was quiet and structured and had a feeling of sameness to it each week. This was an all-new experience. 

So when we moved to the children's village in 2011, I backed away from leading, instead opting to have the staff and kids lead. I joined in the dancing, despite my lack of understanding in the local language songs, and lack of rhythm. I clapped and laughed and loved my time hearing the joyous music of praise.

This last year, I took up my post again in our worship gatherings, and would lead worship times after we had all been danced and drummed out. For awhile, it felt so rote. I pulled to engage our kids and staff in the songs that came from my heart language...the Chris Tomlin...the Jesus Culture...the Hillsong...the Kari Jobe...the Bryan and Katie Torwalt...and all the rest. At times, it felt like I was singing solos up there. A few songs seemed to stick with the kids, so those ones showed up more often than naught.

And then, Dean and NanaAma and their family came to join us here at City of Refuge Ministries as Directors of Campus Ministries. And suddenly, we were revitalized and encouraged. It felt fresh and exciting! Our worship gatherings were filled with shouts of "Hosaaaaaanna" when the Spirit of God began to move. And I knew that we were in for a new level of the Presence of the Lord on our campus. 

So, when we conducted our weekend workshop, all spearheaded by NanaAma, we planned out such great lessons of truth for our staff and kids. She had recieved a vision for a movement of worship, bringing in the Kingdom of God in a powerful and deep way. We taught on the new covenant we have through Christ, the Tabenacle, intimacy with Christ, prayer and intercession, the movement of the Holy Spirit, and so much more. It felt rich and deep and beautiful. And then we came together and planned the worship for the weekend. We gathered around mics, sang with all passion, danced, and drummed, and celebrated, and praised, and pressed in.

And that Sunday night, it was our first gathering of The Spirit and the Bride, the name God gave to NanaAma for this movement of worship...because isn't that what worship is all about...the Spirit of God ministering to the Bride, His Church. (Oh, that picture is so powerful. That passionate lover of a God, pursuing us, His Bride, wooing us to Himself, longing for intimacy, for us to fully know Him so that we can fully know ourselves as we were created to be.). That first night, I led the team. It was my first actual experience leading a worship team. Despite my bravado, I was nervous, but there is nothing to fear when God shows up. And He really showed up. I opened my eyes occasionally to see how God was moving and saw worshippers (of every size) on their knees, jumping with hands raised high, in postures of surrender. God moved and it was unreal.

The past few weeks, we have had multiple teams leading the worship times and have seen God move, but last night, He came again with such power, it rocked us all!

NanaAma led this week and I went through these weird stages of insecurity throughout the whole week. Keliy, who is here with us for the next 6 months and staying with me in my little house, is an amazing vocalist and musician and I felt continually challenged by her musicianship. NanaAma is a powerful leader and I felt challenged by her. And Sunday night, we started off a bit rocky and wouldn't you know it, but the second song in, a string on my guitar broke. And the fourth song in, another string broke. And somehow, that simple thing took away my worry on playing the right chords and singing the right notes, and allowed me to lay it all down to say, "God, it's all for you." And He came and moved and didn't stop moving. We could hardly stop when our ending time came along. We wanted to keep pressing in. We wanted more of God. We sang and danced and jumped around and shouted our praise (and partly jumped around to avoid the rain of bugs flying in our faces and down our shirts) until far past time, and when we stopped, all we could do was breathe...

The Spirit of God so desires relationship with His Bride. I love watching His pursuit of Her. I love being a part of ushering Him in in all His glory. And He's changing me in the midst...reminding me of who I am and that I have so much more in me to share than what I limit myself to. He's changing us, because now we are seeking His face together in unity. And unity is an incredible, incredible gift. And we just know that soon, very soon, He will be changing our community, because how can it stay the same when the weight of His glory rests in such a way.

I have a sense that even after five years of living and doing ministry here, we are just seeing the beginning. It's unfolding in new and surprising ways. And in this season, we won't be satisfied with what was expected before. 

We want more.

And He is showing up to bring restoration to His Church. 

It's just the start.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pursuers of Restoration

There is a lot going on out here lately. There isn't much I can say about some of the adventures in front of us, but it seems one word keeps finding itself in the center of every conversation.


Oh God, that we may be pursuers of restoration.

One of our campus directors, NanaAma, said in last weeks directors meeting, "Restoration can be so practical."

That simple statement really made me think. 

Her statement had followed a conversation with one of our kids, pulled into our office to discuss behavior problems. We spoke about her identity as a daughter of a Great King. She is a princess. As a princess, she has every right and privelege of a princess. She can see her value through the eyes of the King, who would do anything to protect her, to show his love, to care for her needs, to honor her, to encourage her towards his plans and purposes. 

She hid her face, embarrassed by the attention, but as I watched, I saw her sitting up taller, taking ownership of the words spoken over her.

Today, I had one on ones with some of my staff. Every conversation, I asked if they felt like God had laid on their heart any of the values we have being discussing with them around here on a weekly basis. One of my teachers spoke up immediately--passion. She spoke about how she felt like she went through a few seasons where she had lost her passion. She had lost herself. And she feels like God is restoring her her passion...for music...for children...for her relationship with the Lord. And then we talked about the power of redemption, that God's desire is always to restore. And He is using those restored places in her life to bring about passion and restoration in the lives of others. Recycled redemption.

Redemption is so practical. 

You see the places that need restored. You speak into those places and pray over those places and pour love into those places...and you trust that God will restore and in the end, that restoration will be passed down to the next person needing hope.

Oh God, that we may be pursuers of restoration. That we will see a staff restored to Gods identity and that they would recycle their redemption into the lives of those they minister to on a daily basis.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Littles

In September of 2014, we moved our whole 7 Continents program here to the children's village. Moving five single ladies and all their kids had its share of challenges, stress, and worry. But, their arrival and big move into our Reemed House made it all worth it. One of the mamas sank down onto her new bed, almost swimming in the breadth of it, and sighed, telling John it was the first time she's ever had a bed with a mattress. She was full of smiles and giggles, almost childlike, and John said that it was worth it just for that one moment.

But there have been hundreds of moments that have followed that have made this move worth it.

Showing these ladies what True Love looks like, they have embraced the culture of love here at CORM and are probably our most grateful residents.

They have pressed in to learn new sewing skills, growing in their literacy, but perhaps the greatest moments of joy have come in our Bible Studies and one on one sessions wth them, seeing them freed from their pasts and beginning to fully grasp God's love for them. There have been lots of healing tears and moments of soul wonder. It's been such a beautiful thing to witness.

For me, the littles that came along with their mamas have been a highlight. They seem to have brought an added measure of light to this place. They bring their giggles and their hugs and their little tantrums, but even in those, I see the love of our Father. Our Malvin and Joel and Edwin and Justice have stepped up as big brothers, graciously watching out for them and loving on them as older brothers do. 

Our little Mercy, brought to us in May after being abandoned, has grown leaps and bounds, challenged to keep up with her little peers. 

I think of how we are striving for family preservation, and watching these mom's press in and learn and grow and love...and all I see is JOY! These littles are learning all about love and they will grow up to be leaders who fully understand what love is...pure joy!

Looking at the year ahead and our 2015 theme, Arise and Shine, these guys are so much a part of that vision. They are so much of the light in this place. And may God continue to brighten and expand His light through them.

Sarah and Joyce giving loves to each other

Smiles and silly faces

Hi friends!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Each year, December arrives with a change in the weather. The skies fill up with a cloud-like covering, hiding the hills nearby behind it all. Dust from the Sahara desert comes and sits in our air. Usually, the covering brings a drier heat, the nights cooling down and the grasses drying up. While we enjoy a break from the humidity, harmattan brings with it a certain desolation. We burn our bushes which sends the snakes and mice running to other nearby fields. It looks barren, the usual lush surroundings the majority of the year brings.

This year, the harmattan is heavy. The dust that fills the air covers everything in our homes with layers of gray. The nights suddenly drop to the high 60's, cold for us who are used to lows in the 80's. Lips are chapped, throats constantly parched, skin is dry, and colds abound. By the end of the day, our eyes are dry and we are required to shower, not because we are coated in sweat, but because we are coated in a film of dust. 

This is my first year experiencing the full harmattan, though I've heard that it is the heaviest one in decades. What a year to stick around!

Our view of Shai Hills

The dreary view of the Harmattan

The dust-filled sky 

The harsh heat arrives in February, so while the dust requires a daily wipe-down of everything in my house, I am happy to wait it out in all the dust because I know the next season is my least favorite one...hot, hot, hot.