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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Saturday, February 28, 2015


It's the hot season.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself, "Hey, self, remember back to 2012 when you had no electricity out here at the children's village, and you survived? Remember? If you made it through then, you can make it through now."

You might have heard of Ghana's electricity crisis. In most places, the power is supplied for 24 hours and then turned off for 12. We are lucky out here at the children's village. It's 24 hours on and 12 off. I have to give myself that pep talk every time our 12 hour stint begins.

This season is not just hot, it's also humid. Temps veer towards 100 degrees each day and the humidity just makes it even hotter! The nights cool down to a cool 85 degrees. With a fan, it's bearable, but without, it can be a sweaty mess of a night that may or may night require a midnight cool-down shower.

Today, Stacy and I went into Accra to look for fabric for some new 7 Continents designs. I always enjoy days off with Stacy, exploring and having new adventures. We went into Teshie this morning to visit a batik factory. Today, they weren't applying wax, but were just completing the dyes and drying the fabrics. We met with the lady about special orders and she even offered to come out and meet our ladies and teach them the art of batiking. It was so cool! We sat in plastic chairs in the shade of a large tree as we haggled for prices, compared colors, and discussed samples and designs.

Then, we went to the woman's house to look at other options of fabrics that she had completed. Stacy laughed with the ladies, counting up yards of fabric with her very broken Twi. I just love her.

Afterwards, we went to a couple shops to pick up fabric to complete our designs. And then, it was out to eat at a smoothly shop in Osu. So delicious and refreshing.

Today was incredibly hot.

I think I literally sweat buckets.

On the way home, we were stuck in traffic for almost three hours. I fell asleep, but kind of that dazey  sleep where you aren't completely gone. I was sweating too much for that. Sweat literally dripping down my chin onto my shirt as I slept. (And need I mention that awkward mouth-open sleep thing that happens when you are sitting up and attempting to sleep?)

When I finally woke up and then arrived home, my pants were two different colors, dry on the front and wet on the back.

Oh, what a day!

But, even in this crazy heat, I love days like this. Time with my friend. Time to see a bit of Ghana and be reminded that I actually live in another country and not just my own little CORM world.

Right now it's a hot, hot life here in Ghana...but despite the heat (and the fact that I can't seem to wear enough deodorant to make it through the day), I love my life here.

(Also, as a side note, incredibly thankful for air conditioning in restaurants. It's just the best after a long hot morning in the sun and car rides that seem to never end.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All the Letting Go


About a year ago, I heard that word for the first time.

Websters defines it as this:

"A reduction in the number of employees or participants that occurs when people leave because they resign, retire, or are not replaced."

But, I think the second definition is directly tied to the first.

"The act or process of weakening and gradually defeating the enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time."

Being a missionary is challenging. Living in another culture is not easy. There is never a time that you will be completely understood. It can be isolating. It can be frustrating. You may feel lost and alone. You may feel as if you are navigating through an entirely different world.

There are also amazing privileges to being a missionary. You meet amazing people with amazing hearts. There is such life-giving joy in the "work" that you do. You will laugh (and cry) more than you ever have before. You will experience the sweetest gifts of hospitality, love, and generosity. It makes it all worth it!

But, there can be this gentle process of weakening, a gradual defeat, that comes in the form of constant attacks and continued pressure over time. This is especially challenging for missionaries who are facing the day to day hardships of living life in another culture, the 24/7 constancy of it all, and whose primary support systems are typically located in the country that they are leaving, not the country in which they are living.

And so, attrition happens.

People leave. They burn out. They tire. Businesses fail. Ministries go under. Families struggle to stay afloat financially. Medical crises' arise. Life calls them back to their country of origin.

The past year, we have seen family after family say goodbye to Ghana (8 families, to be exact), and head back home (to another unknown, and even, honestly, to a culture that now seems foreign to them). There have been so many reasons for their departures, but all the letting go...it never gets easier.

This morning, I was journaling about our sweet friends leaving the country this weekend, stepping into a new season of transition and unknown, praying for all that is ahead of them, and I found myself simply feeling numb.

I knew that I should have been feeling something. I expected tears. I expected the feelings of loss. But, it wasn't there. Nothing was there.

Press in.

As I began to pray, I began to see the walls I have gradually built up this past year. Stone by stone, they stood high and mighty, full of bravado and imagined courage.

Friends who knew me well, loved me well, said goodbye to Ghana and I remained, knowing full well the call on my life here with CORM. But, somehow, in the remaining, I began to build up walls to protect this tender heart from future disappointment...from future loss...from future goodbyes. 

Press in.

And the hard part in identifying all the walls is knowing that if they come down, (as they inevitably must anyway), the pain still remains.

Press in.

All the letting go, I've realized that it never will get easier. If I desire real relationships, it should never get easier.

But, oh, my heart. Tonight as I press in, I feel a bit tender. Even pulling these walls down can be a bit wounding.

But, tonight, I'm pressing in and pulling them down because my relationships are worth it. And because engaging has so much more value than the numbing my heart has grown accustomed to.

Press in.

And let go.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

No Longer Slaves

DK came up to me tonight and opened his arms for a big hug.  He squeezed me so tight, I thought my ribs would collapse.  But, it made me grateful and it made me laugh and it reminded me of the little boy not so many years ago that begged for a hug each time I passed.  And then he said, "I'm almost as tall as you, Auntie Autumn", in his deep, resonate voice and I could tell, even in the midst of his bone-crushing hug, he was smiling.

I have these moments every now and then when I flash back to when I first came.  My first impressions.  And I look at how far we've come, and all I see is hope.

When I first came, DK's only English words at the time were "John Cena".  (Yeah, he is such a boy!)  And I see him now, this tall boy turned man, the same cheeky grin, the same gentle manner, the same joking laugh...but I see how settled he is, how secure in his understanding of love, how much he just "gets" now.

After the hug tonight, he sat down at the table and he asked, "Auntie Autumn, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, DK!"

"You're really sure?"

"Sure, DK!"

"Really, really sure?", he asked with that sly grin on his face.

"Go for it."

"If God came down and asked you if you could go to heaven now or if you could stay and continue to tell others about Him, what would you do?"

I don't know where he got that question, but that sweet boy. 

"I would stay DK.  If God gave me the choice, I would stay.  Because my work isn't done here yet.  I have so much more love to give and so many more to tell about Jesus."

"Really, you would choose here instead of going to heaven right now?  But, you'd get to fly if you went to heaven!"

Oh, my DK. 

Recently, he's given himself the name "Hero".  He didn't really explain why, but we all just kind of went with it.  He's strong.  He's brave.  He's kind.  He's funny.  He has a penchant for desiring supernatural powers of flight.

And the truth of the matter is, he really is a hero.  Her is a hero to me.

This Sunday, we sang Jonathan David Helser's No Longer Slaves at our Spirit and the Bride worship service.  Can I tell you the deep sweetness of that song?  Can I tell you of the truth of those words?  When you stand in the middle of 50+ children that have been rescued from some of the worst situations of human trafficking and depravity, and you hear them singing out these lyrics:

I'm no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

You just can't help but get a little teary.  You can't help but marvel at the sheer heroic acts that happen on a daily basis around here (we don't have flying children, but we have kids who are continually making choices to love well and engage in life).  You can't help but want to jump up and down for joy because all you see around you is freedom.

And tonight, I was reminded of that yet again with my boy. 

I think through the crazy stories that I have heard about his time on the lake...the nights of loneliness...the fear of death as he watched others die...the terror that reigned in the paddle of his slave-master...

And he's no longer a slave to any of that. 

And though he has always been a child of God, now he knows it.

And this song just stands that much stronger, has that much more heart, has that much more deeper understanding.

Tonight, I celebrate the freedom that is standing in the arms of a boy named DK. 

My hero.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thoughts on turning 33

In just two days, I turn 33 years old. 

I was asked recently how I felt about turning 33. It's not really a milestone birthdate. No one really does much celebrating of such an in-between age.

A friend of mine sent me a picture of my 26th birthday earlier this week. That year, my friends kidnapped me and dressed me up in the craziest clothes and toured me around to all kinds of places with extremely embarrassing tasks to complete. And I loved it...nothing really important about that age, but the love of really great friends made that birthday perfect.

My first year in Ghana, I turned 29 years old. We were living in downtown Doryumu, and I was still caring for Edwin, my sleep frequently interrupted with his cries. John and Stacy took me out that day, just me and them. We went and ate pizza and went to a movie, my first time seeing a movie in Ghana. I remember the sweetness of that day, another in-between year.

And when I turned 30, I was adamant that I wanted to celebrate in style. My friend Christy met me in Australia and I celebrated my 30th with a ten day trip to Melbourne (with a few days of fun in Sydney) with friends from a group called YGAP. It was an amazing trip and built some pretty awesome friendships. That was a milestone birthday!

But 33?

Despite all that, the question has kept me thinking. I keep being brought back to the one guy who changed the world in his 33rd year. Crowds seemed to follow him everywhere he went. He had this quiet presence that didn't demand change, but simply offered it freely. He loved without limits. He did things that people had never seen before. 

And then...he died. And it didn't make sense.

Everyone who knew him, even those who had only heard of him...they were suddenly confused. Hope disappeared as easily as it had come. 

But, they didn't see. They didn't fully see.

Jesus needed to die...he needed to be the perfect sacrifice...and he needed to defeat the enemy..to regain the power that was always His in the first place...to tear the curtain that had separated us from God...to make a way to the Father that loves us too much to continue to live in separation. 

And when He rose from the grave, it had all been accomplished. Everything he set out to do was done.

It was his 33rd year that changed it all.

For some reason, I have some sense of that too. 

Not that this is the year that I will change the world (for what can I change on my own? and what can I do but impact my own little world of influence?), but that this year is a turning point year. It's not something to reach towards, but something to look back on and see all that came in that time, in that season, in that year.

As leadership here at City of Refuge, we have been praying that God will take us further in, that He would open our eyes to see what He sees. And it's starting. And honestly, our hearts are breaking because what we see is so utterly broken and what we feel is so hard. And even if this is just the tiniest portion of God's heart that we are now experiencing, that we are beginning to see...I can only imagine what God's whole heart sees and feels.

It throws me back into a posture of leaning on His strength. I cannot handle this in my own strength. I need Him. I need the help of His Church, His good people.

And I see that turning point out ahead, a memorial of sorts, pointing out that there is something new on the horizon, a new breakthrough, a new level of intimacy, a new trust.

33 years.

Here we go.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pressing In

My last post told you of the raw place my heart has had held this week. It was almost frustrating to be so incredibly emotional, tears present in nearly every conversation. I groped for some semblance of normalcy. I felt so...other than myself.

But, this week, I just felt like God was saying, "Press in."

I came away from last week's worship night feeling so incredibly frustrated...overwhelmed...and inadequate.

The whole day on Monday, I felt God simply calling me out to a place of surrender. Over and over again that day, in my quiet time, in my office, in our ministry team meeting, the tears would rise to the surface and I knew that I needed to press in, that I needed to surrender it all to the Father. Yet, I struggled, holding on to the lies instead.

At our ministry team meeting, The team prayed out over me, speaking words of life and truth. I had a picture of me on my knees, hands stretched forward to receive the words spoken, yet, for some reason, I couldn't...or I wouldn't. 

They spoke of God's love for me, His pleasure over me, giving me pictures that I will hold captive in my heart...yet, I couldn't make that move of obedience by physically kneeling down. 

I realized that night that what I am scared of most is intimacy

I like to appear strong.

I like to have it all together.

I like to make it seem as though I can do it all.

But, God longs to meet me in the middle of my greatest weakness. 

He wants to minister when I am broken and tired and weary.

He wants to put the pieces back together when I have scattered myself too far.

And I wouldn't let Him. Because I was scared of what it would require. I was worried that maybe people would think less of me if they saw my weak places. I both longed for intimacy, and feared it at the same time. 

I was reminded yesterday of this same time in my life 11 years ago. February 4, 2004, God came and met me in the midst of the darkest season of my life and set me free. It was that night, in a dark little prayer room on my University's campus, that I got a glimpse of what the Father's love really looked (and felt like). It was that night that changed the trajectory of the rest of my life. And out of that night, I began to experience the joy of vulnerability...seeing my friendships reach new depths, hungry for the truth in a way I had never thought possible, and so desperate for more of God. 

I think I was reminded of that time, not only because I count it as my spiritual anniversary, but because I was reminded that that season brought such freedom. If it changed me then, why couldn't I trust that God has good in store for me now? All He is asking for is my obedience in surrendering my fears, my insecurities, my weaknesses, my weariness, and yes, even my places of strength. And then, oh then, another level of intimacy could be developed...and even while it scares me a bit...I know of its goodness.

I'm still in the midst, but I am beginning to feel more whole again. 

As I was talking to Stacy about it all this morning, she said that in so many ways, we are all being called up. We are being humbled so we can be called up to what God has for us next. It's the greatest mystery of this life of faith...to be brought lower to be brought higher. And it's big and it's beautiful, but we have to be willing to be moved and changed and we cannot be satisfied with what we had before.

So, I'm pressing in...

We were talking about Brennan Manning this morning and his breathe prayers:

Breathe in: Abba
Breathe out: More of you

And I'm starting to breathe again...pressing in...learning to let go of the places where I feel so incredibly weak...and the places where I even feel strong.

Pressing in, because I want more.

I need more.

More of my Abba.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Being There

Sometimes, being there is all you can do.

I've had a rough few days.  God's been dealing with me on some things.  I've felt very...raw.  Very bare.  Tender.

So, I hid away.  Inside my room.  Inside my head.  Inside my heart.

I haven't completely come out yet.  But, I'm trying.  There's much to say...but I haven't the words quite yet. 

All I know is that sometimes, you just need someone to be there.  On Monday, I couldn't even recognize the struggle, but community gathered around and spoke truth...not knowing that God was already working something in me.  Tears seemed to be my only language.

And yesterday was much the same.  I went home "sick" because every conversation led to a melt-down, even if it was only about lesson plans or checking homework. 

But, my mom wrote me with such truth.  She told me to press in until the work that needed to be done was finished.

And Keliy listened and helped me feel heard.

And I realized that the tender places, they needed to be felt.  And the words of truth, needed to be understood.  And I needed to press in..until it was finished. 

I'm not quite there yet. 

Today, I recognized that being there...in that tender place...maybe it was for such a time as this.

One of our kids heard some bad news today...

And being there...without words...with only that tender place to offer...maybe it's what was needed.  Maybe that's why it wasn't finished quite yet.

And we dealt with an incredibly cruel situation with a young girl in our community today...and I recognized that maybe this soft place, it's what was needed, because perhaps it's actually the Father's Heart for this girl...this melting place where I feel like I cannot even stand under the overwhelming-ness (is that a word?) of it all.

And we heard of an abuse of someone right in our backyard...and we know that our location here...it means something.  Being here...it's what is needed.  And this tender, raw place...it's what is needed.  And these tears...it's what is needed.

And even if it isn't finished...I know this is part of the battle...to experience the Father's Heart and know my place in it.  Simply being there.