Alyssa Stephens
Alyssa Stephens
Uganda, 2022-2023
Grace and peace to you! My name is Alyssa, and I am spending a year in Jinja, Uganda working with HEAL Ministries. HEAL is an organization that offers wrap-around services to champion sustainability and family preservation. I graduated from Belmont in May 2022 and feel abundantly blessed to embark on this new journey. Read More About Alyssa →

memories dotting each day’s small work

Hey friend!

Here we are, with this new blog post marking the passage of another two weeks. How is it that time simultaneously flies and crawls by?

These past two weeks have been full of settling back in! It has been cool to see how I have largely picked up where I left off as far as Jinja rhythms and routines go. I remember my way around town fairly well and still have go-to street food stands. As much as some of the ladies and I had to catch up on initially, what we do from day-to-day has picked back up at a steady pace. Things like filling up the water jug, getting fresh produce at the market, and dancing during church worship feel second-nature. While I didn’t need necessarily realize it as it was happening, I created a life here in Jinja that I am glad to be back to!

There have been a few highlights so far that I want to share with you:

One of the most exciting new developments has been that I now have two roommates! Two girls from America are interning at HEAL for the spring semester, which means that we get to share life together for three months. Lauren is laid-back, kind-hearted, and sweet to have deep conversations with, while Anna is full of life, joy, and passion for community! I am blessed to call them roommates and friends and have already enjoyed making memories with them.

Last Saturday, Anna and I went to our friend J’s house for the day. We played Twister and hide-and-seek with J’s three boys and the neighbor’s kiddos and were pleasantly shocked to find the older boys hiding on rooftops and way up in the trees. Hehe Anna and my feet stayed firmly planted on the ground but maybe a good tree climb with the boys is in our future..? After playing, we helped with laundry before J taught us how to cook matoke (plantains) and cabbage! We were filled with gratitude when the neighbor surprised us with a lunch she made to go along with our food. Perhaps the best part of the day was afterwards, when we joined some of the kids for an afternoon at the pool. My oh my, did they have fun jumping in the pool, splashing one another, and diving deep below the water. We all slept soundly Saturday night, full of sweet memories.

Based on the year-round academic calendar Ugandan schools operate on, the preschool kids at the James Place are on holiday right now. This is providing a great opportunity for the teachers to prep for the upcoming term! One of the most important projects the ladies have been working on is creating vision boards of what they want their future classrooms to look like. HEAL recently bought property to build it’s own facilities, and the construction of preschool buildings is coming along smoothly. Inviting the preschool teachers to dream big as far as their classrooms go and witnessing their delight in picking out tables, shelving, posters, etc. for the rooms has been a joy! While it is the people rather than anything material that truly fills a space, it is exciting to see that the ladies will be well-equipped with a secure building and personalized materials to teach their students.

This is random, but one additional thing I wanted to mention is what I am learning about being present. As much as I enjoy being in Uganda, I find myself worrying at times, thinking “will things still be going well in 3, 4, 5 months?”, “how lonely will I feel living alone when Lauren and Anna leave?”, “what do I do in light of the physical separation from family and friends? what if missing them becomes too much?” While grounded in reality, these attempts to prepare for the future are quite speculative and don’t have determinable answers.

Recently, I stumbled upon a quote by Mother Theresa that I slightly modified and think is quite fitting. Her quote is, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” I have been leaning into that last part, and a motto of the past week has been “doing today’s small work with great love.” Perhaps I can humbly worship God and honor those around me well by being present to the very moment I am in, taking things day by day. And perhaps my work really is small, not nearly as important as I might like to think. Hehe I am finding that each day brings enough in and of itself that being present to it is more than enough.

As I wrap up this post, I encourage you to think of a highlight or two from the week...and maybe a lowlight or two as well. What emotions did those moments stir up in you, and what are you taking away from them?

Also, perhaps we both, in the coming days, can focus on showing up day by day. On doing our small works with deep love.

With love to you,


High: Bring on the tears!! Yesterday (Friday), HEAL hosted a graduation for the ladies in the sewing department who completed their year-long sewing program. What a testimony they are to living with perseverance and gratitude as they showed up to class day after day. At the graduation, their joy and pride was palpable as they each danced their way from their chairs to where the sewing director was handing out certificates. One of the women summed up the occasion well in saying, “For those of us who never graduated before, this moment means a lot.”

Low: As far as work goes, it has been tricky to keep in mind that productivity is not most important. I find myself continually wanting to be helpful, when sometimes what is most needed is just sitting and being present. Being content with whatever the day brings, regardless of how many to-do list items get checked off or how much assistance I offered someone, is something that I am relearning being back in Uganda.

Buffalo: Earlier this week, a few friends and I went to a movie night at church after work. Hehe the movie started at 5:00, so I was surprised when we arrived at 5:03 and were some of the very first people there. One of my friends, C, said, “Just give it a bit and watch how the room will become full.” Sure enough, over the next 30 minutes, the number of people in the room grew and grew! We greatly enjoyed watching the movie “War Room”...and were glad that others showed up to join in and watch too!

Words of Wisdom: A quote by Elie Wiesel posted by Jemar Tisby: “I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Striking words in light of the recent death of Tyre Nichols and the continual fight for racial  justice.

cheesin’ with my friend B + a pillow pet, the same one my brother Logan used to adore as a child

SO much cabbage!! J, a patient teacher and yummy cook, taught me how to make it the Ugandan way

full bellies and happy smiles

a group photo with J, her kids, and the neighbors—such sweet people to spend the day with!

SPOONS! a universal game that is fun fun fun!

a special first visit to the new HEAL Ministries property with the ladies

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