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 →

water: to be boiled and traveled across


Hi again!

Wishing you tidings of joy and peace this holiday season!

The past few days have been interesting here in Memphis! Last Thursday, the temperature started out fairly warm—in the mid-40s I think—before steadily dropping throughout the day. By the evening, the temperature was below freezing, and wonderful flurries of snow were falling! Throughout Friday, the weather was rather chilly, with the temperature only reaching a mere 14 degrees. Hehe though folks in the North may think this is nothing, the weather was quite unusual for a city that normally gets a max of about 1-2 inches of snow once or twice per year.

Because of the freezing temperatures, there were rolling power outages throughout the city on Friday and Saturday. Even further, starting on Saturday night, a boil advisory went into effect—meaning that we have been using boiled or bottled water for all drinking and food preparation purposes since then. In our house, two large metal pots have been getting more sunshine than they have in the past decade as they sit on the stove with boiling water bubbling away inside.

While the Boil Advisory is a unique circumstance in Memphis, having to purify water before drinking is not uncommon in Uganda. In my experience in Jinja, before using water for consumption purposes, it must be boiled, filtered, or purified via tablet in order to reduce the risk of water-borne illness. After learning the process of filling up our water jug, dropping in a tablet, and then waiting 30 minutes before using the water, the practice of purifying water became  second-nature. In reflection, it strikes me as a bit fascinating how something that is so unusual in one context can be routine in another.

It makes me wonder (a few questions that I leave with you):

  • What are some practices (cultural, socioeconomic, religious, etc.) that, though they seem standard, are actually highly variable among different people?
  • How do commonplace practices create community and tradition? How can they be used to diminish these things?
  • As we head into the new year, what is something that currently is unusual that you or I could make a habit of this year?
  • Are there any practices that have become routine but could be changed?

Haha after inviting you on that sort of metaphysical journey, I will lighten the mood with a happy update—I received news that I can return to Uganda in just about two weeks! WAHOO!!

In recent weeks, the last individual in an Ebola treatment facility was released, and 30 days have passed since the last confirmed case! Even further, there are no contacts being followed-up with. These are wonderful updates that make my return to Uganda something to look forward to in the coming days! I can’t wait to see what the next months in Jinja have in store—and to continue sharing updates with you throughout the journey!

To close out this post, I would like to invite you to pray for the families and loved ones of those who passed away from Ebola. According to a recent WHO report, there were 55 deaths due to the illness. While it may be natural to say “it could have been worse” and “just think about how many people died from COVID” amongst other things (I find myself thinking along these lines), it is true that the 55 were precious, unique people with stories. Loss is hard, and grief can be overwhelming. Could you pray for peace and rest for those grieving from the impact of Ebola?

I hope you know that as I pray for those still feeling the impact of Ebola, I will also be praying for you—for any loss and grief you too are walking through right now.

Thanks again for following along with these posts!

With love,



High: About three weeks ago, I helped with set-up and then attended HEAL’s annual benefit dinner and silent auction. What an absolute joy it was to see some of the gals I worked with in Jinja at the event and to honor the stories and lives of the women and children who work at HEAL! Being a part of this event was a reminder of how delightful the HEAL community is—and made me all the more excited to return to Uganda soon!

Another high has been enjoying seasonal treats, watching holiday movies, looking at Christmas lights, and getting together with extended family and friends throughout the month of December! I am thankful for annual Christmas traditions and for sweet community to share them with!

Low: Over the past few weeks, the house has been full as everyone takes a holiday break from high school, college, and work. Even with all of us living under the same roof, it has been tricky to spend intentional time together as an entire family. While thankful for the moments we do have together, I find myself continually longing for all five of us to be present with one another more often.

Buffalo: While helping my Aunt Carol out at her office this week, she suggested that we take a bunch of boxes out of her office, pile them into the nearby conference room, and sort the files inside the boxes in ABC order. Boy were we glad that we had cups of coffee and lively conversation to keep things interesting! After a full morning of sorting and organizing, we had a 17-box snake zigzagging across the room to show! We weren’t sure the file box snake was a great fit as an office pet, soo we returned the boxes to her office at the end of the project!

Words of Wisdom: Striking words about the hoped for and the everyday. This quote is found in Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren.

“A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows.”

the wonderful pots that have been keep us hydrated over the past few days

setting up the event space for HEAL’s dinner and auction

cheesing for a picture after, in a moment of bravery, i got my nose pierced!

a sweet family Christmas photo (though we are missing Andrea, the photographer)

hehe Logan and i had a fun time putting a festive spin on cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning

a photo from a happy outing to see Christmas lights together

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