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 →

a glorious introduction to bodas and HEAL

Wow! Has it really just been two weeks or an entire lifetime since I left America? There are so many things that I cannot believe—that I really made it here to Jinja, that the past fourteen days have been full of soaking up new experiences and cultural expression, that this will be the place I call home for the next year. What is abundantly clear and resoundingly steady is that God is present and so good all across the world.

After arriving in Entebbe, Uganda at about 1:00 a.m. on the first Saturday in July, I spent the night at a local hotel before traveling from Entebbe to Jinja. Haha unexpected note—driving in Uganda is quite different than in the U.S.! Not only do people drive on the left side of the road but there are many more motorcycles (known as boda bodas by locals) than cars on the streets, many bumps on roads, and no lines between lanes so that cars and bodas will move around one another as they please. Boy was I thankful to have a sweet driver, A, to help navigate the streets. Amidst the 4.5 hour commute, A and I talked about his family, gardening and buying food here in Uganda, the impact of COVID-19 on Ugandan economics and livelihood amongst other topics. Talking to him on the drive was a sweet introduction into life in Uganda, and seeing so much of the country as we made the journey helped bring the place to life. He is a nice man, and it was a good day!

Once I made it to Jinja, I began settling into the little house I will be staying at for my time in Uganda. When I arrived, there were four other interns who helped introduce me to important things to know about daily living here—purifying water, buying groceries in town, how to use the shower, etc. Though two of them left to return home earlier this week and the other two will be leaving next week, I am very thankful for their outpouring of kindness and knowledge. God has been kind in allowing our paths to cross during this time of settling in.

Bright and early on the first Monday I was in Jinja, I began work at the James Place (this is the name of the compound that HEAL Ministries operates at). What an extraordinary place it is! The organization, HEAL Ministries, seeks to show the compassion of God to vulnerable women and children in Jinja through family preservation, economic empowerment, and sustainable living. Practically, this looks like employing the women in departments such as childcare, preschool, pottery and leather working, laundry, and food service and providing programming for children. Hehe to honor your time as you read this post, I will keep you curious about the exact parameters of what I am doing and instead tell you a little story about one of the women I met:

About three days into my time working at the James Place, I met a lady named G. Soft-spoken and well-tempered, she is a soul filled with kindness and faith. Though she just met me and had only met the other interns a couple of weeks before, she invited us into her home for a weekend visit.

When we arrived at her house, we were first introduced to several of her precious children and to the plump pig she has been raising in order to help pay for her children’s education. It was sweet to see the people—and animals—that she and others in her village interact with on an everyday basis.

She then so kindly invited us into her home, a space in which all seven of us present for the afternoon together sat side by side and very close together so that everyone could be inside. Her radical hospitality in inviting us into all that she physically has was touching. In that moment, being in one another’s presence was a gift, a picture of the compassion and acceptance that God extends towards us. Though we did eventually have to part ways that afternoon, I am thankful for the lasting memory of our time together that day and for the many more weekends I have here to soak in time with the beautiful people of HEAL and Jinja.

From those first moments in Entebbe to this very moment that I write this post, the past two weeks have been filled with so many more new, unexpected, and special things than I could have envisioned. In the spaces you have found yourself in over the past two weeks, I hope that this has been true for you too—that life has given you little moments to be taken aback by and excited about.

Thank you for reading this post. I think of you with care and pray that you are well today, tomorrow, and the next.

With love,



High: Going on a spontaneous walk to the Nile River with a few staff members and their children one day after work. We happened to go right around sunset, so the sky mixed with the view of the river was absolutely breathtaking!

Low: I am finding it a little harder than expected to navigate language differences here. While some speak English to varying extents, a lot of people in Jinja speak Luganda, a local tribal language. Trying to build relationships with locals while not being able to converse very easily has reminded me of the power of simply being present with one another…but also just feels hard sometimes.

Buffalo: For Fourth of July (the first Monday I was here), the other interns and I celebrated by decking out! We put face paint on our faces and arms and tied ribbons in our hair. When we went to the James Place like this, the children and staff alike laughed and celebrated with us. Hehe I’m not sure I have ever dressed up this much in the U.S. for the Fourth but was so glad to have done so here.

Words of Wisdom: This is a quote by Frederick Buechner that I received in my email inbox earlier this week. I have been meditating on the contrast between the notions that “the more you get, the more you have” and “the more you give away in love, the more you are.”

“Avarice, greed, concupiscence, and so forth are all based on the mathematical truism that the more you get, the more you have. The remark of Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) is based on the human truth that the more you give away in love, the more you are. It is not just for the sake of other people that Jesus tells us to give rather than get, but for our own sakes too.”

cheesin’ for the camera after making it to the Nile River (hehe the kids were on the side picking flowers and throwing rocks)

our happy Fourth of July outfits

one of the adorable lion masks the preschoolers made this week to celebrate learning letter L


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