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 new summertime groove in preparation to move

Hello there!

Thank you for joining me in this little virtual space as I embark on such a unique experience. I am so excited for the world to feel a little cozier as loved ones at home meet loved ones in Jinja through this online platform.

As a self-identified people-pleaser, I want these blogs to be exactly what YOU want them to be. The only trouble is that with an assortment of people from a variety of space reading the posts, there is not a legitimate way to pinpoint what this ideal post may be. Because of this, I am going to frame these as writing to a friend, perhaps the friend we have in Jesus. May that be enough. And may, in some strange way, these musings speak to you in your particular personhood and context too.

Growing up the summer months had a sort of timeless quality to them. Sleeping in a bit more, playing for hours on end with my brothers outside, coming in for lunch or popsicles (or maybe even an outfit change so that we could enjoy the sprinkler), and then dinner and a bath before a movie and bedtime. Even as I transitioned into my teenage years, the lack of a stringent school or college schedule during the summer provided a level of freedom and room for spontaneity that was refreshing and fun.

This year, the weeks following my last day of college courses have brought a new posture towards summertime—an almost hyperawareness of the passage of time and what the future may bring. In early May, the long-anticipated day of graduation arrived, and I have spent the following weeks reading, baking, volunteering, babysitting, and visiting a couple of friends. The days remaining until my move to Uganda are now swiftly dwindling, and the once more abstract dream of this transition is now met with the tangible reality of packing lists, vaccinations, and a visa application. Here we are—a mere two weeks from traveling—and I am bubbling with a whole spectrum of emotions that come with making a longer-term move, with going on this new adventure.

For whatever reason, the first thing that comes to mind for me as I ponder this notion of “going on a new adventure” is the little boy (aka wilderness explorer) from Up, Russell. With a bunch of badges, a pack strapped on his back, and a hopeful outlook of what’s to come, Russell presses towards whatever the future may bring.

Hehe in my better moments, I may resemble Russell’s approachable spirit, hope for the future, and endearing physique. In full transparency, in other moments, I feel the weight of loss, of starting to say goodbye. Cycles of feeling exceeding joy and gratitude for the opportunity to be among God’s precious people in a new cultural context to being hit with a wave of tears over the difficult inevitability of change have been my rhythm over the past few weeks.

In consideration of Russell’s words and deeds in Up even throughout difficult moments within my own anticipatory and emotional space, I am filled with remembrance of a few key things. Russell reminds me that:

— I do have a level of control over my reactions.
— I have a sweet collection of stories, relationships, and memories that I am carrying into the trip.
— There truly is so much goodness and hope wrapped up the change that is going to Uganda.

Like for Russell and the rest of the Up characters, there will be inevitable highs and lows in the coming months. At the end of the day, I choose to believe that it will be meaningful and good. The people of Jinja are each special and unique, and I am blessed that our stories are going to intertwine.

God bless you as you walk along the path you find yourself on today. May we both learn to make peace with change...and perhaps watch Up sometime soon if the opportunity arises.

With love,


*Note: Because my posts themselves may be a bit introspective or story-like, I think I will have a little section at the end in which I post a few memories from the time since the last post.

High: Soaking in quality time together by going on walks to Sonic with my brother Logan and evening neighborhood walks with Dad (and the birds as happy company!)

Low: Getting an email stating that my visa application was deferred (update: it has since been approved!)

Buffalo (what the cool kids say instead of “random moment” hehe): I went to volunteer at the nursing home this week, and a local church came to put on a little service for the residents. Usually, most of the residents are fairly mellow and quiet, and that was true of today—until someone suggested we sing “Victory in Jesus.” Voices that I have never heard before arose in glorious chorus to proclaim, “He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him…” It was an unexpected, beautiful moment, one in which an array of people found commonality in singing a song reminiscent of their younger years.

Words of Wisdom: From a poignant work, The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone, that I recently finished reading:

““And yet the Christian gospel is more than a transcendent reality, more than “going to heaven when I die, to shout salvation as I fly.” It is also an immanent reality—a powerful liberating presence among the poor right now in their midst, “building them up where they are torn down and propping them up on every leaning side.” The gospel is found wherever poor people struggle for justice, fighting for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

maximizing on time with neighborhood birds, trees, and streets these last few weeks at home

happy memories made traveling across the sea with Lora and Elizabeth

spending quality time in Wisconsin with Megan and Elizabeth (hehe and with Jes, Alex, Murphy, and Dewey toooo!)

snagging a family photo after graduation 🙂

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