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 →

accepting an invitation to initiate


Hello there!

Many blessings to you today!

In all honesty, I come to you in this post with a handful of sweet memories to share but also with overworked armpits because of all the sweating they’ve been doing lately...because I’ve been fretting time and time again about something I’m not the best at in relationships—initiating.

There is a vulnerability that comes with initiating. For one, you vulnerably invite another person to do something you like to do and, in turn, run the risk of them saying no because they don’t want to be a part of that activity. Even further, there is the vulnerability of putting your whole self out there, saying “I am a human being that needs attention and care, and you do too. Can we come together for a moment of connection, offering ourselves to one another as we do something together?” For an assortment of reasons—some we know and others that dwell below the surface, there is the chance that the other person will say no to our request. That hurts. The potential of feeling hurt is scary.

This being said, some of the most joyful moments and relationships are formed because of the ways in which we’ve put ourselves out there. Because of this, there is hope...that can inspire us to initiate. Even if it means we have especially sweaty armpits as we go about it.

God blessed me with timely encouragement about initiating last week, when we had a 4-day weekend and I had no plans. Two kind gals at HEAL said, “Hey remember that everyone wants to be wanted” as they challenged me to step out and ask someone on staff at HEAL to do something together. That very afternoon, opportunities arose for me to reach out, and my weekend was soon much fuller than it had been before.

One of the days over the weekend was spent with P and her son, I. We spent time chasing her three dogs around the yard and watching I splash around in the makeshift pool the rain gifted the property with. Soon enough, our grumbling bellies encouraged us to walk to the market, where we bought Irish potatoes, greens, and other veggies—hehe along with some soda for I. We had great conversation while cooking the meal together and, after eating, watched a fan favorite on DVD—Encanto. One of my favorite moments from the day was walking to the market, where P, a social butterfly and great connector of people, introduced me to a few of her friends as we past restaurants, food stands, and salons.

Another day was spent with H and her children. What a marvelous surprise it was when I arrived to her house to find that a couple of her other friends had asked H to come over too. Because there were so many people over, the occasion called for a big meal filled with rice, matoke, pasta, cabbage, groundnut sauce, and plantain chips for the kiddos later on. While H prepared the meal, a group of us went to a nearby field to play and talk. One of the girls who stays with H became my partner as we played a futbol (soccer) game against two of the boys. Though technically us girls ended up losing the game 9-10, there really was no loser because of the amount of fun we all had playing. We returned from the field to eat together before talking until the sun’s setting forced us to say our goodbyes.

Looking back, I am thankful for the happy moments the past two weeks brought and for the memories of these two days in particular. They filled the 4-day weekend with joy and reminded of the goodness of community that can come from reaching out.

At the end of this post, I want to remind you of something—God chooses you. Over and over and over again, God calls you beloved. As Ann Voskamp writes in her book Waymaker, “When you realize that you are fully known and still fully loved, nothing can scare you any longer.” May the knowledge of God’s care for you give you the security and confidence to step out, step back, or step into whatever it is that is weighing on your spirit.

With love,


High: On Friday, some of the preschool students, the preschool teachers, and I went to the Entebbe Zoo together. It was a BLAST! After leaving the James Place at 7:00 and making the 3-hour trip to Entebbe, Uganda, we spent the day oohing and ahhing at different animals, taking photos on the beach of Lake Victoria, and passing by the airport so that the kids could see airplanes close up. Seeing the delight in the kids’ eyes was priceless, making trip a special event to be a part of.

Low: As summer is turning into fall right now in Tennessee, I find that I am longing for yearly rhythms of the seasons. Here in Jinja, it is rainy season, so it rains most days in any given week. Even so, there are several hours of sunshine each day, and the weather is pretty consistently in the 80s. Breathing in the crisp, cool fall air, watching trees change colors, feeling the coziness of skin against sweater...these are things I look forward to with anticipation but realize I won’t experience while I’m here in a place on the Equator.

Buffalo: Did you know that putting items in direct sunlight helps de-odorize them? Unfortunately, Ellie the House Cat has found a new favorite restroom spot—my bed.. Thoroughly cleaning the sheets and mattress and then setting everything outside in the sun has been such a great help in getting the smell out. Fingers crossed Ellie will reconnect with her litter box, but in the meantime, I am very glad for the power of the sun’s cheerful rays.

Words of Wisdom: A line from the song Sweet Comfort by Sandra McCracken. I was introduced to this song at RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) in college, and for some reason, these words have been coursing through my mind over the past couple of weeks.

“Whatever my God ordains is right

His holy will abides

I will be still whatever He does

And follow where He guides”

one of the sweet preschool gals posing for a photo with a special ginormous friend

a happy photo by Lake Victoria after going to the zoo

cheesin’ with my bus ride mates at the lake

an American delicacy the kids and teachers had for lunch at the zoo 😉 seeing their reactions to the foreign food made me giggle

walking home with some of the women to see none other than some tasty greens in a field! hehe of course we had to pause + pick

letting the sun dry our clothes, leaving them warm and fresh☀️

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