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 →

rain rain, go away…wait actually, do stay


Today, I decided to do something risky—I went on a walk outside right before a rainstorm. In my defense, I did check the weather station, which said that Arlington, my hometown, wasn’t supposed to get rain until later in the afternoon. Nonetheless, I made it about 0.7 miles to a nearby park before it started downpouring. After an hour and a half of sitting under a gazebo at the park, with the beautiful trees, pattering of rain, and chipper birds to keep me company, I decided to go ahead and make the trek back home. To say the least, it was moist. My hair, face, clothes, and shoes definitely got a nice rinse. Yet, the birds were chirping along the whole way.

As I was walking back home, my mind was flooded with memories of walking in the rain with the ladies at HEAL in Uganda. With umbrellas and even ponchos hard to come by, most of the people there I know face the rain by bundling up in whatever clothing they have, ducking their head down, and walking with a purpose. While perhaps inopportune, this provides a wonderful opportunity to soak in the rain for what it is—a part of nature’s rhythm, a gift to the earth, a blessing to all of the animals (people included) that need it, and a reminder of what we can take in but not control.

On today’s walk, I remembered the time that several friends and I played volleyball in the rain, running to and fro after the muddy ball as the wind guided it in whatever direction it pleased. I reminisced about the afternoon spent sitting in the women’s locker room and napping with several ladies because we couldn’t complete our outdoor work in the rain. I remembered the day when Mr. P, Mr. W, and I sat in the leather shed, trying to talk to one another but unable to hear over the rhythmic thrum of raindrops beating down on the tin roof. A little over 8,000 miles away from those I shared these moments with, yet my heart is still tied to theirs. I am thankful for the reminder of this place and these people that walking home in the rain brings.

Hehe if the above story doesn’t spill the beans—yes, I am still in America. Hopeful of returning to Uganda in mid-November, the date of my departure for the country got pushed back again after an Ebola case was detected in Jinja. Though I am no medical expert, and what I have to share has been found on the WHO’s website and/or heard from friends, let me tell you a little bit about Ebola:

In late September, an Ebola outbreak was declared in Uganda after a case was detected in the centrally located Mubende district. This was especially alarming because Ebola is a severe illness with a high fatality rate, and the present outbreak’s strain—Sudan ebolavirus (SUV)—had not been detected in Uganda since 2012. The virus spreads through human-to-human contact via contact with the blood or body fluids of someone with SUV or who died from SUV. Currently, there is no known treatment for it or vaccination against it. Additionally, the incubation period of the virus in the body is between 2 and 21 days, meaning that up to 3 weeks can pass before someone carrying SUV starts showing symptoms. As of earlier this week, there have been 141 confirmed cases across 9 districts, one of which is Jinja.

Using their best judgement, the HEAL executive leadership team has taken preventative and responsive measures to curb the Ebola’s spread amongst those in the organization. At the beginning of October, they asked me to return to the United States, and those who remained at the James Place took health and safety precautions. Last week, the James Place closed for an early winter holiday. I am thankful that the organization’s leadership is committed to the well-being and safety of all they lead. After talking with a few of the ladies from HEAL, it seems as though they are doing well and looking forward to the extra time off, though worried what Ebola’s spread to Jinja may mean for their family’s health, safety, and economic stability. If you can, please keep them—and the precious people across all of Uganda—in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers.

Although it seems a bit irrelevant in light of the aforementioned information, I would like to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to lately. I must dote on my family for a bit because it has been sweet to have their support throughout the transition and to spend quality time together. My aunt asked me to work as her legal assistant, something I never imagined myself doing but am enjoying learning the ins and outs of. My grandparents and I have gotten to spend ample time with one another, as I help them with housework and travel with them to doctors’ appointments. Over the past couple of weeks, my grandpa and I have shared many cups of coffee together over countless stories of the “good ole days.” Mom and Dad have been gracious in inviting me to join in on the plans they’ve made, and Mom and I have deeply enjoyed watching the new season of The Crown and getting in the Christmas spirit with the Christmas Cookie Challenge. And I’ve gotten to spend intentional moments with precious people through Room in the Inn at a local church.

To be honest, I am a bit more of a cozy sloth than a social butterfly these days, as finding a work-life balance and connecting with other young adults is challenging. I miss college life and Uganda and find myself moving through waves of reverse culture shock. I’m also grappling with this new stage of life—no longer primarily a student and child but also not having full-time employment nor a family of my own. Nonetheless, I am safe. I am healthy. I have what I need and so much more than I could ask for. I am doing okay and, as my sweet cousin-in-law has encouraged, am finding ways “to say yes to this too.”

Thank you for tuning into this latest post, with its modge podge of storytelling, information, and updates! Wishing you peace, hope, and joy as you head into all that December has in store. And hehe if you get the chance, maybe consider walking in the rain sometime soon.

With Love,



High: What a joy it was to spend Thanksgiving at home! Talking and eating, eating and talking were the themes of the day as my immediate and extended family members celebrated the holiday together at our house. How nice it was to spend to share an array of wonderful dishes as a family and to let the conversation wander and turn as it pleased!

Low: What a surprise it was to spend Thanksgiving at home. I felt a lot of different emotions arise around the holiday as I thought about where I am and where I thought I would be this time of year. This Thanksgiving, I felt a deeper appreciation for family get-togethers, small chats and check-ins, and access to a warm meal in a home. I also lamented that the sweet potatoes eaten weren’t grown from a garden in Jinja and that I wasn’t able to bake an apple or pecan pie for my Ugandan friends to try.

Buffalo: Earlier this week, one of my friends from Uganda sent a photo of her children to me. They are such cuties! I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that one of the children in particular looks like a mini version of my friend, while the other two kiddos look a bit different. Isn’t it funny how that happens—how siblings can look like one particular parent, the other, or both? How they can look almost identical from one another or be so different?

Words of Wisdom: These words were shared by a lady at Bible study this past Sunday, and they have been sitting in me ever since: “Sometimes people don’t love you the way you want to be loved. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their best to love you.” Goodness, how different things might be if we—if I—continually remembered this.

soaking in the rain and memories of Ugandan days as i walked home from the park

hehe it’s the small things–like maximizing on some ambient lighting as i worked at Aunt Carol’s office earlier this month

a sweet MEOW-ment captured of our two family cats one afternoon! they were FELINE comfy + cozy during their nap

one of the sleeping spaces looking ready to go during Room in the Inn last week!

haha i had to commemorate the first evening of Room in the Inn with this church bathroom selfie. how joyful it was to wear a Christmas sweater for the first time this season!

making sure to spend some time with those i love–kids!


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