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 →

settling in and stepping out

Now about a month into my time here in Jinja, the juxtaposition between feeling settled in and like a little lost and perplexed puppy is very evident. Today, as I write this, I am feeling thankful for routines and rhythms…and for the moments without them that inspire us to be brave and to grow.

Over the past couple of weeks, my fellow intern pals and I have gotten into a pretty solid groove of:

  • Waking up between 6:30 and 7:00
  • Eating breakfast at around 7:30 and then heading out for the day
  • Working from 8:00-4:00
  • And then coming home and doing some combination of reading, watching movies, going into town for random errands, making + eating dinner, and going to bed

We do have a cat named Ellie, who keeps us on our toes a bit by randomly getting the zoomies, scaling walls, and nipping at our legs when we least expect it. Also, the two adorable kids who live on the property with us keep things interesting by spontaneously inviting us to swing with them, pick mangos on high branches in the sprawling mango trees outside, and kick soccer balls around the yard. There are two precious women—J and J—that are often at the property, along with the three boys one of them has, and they fill the place with motherly care and joy. Also, Mr. B, Mr. F, and Mr. P, who take turns serving as groundskeepers and guards throughout the week, are kindhearted men to talk to. It is interesting that “little” moments and things—a playful cat, energetic kids, talking with sweet people on the property—have actually been some of the biggest reasons why this place is feeling more like home. Perhaps the seemingly small, everyday moments really aren’t all that small.

While having some knowns amidst a lot of newness has been a wonderful salve in settling in well, this past week has been fraught with changes too. By Wednesday, all three of the summer interns left Jinja in order to finish college and continue working back in the States. Brette is authentic and brave, Isabella is joyful and friendly, and Tanna is compassionate and wise. Though there is sadness in seeing them go, the overwhelmingly strong emotion I feel is gratitude that we got to spend quality time together here in this beautiful country. I look forward to developing deeper relationships with the HEAL staff during this time of living on my own.

With the knowledge that I am going to have to be more independent in order to make the most of my time here, this morning, I did something brave—I rode on a boda (motorcycle) into town, walked around Main Street by myself, and then found a little café to read at for a few hours.

Haha sidenote: I remember seeing my grandpa, Pa, buy and ride a motorcycle several years ago and thinking, “Golly, how his doing that? As brave as he is, I don’t eeeever want to ride one of those myself…” Here I am, eating those words a bit, doing what I couldn’t have imagined those years ago..AND it’s actually quite nice! (though if at any point you happen to have a motorcycle, please don’t ask me to ride it with you)

God is ever kind, and God was kind to me today. As much as I would prefer to walk around town with another person, His presence was there in the many unique people I exchanged greetings and smiles with along the journey. In the café, He reminded me what a gift it is to be here and what a faithful friend He has always been. As nervous as I was to ride a boda for the first time, I felt an underlying sense of ease in knowing God holds me and my fears. AND the fellow I rode with showed me the correct boda-riding etiquette, drove at more of a “scenic” than “hurried” speed, and talked the whole time about his journey of becoming a boda driver. What a sweet, hospitable man to have this first experience with! Thank you, Lord, for Your goodness that keeps us grounded and invites us into community.

For those of you who tend to be a bit more timid and fearful like me, be encouraged that A) it is okay to be that way! and B) taking small, bold steps can lead to moments that are sweeter than sitting in the safety of not moving forward at all. And for those who tend to be more adventurous, hehe use that courage to experience how exciting this world is!

And for all: is there any way that you have experienced goodness this week? A moment in which you felt glad or at ease in a situation that could have been different?

Thank you once more for following along on this journey of settling in and stepping out. I look forward to updating you very soon Many blessings to you.

With love,



High: Hearing some of the preschool teachers’ stories while doing trust-based relational intervention training. Their stories are hard, and the women are resilient. This week, I was touched by their vulnerability and commitment to forging better futures for their children.

Low: Missing out on having quality conversations with people because I was too busy thinking about what they were thinking about me.

Buffalo: As work was closed on Tuesday, Tanna and I were just hanging out at home when we saw the kiddos having a picnic and decided to join. Part of the way through the meal, the kids said, “Guess what is coming this afternoon? A bouncy castle!” Sure enough, their mom coordinated with someone to set up an entire bouncy castle in the backyard…and then of course we had to add the hose to it so that the experience was escalated all the more. It was SO much fun—everyone, even Uncle Fred the groundskeeper, joined in on the action!

Words of Wisdom: Brette recommended that I read The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun. Wow, is it any interesting read on the development of the non-profit Pencils of Promise. In the book, this quote stood out to me:

“You have to find a mantra and live it fully. The one I’d adopt right now if I were you is something I found on the inside of a friend’s journal last year: ‘You may be safe, but I am free.’”

a happy afternoon spent at little shops in town so the girls could pick out some souvenirs before heading home

walking to work one morning with to the a-MOO-sing greetings of many, many friends

two of the boys maximizing on the chance to spray their momma as she slides in the bouncy castle

trying to manifest excitement over nervousness in my trusty helmet on the walk to the boda stage

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