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Photo by Alyssa Stebbing in Rwanda, refugee processing center

This poem is based on a true story told to me when I was working with Interfaith refugee resettlement in Houston two summers ago. I wrote a poem today as words are difficult for me right now when our cries for mercy for the families and children in detention and all those seeking refuge in this country have largely been passed by. But, I still pray, Lord have mercy.


A woman cried out in the night
The pain, the bruises, the blood
Parched earth, raging winds
She ran, child in her hand, one in her belly
And crossed an invisible line. 

You crossed a line, they said. You’ll pay.
So she took a boat, child in her hand, one in her belly.
Retching her guts on the waves of a storm for days, for weeks
To a new land. With a new invisible line.

We can’t feed you, you’ll have to go.
She walked a continent, child in her hand, one in her belly.
Feet bleeding, soul resolute
Riding a human wave seeking a shore on which to land.

A dam, a wall, baby heavy in her belly
She passes her child to another
to climb the dam 
to reach another continent
And all she has is a prayer she will see that child again.

All the invisible lines have piled up and made a cage
A woman cries in the night, only one babe, in her belly.

This fall, the Sowing Holy Questions blog will focus on issues of racial healing. Writers will reflect on what has been done, what change ought to happen, and offer visions for healing in our communities. 

Alyssa Stebbing serves as Episcopal Migration Ministries Liaison for the Diocese of Texas and was a former Anglican delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW.) She has served in a variety of ministries that support those in poverty, fleeing violence, refugee resettlement, and border ministries. She also served at Trinity Epsicopal Church in The Woodlands as Outreach and Mission Coordinator. She is now a candidate for holy orders at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas with a concentration in Latinx Studies.

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