I came to be friends with Rosanna through my wife's work. Becca is the founding director of Magdalene, a two-year residential program for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. She also founded Thistle Farms, a bath and body care company where the women of Magdalene create all the wonderful products and are employed in all phases of the business.
I heard Rosanna's story through tears -- hers and mine. She told me how she had been kidnapped, raped and beaten, brought first to Mexico, and later to the U.S. as a sex slave at the age of 14. She showed me the many cigarette burns, and spoke of the fear and intimidation, of the importance of crying out while being raped because the men enjoyed it. When she stopped crying out, they called her a whore. She recounted to me the misery of years spent on the street, and subsequent addiction and incarceration.
She also told me of her joy when her daughter was born.
Through the prison system, Rosanna came to Magdalene and began her journey to health and sobriety. At Magdalene and Thistle Farms she was a shining light, bright and hopeful. It was clear that she was going to make it. Imaginative and industrious, she began to develop a business cleaning houses, while at the same time working as a manicurist. Soon after graduating from Magdalene, she was able to buy a car and rent a house for her and her daughter.
One day, she was stopped at a traffic light by a policeman for having a flat tire, and he asked to see her documentation. Unable to provide a green card, she was immediately extradited to a prison in Louisiana where she was held for 7 months. Magdalene attempted to find a legal solution and bring her home to be with her daughter, but their efforts failed and she was deported back to Honduras.
On her return crossing, Rosanna faced humiliation, extortion, intimidation and risked death. One of her traveling companions, Karla, died after drinking water from a farmer's poisoned well, never to reach the two daughters she had been separated from. We've all heard the stories, but the image of immigrants' bones gleaming in the moonlight as the group of souls ran through the night -- this image stays with me.
Rosanna is a survivor. She tells her story through tears, and the reality of her experience is brought home: struggling to stay afloat while crossing the Rio, persevering for three days beneath the scorching sun with little water -- all to see her daughter again.
Rosanna is beautiful in the most natural of ways: unwavering in her faith and the belief that God is with her even in the midst of terrible injustice. I have never heard her utter the words, "Why me?"
I do not know all the answers to the issues surrounding immigration and immigration reform; but as a songwriter, I find myself running alongside Rosanna, facing the smugglers, swimming across the Rio, staring at the border fences and listening to the sound of the dogs barking and the helicopters overhead, seeing the human bones shine with moonlight, resting Karla's lifeless body up against a tree, and pressing on -- persevering -- just to see a beloved daughter.
This is the way things are. And this does not reflect the America that I believe in. Moreover, as Christians, how can we speak of souls as 'illegal'? The song 'Rosanna' is just one story among millions, and we must listen to these stories and look into the faces of those struggling all around us. Only then can we act, speak, and perhaps even suffer, alongside them. For this is compassion.
Listen to the song based on Rosanna's story:
Marcus Hummon is a recording artist, producer, playwright, published poet, children's author, and a Grammy-winning songwriter. Among the songs he has worked on are "Bless the Broken Road," "Born to Fly," and "Cowboy Take Me Away." He lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Vanderbilt University Episcopal Chaplain Becca Stevens, and their three sons, Levi, Caney and Moses. He is a graduate of Williams College and blogs at MarcusHummonMusic.com.