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Here is a collection of family immigrant stories from across our human experience.

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The Mennonite stories I grew up with

Henry Brunk
my pacifist great-grandfather
refusing to take up arms
walked backwards in the snow to West Virginia to escape Confederate spies

Are like the hymns I know by heart

“Come o thou traveler, unknown…”

My great-grandmother Suzanna
fled the South

but the bridge at Harper’s Ferry was burning

so she plunged her spring wagon into the Shenandoah River
her baby in her arms

(hymn …whom still I hold but cannot see…)

My great-great grandfather Tennessee John was called
King of the Amish
because of the regal way he rode his horse

Even today
a universe away from
their plain coats
shaped-note singing
and white foreheads that only farmers have

I call up the stanzas of their lives
enfolding me as I fall asleep at church on Sunday evenings
my head on my mother’s lap