This article gives great news for Christian marriages. Read on.
I really hated to leave my friends but probably hated more coming back to the busyness that I have come to know as “life”. Janice and I drove for almost 20 hours before either one of us turned on the radio. We talked most of the way back home, sharing snippets of what we had experienced and what we wished we could incorporate in our lives. The reality is, the closer we got to Amarillo, the more distant and surreal our time in Ohio was. Something is desperately wrong with that picture.
We laughed again at how I had to translate “inadequate” for them. It is now known as “not enough dosage.” We also shook our heads in dismay at our culture that spends so much time staying “connected.” The Amish have no FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in their culture. They connect better without Facebook and Smart Phones than all of us put together.
To be invited into the Amish culture was a high honor. They strive to be self-sufficient and mind their own business. To ask for help from the outside on the matters we had to deal with was a huge step. I hope I will have more times to build on this.
I was asked a number of questions from the young people in the community about my views on alcohol use and appropriate dating practices. In all cases I refused to answer and referred them back to the standards of the community. When I told Sam what I had done, he said, “I wouldn’t have expected anything else from you.” He trusted me after the time we met each other in Amarillo at the Hideaway and even more now.
I asked him why he asked me to come in the first place. He shook his head and said that there was no one in the Amish nation (around 250,000) that deals with the matters of growing relationships and restoring hearts filled with pain. The community can do a lot and it does it very well. He and the leaders were wise enough to know when they were over their heads.
My plans are to return at least two more times over this year to check in on their progress. Probably within the next six months. I told him that some very generous contributors had donated funds to see that this could take place. The German’s eyes filled with tears of appreciation. (FYI- I’m still accepting donations 🙂 )
I do a lot of dreaming. I did a lot of dreaming on the road back home. I thought of a Hideaway Northeast that could reach out to that part of country and provide the kind of service we do in Amarillo and in Atlanta, Ga. I know Steve & Rajan just fainted but I know they are used to my crazy ideas. I would want it close enough to my Amish friends where I could serve them. They certainly couldn’t afford my fees but I know my freezer would be filled and my pantry stacked high. I have had many dreams before and few of them become reality. But as long as I see such important needs that need attention, I will dream. I won’t stop dreaming until God says, “That’s the one!” Then He’ll open the doors, windows and the roof to have it come to pass.
Until then, I will pray that my friends in the little Amish community of over 300 in Ohio will love each other as they have done for years. That they will take what has been given to them and spread it to their larger nation. That alone will heal a lot of what ails them. Now physician heal thyself.
I woke up this morning with a question from Janice. “Would you like breakfast tacos with salsa?” We had gone almost an entire week without salsa and Janice is in withdrawal. We did eat at a local restaurant in Cambridge on Sunday. When we left we were deciding whether to return later. Janice commented that the food was good but nothing to write home about. I disagreed. How many other meals have you had that they served you fried chicken, mash potatoes, dressing, rolls, noodles and gravy over everything?
Her question about tacos reminded me I was headed back to my other reality in a couple of days. This day was a day filled with sadness. We knew that this was the last day we would see each other for a very long time.
The day started with my visiting again with the group of leaders with which I had worked closely over the last few days. They quizzed me about how to handle a variety of issues and always seemed to like the answers I gave. They were a very receptive audience, ready to learn and make their community better.
An issue they have been dealing with is setting up standards for this relatively young community. Most of the leaders are in their 40’s and want to keep the old traditions. The younger ones in the community are pushing for a relaxing of those standards. Sounds very similar to conversations I have had with church leaders in the past.
Some of the questions before them is whether to allow gas powered engines to run the conveyor as they load hay in the barn. They want to keep the simpler ways and use the horses when possible. The constant pull to become more flexible with these rules is causing some tension and the leadership is forging a unified front.
Their way of life does have a strong appeal to those of us who grow weary of the busyness and clutter of our society. I taught on parenting tonight and started with all I had observed that the Amish were doing well. The children all have a purpose almost from the time they can walk. They help the family survive by helping with chores. There are no simple tasks as even the most mundane is important to keep the family functioning. The cow needs milked twice each days; three meals cooked from scratch must be cooked; the dishes need washed and put up; the garden needs picked; tomatoes canned; fruits are ready to be made into preserves; wood needs to be chopped; the horses need fed and shod; and the list continues. Everyone is needed and is important.
They practice having all meals together. They pray before the meal and at the end. No one starts another chore until the meal is through and the prayer of thanksgiving is said.
They are not perfect parents, so my talk was received well. They are not very affectionate and often bark out commands. They can focus on what their children are not doing right instead of what they are doing well. They get angry at their children and often say things that are not very nurturing. Sounds a lot like us.
The constant challenge, especially when I am addressing a large group, is to make my illustrations something to which they can relate. I had to constantly think on my feet. I talked about how in our culture we don’t do dinner together very well. It is like birds on a wire that come in and go as they please sometimes. I asked what would happen if you didn’t milk your cow everyday. They said that when you did get around to milking it, the cow might not be too friendly to you. That was my opening to talk about touch other for sex. They laughed so easily. I think they were laughing with me and not at me.
After my talk for the evening was completed, there were lots of tears of sadness as we said goodbye. Simple yet wonder gifts were shared. We have bread, jam, plagues, poems, letters, fruit, tomatoes all coming back with us. Pictures were hand drawn and painted. These were real expressions of love that no sweater from Dillard’s could have even come close.
Today was a long day. We were finally able to come to a plan on how to help the family of focus. The community has really wanted to do the right thing for them but just didn’t have the expertise to tackle it. A plan now is set and I think it really looks good. The mother is in much better shape than when I first arrived and will be able to handle the issues at hand in a good way. I have told her that if at any time she feels confused or needs a resource to give me a shout. In fact, I have told all the leaders the same thing which they deeply appreciate.
Janice didn’t get to make cheese or make bread but she did enjoy helping out in the kitchen with all the girls. As you can tell by the picture I did get an opportunity to drive the buggy. We will add this to our list of unique experiences along side of teaching in a auction barn, washing dishes in a dry sink, and cooking on a wood burning stove. The picture is also special because of who took it. The Amish are not to have a picture taken of themselves nor are they permitted to take pictures. Someone did me a very special favor on the sly.
While I was sitting on the porch catching some cool air, Janice called me inside to see the “refrigerator”. Jake and Fannie had tapped into a spring which has never stopped since they arrived 15 years ago. They pipped it into their kitchen, collected the water into a custom built cabinet and used the water to keep their foods cool. It wasn’t frigid but it was cool enough to keep things like Mayo, butter, etc..
The Amish were into “green” before we even knew what it was. Everything is natural or organic. All the breads are whole grains. No pesticides or insecticides on their plants and no hormones in their animals. This community is very much into oils and natural medicine when possible but also not afraid to visit a doctor when needed.
Tonight was a very hot night in the auction barn but at least the mic was working. I had to change or redefine certain words so they could understand. “Inadequate”, “humiliated” and “intelligent” were just a few that I could remember. “Cooperation” is also a word that was foreign but not the concept.
The word that they did not understand that surprised me was “emotion”. They knew “feelings” but not emotions. I visited with one of the older men in the community (40’s) and he said the entire concept of designating words for feelings was hard. He wanted to learn but it was like learning a different language.
They sang Amazing Grace tonight in English, I think just for us. Janice looked in one of their German hymnals only to find no music notes. They had another hymnal that was thicker and it had many hymns that she recognized, but still no notes. We think the tunes have been handed down through the years.
The group is beginning to sense that our time together will soon be ending. Thank you notes and special gifts are coming our way. Some are small like loaves of bread and others are larger like the handwoven picnic basket.
Tomorrow will be our last day with them for while… only for a while. Bishop Sam said that he hoped that we were feeling as welcomed and loved as he did when he was at The Hideaway Experience. If he felt the way I am feeling, he really felt deeply loved.
During last night’s talk, one of the Amish women leaned over to Janice and asked her age. When Janice told her that she was 57, the young lady of 35 asked how she kept up her looks. She wanted to know where her gray hair was and then Janice showed her by pointing out her roots. The woman laughed and said, “Oh, you cover them up!”
She went on to say how much she appreciated how Janice was dressed. Janice walked into this adventure very concerned not to offend the community by her dress even though we were both assured that we could wear anything we wanted… except for a bikini. I assured them that I would not wear one and that I really didn’t look good in one anyway.
Janice was told how nice and “plain” she looked. In our society that would not be a compliment but in this culture it was high praise, especially for an English. Janice had decided not to wear makeup or jewelry. She pulled her hair up in a type of floppy bun, and wore a long, mid-calf, loosely fitted dress. She did wear sandals but her toes were not painted a bright color. This effort endeared the ladies to her.
One lady had shared with me that in her family as she was growing up, her mom and dad wanted the community to see them with great honor. So, her mother would make their clothes more baggy and more rumpled than the others. This is just the opposite of what we would do in our culture. I guess it would be like those whom Jesus spoke of who fasted and would display actions to let everyone know what they were doing. Piety comes in all flavors.
The community will be having a wedding in a few months even though it has not yet been announced. I talked to one young man who has been dating his girlfriend for several years. There are striving to be pure in their relationship which is why they have decided to marry before he is 21. A financial arrangement is being hammered out with his father because the Amish way is to have all the young men’s income go to their families until they reach 21. By doing this, the boys of the family are doing their part in helping the family survive. It makes me think how much we have trained our children to be selfish and entitled.
The boys and girls who are not married must sit separately in public events if they are dating. However, they can date and be alone with each other (scratch head here). At one time the Amish practiced the ritual of “bundling” which would place two teenagers in the same bed with one being wrapped in a blanket or at least a board between them to help them avoid the temptation of having sex. This practice (bundling, not sex) was usually reserved for the winter months and the couple was to spend all night “talking”. They don’t practice this much anymore, at least in this community and the teens really do try to keep their relationships pure.
While the children have plenty of time to play, they also have lots of responsibilities. The girls all help around the house and even do some outside chores like picking the garden, cutting the grass, and pulling weeds. There are no classes on how to cook, can, sew or clean. They just work side by side with their mother and older siblings. There is a hierarchy in the kitchen with usually the mother giving directions. The women I have observed are very clear and direct in their instructions. The children know they are to obey without a complaint. To watch these ladies throughout the day is to watch a well-organized team complete a task.
The major rooms in the homes we have been in are the kitchen and the living area. Both of these rooms are large and uncluttered. There might be a plague with a verse or wise saying propped up on a table and possibly a small vase with a wildflower sticking out. I have been meeting with the leaders in the living rooms which have always been adjacent to the kitchen. While there is a wood burning stove (a Prairie Princess) inside the kitchen for cooking, this is not used in the summer. Another room which is connected to the kitchen is more exposed to the outside and is used for all their cooking in the summer.
Enough for now. Look for part B of this blog.