Amish Book Preface

Amish is a religion! The Amish clock did not simply stop ticking. Amish is a religion. The Amish people are not museum employees trying to show outsiders how things were done 100 years ago, nor are they entertainers like those who put on Civil War reenactments. Amish is a religion. Many tourists love to sneak photos of these unique people who seem so vulnerable and helpless. They are neither. They are a religion. The Amish do what they do for one reason only: it' s their religion. And they are not ashamed to let the world know that they are different. They are proud to be a people in the world, but not of it.

This Amish book is the study of a religion that began at the front door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, where a young man named Luther nailed Ninety-five Theses. Lutherans, Reformed and Anabaptists grew out of that movement. We are about to focus especially on the Anabaptists and their descendants, the Hutterites, Mennonites and the Amish.

Many people enjoy the friendly shops, craft stores, restaurants and overall homey feeling they get when they visit Shipshewana, Indiana, or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. These are fun and interesting places where millions of tourists walk the streets and sidewalks to contribute to the million dollar industry spawned by these Plain People. Few however take the time to learn much about them. Instead they just shrug their shoulders and admit that the sights are great, the products are well-made, but none of it makes any sense.

In this Amish book we will find some answers to the whys and wherefores of these people. It is indeed a difficult puzzle to piece together, but if we look at the puzzle pieces one by one, we begin to see what it is that makes this culture exist as it does.

Throughout this Amish book I have attempted to treat these people with utmost Christian respect. The Plain People deserve neither ridicule nor stoning, nor even odd looks. Instead we must begin to understand them in order to see their ways and their faith. Only then can we respond.

I would like to give special thanks to Amish book author Ruth Irene Garrett, for the valuable time she spent with me. Thanks to Ruth and her husband Ottie, I was able to ask the tough questions that only a former Amish person could answer. Ruth left her Amish home in Iowa to marry an "English" man. As a result she was excommunicated (by her bishop uncle), and shunned. Her candid answers to a multitude of questions gave me insights that no books could have. To Ruth and her husband I am most indebted.

I would also like to offer special thanks to Pastor Reuben Kleinsasser and the people of the Springfield Hutterite Colony just outside Winnipeg, Canada, for the hospitable tour, dinner and personal concert they gave my wife Edith and me, and to Hutterite Pastor Edward (last name withheld) for kindly answering my questions and reviewing the chapter on the Hutterites. Thanks are also in order for John and Esther (last name withheld), an Amish couple in Indiana, who took time to show us their home-based business and graciously invited us into their home, and to Mennonite pastor Joseph Yoder, head curator of the Mennohof Museum in Shipshewana, Indiana, for sitting down with me and answering my many questions. Very special thanks also go to best-selling author Beverly Lewis who gave of her time to clarify a number of important points.

Now let's jump into the car and head toward the back roads. Just maybe we'll see one of those buggies clippety-clopping along the shoulder, or maybe we'll happen to see an Amish woman hanging out her wash, or just maybe we'll catch a glimpse of some Amish kids running barefoot on their way to school.

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