My family and I had the rare opportunity to have lunch and spend the afternoon with an Amish family. The contact with the Amish family was possible due to the fact that we have a great friend who was Amish for years and nurtured a good relationship with the community we visited. Without her, we wouldn’t have been received with the openness with which we were.
Even though I have already had some contact with the Amish in the past, only at this meeting God provided an opportunity for deeper interaction with them. It was possible to talk in more details about the culture and worldview of such a discreet, reclusive, and hardworking people. In today’s chat, we’ll talk about the Amish and my visit to them.
Who are the Amish?
By now, you’re probably asking yourself: who are the Amish? Briefly speaking, the Amish are those who follow the teachings of Jakob Ammann, a 17th Century Swiss Mennonite leader, whose name, by the way, originated the term “Amish”. They believe in a pure life, far away from what the world has to offer.
At the beginning of the 18th Century, the Amish migrated to the US, having first set up in the state of Pennsylvania. Later on, they spread to other places. The family we visited resides in a community in the state of Oklahoma in the central US.
As my ex-amish friend had prearranged with them, we arrived around 10:30 am. They live on a farm, in a place well away from the cities, where contact with the outside world is very limited.
The Amish families live on farms. Please understand “family” in the broadest sense of the term. In the farm we visited, for example, four generations are living harmoniously: the older couple, their sons, daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Below, we have the record of our view as we approached the farm we visited.
Here we have the main house:
As they understand that they should live apart from the influence of the external world, the Amish do not use electricity. No TV, no computers, nothing. In some situations, alternative energies such as car batteries or wind energy are used for basic tasks.
They don’t allow themselves to have or drive cars. Some communities open exception for ownership of tractors, that do not bring vanity and are oriented to work on the farm. This was the case of the farm we visited.
If they need to go somewhere else, like to worship God on Sundays in other Amish farms (they do meet in people’s homes, not in churches), they do it in small buggies, which are very characteristic of the Amish .
Although this can vary from community to community, they are generally not comfortable taking pictures of themselves. In our conversation there, they kindly allowed us to take pictures of their children to put here. So, I took a picture of my daughter with her new Amish little friend, as you can see below. If want to see more photos of the Amish people, however, the Internet is full of them. Just google the term “Amish” or click here if you like.
The beautiful Amish child in the photo above gives us an idea of how the Amish dress. Women cover their heads and wear long dresses. The dresses may not have buttons and are always in neutral color.
Women don’t wear jewelry, makeup, and don’t cut their hair. Men don’t cut their beards, but don’t grow mustaches. This is so serious that cutting the beard of an Amish person can lead to jail.
Some Amish are dedicated to the production of art. In the place where we were, we were ablr to find some nice tapestry made by Amish artists.
As we saw in their position of not allowing pictures of themselves, one thing that they avoid at all costs is to make artistic representations of people. Reason being that it could lead to idolatry, as they think.
You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. (Exodus 20: 4)
Thus, it is interesting to note that although some communities allow the production of dolls for children to play, these dolls should not have faces, not to transgress the prohibition of Exodus.
Regarding the division of labor in relation to gender, it is very clear: women work at home, especially cooking and sewing for the community; men in the affairs of the farm, dealing with crops, animals, etc. Below, we see part of the farm work: provide food for the livestock.
After been at farm work since very early in the morning (sometimes since 4 am), men return to the house at lunchtime to eat and come back to work in the early afternoon.
In the family we visited, the lunch was invariably served at 11:00 am. We were already there when the Amish men came from the farm work and all gathered in the same room for lunch.
A prayer to bless the food is made by the eldest man in the house and, as a rule, is done in the language they use to communicate among themselves, which is a variation of the German. Although they call it Pennsylvania Dutch, it is not meant to be Dutch, but Deutch (German in German). So, it is in fact a variation of the German language.
The food is plentiful, healthy, and extremely tasty.
The dessert was also very good. In our visit, we had the pecan pie you can see below.
After desert, we enjoyed a very good coffee while we talked about some of the finer points of Amish culture.
Do the Amish believe the Bible?
Yes, they believe in the Bible and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is the way to salvation. See the picture we took on the house wall:
We see an Amish woman, kneeling and praying, with the inscription: “Thank you, Jesus”.
In fact, if we had to pick just one verse in the Bible to describe the Amish way of life, perhaps the most appropriate one would be the following:
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
So, much of how they behave and act is based on these two principles:
- Mutual care in the community, and
- Separation from worldly things.
By what I saw, I can say that they not only believe in the Bible, but that they are true Christians, in spite of not engaging in any type of evangelism and living under unnecessary religious legalism.
Do we have to live apart from the world?
The point is that the Bible does not tell us to be apart from the world, but to be apart from the things of the world. Here is a very subtle difference, but still a very important one.
The purpose of God is that without the influence of the things of the world, we stay in it to present Christ to others. As C. S. Lewis once said, we should be in the world as soldiers in an occupied territory.
In other words, we have to be able to share the good news of the Gospel of Christ to those who are in the world, what we couldn’t do if we were not in it. We have to be in the world to influence it, not to be influenced by its principles and values.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthews 28: 19-20)
As I said, besides not actively involved in evangelism, the Amish also live under large legalism. Does it make them people who are not Christians? Not at all. Despite the limitations they impose on themselves, they generally have their hearts in Christ.
It is clear, however, that all this legalism, all these limitations, bring problems especially for Amish young people. That’s why they have the Rumspringa.
When the Amish become late teenagers, they have the chance to experience Rumspringa, which is a period when they can live in the cities, experience the worldly life and therefore be able to decide whether or not they want to come back and engage in the Amish community forever.
During this period, many Amish get involved with drugs and sex and have serious problems. The amazing thing is that the vast majority chooses to return to the Amish community, be baptized, and go on living with their strict behavior standards.
In our conversation, we were told that in the community we were visiting just 10% of those who went to Rumspringa decided not to return. The vast majority chose the safety and care that the Amish people dispense for his people.
Once they decide to be baptized and become Amish by choice, they can not get out. If they do something wrong, they can be punished with Meidung, a kind of excommunication. This mean that the excommunicated person can live in the community, but no one will talk to this person, not even her parents and other residents of the same house.
Such punishment, however, is very rare to happen, because they have already experienced what the world has to offer and made their mind about what is best for them. At that point, they have already decided that life in the community is much more suitable for them.
As far as I saw, I could say that the Amish are admirable people. The great commitment they have to their faith, to the peaceful way of living, and to the fact that they promote hard and honest work in its members since childhood is really impressive.
It is clear, however, that they engage in unnecessary religious legalism. We know that in Christ we are saved. We’re not saved by our works. We pray that more revelation in this area come to them.
In short, the opportunity we had to visit the Amish community in a deeper sense was a great pleasure for me and my family because we had the chance to meet more closely this very special group of people. People that prioritize God in their lives, that give up everything to live a life they consider to be right according to their understanding of the Word of God.