June 6, 2008

The Shepherd at Dawn: The Early Years

Category: News — admin @ 6:37 pm

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“Someone is responsible to lead and shepherd,
and others are responsible to support and submit.
Otherwise, there can be no godly order.”

—Elmo Stoll, “Community”
________________________________________

The late afternoon sunlight slanted through the yellow-framed windows of our house. Inside, Big Church was winding down. Bishop Pete Yoder, who had recently moved to Marshfield, MO, had returned to preside over the communion service that day. And to ordain a new minister to fill the slot vacated when he left.

The date was April 14, 1971. I was nine years old and had never before witnessed an ordination. A quiet pall hung in the air after the last song was sung. There was some bustling and shuffling as the ministers disappeared into my parents’ bedroom. All church members then filed up to the door to place their votes. The preachers returned and set out the little black books. There were four or five.

Bishop Pete stood and announced the names of those in the lot. And slowly the called men rose and approached the table and chose their books. All except one. He remain-ed seated, stooped over and half hidden on the back bench where he sat, immobile and quiet. A tense minute or two passed. Still he sat. Perturbed, Bishop Pete cleared his throat.

“Those who are in the lot are required to come forward and take a book,” he said quietly, but firmly.

The young man straightened on the bench and rose to his feet. All eyes followed him as he walked to the front, his head bowed. Only one book remained; all the others had already been picked up by the other men in the lot. He picked it up and joined them on the bench.

Bishop Pete approached the ashen-faced men and began the brutally intense process of opening the books, one by one. None held the little slip of paper. Until he finally opened the young man’s book. And there it was.

The young man, quiet and somber until now, abruptly exploded into high, wracking sobs and burst into a great torrent of tears. “Huuuuu, Huuuuu,” he bawled. His should-ers shook, his whole body heaved. “Noooo, noooo, not me, not me,” he wailed. His high rolling sobs swept through the house in sonic waves.

We all watched, frozen. I had never seen a grown man weep like that before. It was a dramatic moment.

Bishop Pete did not long delay. The sobbing subsided slightly, the young man stood and Bishop Pete pronounced him a preacher for life. Then the young man sat on the bench and received awkward gestures of comfort from those around him.

The service was dismissed. We dispersed.

And thus Elmo Stoll was ordained.

****************************

Elmo Stoll. The man. The leader. The orator. The writer. The intellectual. The fire-brand. The legend. In his time, probably the most famous and powerful Amishman in the world. Who, at the very apex of his fame and power, turned his back and walked away from it all. Elmo Stoll, whose name has evoked more responses, private and public, than any other on this blog.

He was born in Litchfield, Michigan on March 5, 1944. The son of Peter and Anna Stoll. Anna was my father’s older sister. They emerged from the hills of Daviess County, Indiana, where Peter had inherited the wild, strange Stoll blood from his father, Victor.

Of Elmo’s childhood I know little. Only the stories of my older siblings, who grew up with him. His family moved to Piketon, Ohio, where my parents lived for a few years. They then moved to the new settlement of Aylmer, Ontario in the early 1950s, when Elmo would have been around ten years old.

The Stolls in Aylmer were hard core, but not typical, Amish. They believed in witnessing and missions. In reaching out to the lost and less fortunate in mainstream society.

They were bright, personable brainy people, but mildly unhinged, by orthodox Amish standards. Slightly unstable, now pursuing this theory, now immersed in that. Whatever their hands found to do, they did with all their might.

Elmo developed into a natural young leader among his peers. He was highly intelligent, a deep thinker.

His teenage years were like any other’s, wracked with the emotional turbulence so common at that age. At sixteen he began running with the youth, attending the singings and other youth events.

That year, with his peers, he took instruction classes for baptism to join the Aylmer Amish church. He had some unorthodox ideas and was not shy in expressing them. This caused problems.

On the day before the class was to be baptized, all the applicants were scheduled to meet at our home on a Saturday afternoon. For final preparation and admonition. All were assembled, except Elmo had not yet arrived. Then an open buggy clattered into the drive. Beside his father Peter Stoll sat Elmo, his hair flying in the wind. He was not wearing a hat. He had decided it was unnecessary.

This, of course, was unacceptable to the authorities. Wearing a hat while outdoors was the long-accepted standard of any respectable Amish church. Elmo unilaterally decided to rebel against this standard. And he had reasons. Show him the Scripture where a hat is mandated. Of course, no one could.

Bishop Pete and the preachers were deeply grieved. They admonished Elmo, who stood there boldly before them all and disputed with them. The baptismal service was postponed until Elmo could be convinced it might be in his best interest to back down. Eventually he did, and some weeks later he was baptized with the others in his group.

The young lion had unsheathed his claws. He’d been forced to back down. This time.

A number of the Aylmer youth were concerned for souls, which was quite atypical for Amish youth. These young people would go to nearby towns and cities and pass out religious tracts. More than once, young Elmo the evangelist preached on the street corners in nearby towns. I never heard that they garnered a single convert. But the Word, we are promised, does not return void. So who knows? Perhaps he influenced someone to search further. At the very least, he honed his skills for later years.

(From the recesses of my memory, I recall stories of how these youth would get together evenings and wrap the tracts in gum wrappers. When driving about on their buggies they would throw these pieces of “gum” onto driveways of the houses they passed. In theory, the homeowner would pick up what he thought was a free piece of gum, and presto, unwrap a religious tract. I’m sure that went down well. But the story may be pure hearsay, or my memory might be flawed. But I didn’t just dream it up.)

When my father and Joseph Stoll, Elmo’s older brother, launched Pathway Publishers and later Family Life, Elmo came aboard as a writer. He wrote short stories and a monthly column, Views and Values. He wrote in a folksy flowing conversational prose, connecting with his readers.

He and David Luthy lived together as bachelors in a small place east of us they bought from Nicky Stoltzfus and Joe Eicher, when they moved out of Aylmer in 1969. David Luthy began his long distinguished career as one of the most eminent, influential Amish historians in the world, publishing his research regularly in Family Life.

On June 4, 1970, Elmo married Elizabeth Miller, a quiet unassuming woman, the daughter of Saul and Sarah Miller. They settled on the LeRoy Marner farm in the center of the community. They were married for less than a year when Elmo was ordained.

I remember Elmo as tall (He was of medium height; I was just a little kid.), wiry, balding, with brownish hair and golden beard. Easy to talk to. A ready listener. He always flashed a warm smile and gazed about with piercing, piercing eyes. He could look right into the core of your soul and see you as you really were. Or so it felt.

After his ordination, it did not take him long to exult and flourish in his newfound power. He relished his leadership role. And took to it naturally, like a hound to the hunt. Most people were drawn to the sheer magnetic force of his charismatic personality. Like moths to the flame.

He soon took a sledgehammer to the established Aylmer church rules. Within weeks, it was suddenly decreed that all eyeglasses must be wire-rimmed or rimless. No more plastic frames, too worldly.

And that was just the beginning.

The God he served was a furious, frowning God, who just might possibly be placated if only increasingly demanding and difficult sacrifices were made. In the end, it would all depend on how hard you had tried. How willingly you bore your cross. On the things you had done. And to what degree you had rejected the “world.”

And so he set out on a mad quest, in earnest pursuit of a plainer lifestyle. Paint the inside of your buggies black, wear a broader brimmed hat, with the brim turned down all around, no cowboy wannabes. Make sure the women’s head veils covered their ears, and their dresses practically swept the floor. Girls and boys could no longer play volleyball together. No ball playing at all on Sundays. Carpenter crews could no longer travel to jobs in motor vehicles, but had to drive a horse and buggy, thus limiting their range. Anyone traveling to another community overnight could not hire a taxi driver for transportation, but had to travel by bus or train, unless “business” was involved.

All to satisfy one man’s vision, and to appease an impersonal, imperial God who demanded abject obedience and primitive simplicity.

But it was never enough.

A patient populace bore with him, and indulged his whims. But the youth increasingly seethed as the weighted yoke of his ideas and demands choked the life from their few precious rights and fragile freedoms.

It did not take him long to find his stride as a preacher, either. And oh, the man could preach. I’ve heard it said that anyone who ever heard Elmo Stoll preach in his heyday would remember some aspect of that sermon for the rest of his life. This, I think, is true. I know it is for me.

He always finished his sermons in due time. The children did not get restless when he preached.

I can still see and hear him, pre-1976, when we lived in Aylmer, on a Sunday morning, rising slowly to take the floor. Somber, head bowed, hands clasped at his chest. Opening chattily, as if he were talking directly to you and you alone. Usually some small anecdote of something he’d seen or heard, or some conversation he’d had with someone, followed by a Bible verse. And from that small building block the man would weave and thread and stitch, in fantastic vivid detail, in mellow lilting tones, an elaborate yet meaningful tapestry of a lesson to be gleaned and learned and applied. All delivered extemporaneously, with no podium and no notes.

And we all sat there quietly, even those of us who half-despised the man, and listened and drank it in, mesmerized. And in those brief fleeting moments, despite ourselves, despite the deep flaws we knew he had, despite his heavy-handed efforts to single-handedly mold the church into a model of perfection, we liked and respected him because we realized that what we’d just heard was something rare and fine and great and beautifully told.

Even those most stridently opposed to his agenda, among whom I count myself as a minor figure, rarely questioned his sincerity. His methods were another matter.

He knew what he knew without the slightest hint of doubt or hesitation. And in those heady early years, he did not much care who might disagree with him. Whoever did that was wrong. Period. He did not brook resistance or foolish chatter. Any hint of opposition was considered rebellion. And rebellion was a sin.

He freely expressed his opinions when and where he felt they might be needed. Once, right in the middle of a sermon, he paused, and asked whoever might be chewing gum to dispose of it. He felt chewing gum in church was disrespectful and wrong. A sin. He then resumed his sermon. I never was sure, but I thought my brother Steve may have been the culprit. Or one of them.

One Sunday, church was at my uncle Abner Wagler’s home. I was sitting on a bench with my friends Hank Wagler and Raymond Miller. Right in front of the preachers. Elmo delivered the main sermon that day. We boys were restless and fidgety and perhaps did not give our full attention to his words. Again, right in the middle of the sermon, he stopped and directly addressed us. Told us to stop fidgeting and behave ourselves and quiet down. We froze in our seats. And fumed silently, chalking up one more black mark against him.

But he recognized and lauded the good things, too, the little things that might easily have been beneath his wont to notice. One Sunday, my friends and I approached the dinner table for the noon meal. We were hungry and this was already the second seating. The table was filling up. A quick count told me that I would be the last one seated. The ones behind me would have to wait until the next seating, a good twenty-five minutes. I suddenly realized that my friend Luke, a year older than me, was behind me. I had somehow stepped ahead of him, violating the hierarchical “age rule” of our social setting. As I approached the last seat on the bench, I stopped and motioned Luke ahead of me. He swooped into the seat. I turned around and walked out-side with a herd of unlucky boys to wait for the next table.

Unbeknownst to me, Elmo had witnessed this small scene unfolding and was touched. He told my father later that afternoon what he had seen, and praised me.

“I remember exactly how hungry boys are at that age,” he told my father.

My father later told me what Elmo had said. And it felt good to know that he had seen and acknowledged my small unselfish act.

He pestered the youth (defined as any single person above 16 years old). Once, the youth had planned to rent a bus and go visit the Detroit zoo for the day. Together as a group. Just the young unmarrieds. The night before they went, Elmo sent word that he and his wife would go along as well. He was told the bus was full. No problem. They would set chairs in the aisle of the bus.

And so they went along. After arriving at the zoo, all the youth piled out eagerly, ready to head out for a fun day at the zoo. Unfortunately, most of them neglected to put on their hats and bonnets. Elmo, the man who showed up at his pre-baptismal meeting sans hat, sternly called them all back to the bus. And told the boys they must wear their hats. And the girls their bonnets. They obeyed, seething. What they had suspect-ed was confirmed; he went along only to make sure everyone behaved as he felt they should.

He was not popular with the youth. And yet he reached out to them. He idealistically believed that there should be no generational gap, that teenagers should hang out comfortably with their bearded elders. Socialize. Have things in common. Share hopes and dreams. As if such a concept would have a prayer of success. But he tried.

At one point, he invited the youth boys to his house for weekly readings, and together they worked their way through Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” Such an activity was a startling new concept to the group. I imagine they attended somewhat sullenly and did not much participate in the discussion. But they went. I was too young, but my older brothers who attended still speak of those times. They may even still have the very copy of the book they used.

Those were turbulent times. He was a busy, busy man. Writing, preaching, leading, admonishing, improving. Always something going wrong, someone going astray, a brother who needed admonition, church rules that needed tweaking, more stringent guidelines to be implemented.

And here, I think, it should be mentioned that Elmo’s wife Elizabeth, or Lisbet, as she was known, exercised a calming influence over him that tamed his passionate, erratic nature, calmed the savage beast within that would have hurt a lot more people, a lot more deeply, absent her gentle, persuasive influence. Lisbet was always content in the background, always smiling and always kind.

She bore his sons and quietly mothered them while her husband rushed about with all the answers, pouring a lot of heavy concrete, writing and preaching with great authority on the proper methods of discipline and correction in raising children.

In the early to mid 1970s, the Aylmer community expanded rapidly in fame and influence. Became widely known through its publications of Family Life and several lesser periodicals. That golden age saw probably the greatest collaboration of visionary Amish intellectuals ever assembled. They sailed boldly through uncharted waters. What they were doing had never been done before. My father. Joseph Stoll (who lived in Honduras, but continued his written contributions). David Luthy. And of course, Elmo Stoll, whose meteoric rise as a preacher and writer accelerated each year, as he traveled about and preached in many distant settlements.

From the outside, Aylmer was viewed in awe by thousands upon thousands of admiring sheep as the great shining city on a hill. From the inside, it was, well, something less. Striving always to stand tall as an example to lesser communities that allowed such wickedness as tobacco growing, smoking, bed courtship and other horrors, the Aylmer leaders came to believe their own polished rhetoric of the perfect church. And how it could be attained. They felt Aylmer was about as close to perfect as one could get. Never satisfied, they plunged about this way and that, in a chronic state of mad instability, inflicting ever-increasing burdens on their groaning flock.

This state of raw hubris could not stand. In due time, it would crumple to bitter ashes.

In October, 1976, when I was fifteen, my family moved from Aylmer to Bloomfield, Iowa. Although his heart never really left Aylmer, my father realized that none of his younger sons would stay in the faith unless he moved from that place (most eventually left anyway). The Aylmer leaders publicly supported him, but privately they must have wondered why David Wagler could not control his wild, unruly sons.

Our departure date arrived. As the loaded tractor-trailers slowly lumbered down the dusty gravel road toward the highway, Elmo Stoll paused and looked out across the fields from his Pathway Publishers office window. The tractor-trailers turned and head-ed toward Highway 3 and disappeared behind the woods that bordered the southern edge of the farm that had been the only home I’d ever known.

The next Sunday in his sermon, Elmo described in dramatic detail how he stood there and watched us leave, how the flood of memories flowed in unbidden and the tears suddenly welled in his eyes and trickled in unchecked rivulets down his cheeks.

The shepherd wept. For himself. And for us.
_______________________________________________________________________

Editor’s Note: The second and final essay on the Elmo Stoll saga will be posted some-time later this summer. Probably around late July or early August.

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(13 Comments) »

  1. That’s mean, to make us wait that long for ‘the rest of the story’, Ira! :)

    Comment by sms — June 7, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  2. …and I arrived in Aylmer in May of 1977 and for the next twenty years…

    Comment by Katie Troyer — June 7, 2008 @ 8:45 am

  3. I wonder how Elmo became such a robust wielder of power in an office he obviously did not welcome initially. (Great insider description of his ordination!) Perhaps he saw at Aylmer that the truly remarkable improvements over less commendable Amish practices would never take hold elsewhere if, on his watch, they were accompanied by laxness toward tradition in general. Thus the strict attention to minutiae–because the “greater good” called for it. Then again, perhaps the “cognitive dissonance” many thoughtful people apparently felt around Elmo needs no other explanation than that Elmo was human, with all the splendor and tragedy that condition encompasses.

    I love the “tapestry” imagery of Elmo’s preaching.

    Comment by Miriam Iwashige — June 7, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  4. I grew up most of my life near Elmo’s Christian Community near Cookville, TN. Will be anxious to read of what you have to say about the rest of his life. A family who lived there had a daughter die. Her grandparents were from our church so alot of us went. We started out by helping to sing, in 4 part harmony. After the first verse Elmo got up and said in their church they all sing in unison and would we all please do the same!

    This was a very interesting article.

    Richard Miller’s wife

    Comment by Tina Miller — June 7, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  5. All giants of history are accompanied with flaws to some greater or lesser extent. I do not like hagiographies that try to pass as biographies, but I also do not like hatchet jobs that try to appear as objective memoirs that glorify the writer while demonizing the subject. The great people of our lives and our collective human history are not plaster saints but for the most part, they are not media constructs who really did nothing notable. For this writing, I place giants of history such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Jefferson Davis (the only President of the Confederate States of America), the Borges of the Renaissance and all such in the notorious instead of great category. Each one may have had a huge influence on history, a few even having some positive impact despite their greater negative impact, but I will not define these creatures as great. This arbitrary distinction forces me to wonder where to put King Philip II of Spain (king during the time of the Great Armada), King Henry VIII of England, Nicoli Machiavelli (wrote a book named The Prince which was followed exactly by Stalin and was on Hitler’s nightstand), Nathan B. Forest (possibly the South’s and maybe American history’s greatest battlefield commander, even above Lee and Jackson and only rivaled by Patton, first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and whose funeral was attended by thousands of African Americans who saw that the end of his life out balanced the Fort Pillow massacre and the KKK) and others whose great good and utter evil seem to compete head to head.

    As I have gotten to know men such as Abraham Lincoln, William T. Sherman, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, William Halsey (‘Bull’ Halsey of WWII naval fame and one of the most talented and seriously flawed naval commanders of all times ), George Patton (the Halsey of the Army but without Halsey’s serious flaws or at least the luck not to have any Halsey flaws show up at the wrong time to threaten to almost lose his Army), John Boyd (invented Shock and Awe attack, rationalized fighting aircraft energy envelopes, wrote the doctrine of Creative Destruction which is a must read for any one in a Moore’s Law driven business or economy (so must reading for all you readers) and was a target of my mother’s affections before she met my father), Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin and the like, I see glaring character flaws, horrible errors of judgment and sometimes individuals that I would not want living in my city let alone as part of my family. However, after seeing their warts, I still admire them for the things they did right at the right time. So far, I have only met one man in history who I can’t see any personality flaws beyond minor habits that some could find annoying and that man is Dr. Willis Carrier. He invented interior environment air conditioning as we understand it today and invented wet bulb psychometrics which is a string of words none of you understand but is the key to all the comfortable during the summer buildings you enjoy. Since I am a heating, ventilation and air conditioning design consultant, I am Dr. Carrier’s direct professional descendent.

    I look to Glo to add to this list from the art and literature side of the house.

    Now after this buildup, where to place Elmo Stoll? I could see a power-mad demagogue using the hammer of guilt and Amish mind conditioning to abuse and scare a herd of hapless sheep while massaging a massive ego. I could see an enlightened man who understood that the ability of the Amish church to spiritually reproduce itself depended on certain preconditions, and he needed to use his office of minister and later bishop to fight the good fight to recreate these preconditions. He reluctantly went to his official office, placed in the lot with other men and selected by the Holy Spirit or chance, depending on each reader’s perspective. After having the mantle of history thrust on him, he rose to the occasion.

    From what I have read from Elmo and heard from people who knew his flaws and accomplishments, I myself will see Elmo as in the “great” category, limited of course to his venue of the Amish church.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — June 7, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  6. Have you ever noticed that it’s the “perfect people” we collectively forget? It’s the folks with flaws, eccentricities, oddities or difficult natures that we remember. Even in scripture we are quick to point to the “humanity” of the 12 – translation those weird folks following after a real strange one. Yet we spend so much time trying to pound out the warps and waves…perhaps I should add to Mark’s list, Sts. Francis, Thomas Aquinas, Anthony Abbot and Augustine.

    With the above discussion of callings and such and Mark’s list of men above – I have one more thing to add, Both Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler were artists. One was encouraged and the other was not.

    I have a rocky history with dynamic preacher types… I await part II.

    Comment by Glo — June 8, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  7. Interesting blog on Elmo’s beginning as a preacher. In his later years things were not so cut and dried for him, and I expect he wished the cement had not dried so hard and unchangeable (like a lot of us do). I clearly remember him preaching in his early years that he does not believe he will live to be an old man, and he was right. One incident about Lizbet; one time Elmo was preaching and his little son (no idea which one) was making some kind of monkeyshines right there in front of Elmo, this man was trying to put a stop to the monkey-shines and keep on preaching at the same time. Like any good mother, Lizbet came to take him with her. Elmo did not let her, and people felt bad for her. She was a wonderful mother and wife, I’m sure.

    I think you gave an accurate discription of life in Aylmer at the time. To this day some ex-Aylmer people have a hard time appreciating the Pathway publication. It was the city on the hill with shining lights, but oh, beneath the surface a lot of things were happening.

    It amazes me that not more people that actually knew Elmo and heard him preach don’t leave comments.

    Comment by Rachel — June 10, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  8. I know this is late. I didn’t read the last comments until just now. I for one… was exposed to Elmo “culture” but never got to really hear him talk due to my language barrier. That was one of many disappointments in my life. I do so wish I could comment on Elmo’s preaching but no, it is not for me to have that experience. One thing I can do is… is to listen in on you all talking about Elmo. That gave me better glimse of who he really is as opposed to just saying “hi” to him and then stand around quietly with no interpreter available.

    Comment by Jean — June 13, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

  9. Your essay on Elmo Stoll is well done, fascinating. I did not get to meet him till 1977, so you shed light on a period of his life I know very little of. Obviously, I am in no position to challenge your account, you were there and I was not yet even born. Permit me though, to offer some observations.

    First, you are a good writer, you paint vivid articulate pictures. Is it possible that you suffer the affliction common to writers? A temptation to paint with bolder and brighter colors than real life? Was Elmo that famous and powerful? Yes, he was a powerful speaker, but was he that good? As for his whims, are you saying they were only “one man’s vision”? And the youth who increasingly seethed, surely there were some who loved and respected him. Raw Hubris?

    Your stories certainly do have the “ring of truth”. Most of the things he cracked down on are stories that I have heard elsewhere, or else believable because they are hang-ups he carried with him all through later life. It is interesting to hear a different perspective on some of the stories that I heard from him. For example, the bus trip to the zoo. I remember him telling the story, how he asked to go along but was informed that “the bus is full”, and how he offered to sit in the aisle. The part about the hats and bonnets I do not remember hearing.

    Chewing gum. He hated it with a passion.

    Something that puzzles me however, is the apparent dichotomy between your description of his heavy handed authoritarian rule and furious frowning God; and my experience of a father who found it hard to be strict enough, and who planted in his sons and his congregation a concept of a personal God who not only requires obedience, but is also loving and gracious, slow to anger and quick to forgive.

    I expect that part of the explanation lies in the fact that you speak of his early years and I his later. He is sure to have matured and mellowed over the years.

    Surely also part of the explanation lies in the simple fact that he did try to keep order. He did feel and believe that lifestyle matters. He did believe that God has an opinion about whether women cover their head, and how much is covered. He was concerned that the early seventies gang of young people tended to have their hearts turned towards the pleasures of the flesh rather than the things of God. He did feel like there were some young folks who were trying to introduce and popularise practices that their parents had intended to leave behind in the older communities, things like casual dating, cowboy hats, and short dresses. Is it possible that your mind cannot cope with someone like that unless his God is labeled as fierce, frowning, impersonal, and imperial?

    I eagerly await the second installment. I consider the Cookeville years as the best years of my life, as do many others who lived them.

    You do not have the luxury of being able to write as a first-hand witness of those years as you can of early Aylmer. I trust that you will rely on accounts from people who lived those intense tumultuous years, but I wonder, “Who will they be?”

    Will they be people like yourself who have turned their backs on a God that cares about lifestyle, clothes, and the values expressed in our choice of the same, or will you give voice also to the people who continue to live the life that Elmo Stoll lived, walk the path that Elmo Stoll walked, and serve the God that Elmo Stoll served, denying themselves many of those little comforts that could be theirs, secure and content that in the end it is the Lord Jesus who justifies, not critics nor those who sing praises.

    Thank you for your patience,

    Aaron Stoll
    1140 Choncie Lee Rd.
    Caneyville, KY 42721

    Comment by Aaron Stoll — June 18, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  10. I found the Elmo Stoll blog very interesting. Elmo preached the sermon at my Dad’s funeral less than a year before he himself died. I found Elmo’s sermon was very memorable and scriptural. I’m not Amish and don’t think every thing I enjoy is therefore a sin. But I do think Elmo had a passion for his Savior. I knew and loved Lisbet too. At one time her little sister was my good friend. I’m really looking forward to the next blog.

    Comment by Ruthy — June 28, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  11. Richard Miller linked me to this post…interesting read. I spent most of my teen years growing up in one of the Cookeville community’s sister churches… Like Aaron, I also think of those years as among the best years of my life… I only spent a short time in Elmo’s home…and sat through a handful of his sermons…but yeah, he must have mellowed a lot…I always thought of him as a very kind, thoughtful man. I still remember parts of the message he preached at his two sons’ double wedding… (“Marriage is made in heaven, but lived on earth”) I was 12, and it was my first experience of an Amish type service.

    Looking forward to the sequel…

    Comment by Mark Minn — July 1, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  12. I was a late comer to the communities and was never able to meet Elmo. my wife and I moved into the Delano community. We only lasted about a year and were forced to leave due to increasing legalizim.

    Comment by Zachary A. Reed — February 21, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  13. Any one that lived in or was affiliated with the Cookeville , Decatur or Delano communities I would be interested to hear from you. My e-mail is zacharyreed@hotmail.com

    Zachary A. Reed

    Comment by Zachary A. Reed — February 21, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

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