February 20, 2009

Running Around

Category: News — Ira @ 7:04 pm


O youth, still wounded, living, feeling with a woe unutterable….
still thirsting with a thirst unquenchable – where are we to seek?

—Thomas Wolfe

Hardly a week passes that I don’t get a handful of private emails from readers of my blog. The occasional virulent screed excoriating me for some imagined slight, or my ungodly world views. But most often just a hello, and a comment about this or that scene, or an observation on something I’d written. Last week was no different.

Except one of the emails came from a college professor. A professor. Wow, I thought to myself. Must be moving up in the world, if even the intelligentsia is reading my stuff. Wonder how that happened. With the world wide web, anything’s possible, I guess. The email was brief, but polite. The professor is teaching a class on the Amish, probably in sociology or world cultures. He had a question. In my opinion, what percentage of the Amish youth are involved in “Rumspringa?”

Ah, yes. Rumspringa. That mispronounced word popularized by the film, The Devil’s Playground. Which, to be fair, was a pretty accurate film, in many ways. The term simply means “running around.”

I emailed the professor a brief, equally polite note. All Amish youth run around. That’s what they do after turning sixteen, when they are considered adults. Run with the youth and attend singings and social gatherings. But if he meant to ask what percentage of Amish youth “run wild” and touch and taste the unclean things of the outside world, either at home or after leaving, my guess would be twenty to twenty five percent. But that’s just a guess. Might be close, might not. It varies greatly from community to community. Some smaller communities have almost no such wild youth. In larger communities, wild youth are much more common.

Despite its unprecedented access to wild Amish youth in Ohio, The Devil’s Playground widely disseminated a huge misconception. And a huge disservice to the Amish. One that’s almost impossible to uproot. The belief that the Amish allow their youth a time to explore, to run wild, to live a mainstream lifestyle. To decide whether or not they really want to remain Amish.

I’m not saying that never happens. It probably does, in some rare individual families. But as a church policy, it is utterly false across the board. Never has been that way. Never will be. The Amish church does everything in its power to maintain its grip on the youth. Including applying some of the most guilt-ridden pressure tactics in existence anywhere in the world. No sense encouraging anyone a taste of outside life. Because there’s always a good chance they might not return, regardless of their good intentions when they left.

And I know whereof I speak, from my own experiences. The first few times I left, I had every intention of returning and settling down. It wasn’t even a question in my mind. Just a year or two, a taste of the outside, then I’d be content to live out my days in the Amish faith where I was born. Calm and settled in the simple life. Marry. Raise a family. Perhaps write some apologetics, as my father did. Watch my children grow.

But it didn’t happen. In fact, it pretty much went just like the preachers always claimed it would. Once the “world” gets its grip on you, the probability of return recedes into impossibility. One can weep and wail and repent at leisure, but it will be too late. You can’t go back. And the gnawing regrets will haunt you all your life.

That’s what they said. The preachers. And all of it was true. Except for one important point. The regrets part. There are none. Not about leaving, anyway. But I do have one major regret. That I didn’t get a grip and save myself a lot of mental anguish and guilt and leave for good long before I actually did. I seesawed back and forth for years, determined to force myself to follow my head instead of my heart. Until I finally decided to quit trying to please others, make my own choices and break free for good. And did.

Could it only have been much sooner, so much anguish could have been avoided. So many tears, so much grief. But I had to travel my own journey, define my own path. In my own time.

My particular expression of regret will never make it into any Amish sermons. Doesn’t fit the template. Not that I blame them. Or that I’m resentful. I’m not. It is what it is.

But I digress. Back to the Rumspringa. I’m not saying my opinion is accurate in every community. I grew up in Aylmer and later in Bloomfield, Iowa. Both communities consisted of a single district at the time. Very small. So I admit there are many nuances in the larger communities that I may not quite grasp. But overall, I think I have a pretty good idea of how things are.

I’ve lived in Daviess County and northern Indiana. In both places, it’s standard practice for young men to drive and own cars and still live at home. Parking their vehicles openly right at home. How it goes in Holmes County with their mishmash of separate groups is anyone’s guess. I’ve never been there, even for a visit. In Lancaster County, many young men drive, but the vast majority do not park their vehicles at home. Usually in a field some distance away, or at a non-Amish neighbor’s place. But even here, many remain living at home while owning motor vehicles.

That was unheard of where I grew up. Dad had an ironclad rule. Own a car, you can’t live at home. And that’s the way it was. I accepted it with no bad feelings. Couldn’t have imagined anything else.

The smaller communities keep a tight-fisted grip on their youth. Or try to. That’s why they’re smaller communities, because the people there usually fled the larger settlements to get away from the wild youth practices. In Aylmer, you look sideways the wrong way, and they whack you hard. Shave your beard, even though unmarried? You’d better not, or the deacon will be knocking on your door. Smoking and drinking? Partying and carousing? Absolutely unheard of, in all its history.

Bloomfield used to have a similar iron grip on things. About thirty years ago. Until a pack of six young men shattered the old molds and forged their own. It’s never been quite the same since.

I remember well the day I turned sixteen and started running around. In August, 1977. I was just a pup, really, a tall spindly beanpole of a kid. The Bloomfield settlement had probably around twenty families then. There were no wild youth.

Feeling quite grown up and important, chest puffed out, I joined my brothers, Stephen and Titus, and my sisters, Rachel and Naomi, and attended youth activities. And the Sunday evening singings. I quickly attached to a little core group of friends. Six of us. We were from fifteen to seventeen years old.

We never named our little gang. Six young Amish kids. The Herschberger brothers, Willis and LaVern, from Arthur, Illinois. The Yutzy cousins, Marvin and Rudy, from Buchanan County. Mervin Gingerich, from Kokomo, Indiana. And me, from Aylmer. Sprouted from extremely diverse communities. Thrown together by random chance, by our parents’ decisions to move to Bloomfield.

We were intelligent and hungry. Read voraciously. Mostly trashy best-sellers, picked up at yard sales and used-book stores. Carefully stashed them away under our mattresses or hidden in little nooks about the house. Occasionally we stumbled on the real stuff. Real literature. And recognized its quality. Somewhere at this point, I grappled with Shakespeare for the first time, painstakingly deciphering the Old English of his age.

We were exclusive. Didn’t hang out with just anyone. Huddled together, protecting each other from the storms that occasionally engulfed us. Intensely loyal to each other.

I can’t remember any time of my life that I felt closer to a core group of friends than I did to those five guys during those few short years. We didn’t consider ourselves “wild.” Scorned anyone who consciously tried to be. And we didn’t necessarily think we were cool. But we were, at least in our own restricted little world.

Those were tense and troubled times. Restless, driven by the pride and passions of youth, unsure of what we really wanted, we set out on a path of our own choosing. Scandalized the poor Bloomfield settlement countless times in untold ways. We weren’t particularly rough or rowdy. But we did like to party a bit and have a good time.

We gathered on Sundays. At church and later at the singings. Sunday afternoons, we hung out at the Drakesville park, or a local schoolhouse, sipping beer that we’d bought from Bea, the clerk at the little convenience store in Drakesville. Smoked cigarettes. (This was in the great golden age before the tobacco and alcohol Nazis unleashed their venomous lies and turned this country into a whining nanny state.) Unlimbered our contraband. Transistor radios and 8-track tape players. Tinny, awful sounding equipment. Deeply absorbed what is now considered classic country and classic rock music. Acted up and told rowdy jokes. Mimicked the preachers with mock sermons, laughing uncontrollably. Dismembered our adversaries with our bold talk.

And sometimes, too, we showed up a bit tipsy at the singings. Made all kinds of unfortunate scenes with our loud hilarity. Much to the horror of the house father and other stodgy guests. One Sunday evening, one of us (who will remain anonymous), piled way too many baked beans on his supper plate. He soon realized his mistake; he couldn’t possibly eat them all. Instead of quietly setting aside the plate, with uneaten beans, he belligerently accosted those around him with the plea, “Viddoo Boona? Viddoo Boona?” (You want beans? You want beans?). The five of us sat there and roared, everyone else looked liked they’d eaten green persimmons. Sour. Oh, my, sour doesn’t even come close.

Pretty harmless stuff, really. We weren’t destructive. We didn’t terrorize people. But somehow, we managed to frequently trigger a great flood of dramatic groans and intonations from parent and preacher alike. How could my son act so wickedly? Dee boova sind so loppich. So veesht. (The boys are so naughty. So wicked.) You know better. Why can’t you just be good and behave, like the (name withheld) boys? They are such decent boys, so nice and upstanding. And such up-building members of the church. They were nice and upstanding, all right. And dull, and dense as mud.

We gagged at such drama. Ignored the incessant scolding. Despised the pious (name withheld) boys. Hunkered down and persisted in our wicked ways. The more our parents and the preachers tried to crack down and suppress us, the harder we “kicked against the pricks.” Whatever discipline they designed and threw at us, we resisted. They plugged a leak here, the water slipped through over there. They tried to separate and divide, and it drew us that much closer to each other.

And somehow, when I now look back on those times, I can’t bring myself to be too harsh on anyone involved on either side. Upon occasion, I can still dredge up some mild resentment at a few pious nosy long-bearded busybodies, who made a mission of trying to straighten out other people’s kids. Who stirred up the flames of discontent and disharmony in the community at every opportunity. Who secretly harbored their own dark skeletons in their own hidden closets, secrets later exposed. And who will be dealt with at some point later in my writings. But overall, the years have tempered the rage and frustrations of our youth. And, I hope, softened the deep pain we inflicted on those closest to us at the time.

Although far from perfect, our parents had given up a lot, had uprooted their lives and moved to this little new settlement, in hopes of establishing a community where the youth would be respectful and behave. Not drag in all the bad stuff, the wicked habits practiced in other places. I couldn’t see that then. I can now.

And the six of us, well, we were simply spirited youth. Which doesn’t excuse a lot of the stuff we pulled off. But who can instruct a pack of youth who band together in revolt? At that age, no one. And no one did. We knew instinctively that there was so much more beyond our closed and structured world, so much we could grasp in our hands and feel and taste and absorb.

And we knew, the six of us, that when they were young, our fathers had done the very things they were now denying us. Not that they ever admitted any such thing. But we knew. And they should have known we knew. Don’t do as I did, is what we heard. Do as I say. There was no tolerance for anything less, no attempt to consider our perspective. No respect, no communication, no honesty. And that simply could not work, in the age-old conflict between fathers and sons. Not when the sons have a shred of spirit.

And looking back, not that far from the age my father was at the time, I remember many things. The vast chasm that separated us. I was a hothead, strong-willed, filled with passion and rage and desire. Stubborn. Driven. As was he. I was my father’s son. The harsh, hollow words that echoed in anger and sadness across the great divide. Words spoken but not heard. Words better left unsaid.

And so the battle lines were drawn. The six of us against the world. Or at least our world. Tensions flared and faded and flared again, as confrontation after confrontation surged and subsided. The mental strain escalated to an almost unbearable level.

Until it all reached its inevitable crescendo. On that fateful starless April night, when I got up at 2 AM in the pitch black darkness, left a scribbled note under my pillow, and walked away. All my earthly belongings stuffed in a little black duffel bag. Seventeen years old, bound for a vast new world that would be all I could ever have imagined.

In my eager mind, the great shining vistas of distant horizons gleamed and beckoned. A world that would fulfill the deep yearning, the nebulous shifting dreams of a hungry, driven youth. And it would be mine, all of it, to pluck from the forbidden tree and taste and eat. I could not know that night of the long hard road that stretched into infinity before me. That I was lost. I could not know of the years of turmoil, rage and anguish that eventually would push me to the brink of madness and despair.

And so I walked on through the night. Within a month or so, all five of my buddies would follow. And the shattered little community of Bloomfield would reel and stagger from the bitter blow. From the shocking scandal, the shame and devastation of losing so many of its young sons to the “world.”

My long journey had just begun.

Congratulations to Rosita Beiler and Ken Martin on their engagement. Rosita is the office manager at Graber, and I have worked closely with her for eight years. The guys at the office like to think they run the place, but they don’t. Rosita does. She is an invaluable asset to the company, and we are all excited for her and Ken. And wish them the best, all the happiness in the world. The wedding is planned for July 18th.

Ken and Rosita



  1. Ah, the struggles of fresh youth! Each person must tread such grounds and experience for themselves. My own battle came later (as compared to general population) was often punched with desire of death. Isn’t God good and merciful? I now have my dearest and two little girls.

    Comment by Jean H — February 20, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  2. What an interesting post – much reminds me of my own experience growing up as an Amish youth, although I was never relocated to a new area, but instead was a son of generations of Lancaster County Amish. Hope this is ‘to be continued’, as I’d like to hear the rest of the story.

    Comment by Amos - Leola — February 20, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

  3. Indeed the public perception of ‘rumspringa’ is greatly flawed. There are a large number of mis-perceptions out there and if I live to be a hundred years old, I can never expect to change them. There are so many people who have a romantic notion of Amish life and believe everything about the Amish practice is carefully planned. But we know it is based largely on tradition and resistence to change.

    Ira, I too live in the Aylmer area and am familiar with a lot of names and places you write of. I came from the Troyer Amish near Norwich, moving to the Aylmer area in 1976. I deserted the Amish in 1960. The Aylmer Amish sent a delegation to Norwich to try to draw me to their fold. As chance would have it, I was not home and they left some reading material, which I did read. But I was determined to never return to any type of Amish.

    When you speak of regrets, I have none either. The stories of those poor lost souls who want to return to the Amish ways and can’t are just that; stories. In fact, I don’t know of any such poor lost souls. I think they use these as a kind of scare propaganda to influence their youth. I recall hearing such stories come from the preachers. Another false concept I will never wipe out. And the demise of PA Dutch; well that is a story for another day. But I shall quit for now.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — February 20, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  4. Ira,

    Great post as always. I always look forward to Friday night. :)

    I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here with a prayer request for you and your readers. Some dear friends of ours are experiencing a very trying time. Their 3 year old daughter is at Hershey Medical Center on life support, struggling for her life. To everyone, please pray for her recovery and strength for her parents. They have a blog set up at http://www.kiramary.blogspot.com. Thanks so much.

    Comment by Clayton — February 21, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  5. “Sulli veeshti buva.” Pioneer of your time, leaving a note under your pillow and dissapearing into the night, the innocence.

    That was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. To give my dear mother a hug and leave to board a greyhound bus with my meager belongings in a duffle bag, for a taste of the hard cruel world!

    Comment by Andrew Yutzy — February 21, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  6. “Despite its unprecedented access to wild Amish youth in Ohio, The Devil’s Playground widely disseminated a huge misconception. And a huge disservice to the Amish. One that’s almost impossible to uproot.” Very true Ira. Thanks for setting the record straight. I offer a correction here though, the movie was based on northern Indiana youth as opposed to Ohio.

    You should visit Holmes County, Ira. Tell Pat to bring you along sometime.

    Comment by Marvin Miller — February 21, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  7. The following comment was posted today on the first Elmo blog. I copied it over in case anyone wants to respond.


    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 legalism.

    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 admin — February 21, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  8. Yesterday I met your brother Jesse and his wife. In the course of the conversation talking about Aylmer Days, I asked Jesse if he ran away from home? He said he just left home. This piece of conversation has been mulling around in my brain ever since. And I have come to the conclusion that when you are young, you run away. When you are older and wiser in looking back, you just left home. I am rambling but isn’t this just the difference in perspective: The one who leaves, simply left home or community. Whereas others say you ran away.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 22, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  9. I waited for years to start feeling the regret–was puzzled and even a little worried when it never happened. I finally realized that it was just another misconception my parents and the church had fed to me.

    In the concluding chapter of my graduate thesis in which I write about leaving the Mennonites, one of my professors chided me for saying that I had no regrets. He argued that my whole thesis was full of sadness, loss, regret. I think we were talking about two different things.

    In my use of the word regret, I was referring to what my parents had always told me I would feel–wishing I could go back, wishing I had never left, wishing I had not taken my own way.

    There is none of that. There is sadness and loss. Sadness that I have lost the belonging to my family. Loss of innocence. Wishing my parents and my family could understand how happy I truly am.

    But there are always trade-offs and I would never take back all that if I had to give up what I have now.

    Comment by Mariann Martin — February 22, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

  10. The leaving during the night brings back many memories. I thought I knew it all, but soon found out how little I did know. Keep writing!

    Comment by Lavern Yoder — March 1, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

  11. I did not grow up in an Amish family, but in a very traditional Mennonite home in Maryland.

    One of the most vivid memories of that time was my older sister fetching just-finished laundry to put in the black duffel bag, my mother making sandwiches and packages of my favorite cookies to send along. Greyhound passengers introduced me to the cynicism of the rest of the world before I was 300 miles from home.

    I do have regrets. I regret that I left in the manner I did, and regret the hard knocks that my immaturity in the world brought, but I think I would have ended up right here no matter what, so I am thankful for the advanced wisdom for my age. Haha!

    Comment by Allen King — March 21, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  12. My wife Esther and I were born and raised in what was considered to be an Old Order Amish church, located in Ashland, Ohio. In 1984, at the age of 17, we both became baptized members of the Amish church. It was not until we turned 18 that a former Amish man shared the gospel with us, and both of us realized that we were sinners and needed a Savior. Shortly after we got saved, Esther and I were married in the Amish church, and at that point, we had full intentions of raising our own family in the Amish church. But we soon realized that if we wanted to believe in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we would either have to be quiet about it and not tell anyone, or be excommunicated from the church. In 1987, nine months into our marriage, Esther and I made one of the hardest decisions that we would ever have to make and that was to leave our families, our friends, and our Amish way of life forever. For a more detailed testimony please go to http://mapministry.org/KeimTestimony.php.

    Comment by Joe Keim — March 21, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  13. Hello,

    I read the story here and I am really interested about the Amish people and their lives. I didn’t grow up Amish. I am interested about their lives, because the lifestyle, a lot to make self and use the animals for the work and use gardening to survive. I reckon our population in Europe doesn’t care about how to do it natural and easy. One day, I would like to have a look in a Amish village in Canada, what do you think, is it possible to give a hand for to have expierince in an Amish family? Does it matter where I come from?

    Thank you for the answer.

    Comment by Jenny — March 26, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  14. THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND was definitely filmed with kids in Northern Indiana. I know Faron [his sis lives a half mile down the road from us]. I used to hang out with JoAnn Hoch. on the weekends and know quite a few of the others. I was at parties like that and they got it pretty straight. It could get pretty messed up. I’m just surprised that we didn’t have more accidents. I guess God was looking out for us.

    My husband & I left the Amish too [I grew up in Roy Miller’s church.] and I never found the regret we were told we would have. Thankfulness- definitely!

    I believe growing up in Roy’s church does something to a person. I read your blog on Elmo Stoll and remember hearing about some of those things. I’ve always been surprised that Roy helped other churches with their problems. One would think he’d have his hands full with his own. He -I kid you not- made a new rule that the couples in his church who are done having kids are not allowed to have sex anymore. There were all sorts of vile things going on in that church. You could beat and molest and you were OK as long as you dressed really plain. To anyone reading this- please understand this is just one church and one of the most extreme ones in Northern Indiana. Most of the Amish I know in my life now are admirable, decent people.

    Anyway, Ira, you can delete this if you want. I have talked with some of those people recently and they believe I’m far out in the world [gasp! nix uch da kopp!!]. It was a jolt to walk back into their world and opinions again. Anyway, how was that for some plain old unvarnished truth?

    Comment by ELLEN — March 27, 2009 @ 3:22 am

  15. I have always been extremely jealous of the Amish. They seem perfect even though I know no one is. After doing my own research, I realize I glamourized Amish life (sounds funny don’t it).

    Comment by Tia — May 24, 2009 @ 2:46 am

  16. The grass is always greener in the other yard isn’t it?

    I myself have no connection to Amish or other Plain people whatsoever. Living in Massachusetts, I’m not aware I have ever even SEEN a still-practicing Amish person until I happened to accidentally visit one of the newer settlements in northern Maine last week. (Of course I then read some things on the Internet about things Amish, which is how I ended up here via the Amish America web site.) I actually work at a residential treatment center for teenage boys, most of whom, have grown up in broken, poor, homes run by a single parent (meaning a teenage mom of course), or NO parents, often completely dependent on the off and on whims of various state agencies such as DSS, DCF, etc. Instead these kids have lived with a collection of “aunts”, or single grandmas (30 year old grandmas!), or a string of failed foster homes. Most come from urban existences, depending heavily on TV and other electronic distractions for all of their life experiences growing up, excepting the times their uncle was raping them or when they actually managed to attend a day of school in the awful city school where they were enrolled (and hoping they weren’t beaten up or shot that day.)

    Even well-off suburban kids live empty lives in front of the TV or computer, over-scheduled by the demands of modern life, while trying to remember in which room they left one of their 3 I-Pods in.

    I’m 46 and I’ve been around some now, so it doesn’t surprise me to read here of Amish troubles. Heck, life is rough and there are no perfect solutions anywhere. Still, having watched the community-destroying effects of too much commercial media, the isolating effects of people commuting from far exurbs, sealed up in cars for 2 to 3 hours a day, or hiding out with drug-addicted family in the projects of some big city, I can understand how some Plain communities can come to fear the effects of the Outside culture. Contemporary American culture has major problems of community failure, environmental destruction, and greed. I need not elaborate on any of that for you all, I’m sure. That all of the latter is going to get much worse before it gets better as Oil Decline sets in on this civilization, I have NO doubt in my mind.

    I don’t wish kids to grow up while squelched into submission, denied schooling beyond the middle years, or denied Shakespeare (or Edward Abby!), living with no outside literature and having to brave nightly trips to the outhouse in a snow storm. But I hope many former Amish kids, now adults, commenting on this blog, appreciate what they DID have, because I have to tell you, as an residential care worker, gardener (at the school with the troubled kids), teacher, and mentor, I could think of equally bad ways in which one COULD have been forced to spend a childhood rather than at the hands of too-demanding parents and an overreaching Amish bishop.

    Organized religion has its problems, but of course, so does growing up in a secular culture without religion or a strong, local community of caring, connected people as well.

    Comment by Stephen B. — May 28, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  17. I really enjoyed your story. I would like to learn more about your story and the Amish culture in general. I have visited the Amish community in Arthur, IL but can obviously only observe from a distance. For my college composition course I had to choose a subculture to write about all summer. I chose the Amish community and your writing has given me a lot of ideas to ponder. Thanks.

    Comment by Danielle — July 7, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  18. I was born in Holmes County, Ohio in the 1940’s at Charm and both my husband and I were excommunicated in the 1970’s after we decided to leave our church. We were very young at the time. Now, we have raised our family out in the world and we would NEVER go back to the amish way of life. Jacob, my husband has a degree in biology and we are doing quite well financially. We have NO REGRETS about leaving.

    Comment by Nancy Miller — October 4, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  19. Good Afternoon!

    My name is Philip and I live in Pennsylvania. I was wondering if you know any way that I could possibly visit the Amish? I’ve been to Lancaster County before and have seen the “Amish Bed and Breakfasts” that are advertised to the public, but I am interested in visiting a real Amish family because their way of life fascinates me.

    I don’t imagine that any of them would take a guest, but do you know how I might be able to write to some of the families there?

    Thanks so much!

    PhilipGerardJohnson (at) gmail.com

    Comment by Philip J — October 12, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  20. Is this a book of yours or something? I would like to read all of it really. I have been reading several of the Amish books out, since last year and have known a lot of Amish towns from travels. Loved them too and the people were kind. Just sounds like strict Pentecostals and many of the “outside” religions of their “no go there” places. People are all the same. Many will be strict and unyielding whereas many others will be like a willow in the wind. While some have shallow faith, others have faith like a rock (founded upon the ROCK) while others have no faith at all. So if you’ve a book about your life & times I would like it. :) Thanks!

    Ira’s response: As of yet, there is no book. I’m working on it.

    Comment by Katie-S — January 25, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  21. Ira:

    You have a good command of the English language – seeing you were raised Amish.

    I visited the Bloomfield community years ago where I also preached. I did not get to meet your dad with whom I had some correspondance sometime before.

    I had the privilege to meet Elmo Stoll sometime before his death. He never knew the blessing he was to me during the time we were going through some severe difficulties.

    Who will God hold responsible for all the igorance, misunderstandings, broken families, crushing situations, with its perpetual pain and sorrows among the Amish churches nation wide?

    For those of you who have been rejected, shunned and put out of your home and churches – Have you found forgiveness in your hearts towards them? Did you know that when you do so, God will also forgive them, with a great possibility to save them as well?

    Even though I am severely censured and shunned throughout by the Amish churches, they have nevertheless given me life and sustanence. Without them I would not exist. I am indebted to them, May God therefore richly bless and reward them.

    Ben Girod

    Comment by Ben Girod — February 20, 2010 @ 2:16 am

  22. Your story is very interesting to say the least!
    That’s so much to go through. I’d like to learn more.

    I live in Texas and was raised in a strict Mennonite home. I know all about the trials of leaving your community. I’ve been on my own for about 10 years now.
    I’m still close to my family but I know my mom wants me to come home and get married to a Mennonite.
    I have accomplished so many things on my own. Great career, friends, even purchased my own home. None of those thing seem to matter because I should be married and have about 5 kids by now (you know, be prosperous and multiply). They just can’t accept that I’m happy:)
    I think it takes a lot of courage to leave what you know and start a life that goes against all you’ve been taught.

    Comment by Judy Guenther — March 9, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

  23. That was such a good post! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Comment by Layne — July 31, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  24. Ira,
    I have been communicating with a fellow brought up in your original faith. He told me of your web site and to read about your life as it be. Ira, there is one thing that GOD gave every human being, and only human beings, not to any animal or insect; that is the freedom to choose, it is next to JESUS CHRIST and SALVATION the most wonderfull gift a person can have. You have excersized this gift in your life and will continue to do so until your time is finished here on earth. Because of this gift you choose your own destiny and rightly so!! When anyone or any group tries to quell this gift, it will always cause confusion with them and the person. I didn’t mean to preach a sermon, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead (BUT) Ira, use this wonderfull gift well in the remainder of your life. Yours In “CHRIST” Bill

    Comment by William Peake — October 19, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  25. Ira: Stumbled across your website. So you went English? Lots do.. I’m plain, but not Amish. Danke for your views though. Da Herr sei mit du, Susan, age 59

    Comment by Susan Cox — March 21, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  26. I was trying to send you some thing , but message did not want to be allowed to pass— so TRY Again!! I find your writing ability Remarkable!!!! So long Orva B.

    Comment by Orva Bontrager — April 6, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

  27. Talk about coincidences. Last weekend Francine brought us home a DVD from the library called “The Devil’s Playground” and 3 days later I happen to land on this post that discusses it and Rumspringa. That happened once before when I read our boys the chapter on Ice Cutting from the “Little House” books and a week or so later came across your post on Ice Harvesting.

    I’m glad you clarified that fact Rumspringa stepping out isn’t generally condoned or encouraged. That’s what I’ve always heard and believed so it’s good to be corrected and become better informed.

    Relating the antics you and your chums participated in and your eventual leaving took me right back to my own time of exploration and breaking away. I landed myself in some rough situations. But today I appreciate the fact that the prodigal son ended up closer to his father than the one who stayed and became bitter.

    I really enjoyed reading this article.

    Comment by Eric — July 30, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

  28. I find it bizarre that a 16-year-old is considered an adult. The brain isn’t even fully developed yet. Of course, I know many seasoned people that would fall into this category as we’ll so I guess brain development has little to do with it.
    I cringe every time I see a 16er behind the wheel of a car. What are these law makers thinking? They obviously have only female offspring.

    Comment by Francine — February 5, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

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