In My Story of growing up Amish part one (click here to read it), I gave you a glimpse into my Amish childhood. Today, My Amish Heritage – My Story (Part 2) takes you on a journey with me into my life as a teen, and up until I left the Amish, as a young adult.
My Story of Being an Amish Teenager
I remember those early teen years as being very hard, very difficult years. I feel like being a teenager is hard for most everyone. It’s those years between being a child and becoming an adult, and trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in? It was no different for me. There were plenty of days when I wished I wouldn’t be alive.
I graduated eighth grade right around my thirteenth birthday. I had never really liked school, but at least I got to see my friends every day. However, after I was finished, I hardly ever got to see them anymore (my closest friends didn’t come to our church). I wasn’t old enough to join the youth group yet. So it seemed like I was always stuck at home, and I hated it.
Amish Teen Working at a Mennonite Turkey Farm
Some Mennonites close to our home had a turkey farm, and every year they would butcher them to sell over Thanksgiving. So they hired a bunch of teenagers for several weeks to work on the assembly line. We got to dress and package the turkeys.
I enjoyed working there for a few weeks in the fall. But I got into some bad company, working with several Team Mennonite guys (horse and buggy Mennonites) who were quite immoral.
I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the plain people (namely Amish and team Mennonites) do not talk to their kids about personal matters such as puberty, sex, when their mom is pregnant, etc. It’s all hush, hush. So how do they learn about this kind of stuff? They learn from their friends, boys talking to each other. Sadly this results in a lot of curiosity and immoral behavior. Far too many young Amish boys using their sisters, who have no idea what it’s all about.
So these boys that I worked with would always be laughing and joking with each other about such matters, and I was clueless as to what exactly they were talking about. But I’d laugh at them anyway.
I used to write lots of letters to my best friend and relay some of their jokes, etc. My mom found out about some of the behavior that was going on at the turkey farm, and she got curious about what I was writing to my friend all the time? So she opened a letter of mine that was ready to go in the mail and was horrified by what she found in there.
I got saved as an Amish teenager
One morning after that, my parents pulled me into their bedroom to talk to me. They prayed with me, and I gave my heart to Jesus and was born again that day. I don’t remember the exact date, but I believe I was fourteen years old.
I can’t really remember there being a huge change in me. But I have always wanted to serve God and had prayed to ask Jesus to come into my heart several times before this without really having any assurance that I was saved. But this time it was different. Maybe it was because they explained salvation to me in a way that I understood it better??
I got baptized then and joined the church at age fifteen. I never really questioned whether I would join the church or not? This was my life, my family, my people. It was my safe place. I loved God and I wanted to please Him.
Old Order Amish Rumspringa
My years as an Amish youth, however, were different from most of the Old Order young people’s. The Old Order term for those years with the youth group is Rumspringa (means running around). They are allowed to venture out and get a little taste of the world. Most parents deeply desire for their teens to stay within their boundaries. But it is somewhat expected that many of them will go sow their wild oats for a few years before they settle down and join the church.
A lot of them, especially the young men will get involved in smoking, drinking, immorality, drive a car, etc. They might still keep coming to church, but they are not members yet, so they don’t get in trouble with the church.
Then when they find a young lady they want to marry, they’ll give up their worldliness and join the church. A few of them may never come back, as they are enjoying their new freedoms too much. But the greatest majority will give it all up and decide it’s time to settle down and start a family.
They do, after all, appreciate the spiritual values and close relationships of the community they grew up in. Their friends and family are all there, and it’s all they’ve ever really known. So they get baptized and join the church, seemingly making a huge change overnight.
But this was another big reason why my parents joined the New Order Amish group. They didn’t want us children growing up and getting involved in worldly things. They wanted us to get saved and join the church as a young teenager and never get a taste of the world.
My Amish Youth Years
We were allowed to join the youth group at age sixteen. This was something we all looked forward to. Finally, we weren’t just stuck at home with mom and dad all the time anymore.
Every Sunday afternoon we’d get together and play volleyball or some indoor games if the weather was bad. A family in the church would host us, and serve supper. Afterward, we’d sit around a long table and sing together from 7 – 9:00 pm.
We had some very talented singers in our group, as most of us had gone to the Mennonite school and had music classes. We harmonized very well and loved singing. First, we had to sing a few German songs, then we’d sing English hymns for the rest of the evening.
If a guy asked a girl out on a date, he’d take her home after the singing and spend a few hours at her house. In the Amish circles, it’s always kept a secret if you like someone, especially for the girls. If a girl was ever bold enough to flirt with a guy, she was not well thought of. A girl must always wait for the guy to show interest and ask her out.
Every other Wednesday evening we’d get together for Bible Study, with one of the men from the church as our teacher. And on the in-between week, we’d often go sing for the elderly at nursing homes or someone who was going through a difficult time. Or we’d just get together for a fun social activity.
Our church members all lived within about eight or nine miles of each other. But as a youth group, we got together with the youth from a neighboring church as well. And when I first joined we had between thirty to forty youth.
We had a lot of good times together, and Sundays were always the highlight of the week.
Leaving the Amish
One thing about our church though, we were not very much different from the Amish/Mennonite (or what is called the Beachy Amish Mennonite) churches around us. We believed the same on spiritual issues. They just dressed a little more to our liking (I always hated those heart-shaped head coverings we had to wear), they were allowed to have cameras and music, had a church house, and most of all they drove cars. So, it was a pull for our youth to leave and join them. And we had young people leave quite frequently, which was always hard for those of us left behind.
One of my married brothers decided to leave and join the Amish/Mennonites. It was heartbreaking for my mom and dad. My dad was a man with a lot of Faith, and he always said that whenever he and my mom would agree on something in prayer, God would answer them. But this time his faith was a little shaken, as no matter how much they prayed and cried before God, my brother still left.
I was a Rebellious Amish Girl
I was an Amish rebel, constantly trying to push the rules as far as I could. Some of the preacher’s kids got away with bending the rules, and I wanted to be like everyone else. But my dad was extra strict, so it seemed I was always fighting him on the rules.
Have you ever noticed how a child always seems to want to do the very thing they’re not supposed to do? That was me. And even though I was saved, I hated all the stupid rules and tried to get away with whatever I could.
I had the preachers come visit me once because my pleats were too small in my cape, and I wore off-black pantyhose instead of black. Looking back it all seems so silly, but it was a big deal to me. And honestly, I hated being Amish.
When I was nineteen my sister left the Amish, and I really wanted to go with her. But there was no way my parents would let me because I was not of age yet.
We were considered of age at twenty-one years old and finally got to keep all our money. Up until then, two-thirds of all the money we earned went to our parents. So there was no way I could buy a car with my little pay.
A number of my friends had already left the Amish, but I was stuck and miserable.
Amish Mission to the Native Americans
Just a year or two before this, our church along with a New Order church in Ohio had started a mission to a small village of Native Americans in Canada. My oldest sister was there as a missionary for a few years, and I loved it when I went to visit.
I really wanted to go, just so I could get away from home and my church (Most Amish young people live at home with mom and dad until they get married). So my sister decided to come home for a while and let me have a turn. One of us had to be at home to help my mom, as I had a brother who was helpless due to having MS.
So the church asked me if I would take her place and of course, I said yes. It was an escape for me. But I really did love it there and made some close friends. I also loved the Lord and wanted to see these people come to know Jesus and get saved.
While there we didn’t have to dress exactly as we did at home, but I still kept pushing the rules too far. And when I came home for a visit the preachers came to see me again about the way I dressed. I finally had enough, I was so sick of it that I told them they can find someone else to take my place. I was going to come home and leave the church. So, much as I would’ve loved to stay in Canada a lot longer, I came home after fifteen months.
I Finally Leave the Amish
After I came home, I left my church and joined a conservative Amish/Mennonite church. My sister and her family attended there, along with several of my old friends. So it really wasn’t a big adjustment for me.
Of course, my parents weren’t happy about it. But two of my siblings had already paved that path, making it a lot easier for me. And our church never practiced shunning, so it wasn’t a huge deal.
I was so happy to finally be able to get my driver’s license and buy a car! No more having to hire taxis to go to work, and no more slow horses and buggies! (I never did like horses, they were just scary creatures. My brothers always wanted the really fast ones, so we’d buy horses that they took off the race tracks. They were fast but also wild. Sometimes they’d try to take off before we could get into the buggy, and it was extremely hard to get them to wait at stop signs. We had numerous scary experiences with them. So, I was more than happy to not deal with horses anymore.)
But being the rebel I was, it didn’t take very long for me to start pushing the rules in that church as well. I was certainly enjoying my new freedoms, but this church really wasn’t that much different as there were still a lot of rules I didn’t like.
So how did I get from Amish to where I am today?
I was twenty-two when I left the Amish. But even though I left, my Amish Heritage – my story, will always have a huge influence on my life, and even on the lives of my children.
It has been a slow and long journey to where I am today as a Pentecostal Christian, around twenty years later.
I’ll share more about that journey in part 3 of my story…(click here to read it)
- The featured image at top of page is a picture of me at 18 years old.
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