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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Growing Up Amish, A Memoir By Ira Wagler

I never realized the torment and torture a person lives with who leaves the Amish, believing they will go straight to hell until I read “Growing Up Amish” A Memoir By Ira Wagler.  I always thought Ira was born and raised in a good Amish home and I still think he was, at least to a certain degree. Ira was born and raised in Aylmer Ontario, the best of Amish communities, as Ira stated on page 10-11; “The Aylmer community considered itself an example for the lesser elements, the perfect church. The shining city on a hill, from which would come noble directives about how people should live.”  Ira was born and raised in this setting until his early teenage years. He had the best of what the Amish had to offer. He moved from Aylmer with his family in late 1976, whereas I moved to Aylmer in May of 1977, and so both of us lived in the same community but not at the same time.

A few years after moving to Aylmer I was hearing the bad, rebellious stuff he was in and doing. All the things we were hearing was relished, taken apart, gossiped about, judged and condemned. I don’t remember taking part in the gossip and judgment but I clearly remember approving of it.

I apologize for liking and approving the judgment and condemnation Ira received. I never knew until reading his book that he never belonged. He really never was one of them and not by any choice he made. This is just the way it was. Back then I thought all such youth are rebels and they still are but there is a reason.    

Ira’s life as he wrote it represents the over-all mindset of being born and raised Amish. You are not supposed to think for yourself, nor ask any questions, just listen, obey and do as your leaders tell you to do. If you are a child, then obey your parents, if you are a parent then obey the preachers. The most common tool of teaching that is used is: “If you ever leave the Amish, you will burn in hell. There is no chance or way you will get to heaven.”  Living with this fear of hell fire and brimstone is what keeps most Amish people Amish.  

We cannot “just decide to do what is right” or “just straighten up and settle down”. These two phrases are never ever mentioned in the Gospels as part of God’s salvation. But I was one that just decided to do what is right because of the fear of hell fire and brimstone. I was never, even going to leave the Amish. I was one of the best Amish people. I never deliberately did anything wrong. I never chose to break Amish church rules. For thirty years I was trusting in the Amish way to save me. But God refused to save me until I renounced the Plain Peoples’ Lifestyle.

The only difference between Ira leaving the Amish and me leaving is, I knew before I left that lifestyle and culture is just lifestyle & culture, nothing more and nothing less, whereas Ira didn’t know that truth. So he lived many years in fear and trembling of hell fire, in deception, in being swayed to and fro. Finally after years of struggles God reached down and showed both of us the truth about salvation.
Ira's book can be purchased from Amazon.
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29 comments:

  1. That's a very interesting and thoughtful post, Katie, and courageous too, I think. Thank you for writing it.

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  2. Thanks for the review of Wagler's book. Since I have Amish background, I am always interested in Memoirs written by those with similar experience. My story is a bit different since I left with my parents and moved to the Conservative conference when I was 11 years old.

    Another memoir I found fascinating was "Why I Left the Amish" by Saloma Furlong who also grew up in Ohio as I did. Another fascinating and well written memoir is one written by Mary Ann Kirkby "I Am Hutterite". A bit different but again a story about even more isolation than Amish communities.

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  3. I read your blog post with great interest. My wife did a phone interview with Ira this week for Dee's News, a newsletter for/about former Amish of Mission to Amish People (MAP)in Ohio. I noticed in your picture above that Little Eli is in the background. He owns the Berlin Gospel Bookstore in Berlin, OH where I grew up. Is that where you live now? Little Eli I think is also former Amish.

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  4. No, I was only visiting family in Ohio when Ira had his book signing. I am now back in Sarasota FL.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us Katie, and I'm glad you both have found your place in the world and with that brings comfort. Richard from Amish Stories.

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  6. I think it's interesting that you and he both still live where there are Amish all around, but it makes sense that that's where you'd know the most people. I never thought about this much before, but you both do have a very similar perspective on things and I like that. It's a very non-judgmental attitude, and seeing things from all different sides. GREAT review and I've only got a few chapters left of it - very good book. I'm hoping to get to Indiana next weekend for his book signing - it's about 4 hours from St. Louis. We'll see! Have a good week ~ ♥

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  7. Ira's book is on my list. Good job writing, Katie... Isn't forgiveness wonderful! Goes hand in hand with Salvation!

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  9. Hiya! I would like to tell that you actually have built a very nice looking portal. I also wanted to ask you something about this blog. Do you run in any kind of blogging competitions?

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  10. No, I didn't know there is such a thing as Blogging Competitions.

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  11. Ira's book was extremely enlightening. It lead me to read Saloma's.
    I was one of the dumb bunnies that had no idea there were struggles in the Amish culture. Well, unless you live by an Amish community I guess you wouldn't know. After reading Ira's book I was flabbergasted and deeply saddened by the struggles he faced. Then I read Saloma's book and it was the same thing. Then I stumbled onto MAP's website and read more.
    The Bible says there is a special reward in Heaven for those who leave father and mother, etc. for the sake of the Kingdom. I have no doubt, whatsoever, that this is the case in many ex-Amish peoples' lives.
    To have a deep desire within your heart, to where you would leave everything and everyone to search for it, well, that can be given by none other than God. I have found in my own life that it's extremely difficult to say no to God. (Just look at Jonah). There's always that dis-ease, a longing even, or an "I can't take this anymore!" when the individual says no. God is very presistent and very loving.

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  12. I have been reading Amish books for about a year now and am so fascinated with their lifestyle, even though I don't believe it's in God's plan for them to live and practice the way they do. I admire them though for their hard work, loyalty and dedication. Their Bishops remind me of the Catholic Bishops, by trying to act like their God, and setting the rules of what you can do and can't do. We only have one God and He is in Heaven and He is the one we will have to answer to at the end of time.

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    1. I am Catholic and have a daughter who is a Carmelite. cloistered nun. She has no contact with the outside world except fora three day visit which totals about 6 hours with her. Her life greatly resembles the life of the Amish I think. It is very painful not being able to communicate with her freely. We are always seperated by a latticed window from her. It is like we her parents are being shunned. I envy the Carmelite's lifestyle and simple God filled life they live but find it hard to a sceptically this.complete seperation.from the rest of the world.

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    2. OOPS!! My little tablet is horrible to type on. I made a mess of that post. Sorry!

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  13. Greetings Katie,

    Enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing it.

    Enjoyed looking at your photo's as well.

    May I ask....Do the Amish in Pinecraft dress the way they would if they were not on vacation?

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  14. I actually don't know, but by looks, most do and some don't.

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  15. Hi Katie,

    Have you actually been shunned by your family for leaving?

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    1. No, I am not shunned and never was. Not all Amish churches shun.

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  16. Katie,

    Thanks so very much for your replies.

    I have read all of Beverly Lewis books and enjoyed every one of them.

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  17. Thank you, Ms. Katie, for your beautiful photos of Amish life and wonderful thoughts! More than 20 years ago while visiting from up north my family in Sarasota, I had the God-ordained opportunity and joy to meet Mrs. Vera Overholt at her fruitstand on Bahia Vista. Picture Vera, clothed in her pretty and modest Amish dress with apron and bonnet, me - in worn, faded, tight jeans and a small summer top and loose, wind-blown hair, talking about Jesus! Saved by God's grace, albeit non-denominational, I love talking about Jesus! We immediately became friends! As we were engaged in conversation, a priest dressed in black pants and shirt with a white collar, stopped by to shop for fruit. Almost instantly, both Vera and I began testifying for the Lord. I will never forget that, and I'm sure the memory of that scene remains with the Catholic priest who, no doubt, was surprized to watch two ladies from different backgrounds and cultures, overflow with the love and joy of the Lord! Eventually, I relocated to Florida, with my grandson in my care. Vera invited us to visit the Mennonite church, and we attended in the summer of one year as often as we could. We were welcomed by everyone like family! I did learn that some people who are raised in Amish and Mennonite communities leave home to experience the world - but then some return when they realize how blessed they were. I met such a lovely, young Mennonite lady at the church that summer. My grandmother was raised on a farm and wanted off the farm. She teased me and said I was spending my life trying to get on the farm but that I wanted to be a "gentleman farmer" - reminding me of the hard work of farming. I must say, I would have been very happy being raised in a Mennonite community! But God has a purpose for each of His children on this earth. Vera Overholt touched my life, and her prayers for me and my family will always be remembered! What a beautiful, faithful servant of the Lord and role model for Christian children and adults everywhere! In His Name and Love, Claudia

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  18. I THINK THE AMISH SOCIETY AS A WHOLE HAS SOME VERY GOOD VALUES, THEY TEACH MODESTY BY ACTION AND DRESS, SUCH AS THE LOOSE AND PLAIN CLOTHES WORN BY THE WOMEN. I FULLY BELIEVE THE REASON WE HAVE SO MUCH RAPE IN THIS COUNTRY IS PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE LOOSE WAY SO MANY WOMEN DRESS AND THE FACT THAT SO MANY WOMEN SHOW SO MUCH OF THEIR BODY. THEN THE AMISH ALSO TEACH CLOSENESS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS. IN THIS COUNTRY WE HAVE GOTTEN AWAY FROM THAT, FAMILY IS NOT APRECIATED NOR ARE WE VERY NEIGHBORLY, WHERE THEY HELP THEIR NEIGHBORS IN EVERY WAY. LIVING WITHOUT ELECTRICTY KEEPS THE OUTSIDE WORLD AND ITS TEMPTATIONS OUT. BUT NO WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY YOU GO TO HELL IF YOU ARE NOT AMISH, THAT TEACHING IS VERY WRONG. JESUS LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN NOT JUST THE AMISH. WHAT THE AMISH ARE DOING ARE USING SCARE TACTICS TO KEEP THEIR FOLLOWERS FROM LEAVING THEIR COMMUNITY SUCH AS SHUNNING AND THEY DO NOT ALLOW MODERN CONVENIENCES IN ORDER TO KEEP THE OUTSIDE WORLD OUT.
    THE AMISH COMMUNITY HAS ITS VALUES, ITS PURITY, ITS SIMPLE WAY OF LIFE AND PULLING TOGETHER AS A WHOLE, NO ONE IN THE AMISH COMMUNITY GOES HUNGRY AS THE COMMUNITY WILL SHARE. BUT IT ALSO HAS ITS DOWNFALLS, SUCH AS GOING TO HELL IF YOU ARE NOT AMISH, SHUNNING IS JUST TO KEEP OTHERS FROM BEING TEMPTED TO LEAVE AND ITS IS ALL SCARE TACTICS. JESUS SAYS NONE OF THIS, JESUS TEACHES LOVE FOR ALL RELIGIONS NOT JUST ONE. BUT IN GENERAL WITHOUT ALL THOSE SCARE TACTICS I ADMIRE MOST OF THEIR WAYS, THEY HAVE A SOCIETY THAT VALUES PEOPLE, FAMILIES AND CHILDREN PULLING TOGETHER FOR EVERYONE, NO ONE GOES HUNGRY, AND NO ONE IS HOMELESS. THEIR FAITH IS VERY STRONG BUT THE BIBLE SAYS WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE LEAST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST SO IF SOMEONE WANTS TO LEAVE THE AMISH COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT SIGN THEM TO HELL. LESA

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    1. Yes you are correct we are a close knit group. But you are also wrong in some ways. I am an Amish woman an wouldn't trade my life with anyone. We don't believe you have to be Amish or you go to hell! We all serve the same God so if your heart is right an you beleive in God an that he died on the cross an rose from the grave,all for us lowely sinners..... The clothe don't matter.( unless you forget to wear them or barely ware any) We Amish are just like the non-amish. We have good we have bad. Please don't condem them all because of a few rotten apples. The reason we don't have electricity is so the temptation isn't there to be hooking up TV or other things that aren't good for us. We use solar power an electric kitchen gadgets. We advance just like llEnglish people do.As for the bishop being our leaders, yes leaders( not our gods! ) Then again you might find one that thinks he might have more authority then others. Those are not the best leaders. God Bless You an I hope this helps shed light on some of our views.

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    2. Yes you are correct we are a close knit group. But you are also wrong in some ways. I am an Amish woman an wouldn't trade my life with anyone. We don't believe you have to be Amish or you go to hell! We all serve the same God so if your heart is right an you beleive in God an that he died on the cross an rose from the grave,all for us lowely sinners..... The clothe don't matter.( unless you forget to wear them or barely ware any) We Amish are just like the non-amish. We have good we have bad. Please don't condem them all because of a few rotten apples. The reason we don't have electricity is so the temptation isn't there to be hooking up TV or other things that aren't good for us. We use solar power an electric kitchen gadgets. We advance just like llEnglish people do.As for the bishop being our leaders, yes leaders( not our gods! ) Then again you might find one that thinks he might have more authority then others. Those are not the best leaders. God Bless You an I hope this helps shed light on some of our views.

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  19. One thing to keep in mind is Amish is not a religion, its a way of life. Their religion is Christianity just like ours. No one is forced to join the Amish but when they do they promise to God with the church as their witness that they will stay by this religion for life be it unto their death. this is the reason so many people are afraid to leave.

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  20. I finished this book today ... it was interesting!

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  21. Praising God today for your testimony and witness for the truth of God's word.

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  22. Don't believe everything you hear and only half of what you see. Some of Ira' s things would have best been left unsaid. It did not do anyone any good. Last said, soonest mended.

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