More and more Amish are leaving their communities. The recent Amish: Out of Order series on National Geographic showed viewers another glimpse of the Old Order life that tourist traps selling apple butter and quilts don’t portray. There’s even an ex-Amish Facebook group where members share from their hearts the anguish of being disowned by their parents for venturing away from the rules of Ordnung.
"Out here in the world, you leave the Amish, you are on your own," says Mose Gingerich, an ex-Amish man who left his home in Wisconsin for Columbia, Missouri. Now he helps youth leave their sheltered communities, calling himself an Ex-Amish Underground Railroad. He says the young men and women leave their Amish communities for a variety of reasons, some due to wanting more religious freedom, others wanting to further their education beyond the standard Amish eighth grade level.
Thanks to our connection via the Internet, Mose now knows that he was the inspiration for my recent novel Still Life in Shadows. Like Mose, my character, thirty-year-old Gideon Miller, helps Amish youth leave their communities in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to resettle in modern society. Gideon assists them in finding employment and offers them inexpensive places to live.
Although far from his community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, my character is still plagued by his father’s harsh attitudes and past behavior. And even as Gideon tries to become more English, he struggles with God, mercy, and forgiveness in his new community in the North Carolina Smoky mountains. With the help of Kiki, a thirteen-year-old autistic girl, and her lovely older sister, Mari, Gideon is able to put to rest some of his demons and gradually embrace a loving God, but it takes a tragedy to bring him to his knees. He realizes that, despite what he’s been taught from birth, leaving the Amish doesn’t doom him to Hell. The free gift of God’s salvation is for all people, whether you wear a black hat and suspenders or a John Deere cap and a pair of worn Levi’s.
~ Alice J. Wisler grew up in Japan as a missionary kid, graduated from a Mennonite college, traveled extensively, and finally settled in North Carolina. She’s the author of Rain Song (Christy Finalist 2009), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist 2010), Hatteras Girl, A Wedding Invitation and now, Still Life in Shadows. Ever since the death of her son Daniel, she’s taught Writing the Heartache workshops and speaks at conferences on the value of writing through grief and loss. Visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com and join her on her author page on Facebook where she’ll be giving away prizes: http://www.facebook.com/alice.j.wisler#!/pages/Alice-J-Wisler/333751835453