4/2/13

"Free" Book for Helping


"Brenda, how can I help ex-Amish adjust?"

I'm asked about the needs of ex-Amish or ways to help them adjust to life on the outside. Some people think ex-Amish are like anyone else yet nothing is farther from the truth. Most people have few clues to the myriad and primal needs of these precious young adults.

In my experience, there are one of three reasons an Amish person leaves; to escape the rigid, oppressive rules; to explore religious freedom and a faith-based life; or simply to shed the Amish life and belong to the non-Amish life. I could go into detail and share stories about each of these three reasons but, that's another post. To keep it focused, I'll answer the question of helping.

Since I live with, love, and assist Swartzentruber and strict Old Order, my answers apply to these groups.

1) Recognize they grew up speaking Deutsch, therefore they're ESL or EOSL - an educator's term for
English as a Second Language or English for Speakers of Other Languages. There are many of our words they don't understand, weren't introduced to, nor comprehend. When talking to ex-Amish, watch for subtle facial cues that they don't understand a word, then explain or define it. You don't need to "dumb down" your language but do bear in mind and respect that they need some comprehension help and typically won't ask you to explain.
I was sitting at the ICU bedside of a young lad who'd left his PA Amish community. He'd been in a horrific car accident and the surgical staff was explaining to him the surgery plan. I could tell he was bewildered with their words. How can he make an educated decision about his body and medical care when he doesn't understand what they're saying? I thought. So I mentioned that he was ESL and asked the surgeons to explain in "layman's" words. They accommodated and the lad was enabled to understand and ask questions about his surgical care. Love looks out for the needs of others.

I've found that common words - mayhem, astronaut, summary - are unfamiliar to many ex-Amish. Respecting their dignity and need to learn, be empathetic, alert, and explain words.

2) Offer to help the ex-Amish obtain a birth certificate and/or a social security number. The ones I know left without a birth certificate . . . to our government they were nonexistent. Since most Amish do home-births, parents may forgo filing a birth certificate. This was the case of Josh (see his interview in a previous post). In these cases, the ex-Amish person must go to the county seat and pay for a new - or copy of existing - birth certificate.

This may be an arduous and time-consuming process. A Swartzentruber Amish man phoned me once asking if I could help his wife get her birth certificate. It seems she was born at home, in another state, and her mother never filed a birth certificate. The gal was now married and living in Ohio without any legal documentation. We had to contact her birth state, gather affidavits from the Amish relatives present at the birth - who'd be willing to sign an affidavit - and wait. If you've ever waded through legal paperwork you can appreciate the needed patience and diligence.

Likewise, applying for a social security number is a prerequisite for employment. It is illegal to employ anyone who doesn't have a social security number. Even if you want to serve ex-Amish, you do them no favor if you model breaking our laws.

3)  Ask if he/she needs clothing or housing. Most of the ones I know left with two immediate goals: cut their hair and go to Walmart for English clothes. But, as you know, clothing isn't a one-time purchase; most will need a growing wardrobe. Since their clothing was always dictated and they had no freedom of choice, they may not know what they like or dislike. I found this true with 18-year-old Marvin when I bought a shirt for him. He was grateful but wasn't sure if he liked it or not. The bold colors and patterns were unfamiliar and counter-cultural. No offense was taken, it was just another move up the learning curve. Days later, Marvin told me he liked the shirt I gave him because two other teens said they liked it. I guess he needed some validation to his tastes.

4) Encourage them to earn a GED. I've repeatedly shared with Harvey, Mosie, Josh, and others, "I love you for who you are!" However, in our world, formal education is valued plus a GED testifies to self-discipline toward goal achievement. A GED will empower ex-Amish with confidence and new opportunities. The uphill struggle to earn this certification is exhausting due to limited education. Although they completed Amish school at 8th grade, they never had homework and Amish teachers rarely have any credentials beyond 8th grade. In our GED programs, high school courses are taught to these ESL students with barely a middle-school education. Starting to see their struggle?

For those who aspire to go on to college, the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund, a non-profit program, provides financial assistance. You can help ex-Amish by donating to this worthy scholarship fund.

5) Live graciously and give unconditional love. “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge,” observed Thomas Carlyle. Unconditional love is messy; it falls outside black/white lines, is defined differently by each person, demands spiritual stamina, maturity, grit, and at times awkwardness. Besides that, it can drain you!

I know one man who intentionally attaches onto ex-Amish, beats 'em over the head with Bible verses to save 'em, pressures baptism, and church membership even before the Holy Spirit has opportunity to prepare their heart. Swartzentruber Amish grow up in a work-equals-worthy environment; they conform to this man's pressure because they believe obedience to him is synonymous with salvation. Live graciously and love unconditionally. Let the Holy Spirit do His job.

To help you help ex-Amish, I'm GIVING a free AUTOGRAPHED copy of the new book PERMISSION GRANTED (BakerBooks) by Margot Starbuck to one helpful individual. Endorsed by pastors, professors, and authors, PERMISSION GRANTED is filled with humor, honesty, and grace. Dr. Tony Campolo says this book offers "...a host of wonderful stories..." I found the book so provocative, so daring that I had to lay it down after each chapter and let the message sink in.

To enter for your chance to win this new book, leave a comment below telling me if you tweeted about this blog or shared it on Facebook. You'll earn two entries for both a tweet and a Facebook post (give a link to your tweet or post & your contact info). I'll randomly select & notify the winner on April 30.

(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.

33 comments:

  1. Loved this post, Brenda! I have read many books about Amish folks and have always been fascinated by their lifestyle. Your posts really help to educate us "Englishers" who often spend way too much time gawking. (I am guilty!) What a huge leap these young people are making! As I was reading, I was wondering how many just give up and go back once they realize all the hurdles they must go over. Keep your posts coming! Always so informational! I am going to repost this on my FB!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam, I know this is you :-) thanks for your comments & posting this blog post on your Fb wall! Now you're entered to win an autographed copy of Permission Granted.
      I hope some of my ex-Amish pals will comment here giving their insights about how many just give up & go back. I do know with Mosie, Harvey, and others it took many years to work up the courage to leave. One gal I spoke to recently said she knew at age 12 that she wanted to leave the Amish. Of course if they leave before our legal age (Amish legal age is 21) of 18, their parents can send the sheriff after 'em as was the case with a boy named Menno.

      Delete
  2. I can really relate to the educational struggle. It's hard enough for an "English" child (especially a boy, dare I say) to shine in middle school and high school. The expectations are a quantum leap from the lower grades, and the setup of school -- long hours of sitting still and listening with more hours of homework at night -- are not conducive to learning for many kids. I can't imagine how much harder it would be for a child who is coming into this situation from another culture.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is important for people to realize that it isn't as easy as they think for the men and women coming out of this culture. Imagine being dropped into another culture with a different language you may or may not understand, no (or very little) money and likely just the clothes on your back (which may not be suitable to the environment you're now in). Sure it may be fun at first, but it very soon becomes scary and difficult.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Nancy & littlechickpea for your insightful comments & compassion! Now you both know a few practical ways to help when someone from the Amish upbringing crosses your path.

      Delete
  4. Very interesting situation here. Plenty of material for a movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha Don, you're the script-writing expert. Suppose you & I get our professional heads together. Thanks for reading the blog; I want you to have a chance to win the free book so tell me where you reposted this, Twitter or Fb?

      Delete
  5. Very informative and good for people who live near anyone Amish or anyone who has left the Amish.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brenda, this is awesome! If all of those who have ever read any Amish novels (and that is millions) would buy your book and do ONE THING to tangibly help (like donate to the scholarship fund) all of these ex-Amish who desire to seek God in freedom could gain the practical help to do so. So many great ideas apply too all of our need to love unconditionally and PRACTICALLY even those we do not understand of perhaps do not even agree with their life philosophy or theology. I love your desire to do the next right thing for those in your world. - Tweeting this one! (FB too)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen, thanks for reading! Pam, your encouraging words warm my heart. You get it; if people would do ONE THING to help, it'd make a meaningful difference in those who cross our path. Since you put this on both your twitter account AND Fb, you get two entries to win the free autographed book :-)

      Delete
  7. Brenda, this is an excellent post! Earning my GED was one of my hardest struggles after leaving. I am very thankful I stuck with it. Just the thought of knowing I can do so many things to further my education is exciting in itself! When a person is Amish lots of times they feel like they are in a big box. You can only look out but you can't go further. There is so much I want to share but that would make a book in itself (:

    ReplyDelete
  8. Always excited to read your posts! Great Great job Brenda

    Diane Horton

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, I know who you are *wink* and thank you for reading this post. You grew up Amish and left so you give a different perspective to the comments so far. Thanks.

      Diane Horton - how exciting to know you're always reading my posts. I appreciate your kind words and hope this blog is both educational and encourages a compassion for Amish and those who leave.

      Delete
  9. Hello Brenda, while my experience is strong in ministering to & with those currently within the various Amish Cultures, in many situations individuals and families do become excommunicated, not by their own choice, but due to spiritual beliefs that differ with the given Amish Church/district or denomination. To help understand this type of Amish/former Amish one can watch these suggested videos: 1. Trouble in Amish Paradise "http://www.plainnewlife.org/about-us/videos/72-trouble-in-amish-paradise" 2. Amish: A Secret Life "http://www.plainnewlife.org/about-us/videos/442-amish-a-secret-life"

    Now with that said, we also have extensive experience in working with those who are away from home during a time in their lives when they are searching simply for something different. These are young people who leave the culture temporally and normally against the parents’ wishes, this age group ranges from 15 to 26.

    We purposefully limit our involvement during this time to assisting them with needed spiritual issues; showing them that they are accepted as is "not just if they change to the English or none-Amish culture" in fact we do everything we can during this period to assist them in reconciling with the parents and Amish church.

    If these young people after much decision making decide to remain apart from their mother culture for good, then & only then do we begin to work towards long term planning and preparing in areas such as you shared with us. The five areas that you have listed then becomes a must and very crucial to the individuals well-being, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

    I always enjoy following your blog, keep up the good work and may you be eternally blessed for your efforts.

    Brenda, i have placed a link on my personal Facebook page for this blog post at: https://www.facebook.com/andrew.geesey.7?ref=tn_tnmn; and I have also placed a link on our ministry twitter page at: https://twitter.com/M2Amish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Andy for your thoughtful & thorough reply. I'm grateful you read my blog (if you subscribe by email it'll come to you & you don't need to come here each week or risk missing a post). I'll let other readers here know that you offer a fantastic service called Plain New Life & people can follow you on twitter at M2Amish.

      Delete
  10. Loved this post, as I have the others I've read by you about the Amish. Very enlightening. It can be every bit the struggle for the ex-Amish to start over as it is for ex-inmates. Not only do we need to pray for them, but we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus and come alongside them and help them. Thanks, Brenda. I'm FBing this one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Brenda, Our family has spent 30 years serving in the military. My children would definitely be able to identify with most of your ministry aids. We have been plunked down in foreign countries, no language skills, not able to legally drive, not aware of offensive behavior that is just normal to us and wondering what we can eat. Sometimes the transition comes along at a good even pace and by the end of our experience we are comfortable and have acclimated to our "newest" home. We even ingrain some traditions and language into our "normal" life. But other times there seems to be a culture clash! It is overwhelming and draining to adjust. It seems we spend most of our time waiting and wishing to be returned home. Our now grown children automatically seek out the outsider, enjoy cultural experiences and still through out foreign phrases as their "slang". My daughter has been an ESL instructor for 3 different cultural groups at her last 3 home stations! Thanks for introducing me to another!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Connie & Pat! Appreciate both of you leaving comments. Connie, you brought an interesting parallel.
      Pat, your own children are in a position to help ex-Amish and you must be so proud of your daughter who teaches ESL; what a gift she's giving others.

      Delete
  12. Nice post, as an ex Amish myself, a lot of this struck home, I left home 3 years ago and am still struggling to fit in and get by, so if I didn't have any help from friends I never would have made it, I had like $40 in my pocket and the cloth on my back when I left! Awesome Blog! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww Katie, you're still a 'newbie' in the none-Amish world. Let me know how I can help you; answer questions, provide support, give a hug.

      Delete
  13. These are great suggestions, Brenda! I have tremendous respect for the men and women who have dare to leave the Amish - and for people like you who are welcoming them in loving and practical ways. I Tweeted and posted a link on Facebook to this post. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're entered twice Brenda. Thanks for your - always welcome - comments.

      Delete
  14. Many Amish have no idea what we mean when we say "He was in the doghouse for a long time over that remark!"
    I could so relate to all points you made.
    It took me two hitches to get a GED, 3 to get a birth certificate, and a marriage license to get a SS number.
    Brenda, I really appreciate your tender approach. There is so much wisdom to be had with different cultures.

    Malinda Borntreger Meeks

    Face Booked

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Malinda and thanks for your input. Congrats on your GED, & marriage; great accomplishments. You're entered for the free book drawing :-)

      Delete
    2. We received your book yesterday and started reading it last night together. It's a great read so far. Very helpful in how to communicate God's love to those who are different from us.
      Thank-you.Malinda Borntreger Meeks

      Delete
  15. I think the comments from ex-Amish are affirmation that what you are doing is needed and right. You share insights most of us know little about. Thanks for your courage in telling the truth. I believe God will use it to set people free. I'll tweet a link to your post, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, when those who LIVED it affirm my blog posts then it's gratifying. My integrity and educator attitude demands that I'm accurate and truthful. Just wish a publisher would see that readers are demanding more realism & would publish my nonfiction book.

      Delete
  16. Brenda- you hit the proverbial nail on the head again with this post! What I think is so important to remember is that above and beyond anything else, these people are human beings. And I realize that comment shouldn't even have to be said- that it should be a given. But, unfortunately, it gets forgotten, or perhaps overlooked, by the romantic picture in people's heads of what the culture/religion actually is.

    I know quite a few Amish and ex-Amish who are simply looking for love, acceptance, and peace. The simplistic concept of looking for, searching for, hungering for Jesus is complex and messy once you add in a culture shift. I agree with Marti Pieper above: your blogs are being confirmed by those about whom you are writing. What can be more of an affirmation than that! I agree that the Truth will set people free. And Truth is ready to speak.

    ReplyDelete
  17. God has put passion and love in your heart for the Amish. Thank you for being obedient to His call to making us all aware. blessings, friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Elaine for your kind words & for reading my blog. I see you like to learn. I think one of the many reasons God brought ex-Amish across my path was because I was neutral in my opinion of this culture; neither romanticizing nor criticizing. With that flexible mindset God was able to teach me.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  18. Great info, Brenda. Thanks for sharing it with those of us who've never known anything about their culture or beliefs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you read and learned a bit Vonda. In coming weeks, I've other fascinating details & insights you'll never learn from Amish fiction books.

      Delete