"I'll Take One"

He was practically salivating over the ex-Amish living with us. "I'll take one!" he eagerly offered.

While I appreciated his offer, I silently mused, Ex-Amish aren't a playmate or novelty act. They're people on the run who need
  • open, mature, understanding arms and
  • acceptance without a ton of prying questions.
Here's a reality report . . .

The naive offer to take in an Amish runaway and help him/her adjust to "outside" life is often romanticized as much as Amish fiction. Truth is, it's . . .
  • labor-intensive,
  • self-sacrificial
  • time-consuming work, with repeated
  • explanations, answers, emotional energy, patience, money, and gasoline.
The offer must never be made to fill personal curiosity or a need for excitement. (tweet that) It's full time work! A personal calling. A personal mission. A commitment to mentor or foster someone from another - often misunderstood - culture . .  without asking for other people's taxes, donations, sympathy, admiration, or guilting others to "do like me"!
Want to take in a local refugee? This post is your reality to prepare; I've spent DAYS toting ex-Amish to the county Health Department to get their birth certificate, explaining the paperwork for a social security number,
  • finding clothes and basics at garage sales, 
  • driving them to the BMV, the dentist, to church, job interviews, 
  • explaining our health immunizations,
  • encouraging them as they start their new life,
  • hosting birthday parties, 
  • answering questions (or personally tutoring them) in their GED studies,
  • including them in family holidays,
  • alerting - not guilting - friends to specific needs then acting as a collection service for incoming job leads, clothes, cars, and other supplies. 
For me, this couldn't be accomplished if I was working full-time out of the house (I'm an at-home writer). And yet, people who have outside jobs think an ex-Amish, straight off the farm into their home, isn't going to impact the existing household. Geesh, when Mosie was living with us, my own Laura got nose-out-of-joint syndrome! Then I had to quietly deal with "sibling" rivalry.

I'm not the only person who opens her heart and home to ex-Amish. On behalf of those other good souls - thank you!. I want to challenge those who "will take one" to seriously think about the all encompassing commitment.

You may be a small part of an ex-Amish life for one holiday, a week, a year, or several years of giving and helping. Then, he/she may move on - out of your life - without a "thank you." Others we've helped financially disappeared into mainstream American life.

Love lets go. It doesn't control, manipulate, or coerce.

Some may make choices to get into drugs and a wild life. Some may disrespect - or innocently damage - your house or purposely go against your guidance. Are you prepared? 

A friend recently said to me, "You'd think they'd be eternally grateful for all you do for them." In my experience, that rarely happens. And yet, as I write this I can say Mosie, Josh, Sarah, and Monroe are still a part of our lives with Marvin popping in on occasion. And of course we cherish our son-in-law Harvey (from the Swartzentruber Order of Amish).

And love doesn't say to the public, "Look at me and all that I've done." It quietly, personally serves. (tweet this)

Are you really prepared for this type of emotionally and financially draining, often frustrating, spontaneous, and memorable work? Is it right for you?

Leave your comments below. ~ Brenda

(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.


  1. Amen, once the picnic wears off, then reality sets in.

    1. Well Katie, that's another way to put it. *wink* Thanks again for reading/sharing your thoughts.

  2. I live near a Mennonite community here in Tennessee. I have never thought about helping with this transition, but having seen the sadness that follows leaving the church, I would be willing to be a foster mother to those who I could trust around my own child.

    1. Jolina, thanks for your offer (God knows your willingness), and especially after reading this post. Fortunately, my children are grown and outta the house so there's no trust issue to worry about. You bring up a valid concern; one that you'd have to consider on a case-by-case situation. I can only say it's a gut-issue; trust your intuition after prayer. Some Amish come out with mental health issues.
      You needn't be a foster mother to soften the landing of those who 'jump the fence.' You can verbally encourage, donate needed clothing, help 'em find a job, etc. There are different levels of helping.
      If you ever have questions or concerns feel free to email me. You'll find my eddy in my profile (right column). Bless you & good wishes on your new novel!

    2. You bring up a very valid point, Brenda. I think, for now, I will just try to reach out to my local Mennonite community and those who have just left. Thank you so much for helping spread awareness for their need!

  3. Thank you for this post, Brenda. While I've not worked with the Amish, I was a foster parent. I know from experience that you speak a truth that more people need to hear and to understand.

    Thanks again, and God bless.

    1. Crystal, what a privilege to have you (a fellow author) read/comment on my blog. Thank you for your service as a foster parent, and thanks for your support.

  4. Not easy at all. I helped a woman who was left on her own when her husband was imprisoned. I was her translator, so I went everywhere with her in her attempt to get things in order for herself. This included going to the attorney, Social Security office, to the prison, and numerous other places where we had to wait, and wait, and wait. How much more for the kids you take in?
    Hopefully, those with good intentions will see the bigger picture and make sure they are up to the challenge before actually taking the plunge. It has to be a calling and true dedication on the part of the one taking them in. Good intentions simply aren't gonna cut it.

  5. I love the title...smart and insightful as always Brenda.

    1. And Diane I appreciate you hosting me on your radio show http://dianemarkins.com/2013/03/brenda-nixon/. Best wishes to you.

  6. I love your heart for the Amish! I love that you devote so much time, energy, and attention to help. With 3 small childres, I am definitely not the "I'll take one" group. I don't think I could do it. That is not my calling, but I am praying for you and your family as you fulfill your calling! We love the Nixons and Swartzentrubers! And I love reading your blog about it all. I am learning so much! ~Kassandra Miller

    1. Aww thanks Kassandra! You have your hands & home full with 3 small kiddos. We each have a different calling & God gives us the grace to handle what He calls us to do. But I still appreciate your (and other's) support!

  7. This question has nothing to really do with the post but you mentioned that your son in law is from an order called Schwartzentruber - we were at a farm side business (Amish) on Monday and this was the families last name. They came from Ohio and are now in Minnesota. My question is, is the specific order that your son in law from named after someone with this last name?

    1. Thanks for your question Theresa. I'm not sure I totally understand your question but, I hope my answer helps. To my knowledge the Swartzentruber Order, the strictest & most insular, has many different family names w/i its cluster. The last name doesn't always indicate the Order to which a family belongs.

    2. I know there are many different groups of Amish, I was just wondering if the Swartzentruber Order was named Swartzentruber after a family. I don't know enough about the Amish to be able to tell if this family was Swartzentruber Order or not but I was assuming so because of the last name.

    3. Oh OK, thanks for clarifying the question Theresa. Yes, I think the family name "Swartzentruber" indicates a family w/i the strictest Swartzentruber Order.
      Now, I don't know & cannot trace where the name of this order originated. I'd suspect somewhere along the decades this order was named after a male leader whose last name was Swartzentruber or a variation of that last name.
      A quick tell-tale sign of Swartzentrubers is that they do not use the SMV triangle on their plain buggy & also the men must wear a haircut that is at the earlobe.

    4. Thank you. We only saw one male and he was in the buggy so I didn't pay much attention to his haircut nor did I pay much attention to the buggy. I will next time though.