Divided Home: He's English, She's Amish

Swartzentruber Amish Harvey
This picture is verboten.

Swartzentruber Amish do not allow nor take photos as it's considered a graven image. Against the rules. A sin!

So why am I publishing a picture of Harvey D. (another Harvey, not our son-in-law)?

He took it himself! Posted it on a public forum. Gave me permission to use it.

You may remember I penned a post on teaching an Amish to drive a car. That was Harvey D.  Back when I couldn't release his name. Read the post. At the time, he was unsure of his destiny - would he leave or remain Amish? The inner conflict broke his spirit.

He was nearly driven to suicide as the two worlds played tug of war with his mind.

Harvey decided to leave the uber strict Swartzentruber Order of Amish. His wife refused.

According to the Ordnung, a Church member who leaves must be shunned. One of the Amish Preachers came to Harvey's property to tell him he was shunned. His name is on The List. A list of those shunned is shared within the settlement. New Church members receive this list and likewise must shun Harvey and other wayward ones on the list.

His Amish employees quit. One walked out the day Harvey announced to his employees that he was becoming English. It's verboten to work for one who left the fold.

Harvey exchanged his required round eyeglass frames for different ones. Bought blue jeans - but struggled with a correct size. Up to the day he left, his clothing was handmade. He had no idea what size to buy. And he hung up his Amish hat . . . for good.

For the first time in his 31 years, Harvey D.,
  • went out in public without his Amish hat
  • cut his hair to bare his ears
  • shaved off his beard
  • went to a movie theatre
  • ate at Dairy Queen
  • wore khaki pants
  • saw professionally run fireworks
  • bought a watch and a wedding ring
  • went to a baseball game
  • bought car safety seats for his younger tots
  • drove his sons in a car - often without his wife's blessing
  • brought his sons to a restaurant for breakfast
English Harvey with his Amish children
My husband and I joined Harvey on some of the activities. With his outgoing personality and broad grin he rapidly made more friends. He ran around with his younger brother Monroe. Went to amusement parks. Started a network marketing business, quit, went to another, while running his conventional business.

He drove out of state to visit his KY birth home. He reveled in the freedom of choice. "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide," said Napoleon Bonaparte.

Harvey soon learned about speeding in his car. Losing control. Accidents. Insurance. The police. Tickets. Going to court.

Meanwhile, his sweet Amish wife stayed home to dutifully tend the five children. Cook. Gather eggs, Sew. Change diapers. Wash and hang up clothing. Weed the garden. Preserve food for winter. After all, that is the requirement on women according to the Ordnung.

The women of the Church gathered around her. They cocooned her with friendship. Ignored him.

"They treat me as if I'm dead," Harvey moaned to me.

For nearly a year now Harvey and his wife have lived in a culturally, spiritually divided home. He's English. She's Amish.

Breaking the rule of shunning, his wife talks to Harvey. Cooks for him. Washes his clothes. Tries to sew his English shirts with collars. Allows former Amish and English in her life. Tolerates Harvey's "worldly" car on their farm. She and the children take their buggy to Gma. Harvey drives his car to a Protestant church.

We like Harvey. Just had breakfast with him last week. We like his wife. I bought fresh eggs from her until she got rid of the chickens. We love his darling five children. We pray for them. And for this unusual situation.

He's English and believes he's right. He'd like his wife and children to join his world. His wife is Amish and determined to remain in the life she was born into. 

I barely understand the Amish culture and mindset and, I'm unsure how I feel about this outcome. I grieve that a home is fractured and children are living in limbo but, it is what it is. Somehow it's working...for now.

Will he go back to Amish? 

Will she and the children leave the Amish?

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Thanks for sharing. Feel free to . . .
  1. forward this post to friends & family,
  2. provide a link on your blog or website to www.BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com,
  3. alert group leaders of my available to speak & share my Power Point about the Amish.
(C)Copyright 2014, Brenda Nixon.


  1. The biggest favor Harvey and his wife can do for their children is to honor and respect each other' believes. Basically give their children a secure home life. I highly admire Harvey and his wife for staying together.

    1. So very true. Love each other no matter what and see if there is a way to find some common ground that you can stand on together.

  2. That is a very sad state of affairs. I am surprised that his wife hasnt been shunned by the bishops for having contact with him. I admire them both for sticking to their principles and can only hope that things might work out eventually.

    1. Marie, the settlement could shun her, too, if they wanted. But consider this, if they shunned her then it'd be easier for her to leave and they don't want that.

    2. That's the same case with my wife, they won't shun her knowing they would lose her, I'm so frustrated because she hasn't been going to the Amish church and has missed the required attendance to avoid shunning yet they won't shun her because they know she'd rather be Amish. :(

    3. Thanks for sharing Ben. I'm at a loss for words. You have my concern and prayers.

  3. I went through the same thing he did a year an 1/2 ago an my wife an children joined me 7 month later it would be really hard for any of us to go back even tho a lot of our family won't have nothing to do with us !

    1. I appreciate your comments Harvey. Glad your wife and children joined you so your family is together. I can't imagine how hard this decision was for you.
      It's been nearly a year now for this Harvey - his wife and kids remain Amish. They can't do things together, like going to an English wedding, because she and the kids won't participate in non-Amish events.

  4. I highly admire them for staying together, and my prayer is that it will keep on working out, however I noticed there was nothing said about their faith in God. It was just one culture versus the other. In that sense they can both be right. But the reason we left was to walk a closer walk with God, and we felt we were unable to do so staying within the Amish community. No bible studies to help us grow. No fellowship with other Christians. Only a brainwashing into more Amish culture...as a means of salvation. Then...leaving became a choice we made for God. We were willing to be shunned by everyone we knew in order to freely grow in the things of God and what we believed He was leading us into. Staying Amish would've meant we couldn't do anything unless it's approved by the Amish church....and that meant, there was no room for growth.

    1. What great comments Lena. Your last sentence sums up Harvey's attitude.
      As an Amishman, he had an encounter with the living God that changed his life. I remember the night because Harvey texted me about it. He and his wife began reading the Bible in English discovering many truths not taught by their Amish church. I believe that Harvey's desire to grow spiritually was one of the reasons he left the Amish.

    2. God will bless and reward them for this stand and fill them with Himself as they seek to know Him more.

  5. Hi, Brenda. I just found your blog via a posting on knoxpages.com. I grew up in Knox County, which was then close to Amish Country and nowadays is part of it. I am very aware that fiction and "reality" TV shows give a poor picture of the Amish, but I have always wanted a better source. Thank you.

    I will admit that I cannot fathom how an Amish person could stay physically in the Amish community once they were shunned. Harvey's marriage must be under incredible strain, and I certainly wish his entire family whatever is the best future they can have.

    1. Welcome Calvin. Knox Pages now adds my posts on its site, so you probably encouraged the site owner by reading and clicking to my blog. I hope you find this blog a "better source" for understanding the Amish.
      Thanks for your good wishes for Harvey and his precious family. I did invite him to come on and answer some of the comments but, he's so busy running a business. Perhaps later...

  6. It all seems so unnecessary, doesn't it? In the name of "religion" we can make ourselves and others miserable. Loved this quote: "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide," by Napoleon Bonaparte.
    Thanks for posting, Brenda. You are shedding much light on a greatly misunderstood culture.

    1. Yes, through the centuries many religions have perverted their interpretation of God and abused authority in "His" name.

  7. Brenda...I am so happy that Harvey did have an encounter with God...I think it's the only way to make a lasting decision in leaving the Amish...something real...for direction.

  8. I is a very difficult decision for Him I am sure. I know several who have left the Amish and have watch them struggle with the "shame" they feel at first. Most have gone on to a better way of life without getting "worldly". I wish him blessings as he continues to be faithful to his wife and family.

    1. Thank you for your comments and concern. Like you, most of the ones I know have gone on to a better way of life and are happy - yet they struggle with the feelings of rejection and being ostracized by Amish family.

  9. This story reminds me of the range of decision styles. Cautious vs risk taking. Every choice is a risk, of course, and Harvey and his wife are making their individual choices. It's quite refreshing to hear of the disastrous choices he's made as a result of leaving, but he's simply run up against the rules of a bigger order: society.